The Game actress talks candidly about her L.A.-based acting academy for youth—Amazing Grace Conservatory—and about what fans can expect from Tasha Mack next season.
Wendy Raquel Robinson is more than just Tasha Mack from The Game. The actress is also the co-founder of the Amazing Grace Conservatory, a theatrical training academy in Los Angeles that works with young people ages 8 to 21.
This past weekend, Robinson and the AGC put their twist on West Side Story at The New Los Angeles Theater Center. Prior to opening night, BET.com had a chance to chat with Robinson on her background in the theater, and what fans can expect from Tasha Mack in season 5 of The Game.
Tell us about the Amazing Grace Conservatory.
Amazing Grace Conservatory is very dear to my heart. I started it 16 years ago with my best friend, Tracy Coley. He passed in 2002. We were in Los Angeles as struggling artists, but we were always passionate about our craft. He was a singer and I was a dancer and actress. I started teaching at Marla Gibbs Performing Arts School. She closed, so we were like the pied pipers with all of these children. We saw a need for the arts to stay within the community because it changed my life completely. I grew up in South Central Los Angeles. We started it and we are a non-profit organization and it has become my purpose, my passion. It’s everything for me.
Why West Side Story, and how have you put a modern twist to it?
Why not West Side Story? It’s 2011 and gang violence is definitely out of control. The crisis within our community between Blacks and Latinos is sinless and we wanted to bring awareness to it. One thing that I like to consider this is “edutainment.” It’s educating while entertaining, but there’s a message. Its just time for all of us to come together. If we don’t do that, we will cease to exist. It’s interesting because we did it about 12 years ago and we kept it in its original context, which is still there too, but it’s 2011. The swag is a little different. The musical components are pretty much the same but finessed ever so slightly. The message is so universal and it’s just so necessary, so why not do it?
You studied drama at Howard University. With commencement this past weekend, what did you take away from your time in college and how has it helped your career?
It taught me to do everything—from producing, writing, hanging lights, wardrobe and costume, hair, makeup. Howard changed my life. It really did. We were able to do the classics like this. I got accepted into a lot of universities but I wouldn’t have been able to be Anita in their West Side Story or Agnes in Agnes of God. It really transformed my life. It also gave me a consciousness. It’s not about me. It’s about what you’re going to do with the gifts that you have to help somebody else and better your community. It really transformed my life.
Favorite Shakespeare play?
The Winter’s Tale. When I was at Howard my freshman year, and maybe that’s where I got my inspiration of where you can take the classics and keep the message but put your spin on it. The Winter’s Tale was so amazing and we scored it with Stevie Wonder’s music. It was amazing because when you have great writing and you have a great story, you can put it in any time zone, any location and it’s universal.
Has the success from season 4 of The Game finally set in?
No. Not at all. When I heard 22 [episodes], I was like, “What?!” I still feel like I’m a kid … like a kid in a candy store. It hasn’t hit. What’s amazing is, even being here, they had an arts fair and all of that, and they were [gasp]. The reaction and the support from the fans has been absolutely wonderful and the support from the community and all of that. It hasn’t hit me.
What can fans expect from Tasha Mack during season 5?
The unexpected. That’s the one thing I can say about her. I think she’s the most unpredictable character. I have no idea. The writers don’t tell us, which is quite interesting. They do not tell us what’s what. We just go with the flow and trust, commit to the work, have artistic integrity and just bring it.
And does shooting start in July?
No! Tia [Mowry] has her baby in July. So we will probably start in August or September.
(Photo: Brian Dowling/PictureGroup)