The much anticipated biographical three-part miniseries, The New Edition Story, premiered on January 24th to record breaking numbers. According to Shadow and Act, the BET miniseries attracted 29 million total viewers! For those who don’t know, The New Edition Story is based on the history of R&B group New Edition and their rise to fame. Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the star actresses and this talented woman is Krystal M. Harris!
Harris, who was born and raised in various parts of Northern California and abroad, starred as Zena Tresvant, ex-wife of New Edition’s Ralph Tresvant(played by Algee Smith). Besides The New Edition Story, Harris has starred in numerous film & TV projects, such as Parks & Recreation, Takers, and The Perfect Match with Terrence Jenkins, Cassie, Donald Faison, Lauren London, and Paula Patton. Check out my interview with Krystal M. Harris where she discusses how she got started in acting, The New Edition Story, what’s next for her, and more below.
1-How did you first get into acting?
When I was two years old, according to my mother, I pointed to the television and said, “I want to be in there.” It was more than a phase as she soon learned, because any chance I had to get in front of the camera… I did. After doing countless talent searches, local commercials, and falling in love with the craft services table, I finally made my way to Los Angeles to pursue acting professionally.
2-You started out as a contestant on one of my favorite shows as a kid, Girls V. Boys: Puerto Rico. How was that experience and do you keep in touch with the cast?
That is so amazing that you know of that show! That was again, one of the talent searches I mentioned before. I was actually cast originally in GVB: Hawaii but then they changed the age limit that year so I didn’t get a chance to appear on the show until two years later. It was the most fun I had up to that point in my life. I describe it as Real World/Road Rules for teens. And I still keep in contact with Kelley, Ryder, Jia, and even Frank From GVB: Montana. We all kind of became a long-distance family.
3-You’ve guest starred on some amazing shows like 2 Broke Girls, Ray Donovan, and Shameless. How were these experiences?
They were all equally amazing. Anytime I get a chance to do what I love, in any capacity from auditions, to co-stars, guest stars, leads, etc., I am happy. This is not just my profession, it is my passion. So working with amazing talents like Liev Schreiber, Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs, and Cameron Monaghan is just truly icing on the cake! Each time I’m on set, I view it as a learning experience to grow and expand my talent while working with and studying other talents also engaged in the production.
4-In addition to shows, you also were in some amazing films like About Last Night with Michael Ealy & Kevin Hart and even Straight Outta Compton. How were both experiences?
About Last Night was one of my first major roles. It was a very good experience. Michael Ealy, who I played opposite, was so caring and very helpful to me during the shoot. I will always be grateful for his generous advice. Straight Outta Compton was a huge life changing film for me. I wanted to be a part in any way I could. So when I got cast to be in the “No Vaseline” scene, I was thrilled. I just wanted to be in and around this production because I knew it was going to make major waves…and it did.
5-You starred as Zena Tresvant in The New Edition Story. How did you become part of this project?
I got the role the traditional route. I auditioned for the part and apparently I looked a lot like who they were basing the character off of, and impressed the casting team with my take on the character enough to be pinned for the role a few hours after auditioning. I wound up getting the official offer a week later. I am so thankful to Michelle Adams, one of the Casting Directors on the project, she has seen me numerous times throughout my career and it was exciting to finally get a role in that office because they have been so amazing and supportive of me for years. So I’m extremely grateful to her and the rest of the casting team.
6-What was your favorite moment from being on set?
I would have to say that my favorite moment of being on the set was being surrounded by New Edition music. My mom has all of these VHS tapes with music videos from the 80’s on it and so growing up those tapes became my home movies. One of the tapes had “Candy Girl” and “Mr. Telephone” man on it and so even though I’m a bit younger than the NE4Lifers, I definitely grew up on their music, followed their career as I got older and really just loved their style and their lyrics. Being surrounded by the music made me a bigger fan than I already was and I was introduced to some music I hadn’t heard before such as Ralph T’s “Sensitivity”. When I tell you had that song on repeat for the next month I am telling the truth. Everyone was getting annoyed with me! So that would be my favorite part, that and working with the amazingly talented crew and cast… I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Everyone was on the top of their game, literally everyone. I may not have started out as a NE4Lifer but I definitely became one.
7-Besides acting, you’re also a director and writer. How did you get into these two fields?
That is a loaded question! Okay, so with acting you have to wait for someone to give your “permission” to do what you love. I mean aside from auditions, you have to book a role in order to continue building a character and really play out your passion on screen. Well I got tired of the grind and not booking and acting is my number one goal but at the heart of it… I’m a storyteller. Whether I tell stories through portraying a character or writing one I am still living my passion. So with writing no one could stop me from sitting down and putting pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard. I don’t have to ask permission to tell my own stories. So I did. And I’ve built up a solid body of work and when the time is right, I will have the opportunity to share those stories with the world. For directing it was similar, I always thought directing was a man’s profession. I didn’t even realize women held that position until a few years ago when women directors were really starting to speak out. I said well hey, here is another avenue of storytelling that I can do and again…I didn’t need permission. So my first project was a fan film based of characters from the hit ABC show, Scandal. Whereas most people parody the show, I decided to take beloved characters created by Shonda Rhimes and write an alternate storyline for Fitz and Olivia and to pay homage to the style of the show in a dramatic way. I wrote, starred in, and directed the fan film and it was a huge success. Many fans loved what I did and I even got one of Scandal’s cast members to retweet it! So yeah, to anyone waiting for permission to do something they love… stop waiting. You have permission. Now go create!
8-What is your dream role?
I have been studying TaeKwonDo for a couple of years now and my dream role would be to play a bad ass action character. I don’t know what it is, I just want to kick some butt on camera. So whether it be a comic character, a Bond girl, or a Mission Impossible sequel I just want to open a can of “you know what” on someone(lol)!
9-What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into acting, directing, and/or writing?
As I stated before, you do not need permission. There are plenty of avenues out there for artists of all kinds now. Sit down, write your script. Get a group of actors together to act it out and film it. No one is stopping you. The model is changing and we artist have so much more power than we have ever had before. If you have a concept for something shoot a teaser, put it out on YouTube or Kickstarter and just keep moving forward. The only limitations we have are the ones we create within our minds. Just Do It.
10-What is NEXT for Krystal M. Harris?
I was recently tapped to pen an amazing new graphic novel series featuring five black women as the leads. They become martial arts heroes and so it is going to, not only be a dope story, but it is going to inspire young girls, especially African American girls, because they will have action heroes to look up to that actually look like them. The series is called, The Venomous Five, and you can keep up to date on that by visiting www.thevenomousfive.com. Also, I have a pilot in the works, can’t say too much about it yet but I can promise you that it will be epic! As well as a new film dropping later this year in which I star opposite Mischa Barton called The Joneses Unplugged. It’s going to be an amazing year. My mom has dubbed this year “2017, realizing the dream,” and you know I’d have to agree with her. These dreams are really becoming a reality and I could not be more excited for where I am headed next. I hope you all will stay tuned.
Photo Credit: MpressPR/Krystal M. Harris