Sistas just returned for season four, bringing to us more of high-powered attorney Andi Barnes played by KJ Smith. As we wait for more episodes to roll out, LA Confidential sat down with Smith to talk about Andi, Power Book III: Raising Kanan and her best piece of advice for self care.
Sistas has been on since 2019. What has been your favorite part of Andi’s storyline and her evolution over the years?
My favorite part of Andi’s storyline is that we get to witness her grow from this naive idea of what love is and what friendship is to really being challenged in in both areas, and, hopefully, making better choices to be a better person to herself and her friends, and then evolve into being a better person in relationship with a partner. Andi has a real control issue. She wants to control her circumstances, she wants to control everything, and we kind of watch her life implode. And now she's building it back together. So I think that's my favorite part is we get to watch this sort of flawed character turn into what I hope becomes a butterfly. We're not there yet, but what I hope becomes a butterfly.
Season Four recently premiered, what can fans look forward to from this season?
More drama, more comedy. We really started with a bang. And our supporters and friends are loving it. More relatability. Everyone is reaching out about how they can relate to each and every single character or they've been in one of those situations or sometimes they question themselves about what they would do if they were in that situation, so I just like that our show is creating a lot of dialogue and a lot of commentary about what friendship looks like. And what does it mean to be a straight man, for instance, with one of our characters, Calvin. Or what does it mean to be a good friend with the relationship between Andy and Fatima and Andy and Karen and Andy and Sabrina and Danny. There was a time when our supporters were like, “Andy is not a good friend to Sabrina and Danny.” So it's nice to see and create dialogue. And it's real life situations. And I think that our fans are going to enjoy that. And, of course, they love making fun of some of our characters. It's so really fun. I love seeing the memes and the GIFs. I love how we engage with everyone.
And what about Andy, what does she have in store? Is there anything about her story that you're particularly excited about?
Andy is discovering her power in her own life instead of living by a narrative that she created in her mind, perhaps when she was very immature. She's starting to discover herself. That's my favorite part. I feel like Andy and I are going on this journey together. Andy and KJ Smith are literally going on this journey together.
Congratulations on your engagement! How has working/acting with your partner, Skyh Alvester Black, fostered a special relationship?
Well, first, thank you. We work well together! I feel incredibly lucky to be in love with someone who understands everything about my life completely. And I understand everything about his life completely, so it's been incredible, honestly. It's a blessing to work with someone who if it's two o'clock in the morning and I have 10 scenes tomorrow, “Who's gonna sit up with me and read lines?” and vice versa. If he's like, “Oh, babe, I gotta go to a red carpet.” And I'm like, “OK, cool. I'll go with you.” We just share every moment together. And because we are both in the same industry, we get to really enjoy every moment as my best friend. So I mean, just imagine going to work with your best friend. That's what it’s like!
We're excited to see you in Power Book III: Raising Kanan. What have you enjoyed most about your role?
Oh, my favorite part is getting to know New York culture and really diving deep into the underbelly of what happened during that time period. That's been my favorite. The ‘90s was a very interesting time for everyone, but particularly African Americans in New York. So really digging deep, and getting more familiar with the culture— that's been the most exciting part for me, I will be forever changed because of the history that I discovered, the conversations I've had with people, the relationships I've built. I'm forever changed. There's nothing like New York, there's nothing like being in New York. I'm grateful. And then, of course, the cast and crew is just amazing. They are so welcoming. And they're nothing like their characters on the show, thank God!
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You’ve acted on every mainstay cable network. With such a rich television career, what do you love most about working in TV?
Wow. My favorite part is when someone watches a television show that came out 10 years ago or 12 years ago or 13 years ago and they see me in the background or they see my one line or they see my recurring role, and they’re like, “I just started watching Dynasty and KJ, you were incredible!” My favorite part about working in television is now that we have streamers, nothing is old when you can watch it any time… People are like, “I can't believe I've watched this episode four times and now I'm realizing that that's you KJ.”
Just the fact that in film and television, particularly now, people are going in my actor vault and they're able to see my work and they're able to see me in the beginning and now they're literally starting to witness my journey and how I'm moving forward. So it's an honor. It's an honor to work in film and television.
You also mentor up-and-coming women in the industry and kids from your native Florida. What is the most important piece of advice you offer about hope and positivity?
Oh, I have so much advice for my mentees. I give them advice on everything. I guess my favorite piece of advice now— because I too have learned and evolved from a space of just mental chaos— is teaching my kids to silence their mind and really listen to the God voice, the source voice that that speaks. But you can only hear it when you're completely silent. I think with not only children, but with everyone, it’s so much noise. If you live in a city it's sirens and people and then if you don't, if you live in a small town, it's television and internet and social media and all these things. So my biggest advice now to my kids because things have changed is to spend five to 10 minutes, it’s not a lot of time, in complete silence. No monitors, no laptops, no cell phones. Not even looking at someone else in the room. Just complete silence. I don't think our kids get enough of that. And so because of that they're consumed by other things that they shouldn't be consumed by.
Between acting and giving back to the community, you must be super busy! How do you balance it all while still taking care of yourself?
Well, I'm still working on the balancing part. Often times, what I do is I work, work, work, work, work for several months, and then I just crash and then go on vacation or just stay at home for two weeks at a time. That recently happened. I experienced that over the holiday. I was like, “I'm not leaving my house for two weeks. If you catch me in the streets, good luck.” I'm honestly still working on that. I do the same thing I teach my mentees where the way I can get balance in my life is just silencing my mind for five to 10 minutes. But ultimately, I work for several months, and then I'll take like a two week break. And then that two weeks is all about me and my personal life. And that's it. I'm not a proponent of “I'll sleep when I'm dead.” That is not something that I live by because I definitely want to have a happy, stress-free flourishing existence. An existence where I have peace of mind.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Photography by: LEIGH KEILY