Being a child actor is hopeless. Name one pint-sized thespian besides Ron Howard, Janet Jackson, Jodie Foster and Drew Barrymore who’s gone on to major success as an adult. No, seriously. We’ll wait… Can’t think of any, can you? We don’t know for certain if it’s early burnout, late puberty or what that causes the slide. All we know is that once tikes and teens turn twenty, things traditionally take a turn towards trouble.  

Of course, Tatyana Ali could care less about Gary Coleman, Joey Lawrence or Haley Joel Osmet’s misfortunes. The smart, sultry 31-year-old who got her big Hollywood break at 11 as Ashley Banks on the NBC/Quincy Jones smash The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is serious about show business and seriously putting holes in the theory about kid actors not amounting to much.

The all-grown New York native has sitcom credits (BET.com’s Buppies), movie stints (Glory Road), a Gold-selling album (1998’s Kiss the Sky) and even a Harvard degree already on her resumé. She only adds to her tally with a starring role on the current TV One comedy, Love That Girl. And if all that weren’t enough, Tatyana Ali tells HipHopDX she’s still reading scripts, still recording new music and still giving hugs to everyday folks who simply can’t get enough of lil’ cousin Ashley.

HipHopDX: First off, why do you love acting?
Tatyana Ali: I love acting because I can be whoever I want to be. I can explore parts of my personality and parts of myself that I just wouldn’t be able to do in everyday life. I can take what I imagine and, in a matter of moments, make it real.

DX: What are the pluses of being a Hollywood actress?
Tatyana Ali: I don’t really know. I don’t think that I live that much of a Hollywood life. I don’t know. I actually love traveling. I love seeing the world. I guess meeting so many types of people. In any city that I go to in the United States, there’s a downfall to not having anonymity, absolutely. But the upside to that is people are very warm to me because they saw me grow up.

So it sounds like a joke, but if I was destitute somewhere, I think someone would help me out, maybe take me in and give me and give me a room.

DX: You’re almost like a cousin to everybody.
Tatyana Ali: You’re right. I mean, I get hugs. Sometimes you want to be alone. If you feel like you’re having an emotional moment, someone recognizing you is not necessarily ideal. But there are times  I get a hug from somebody on the street and they’re like, “Oh, can I just hug you?” and it’s from the heart. It’s so pure. How could I not? I would have to shut myself down as a person for it not to feel good.

DX: Since those Fresh Prince of Bel-Air days, beyond the obvious physical changes, where have you grown the most?
Tatyana Ali: I think I’ve grown as a songwriter. I have an album coming out in the spring and I wrote all of it. The first album that I did [1998’s Kiss The Sky], every song was written and produced by a different person. I was only 16, but since then I have definitely grown as a songwriter. I have also now reached a convenient phase in my career where I’m producing. So on the business side of things, I’ve grown a great deal also. Also as an actor too [I’ve matured]. As you get older, your roles are always different. I’m always striving to grow in that area too. You’re always hopeful you’re challenged by what you’re doing.

DX: Are you pleased with the types of movie and television scripts that come your way?
Tatyana Ali: Am I pleased with the types of movie scripts that come my way? I don’t really know. You know, I definitely feel like, I definitely feel like… How do you say this? Right now, I’m really fulfilled because there’s so much going on. But there’s definitely been moments where [you question things]. I mean, it’s not so much the story, but the parts in the story. I’m very often considered for being the best friend in the role or being the girlfriend in the role. I can pretty much name on one hand [the developed parts]. It’s very rare that a complete, three-dimensional character comes with it. Does that make sense?

DX: That makes perfect sense. I loved what you did in Glory Road. I would just love to see more of that from you. But I know that I need to talk to screenwriters about that. That’s not a Tatyana Ali problem.
Tatyana Ali: Well, no, it is. It is because you have to make it your problem; otherwise, your destiny would be in other people’s hands. So, that’s why I’ve been focusing on staring the production company, to help bring characters like that to life.

DX: Guess this makes for a decent little segue into the new TV One program, Love That Girl. I’ve seen where some readers and bloggers are saying it plays into unflattering stereotypes with some of the characters—not necessarily your character, but some of the players around you. How would you respond to those critics?
Tatyana Ali: I don’t think it does. That’s interesting. What I like about the script is that I know people like those characters, like my best friend, Nefertiti. I also think that people have only seen the first few episodes of the show. The characters have a long way to go. I don’t think they were brought on to be seen in a negative way. I think with sitcoms, you do have archetypical characters. Fresh Prince had them: the ditsy, older sister; the preppy brother; the very strong, disciplinarian father; the loving mother. That’s part of what I think makes it fun to watch. There are these archetypical characters. I think as the show goes forward, you’ll be able to see the characters go through more storylines and become more developed.

DX: I know you played a role with President Obama’s campaign. How would you grade his performance thus far?
Tatyana Ali: I think I would grade him pretty well so far. He stepped up with a lot of the promises he made during his campaign. He started to withdraw in Iraq. He made a bigger focus on to Afghanistan, which he said he would do. He’s having a very difficult time with healthcare, but it’s on the agenda. Yeah, I think for the first year, he’s doing okay. We need more than one year to fix everything that needs to be fixed. Yeah, we’re kinda used to instant gratification. I think people have a misconception that, since he was such a new presidential face, that everything would change immediately. It just doesn’t work that way. It takes time to do it and do it well and make it long lasting.

DX: What else do you have on the calendar for the rest of this year?
Tatyana Ali: The album is coming out in the spring. That’s my lead focus.

DX: What are you most proud of with this new CD?
Tatyana Ali: I’m proud of the concept and all of the styles and collaborations with [famed 2Pac producer] Johnny J. I just hope that people find it to be inspiring and uplifting and to feel that somebody is going through the same things that they are going through.

DX: What’s the feel of the album?
Tatyana Ali: It’s kind of a mix. There are some slower jams. There are some party cuts. It’s got a real feel-good vibe to it.  

DX: Can you name some of the collaborations, or is that a surprise?
Tatyana Ali: There’s no one else featured on the album. It’s just me and Johnny J.