No matter the place and time we exist, some of us just bare an old soul. Arguably the case with Tashiana Washington, the rising film star possesses a wisdom that extends far beyond her years. Already having had roles in a variety of films over the past ten years, including the award-winning 2012 film Gimme the Loot and 2013’s Gimme Shelter, Washington is primed for a big year in 2019.
Recently having a lead role in the new Critters film Critters Attack! and a supporting role in the new Shaft film with Samuel L. Jackson, the sky is the limit for the bright, talented performer. Enthusiastic to keep her career moving, the actor/singer recently sat down to chat her love of storytelling, working on Critters Attack!, her approach to music, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – You have starred in a list of films and television series over the last ten years. First, tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
Tashiana Washington – When I was a kid I just loved storytelling. My mom used to sing to me every morning; she would act out scenes from The Lion King (1994) and Aladdin (1992), etc. She would sing from The Jungle Book (1967) and I said, “Oh, I want to do that,” so I would try and sing back to her and act. That’s how it all started.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting. Speaking of singing, you are actually a musician beyond an actor. Have you done any recording?
Tashiana Washington – Yeah, I’ve worked on a couple of projects. I really do it out of personal enjoyment, but I do want to make it more of a focal point in my career. Right now I am working on an EP that I am excited about. I’m working, brainstorming, and trying to create my own unique sound. Hopefully it will be released by the end of this year or early next year.
Cryptic Rock – That will be exciting to hear. As mentioned you have worked on a few different projects and in a few genres over the years. Now you have Critters Attack! which is your first Horror film. How did the role of Drea come about for you?
Tashiana Washington – My manager sent me the audition for it and asked if I would be interested, I said of course! I love Horror films, it was kind of forced upon me because my mom loved Horror films. She would show me all her childhood favorites or whatever was new, and I went from being mortified, scared and having nightmares to saying, okay, I want to see another one. Critters (1986) just happened to be one of my favorites she showed me, so to be able to get the audition for a 2019 version I was like “Hell yeah!” I was really excited for it.
Cryptic Rock – That is great. In Critters Attack! you are the leading lady. What was it like working with the rest of the cast?
Tashiana Washington – I had such a great time – we shot it in South Africa. It really is a testament to how talented my co-stars were, because we didn’t know each other prior to meeting in South Africa for the film. We didn’t have a lot of prep time; we didn’t have a lot of time to get to know each other and hang out. I personally did prep by watching babysitter and babysitter crossover Horror movies. Everyone just meshed so well together. To work with Dee Wallace was like a dream come true, especially since she was in the original Critters, along with E.T. (1982) and Cujo (1983), which is one of my favorite movies. I feel like casting did a great job putting us all together.
Cryptic Rock – It is a fun film to watch with a good cast. The way it ends off you are not sure what will happen next. Is there the possibility of a sequel, and would you return for it?
Tashiana Washington – I would absolutely love to return for a sequel. I think they ended it like that on purpose so there would be room for a sequel. The most important first step is for people to see this one and love it so that it is in high demand, that way we have the opportunity to create a sequel.
Cryptic Rock – It certainly seems like a sequel would be justified. In 2019 alone you have done a lot, including the new Shaft film with Samuel L. Jackson. How did that come about?
Tashiana Washington – Another audition that came in from my manager. I submitted a tape and next thing you know I’m on a plane flying going down to Atlanta. I got on set and I met Tim Story, who was so great, made me feel comfortable, and allowed me to add my own flair to the character.
Samuel L. Jackson was so easy to work with because he is so effortlessly talented, he is super professional, and he is fun on and off set. I’ve been a fan of his for many years, so to have the opportunity to qualify to work on a project with him was really a blessing.
Cryptic Rock – That is fantastic to hear. It seems like more and more big things are coming up for you.
Tashiana Washington – Yeah, I’m trying to keep this Critters ball rolling!
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) As mentioned, Critters Attack! is your first Horror film. Would you like to work in Horror movies more?
Tashiana Washington – Definitely. In this film I was able to play somewhat of a hero, but I would love to be in a Horror film and play the villain. I aspire to be a villain. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – It would be a new challenge. In Critters Attack! the characters are all quite likable. You are rooting for everyone in this story which makes it more fun.
Tashiana Washington – Right, it’s definitely a fight for survival. I think it’s great because you are able to identify with the characters whether you have a similar life or not; we all have our different problems. Just seeing what they’re going through and how they are handling it makes you root for them. That is something that really attracted me to the script.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, and your character is perhaps the most developed in the story. Drea lost her mother and is determined to get into the college of her dreams. Did you create a backstory for her or was that provided for you?
Tashiana Washington – Fortunately, I came in a few days before my castmates and I was able to spend some time with our Director Bobby Miller. We were able to create a backstory for Drea and bounce ideas off each other as to why her life is the way it is right now. You find out later in the film that the weight she is carrying is not her weight to hold. I definitely identify with her in that aspect of harboring guilt. I’ve had personal experiences like that and that is why I was able to tell her story the way I did.
Cryptic Rock – You did a good job with it. Do you have any other projects coming up?
Tashiana Washington – The announcement was made that IFC picked up another film I co-star in called Premature. It is a Drama that will be released in select theaters, and I’m really excited about it. It’s completely different than Critters Attack!, and what I love about the difference is that it shows two totally different sides of me. I’m excited for people to see both of them.
Cryptic Rock – That will be something to look for. You have worked in various genres from Comedy to Drama and now Horror. What would you say are some of the more important things you have learned thus far?
Tashiana Washington – It is going to sound kind of cliched, but I’ve learned to not to overthink and have fun. Some of the best scenes I’ve seen in films I’ve worked on were takes where I was just having fun. Even in Critters Attack!, there were a lot of my ad libs or a lot of fun takes we had that were kept in the film. I’m seeing that when I don’t overthink and I’m just my true self, present, and having a good time, that is when my best work comes out.
Cryptic Rock – That makes perfect sense. When you are comfortable in yourself, that is when the best material comes out. Knowing music is a big part of you, what are some of your influences?
Tashiana Washington – Some of my influences are Sam Cooke and Tina Turner. More modernly speaking, Chris Brown, Beyoncé, and I really love Billie Eilish. There are so many, I love Patti Labelle, Teena Marie, etc. I love what my forefathers and mothers have done with their music because of the emotion they were able to capture on a record or CD.
I fee like a lot of the new artists don’t have that. When I’m in the studio working on what I want my sound to be, I try to capture the element of emotion and great storytelling. I feel like the older, classic artists were storytellers in their own right in their music. I feel like newer artists make me feel good, you have a good time, but sometimes it’s short-lived. I just really want my music to be timeless. I want to find a nice balance between modern and classic R&B.
Cryptic Rock – Wow, you have some great tastes in classic artists. You obviously grew up with some strong roots in music.
Tashiana Washington – Absolutely. From when I was a child my mother was playing Louis Armstrong, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, and The Beatles. While other kids were listening to what was on the radio I was in school singing The Rat Pack. I was singing artists like Ella Fitzgerald and The Carpenters. I was singing “Close to You” while others were singing The Spice Girls – I knew that too, though. My mom definitely instilled music from her childhood, her mother’s childhood, her grandmother’s childhood and modern music in me. I’m forever grateful for that because I fele it really does help shape my current voice as it is to this day.
Cryptic Rock – It will be very exciting to hear your music. Not only does it shape your sound, it shapes you as a person. It is important to learn from those who came before you.
Tashiana Washington – I agree 100%. I also love watching interviews from these artists in the different eras and what they had to go through. I like to learn why they sing what they sing, and how they implant subliminal messages in your mind through their music. Music is such a powerful thing and I think it’s a universal language that everyone can understand.
Cryptic Rock – You are right, it is a universal language. Do you feel being a native New Yorker helps your strong worth ethic and attitude?
Tashiana Washington – Yes, obviously I was raised within the hustle and bustle of New York. I never realized how fast paced it is, how competitive it is, or how diligent people are here until I would go to places like L.A., Atlanta, or overseas. Everyone is so calm and chill in other places, but in New York it’s now or never. It is be the best and second best is not an option. It’s that lion’s den mentality I love and I think that is why there are so many success stories here. New York just has an energy.
Cryptic Rock – It is place like none other. Last question, what are some of your favorite Horror movies?
Tashiana Washington – I love this question! I love It (2017), The Cabin in the Woods (2011), Don’t Breathe (2016), Candyman (1992), obviously the original Critters, Silence of the Lambs (1991), Child’s Play (1988), Orphan (2009), The Others (2001), Secret Window (2004), and The Evil Dead (1981). Also the one and only A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). That scared me.
Cryptic Rock – Those are some great selections. By the way, have you happened to see the Shudder documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror?
Tashiana Washington – I haven’t, but I definitely want to check it out.
Cryptic Rock – It is a great documentary giving a wonderful outline of African-Americans in Horror cinema. It also leads toward the progression of modern times where more African-American leads are being cast in Horror-related films.
Tashiana Washington – Yes, and going back to what you just said, I was happy to see Octavia Spencer in Ma, Meagan Good and Michael Ealy in The Intruder, and Gabrielle Union in Breaking In (2018). It really warms my heart to see between 2018 and 2019 so many films with black leads in Horror, because growing up that’s not something I saw. Typically speaking, the black guy always dies in the first 5 minutes or so. So for us to make it all the way to the end, I’m super excited. I remember seeing Blacula (1972) as a kid and I remember hating that title name, but I think I want to probably go watch that again.
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