Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing an amazing director, producer, screenwriter, and actor named Tina Shakiyah. As a recent graduate of Clark Atlanta University, Shakiyah’s been on her way to stardom by creating a critically acclaimed web series named College Boyfriends. For those who do not know, College Boyfriends is a scripted reality show following the lives of five college male students as they struggle through the semester while being a “boyfriend.” For some of them, it’s a pain in the rear end. For others, it’s what their heart has been asking for all year! Love will be tested and friendships will be questioned. Some say it’s hard to handle having a college boyfriend, but it’s even harder to handle being a college boyfriend. The show introduced a slew of new characters for the second season and garnered even more attention.
Check out the interview below where Shakiyah talks about the upcoming third season of College Boyfriends, what’s next for her, and more.
-Growing up, did you always know you wanted to do something in entertainment?
When I was little, you couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t going to be on someone’s stage or TV screen. Performing arts was everything and more to me. My first passion actually was music. My whole family is musically orientated. Singing is a beautiful art form and to listen to someone SING a STORY to me put my heart and mind at ease(I get a lot of film ideas from music). I grew up dancing and then fell in love with acting in the 3rd grade. I became really serious with acting as a sophomore in high school then eventually transformed into film making. My mom raised me calling me her superstar because I was highly in tune with the entertainment side of me. Always ready to perform be it a song, dance, poem or even just showing off my “Model walk.”
-Which do you like more—acting, writing, or directing? Why?
This has always been a difficult question for me to answer. I feel like I love them all so much that I can’t choose. It’s like a mother choosing a favorite child ahaha! However, if I truly had to go out and choose I would say… Acting. It gives me a great sense of excitement when I am acting because it allows me to experience the life of others. BUT I will say acting and writing are neck in neck. I love writing because SEEING others take my words and characters and bring them to reality is just as amazing as being the actor.
-How did you come up with the concept for College Boyfriends?
College Boyfriends came about in my senior year at CAU. My producing professor had us pair up to create a reality show for our first project. Donte Rose and I of course got together throwing around ideas. At the time everything on TV was reality, well “Reality.” However, every show was girlfriend this, wives that. Nothing focused on men. So intitially I said lets do College Girlfriends. Then D and I paused and literally said “Boyfriends” at the same time. And there it was, College Boyfriends. A reality KINDA show. We were instructed to complete one or two episodes for class, but being this creative over achiever, we produced an entire 10 episode season + reunion show.
-Why did you decide to make the show look like a reality show when it’s really scripted?
Well, first because it was our assignment to produce a reality show so we had to create a show that emulated those in which were being broadcast at the time–Love & Hip Hop, Basketball Wives, etc. I chose to continue the show as such for the entire first season to keep the continuity. I tagged College Boyfriends “Reality Kinda” basically meaning the show is scripted, but it has a hint of reality in it. It is scripted to a certain extent; I created characters, I created their relationships and situations they go through, however I do not script out dialogue. This show is 100% improv and these actors take situations and scenarios that are given and act/react to them as truthfully as they can. (Reality) Example: I am not Ni’A Moore but I have similarities to her, I know how she feels and I’ve been through some of the things she’s gone through, so when given a scene that hits close to home, how the scene is executed with myself and scene partners is very much so a reality in our eyes and in the eyes of others who can relate.
-Season 2 of College Boyfriends pretty much featured a whole new group of characters with occasional pop-ins from season 1 characters. What was the decision behind focusing on new characters?
Season 1 ended and again there were a few reasons why I chose to do what I did. The primary reason for choosing a whole new cast was because CB13 graduated. How can you have a College Boyfriends show and not be in college? Sean, Ni’A, Alex, Robyn, Adrian, Sasha and Darius were graduating seniors by the end of the season so i had to choose newbies for the start of a new season. Granted, in the REALITY of our lives, a few actors were still in school but their characters weren’t. I also chose a new cast based on the fact that I intended to do this season like actual reality shows whom have seasons with different people(LHHATL vs LHHNY). I wanted to do a season that expanded a little bit further than CAU. I think I succeeded in that part a little more with this new season though.
-Season 3 is on its way. What can we expect from the newest season?
This season will have you feeling like you are on an emotional roller coaster. My goal was to have you all laugh, cry and throw a shoe at the wall when you watch this season. But like last year, I want people to learn from this season.
-Why do you believe College Boyfriends has such a large following?
A few things here: 1. Reality shows are hot right now. That automatically gave us an audience off rip because it’s what everyone is watching. 2. College students and future college kids are a big target audience. 3. Web series are doing great in numbers. Everything is being watched on a computer or a phone nowadays. 4. Everyone associated with this show has a following that added to our pool of support. Each cast member is someone who is active, talented, creative and has a huge personal following. You mix all four of these together and you get an awesome outcome.
I also think the following is due to the show in itself being so relatable to young people. We have so many fans that are in high school preparing for college and the show gives them a feel of what to expect in a “reality KINDA” way.
-If you had a chance to cast a big time actor/actress or even reality star on College Boyfriends, who would it be and why?
Sanaa Lathan and Jurnee Smollett would be awesome! They are like my sisters in real life(lol). Jennifer Lawrence! She would add a little flare to the show(haha)! Oh, Idris Elba could play Ni’A’s older love interest! And Michael Ealy! Why? Because those are all my favorites(haha)! But seriously!
-Do you plan on doing more films in the future?
Of course! I want to do this for a living so there will be some things in the works very soon.
-What advice would you give to others who want to get into directing/acting/writing?
I would tell others to not limit their creativity. Everything around us has a story in it to be told and you can tell these stories in a plethora of ways. If it is something you love to do, do it and put your all into it. Create daily and don’t be afraid to tell your story. I used to be afraid to talk to people about certain things that I experienced in life or saw others experience. Writing became a way to express those feelings and come to find out a lot of people could relate to everything I wrote, making me feel silly for being afraid to talk about it in the 1st place. But definitely use yourself as a blue print when dealing with the arts. It’s the most truthful way to tell stories.
-What is NEXT for Tina Shakiyah?
I am preparing to begin a new web series. Details will be given out soon. I am currently writing my first feature length movie, which I hope to begin production on next year. I am also getting back into my on camera mode so you just may see the actress in me come out a little stronger.
Photo Credit: Instagram/Twitter