“I think pressure makes a diamond.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the name- TYLA ANNE HARRIS, you will be. The 20-year-old actress is on the rise, on the go, and making moves both in Hollywood and in academics.
Harris is one of the stars of ABC’s For Life. The drama series, created by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Hank Steinberg, is inspired by the life of Isaac Wright Jr., a wrongly convicted man who became a lawyer in jail to overturn his own life sentence. Harris plays Jasmine Wallace, the daughter of Aaron Wallace [inspired by Wright] played by Nicholas Pinnock. Season two is playing now on ABC.
During our shoot for the spring cover, Harris shared that she not only plays the part in Wright’s story but she also works alongside him in real life. She’s an intern for Wright’s law office. Like the main character, she helps Wright’s law office organize and view current cases of inmates and help them get fair sentences.
She tells RoyalTee her grandparents would always tell her she was going to be on a TV show by her senior year in high school. After all, her mother is an actress. Andrene Ward-Hammond could be seen on Showtime’s Your Honor, HBO’s Lovecraft Country, and Just Mercy with Michael B. Jordan. But before For Life, Harris says she had a plan, which included going to a historically Black college or university [HBCU], specifically Spelman, and becoming a majorette in the band. But as her grandparents predicted, she booked the pilot for For Life in March of her senior year. The lesson here: life doesn’t care anything about your life plans.
But that’s the only part of what makes Harris RoyalTee. When she is not in front of the camera, she is in the books. Harris is a political science student at Georgia State University with a minor in real estate and a concentration in international law. She also mentors as a celebrity godparent for the non-profit, Saving Our Daughters, co-founded by Keke Palmer.
RoyalTee Magazine had two exclusive opportunities to chat with Harris. First, during a Zoom meeting earlier this year and second as our exclusive Royal Woman cover feature for our spring edition. Harris talks about her role on the show, her kickstart into acting, being a role, and a “faith-based” future.
ROYALTEE: Who inspired you to get into acting?
TYLA: When my mom [Andrene Ward-Hammond] had me, she was already wanting to be an actress. She was going through theater classes at school. And then even after that, she would always go to classes. I was like, my mom’s purse growing up. If you saw my mom, you saw me. So, every class she went to I just tried to absorb all those things. And then she’s very much like a modern parent. It might be a Tuesday at nine. But do you want to go see an improv show? So I feel like the more I immersed myself in those arts, the more it just naturally came to me.
ROYALTEE: Okay, so let’s talk about ABC’s For Life. Tell us about your character, Jasmine.
TYLA: Jasmine overall, is very much so a daddy’s girl, a family-oriented type of girl smart, straight A’s. And she just really wants that nuclear family life that she had before her father was snatched from her basically. And I think throughout the seasons, like in season one, we saw Jasmine, go through pregnancy and find herself. But also delving deeper into why her father was taken and how her father was taken and really pushing for her dad to come back.
And then we open season two with dad being home. You keep wishing for things you, you’re going to get it. So I think season two is more dealing with the reality of her father being back and that nuclear family, what she thought it would look like, and what it actually is. And we see her growing into a young woman, because, of course, being pregnant is a struggle. But now the kid is here.
ROYALTEE: What aspects of Jasmine’s life are reflective of your own?
TYLA: What I personally see myself with Jasmine is determination, definitely. Her responses, although she’s young and still developing, I think a lot of her responses to the injustices that are happening are very much so appropriate. And I can kind of see how I was when I was smaller. The differences are that I kind of grew up with a marine dad, who was very, very keen from the minute I was born on Black history. So, I was more aware of the justices that were going on. But watching her go through that and trying to connect to my younger self and finding those emotions and what it feels like to hear about the first time something happening is heartbreaking all over again.
ROYALTEE: Aside from acting you mentor and volunteer. Let’s talk about your role with Saving Our Daughters.
TYLA: I’d be considered a celebrity godparent. Because of the pandemic, it’s a little harder to connect with people, go to schools, and stuff like that. But as a celebrity godparent you’re talking to the girls, you’re encouraging them all the time and giving them shout-outs and you’re just making sure that they know that someone is on their side. Because when you’re growing into being a young woman, it’s always amazing to be able to look to a young woman to see different things to do; because you’re a sponge. So we’re just able to be an information giver to them, whatever they may be going through.
ROYALTEE: What is your take on knowing that there’s some little girl watching your every move? That you are a role model?
TYLA: “It always reminds me to stay grounded. Because I’m not only setting a standard for myself [I already have high expectations for myself] but now they’re even higher expectations to reach the top. Also, just being a young Black girl in general. I can be a source of inspiration. It’s important to help them become the independent, free-thinking women that we want them to be.
ROYALTEE: Do you feel pressured?
TYLA: “I think pressure makes a diamond. So, if I would feel no pressure, that’s when I get scared. Like, ‘are you taking it as seriously as you should be taking it.’ But it’s always good to get those butterflies in your stomach like, ‘Okay, do the right thing.’ Checking myself, making sure I look good.”
ROYALTEE: Future plans?
TYLA: I’m very faith-based. Whether it’s acting or law, or real estate, whatever God wants me to do, that’s where I’m gonna flow.
Check out more of our exclusive with Tyla in our Spring 2021 magazine edition, available on April 23rd!
Click here to pre-order your print copy here. A digital format will be available on the official launch date.
A working journalist, entrepreneur and founder of RoyalTee Enterprises. Born and raised in Tampa, Fla. The vision of RoyalTee was inspired in 2015 by Alexia’s ambitions to return to her passion for creative writing and publishing and create a platform to showcase the excellence of minority women across the country through professional, personal and social ventures.