Formerly known primarily as a Broadway star, specifically as one of the poster girls for the musical Rent, Antonique Smith broke into the Hip Hop world at large with her role as Faith Evans in the 2009 biopic Notorious. Sitting down with Page31 in a recent interview, Smith, who is currently promoting her single “Hold Up Wait A Minute,” described her contribution to Dr. Dre’s oft-delayed Detox album and what it was like playing Faith Evans in The Notorious B.I.G. film.
Speaking on her small contribution to the still mysterious Detox, Antonique Smith began with a description of spending time with Dr. Dre himself. “Dr. Dre is amazing,” she said. “First of all, he’s just the coolest dude. You wouldn’t think that he was everything that he is. You wouldn’t think that he’s a producer of so many hits, you wouldn’t think that he’s Beats and all this money and all this fame ‘cause he’s so cool and so normal. Which is weird, but it was awesome. I did a hook for Detox which we’ll all probably never hear because he’s probably done like fifty million songs for Detox. So I’m one of fifty million songs for Detox.”
Breaking down her start in the industry, Antonique recalled actors like Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Lopez entering the world of music largely through the characters they played in film. “I been singing since I was a kid in choir,” she said. “Whitney Houston was my inspiration, I wanted to sound like her. So, I started singing first. Acting just kind of fell in my lap. It just seemed like, ‘You need to act,’ because it was just the thing that was successful for me, so I followed the path. I went to Broadway, I was a star on Broadway, and I kept leaving to go do music ‘cause I just really wanted to my music. I was just so focused on that my whole life.
“It wasn’t until after I played Faith Evans that I had established myself as an actress, which is dope, and, you know, sometimes it’s hard for actors to become singers,” she said. “But Jamie Foxx after he did Ray, Jennifer Hudson after she did Dreamgirls, Jennifer Lopez after she did Selena. It’s like once we see them in a light of being a singer and it’s believable, then we can believe them as singers themselves. So it was a blessing really that I was able to play the R&B diva Faith Evans because now everybody [has] seen me in that light and they can see me as a singer, it’s believable now when I come out with my own music. It’s easier to receive and digest, I’m getting a lot of love so I’m excited.”
During the interview, Antonique detailed auditioning for the part of Evans in front of Volleta Wallace, B.I.G.’s mother.“I felt like it was my role,” she said. “Something about it was just like, ‘I know I can do this and I know this is my role. I’m going to do this role.’ And sometimes you feel like that and you don’t get it. I had a bunch of auditions, I went in the first time, I just did my thing, I cried a little bit, it was the fight scene and the scene where I first meet him...Audition two, usually when you get a callback it’s for like the production team, so it was the director, it was the producers, and Ms. Wallace is one of the producers—Biggie’s mom, she was on the set every day—so she was there. When I walked in, I’m not gonna try and do her accent, but she said, ‘That’s Faith.’ I was just like, ‘Oh shoot, okay, I think that means I got it.’ It did not mean I had it at all...It was a blessing to be a part of Biggie’s legacy, it’s a blessing to be a part of Faith’s legacy. I get a lot of love, really, a lot of love from everybody for being that role in the movie. To me, I think it’s a wonderful thing to be able to take that love, that Faith Evans love, that ‘Ooh you the girl that played Faith Evans in Notorious,’ that love, and turn it into Antonique love. That’s what I’m doing, ‘Hold Up Wait A Minute’ is helping me turn the Faith Evans into Antonique love.”