This week, Tracy sits down with the ultimate auntie crush, Taye Diggs! They chat about his role on the ever iconic Broadway musical, RENT, a moment he shared with Angela Bassett in his audition for How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and the improv scene that he wasn’t expecting on the set of The Best Man. Plus, Tracy gives flowers to one of the many focal points of the black community, front porches.
SBL Episode 07 Taye Diggs Transcript
[00:00:05] [Music In].
[00:00:05] Tracy Clayton: Well, welcome to Strong Black Legends, the show where we give flowers to the legends of black film and television brought to you by Netflix and Strong Black Lead. I am your host, Tracy Clayton, a.k.a. DJ Just The Hooks. And my thing is instead of like actually rapping, I'm only seeing the hooks. I still can't figure out why I didn't get on Rhythm and Flow. It's okay. Next season. Next season y'all. Any whomst, just like all episodes of Strong Black Legends, I have to start by practicing to be the kind of parent I one day want to be. And that's the kind of parent that yells at you about how you don't know nothing about anything, especially their favorite movies and music. I refuse to let my ancestors down. So I know you know about Taye Diggs, but what y'all know about Taye Diggs?
[00:01:02] [Music Out]
[00:01:09] Tracy: You heard me right. That is Taye Diggs, the one man whose name has been dropped so many times, I'm surprised he hasn't lost it somewhere. [laughs] That's a bad joke. I know. I'm sorry, but everybody knows Taye Diggs, right? I mean, I'm talking about How Stella Got Her Groove Back Taye Diggs, y'all remember that? There was Angela Bassett and her micro braids and everybody's skin was beautiful. And they had a love story that had us all wanting to book our next flight to Jamaica ASAP? That whole story? Remember that? Or -- or if you don't remember that one, then how about The Best Man? The film that gave us one of the finest black ensemble casts to come out of the 90s. That was French, by the way, means ensemble. And there's the holiday sequel that brought all of those memories back in 2013. Oh! Oh! And then, and then, of course, how could anybody ever forget Rent? The Rent! The Tony Award winning, almost every theater nerd's favorite musical Rent. Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. The Broadway musical! Rent! Taye Diggs has been working for a while. He got his start on om the stage, but his talents led him to the screen. And then back to the stage and then back to the screen again. I mean, if you want to talk about triple threats, we can not leave Taye Diggs out of the conversation. We just can't. It is so rare to find somebody who popped off in the 90s and continues to pop off. So it was only a matter of time before I got to sit down with Taye Diggs outside of my dreams and talk to the Auntie Whisperer himself.
[00:02:43] [Music In]
[00:02:43] Tracy: We talk about his start in theater, some behind the scenes stories from his movies, and much, much more. Real quick, go get your phone, text your auntie, send her links to this podcast and then come back and listen and then y'all can all talk about it.
[00:03:11] Tracy: Today, I'm very, very excited to present to you a riveting conversation with one and the only, Taye Diggs.
[00:03:18] Taye Diggs: Hey!
[00:03:18] Tracy: Hey! Hello hello.
[00:03:21] Taye: How are you?
[00:03:23] Tracy: I'm good. How about yourself?
[00:03:24] Taye: I'm alright.
[00:03:25] Tracy: Yeah, you look nice and fly together. I like those shoes..
[00:03:28] Taye: [crosstalk] I'm wearing colorful. Gotta colorful.
[00:03:31] Tracy: [crosstalk] Gotta add some color to life.
[00:03:32] [Music Out].
[00:03:32] Tracy: Are you ready to talk about your entire career?
[00:03:33] Taye: Absolutely not.
[00:03:35] Tracy: Alright. So let's complicate it and start from before your career.
[00:03:38] Taye: OK.
[00:03:39] Tracy: When you were a little bitty baby.
[00:03:40] Taye: OK.
[00:03:41] Tracy: When you were little baby Taye.
[00:03:41] Taye: Yes.
[00:03:42] Tracy: When did you get bit by the acting?
[00:03:45] Taye: I went to a performing arts high school starting in 10th grade. Prior to that, I wanted to be kind of like everybody else. I was athletic, so I tried out for all the sports teams. I made it teams, but never started because I just wasn't strong enough.
[00:04:00] Tracy: What sports?
[00:04:00] Taye: So junior high basketball and soccer. And tennis, I played through high school and college. But my mother noticed that I had -- my mother, I have four other brothers and sisters. And my mother raised us all and then decided to go back to school for the arts. So she was going to school for dance and theater. So before school, after school, evenings, we'd go with her to her rehearsals or pick her up from her classes or whatever. And that was -- that's when I was exposed to what she did. I'd go to her rehearsals and see these really charismatic people that were always funny, beautiful to look at. And then when she was on stage, I was very intrigued by the transition of, you know, how these people were acting backstage and then how they became these different characters on stage. Especially my mother. I knew she could sing because from going to church, but then seeing her alone on stage, singing these songs and then seeing how the audience was reacting to her, that was crazy. So she recognized that in me. And then we moved around a lot. One -- one time when we moved, we moved into the district of a performing arts high school and she signed me up. And that's literally -- because I grew up very nerdy and kind of insecure. And once I started going to that performing -- performing arts high school, I -- it was all -- it was over. Like I came out of my shell, found my own personality, I found to drive. You know, I wasn't very good, but I -- I was good enough that I could improve upon what I had. And then, then it was off to the races.
[00:06:01] Tracy: Well, you apparently did a really great job at improving it because you went from nerdy and insecure to being in part of the original --.
[00:06:08] Taye: Beautiful, perfect. Just -- I'm just perfection.
[00:06:12] Tracy: [laughs] [crosstalk] I mean, I wasn't going to say it, you know but.
[00:06:13] Taye: [crosstalk] On a piece of toast. I'll say it. I'll say it for you. [laughs]
[00:06:17] Tracy: [laughs] So perfection and a member of the original cast of Rent.
[00:06:21] Taye: [crosstalk] Yes. Yeah.
[00:06:22] Tracy: [crosstalk] On Broadway in 1996. That's not a small deal. It's a pretty big deal.
[00:06:26] Taye: It felt small at the time. I got to tell you. I -- I literally remember my agent saying -- I'd been away. I had been out of town. I worked at Tokyo Disneyland. Not a lot of people know this. As a -- at one of the shows. You've been to Dis -- Disneyland, have you?
[00:06:44] Tracy: I have not.
[00:06:45] Taye: Haven't -- never in your life?
[00:06:47] Tracy: Been to Disney World, which is very different.
[00:06:49] Taye: [crosstalk] Disney World. Oh, it's different?
[00:06:50] Tracy: [crosstalk] Never to Disneyland. I assume so?
[00:06:51] Taye: [crosstalk] How is Disney World different than Disneyland?
[00:06:53] Tracy: One is a whole world and the other is just a land.
[00:06:57] Taye: [crosstalk] Oh. [laughs]
[00:06:57] Tracy: [crosstalk] I don't know. [laughs] This is just my scientific, educated guess. We can get the fact checkers on it later. It's fine. [laughs]
[00:07:06] Taye: [laughs] They have these theatrical performances with music and costumes and Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse -- and I was in one of those shows for almost a year in Japan. And then I came back to the states -- made a bunch of money, came back to the states. And I was like, I'm gonna just concentrate on TV and film. Because in New York, if you have a theater -- this is back in the day. If you had a theater background, and if you were trying to audition for TV and movies, they would kind of scoff at the fact you had a fe -- had all these theater credits. But then if I wanted to do a part on Law & Order, the first thing they would ask is, you know, do you have any TV experience? And I want to be like, no, motherfucker. Like, I'm better than half of these -- I'm trained.
[00:07:49] Tracy: [crosstalk] I studied the craft.
[00:07:51] Taye: [crosstalk] I can be on TV. Yeah. So I was like, I'm going to focus on that. And as soon as I decided to do that, I came back to New York and my agent said, there's this tiny show. It's got this director that has you know, he's got some really good reviews behind him. I think you should just go in. And I said, I don't want to work on musicals anymore. I want to focus on TV. I skipped the -- I think I skipped the audition twice. And then finally my agent said, just go in and just introduce yourself, so these people know you. So I threw together a song and went and sang the song. I got called back. And once I got called back then I was like, OK, well, let me -- let me try to put some energy into this. And then I got into the show. I'm playing the bad guy, the antagonist, Benjamin Coffin III. And, and that first day of rehearsal, we knew we had something special. I didn't know to what extent, but we sang “Seasons of Love.” And I was like, I don't know what this is gonna be, but it's gonna be something.
[00:08:58] Tracy: What was your impression of this story? Because it tackle some really, really big issues. There were people of color in the cast, which even today is just like, oh my God! More than one black person in a play. So you've got that going on. And it really tackled the issue of HIV and AIDS. Like what -- how did the story strike you?
[00:09:13] Taye: I was so flighty. I don't even read the whole thing.
[00:09:16] Tracy: Yeah?
[00:09:16] Taye: I didn't even I didn't know what the show was about. I'm always late. I'm just always late. I'm very fortunate that things work out. But [laughs] after the rehearsal and people we're talking about -- because this was downtown theater. I'd done one Broadway show prior to that called Carousel, which was, you know, straight ahead, music theater, the show's been around for years. And then I went away to Japan and I came back and did this new downtown show, which was a whole different -- you know, at the time we were, we were like the bad kids of Broadway. You know, they had other people that had come up listening to all the Broadway greats.
[00:09:55] Taye: Right.
[00:09:56] Tracy: And you had like the off-color downtown theater. And that's who these people were to me. So I looked at them a little differently. I didn't read the whole show until after the first rehearsal, but a lot of these actors were very committed to the cause and AIDS and, you know, people paying attention to who was doing what. And so I had to kind of brush up on all of that. But we felt very proud. And I'd never been around artists that were also activists. You know what I mean? That kind of went against what I was kind of raised and taught, you know. That these weren't actors that were just about themselves and how they can be --.
[00:10:34] Taye: [crosstalk] Right, right.
[00:10:34] Tracy: The performancer. You know, looking the best or being the best. It was about this show. And then the show kind of translated into life. And I thought that was really cool. Yeah. Daphne Rubin-Vega, she lived in the area that we were singing about. So I was -- I was learning. I was learning a lot.
[00:10:54] Tracy: We must talk about all of my auntie's favorite movies and mine. A little -- a little number called, How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
[00:11:03] Taye: Yes. That put me on. That one put me on.
[00:11:05] Tracy: How did you find out about that particular role?
[00:11:07] Taye: That's a funny story.
[00:11:09] Tracy: All right.
[00:11:10] Taye: I was doing Rent in the evenings and then I just booked a soap opera in the daytime, Guiding Light.
[00:11:19] Tracy: I remember Guiding Light.
[00:11:19] Taye: Do you?
[00:11:19] Tracy: Is it still on?
[00:11:21] Taye: I don't think so. But it was if it's off, it was one of the -- it was -- it's what I started out as a radio show. One of the first radio show soap operas. And I think it's one of the most long -- like one of the longest running soaps. But I thought I was the shit because I was like, I'm a soap opera actor by day [laughter] and and I'm a Broadway star by night.
[00:11:42] Tracy: Killing it.
[00:11:43] Taye: I thought I was.
[00:11:46] Tracy: I mean, you were!
[00:11:46] Taye: I was fun. It was fun. My character was Damian Sugarhill. How about that for a name?
[00:11:52] Tracy: I mean.
[00:11:52] Taye: I was a record producer. But I was brought in to, to kind of break them, break that couple up as a record producer. So I was doing those two gigs and then I got a call to audition for this character. And at the time, I was just trying to get in front of casting directors because the character for How Stella Got Her Groove Back was described as tall, dark with dreads. So I didn't think I was gonna get the part. I just wanted to get in front of these movie people and make, make some kind of an impression. So it was great in that I didn't have any pressure. I didn't put any pressure on myself. And it wasn't something that I thought I was going to end up getting. So a lot of times in those circumstances, you go in very free and a lot of times you do your best work. So I went and -- oh, I had one of my -- Gwen was in Rent. She was from the islands. So she, she gave me a couple of tips on a Jamacian accent.
[00:12:50] Tracy: What tips did she give you?
[00:12:51] Taye: I don't know. But it worked.
[00:12:52] Tracy: Ah. [laughs].
[00:12:52] Taye: What ever she told me, it worked. So I got called back. And then I went and got like tapes on just like a general Jamaican accent. [laughter] So I tried to learn that. I was living in New York and the callbacks were in L.A. So they flew me and my then girlfriend Idina, my baby mama.
[00:13:14] Tracy: Hey, Baby Mama.
[00:13:14] Taye: To Disney. So we did Disney by the day. And, and then in the afternoon, then we went and did the screen tests with Angela Bassett. And back then a screen test was they had, they had cameras set up and you would do an actual scene from the movie and film it to see how you looked on, on screen with the star of the movie. And I remember we were set up to do the first scene and I couldn't remember my first line. And Angela Bassett was there and she -- she was supposed to be holding my hand. And she kept on just massaging my hand as if to be like, it's okay, it's OK.
[00:13:55] Tracy: [crosstalk]Aww.
[00:13:55] Taye: I was relaxing. And then it came. And then we were -- and then we were cool. Yeah, that was -- that was a trip.
[00:14:03] Tracy: [crosstalk] I love it that story.
[00:14:05] Taye: [crosstalk] That as a trip. Yeah, yeah.. She was, she was rooting for me.
[00:14:08] Tracy: Aww. Were you nervous or anxious the first run?
[00:14:10] Taye: [crosstalk] I didn't think I was until that first moment.
[00:14:11] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:14:12] Taye: Until that very first moment and they yelled action. And then it hit me. like and I was across from Angela Bassett. And then all of a sudden, it was like it just went white. But then I could feel -- I remember feeling her hand. And then that kind of relaxed me. And then once I got started, then it was all cool.
[00:14:31] Tracy: Off to the races, as you say.
[00:14:32] Taye: [crosstalk] Yes. Yep.
[00:14:33] Tracy: So you had a girlfriend at this point. You were --.
[00:14:37] Taye: [crosstalk] That I met in Rent, Idina Menzel. I met her in Rent.
[00:14:39] Tracy: So your shirtless a lot in this movie.
[00:14:42] Taye: Say what?
[00:14:42] Tracy: You're shirtless a lot in this movie.
[00:14:44] Taye: [crosstalk] In How Stella --.
[00:14:45] Tracy: [crosstalk] Stella. Yes.
[00:14:45] Taye: Yeah. I was the eye candy.
[00:14:47] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:14:47] Taye: Yeah.
[00:14:47] Tracy: How did the girlfriend feel about that?
[00:14:49] Taye: She -- I don't know. You know what was great about her? She never at the time, I mean this came out in therapy later, years later, after we were married. But she never made me feel like we were competing or that she was jealous of what I was doing at work. It seemed as if she understood that this was a huge opportunity.
[00:15:10] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:15:11] Taye: And I remember when I when I booked the gig and I got in the car and I told her that I'd got it. She started crying. She said she was so proud of me. So I never -- she did it really, really -- she did a great job at just making me feel like I was doing -- this was a job.
[00:15:25] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:15:26] Taye: Do you now what I mean?
[00:15:27] Tracy: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:15:27] Taye: I'm not saying I didn't enjoy being the leading man and having all these beautiful women around me, but she never made me feel that way ever, ever, ever. I think now there was -- she was suppressing it. And --
[00:15:39] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:15:40] Taye: But -- but at the time I felt very comfortable. Very comfortable.
[00:15:46] Tracy: [crosstalk] That's good. And then is like the hits just keep coming. Because then in 1999, there's The Best Man. I don't know if you remember that part of your career, little movie. [laughter] It's just like is it, is it -- was it the manifesting? Did you just have like a really good agent who was, just like, you know?
[00:16:03] Taye: [crosstalk] You know what it was, it was like they always have this where it's like somebody -- I was the flavor of the month. So I was the new cat. And luckily --.
[00:16:11] Tracy: The "it guy".
[00:16:11] Taye: The movies did well -- yep. It was like all the black guys that were to be in the white movies, were the leads of the black movies. And I rode that as far as I could. And then and then luckily, I was able to continue working.
[00:16:24] Tracy: Yeah, I think a reason why this movie still light to this day makes black people so excited is because you've got to see, like all of your favorite black actors on screen together.
[00:16:35] Taye: [crosstalk] Yeah, it was cool.
[00:16:35] Tracy: [crosstalk] Usually it's just like one here and there. I mean, that was Terrence Howard, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long.
[00:16:42] Taye: [crosstalk] Yeah -- Sonaa Lathan.
[00:16:43] Tracy: [crosstalk] Did you know that they were -- Sanaa Lathan, of course. How could I forget. Did you know when you were going out for this role --
[00:16:49] Taye: [crosstalk] Regina Hall.
[00:16:49] Tracy: That they were going to -- everybody. [laughs].
[00:16:52] Taye: There were all, everybody's still working.
[00:16:54] Tracy: Yeah. Yes. Did you know that they were all onboard with this project when you went out for the role?
[00:17:00] Taye: No. I was still new to the game, so I was just along for the ride. And I'm really enjoying myself. It wasn't until later on that I started to kind of pay attention to what other people were saying I should feel and how I should be worried about this next person coming up and staying on top. And, you know, white movies and black movies and crossing over. And so there was a moment there was kind of really golden. And then I kind of allowed the business to have an effect on me. And that's -- and that's when you kind of lose your bearings a bit.
[00:17:36] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:17:36] Taye: That's what I did when I started to be overly concerned about what it was to be in this business and a black man, black audiences and white audiences, and interracial relationships and what that was doing to black audiences. All of that stuff. Things were going much, much more smooth when I didn't pay attention to all that and I was just having fun and taking the jobs that I was given.
[00:17:59] Tracy: Did you ever break out and break away from that and go back to like not feeling pressure and not worrying about those things and just having fun?
[00:18:05] Taye: [crosstalk] That wasn't until just recently.
[00:18:07] Tracy: [crosstalk] Really?
[00:18:07] Taye: [crosstalk] Yeah. I forced myself. Something was missing. And then I made a choice to just do things differently. I think maybe before five years ago. And then, then I kind of found a new path that was pleasing. And that seemed to be working.
[00:18:21] Tracy: I really want to get into that later. I'm very intrigued, but I also don't want to lose our current thread because I have to ask you --.
[00:18:27] Taye: [crosstalk] Okay.
[00:18:27] Tracy: About a particular moment in The Best Man. A little, little teeny tiny birdie told me that there was an improv moment--
[00:18:34] Taye: [crosstalk] Yeah.
[00:18:35] Tracy: [crosstalk] Between you and Nia Long.
[00:18:35] Taye: [crosstalk] Nia Long. Yeah.
[00:18:36] Tracy: Tell me about that moment and the scene.
[00:18:39] Taye: It was more, I was like in the play and I'm in the movie, I guess I'm out drunk. And I've been trying to get with the character. I've been trying to like link up with there even though I have my own girlfriend. And I come -- I got beat up by Lance, I think, and I'm coming to maybe get some from Nia. And I'm late. I got a black eye and she's upset because she thinks something's gonna go down. She's all looking cute. And I go to her and try to say, I messed up. And there's this moment where she gets upset and it's supposed to yell at me, but instead, she yells at me and completely and slaps me across the face.
[00:19:21] Tracy: The taste outta one's mouth, as they would say. [laughs].
[00:19:24] Taye: Yes. And at the moment -- in the moment, I was, you know, because I have theater training and I come from this school of thought, mind and respect. Anything you do in a scene, you can improvise but you -- you you let your, you let your co-star know --.
[00:19:42] Tracy: [crosstalk] Ooh!
[00:19:42] Taye: I might be doing this or are you open to trying this? Like you said with Angela Bassett? There was that that, you know, let's -- we'll be there for each other.
[00:19:48] Tracy: Uh Huh.
[00:19:49] Taye: That didn't happen. [laughs]
[00:19:51] Tracy: What? So you were completely caught off guard.
[00:19:53] Taye: [crosstalk] 100 percent. And offended, appalled. You know, that's when I got on my, my theatrical high horse. How could she? Who does she think she --.
[00:20:04] Tracy: [crosstalk] Wow.
[00:20:04] Taye: But -- but now in hindsight, it completely -- it completely worked. And and the director, Malcolm Lee kept it. He kept that take. So if went to the movie, you'd watch that slap. She makes it connect. [clap] And I go, Woo! [laughter] And in the moment, I was actually like, do say I cut? Do I -- And I -- I don't know what happens afterwards. But that's in the movie. But it worked. It worked.
[00:20:34] Tracy: Wow.
[00:20:35] Taye: Yeah. And, you know, I've worked with her, I love her.
[00:20:37] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:20:38] Taye: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't do that any differently. But in the moment, there was -- I couldn't, I couldn't -- I just couldn't believe that she would do such a thing.
[00:20:45] Tracy: Wow. Shocked and appalled.
[00:20:47] Taye: Yes, exactly those two.
[00:20:50] Tracy: Wow. So you got to work again with Sanaa Lathan.
[00:20:53] Taye: [crosstalk] Yes.
[00:20:53] Tracy: [crosstalk] In 2002 in Brown Sugar.
[00:20:54] Taye: Brown Sugar.
[00:20:56] Tracy: Was it like, uh, like a high school reunion? Like, oh, hey girl. Like, what was it like to work with her again?
[00:21:01] Taye: [crosstalk] Yeah. She -- I had consider -- I considered her like my work wife.
[00:21:03] Tracy: Aww.
[00:21:06] Taye: Like we -- we -- Yeah. She -- we know each other, we know how each other -- we move. We're very similar. We had a respect for the craft. You know, we were kind of considered -- we considered ourselves like hippy black people. [laughter] You know, other black people thought we were a little off, but we're just black enough to still hang out with black people. [laughter] But we weren't stereotypical in any way. And she was just, we always had each other's back, you know? Yeah. That was, that was - I was just watching When Harry Met Sally with my girl and realized that Brown Sugar was like the black version of that. Two friends, they started as friends. They decide early that they're not going to be together because they're friends. And then they cross over. They get sexual. Then it causes like a rift. And then they realize throughout the movie that they're meant for each other. And then there's a whole chasing scene at the end. It's just -- Yeah.
[00:22:05] Tracy: Wow.
[00:22:05] Taye: So it was -- that made me even more proud to have been in that movie. Because you grow up watching these kind of white movies --.
[00:22:12] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:22:12] Taye: Hoping that you can someday play these roles, thinking that's not going to happen.
[00:22:16] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:22:16] Taye: Cus they're not going to write movies like that for us. Then, you know, then they do. And you get to do it and it's cool.
[00:22:21] Tracy: Yeah. This is exciting for me because I've never seen When Harry Met Sally.
[00:22:27] Taye: Oh!
[00:22:27] Tracy: But now I know what it's about. And I'm just so thrilled that there's a black version of it out there.
[00:22:31] Taye: [crosstalk] You need to see it. You need a couple more white friends then.
[00:22:32] Tracy: Do I?
[00:22:34] Taye: It doesn't hurt. You know.
[00:22:36] Tracy: You prolly, right.
[00:22:36] Taye: Sometimes they can get me cabs. [laughs].
[00:22:37] Tracy: [laughs] I mean, the more things change, the more they stay the same, they say. So at this point you had been on screen doing movies for quite a while. Did you miss the stage? Did you miss theater at this point?
[00:22:51] Taye: [crosstalk] I did, but I was always, especially when I was living in New York, there were always opportunities. So I would, you know, in between movies, I would go and do a couple of months on Broadway. I did Chicago. Then I did Wicked.
[00:23:05] Tracy: [crosstalk] Oh I love Chicago. Love it.
[00:23:07] Taye: [crosstalk] Yeah, I did a show, Wild Party. So, you know, I was -- it was the life, I got to say. Before kids, it was, you know, living in New York, working consistently. You know, it was, it was awesome.
[00:23:22] Tracy: Yeah. I mean, it makes sense that you had enough work to do in New York because you're pretty much like the king of black romcoms at the point.
[00:23:31] Taye: [laughs] That's funny.
[00:23:31] Tracy: If I may say.
[00:23:31] Taye: Is that a thing?
[00:23:33] Tracy: [crosstalk] I think it's a thing. I think so.
[00:23:33] Taye: [crosstalk] That's funny. It is now. Shoot. [inaudible]
[00:23:36] Tracy: [laughs] Does it feels strange to be called that to be called or considered a legend?
[00:23:40] Taye: Of course.
[00:23:41] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:23:42] Taye: Yeah. Yeah. Because I still feel like I'm 20 inside. I still feel like a kid. So when somebody comes to me and says -- you know, as an actor, you come bred to always want to stay and look young. So the moment you start getting roles where you're older, you know, they teach you to kind of start stressing out. I started to do that until cats would approach me and say, oh, you're on -- your in all the classics. And at first, you know, your stomach gets tight. But then when I think of the classics, I'm proud. Like this young person grew up watching stuff that I -- we -- I was a part of things that had their first. And that to me, like, that's history.
[00:24:29] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:24:29] Taye: And I was like, OK, this is, this is humbling. Because at the same time, I was really concerned about like legacy. What was I going to leave? You know, because I hadn't won any major awards yet. And I wanted to be on like a list that would last forever. Like, what am I going to do? And then folks started to approach me saying these things. I'm like, oh, that's, that's it. I was a part of this movie. There wasn't a movie like this before me. This movie helped, you know, create the space for other movies to be done like this.
[00:25:01] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:25:02] Taye: People started acting because of these movies. All of that. I'm really, really proud of and I'm -- and I choose I chose to kind of let that overtake me instead of tripping on how many gray hairs I'm getting.
[00:25:14] Tracy: But another really cool thing about this is that like the, the movies that you've been in mean so much to so many people, black people in particular. And I feel like a great example of that. staying power is The Best Man holiday, right? This was 2013, 14 years after the original Best Man premiered, which I didn't realize until like yesterday when I was like, wow, it was really 14 years in between the movies?
[00:25:39] Taye: [crosstalk] Yeah.
[00:25:39] Tracy: Because if you like, feel that way.
[00:25:40] Taye: No.
[00:25:40] Tracy: To me.
[00:25:41] Taye: Yeah.
[00:25:42] Tracy: When you heard that they wanted to do a sequel, were you just like all in from the beginning? Or were you like, mmm? I don't know.
[00:25:48] Taye: You know what, we all were. It was -- that, that shit was bittersweet because that was right in the middle of like black shit and white shit. So it was always like, OK, that movie did really, really well. So it -- had it been a white movie, they would have come out -- like they're making plans when they're writing the movie -- the first one -- this should do so well, let's set some time aside, money for the second and third one.
[00:26:14] Tracy: Right.
[00:26:14] Taye: Nobody knew the movie did really well. And then the studio was just I feel like they just looked at black movies as like a cute little project. Whereas, you know, if it had been a superhero with some no name white kid, there would have been second and third -- there would already have been written.
[00:26:32] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:26:32] Taye: So, you know, from what we knew, the director was like, okay, let's do the second one. Yeah. And everybody just kind of dragged their feet. And you know, there went -- there was a moment when black movies went away for a minute.
[00:26:46] Tracy: [crosstalk] Yes, for sure.
[00:26:46] Taye: [crosstalk] So we had to wait for them to come back again. And then, you know, I don't know what Malcolm Lee did, but he, he wrote it. And then, like, he had to show the, the studio people know that a second one's coming. And this is when I think Twitter was, was moving. And people were responding. And it was like dummies, I told you this before. And you know, how they hardly payed us any more money from that. So people were -- you know, we had been working, all of us had been working. And we knew our worth. And all of us had to say, okay, we want to be a part of this. And it's special. But at the same time, if we do it, you know, we got to take half the amount of money that we're worth. Smile in these white people's faces that, you know what I mean?
[00:27:30] Tracy: Oh my god.
[00:27:30] Taye: But we all did it. We were all like, this is bigger than them.
[00:27:35] Tracy: yeah.
[00:27:35] Taye: And it was just part of something that we want to be. Cus Terrence, you know, he had been, I think, nominated for an Oscar. And, you know, it's like it's embarrassing to -- not embarassing. It's disrespectful --.
[00:27:48] Tracy: That's the word.
[00:27:48] Taye: To go to a studio and look at these people in their face and say, you know how much I'm worth. I know how much I'm worth. But you're smiling at me, asking me to do this for pennies. You know what I mean?
[00:27:58] Tracy: [crosstalk] I'm triggered. I'm triggered.
[00:27:59] Taye: [crosstalk] So I get it, I get it.
[00:28:00] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:28:01] Taye: But we all did it.
[00:28:03] Tracy: You did it.
[00:28:03] Taye: We all did it. It was great. You know, we did more than we thought and the movie was, was more than we thought. We -- I didn't know it was going to affect people in the same way. I didn't know it was going to affect people in the way that it did.
[00:28:17] Tracy: That's so frustrating. I went through the same thing. I mean, you have to prove to somebody that people -- there are people out there in America that like you.
[00:28:23] Taye: [crosstalk] Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
[00:28:23] Tracy: There -- black people watch stuff. Black people spend money and there just like, sounds fake.
[00:28:29] Taye: Yeah, yeah.
[00:28:29] Tracy: I'm very glad that you did it. I'm very glad that y'all finished through.
[00:28:31] Taye: Me too.
[00:28:32] Tracy: Do you think that it is coincidence that you have acted in so many movies with the same actors and actresses? Or is it like Hollywood has its faves and these are the ones that we trust and w're going with these black actors? What do you think?
[00:28:45] Taye: Yeah, I think it's that.
[00:28:46] Tracy: Yeah?
[00:28:46] Taye: I think it's -- Yeah. We all know each other. We're all good at what we do. And, you know, I feel like directors and producers and studios, they want quality. And I think we've all earned the right to kind of be able to make certain requests. And yeah, I think it's -- I think it's great. It feels good.
[00:29:07] Tracy: Good!
[00:29:08] Taye: Feels good.
[00:29:09] Tracy: It also lets people like me know they like, you know, you don't have to accept, like, less than what your worth.
[00:29:14] Taye: [crosstalk] Sure, sure, sure.
[00:29:16] Tracy: So thank you for that. Thank you for doing that just for me.
[00:29:18] Taye: I appreciate it. [laughs]
[00:29:18] Tracy: I appreciate it. [laughs] So you go back to the romcom team again, set it up with Netflix. What is it about romcoms that attracts you?
[00:29:28] Taye: Oh, I love -- you get to do everything. You know what I mean, if it's the right one, you get to look cute because they dress you up nice. You get the cute girl and you get to be funny. Like to me, comedy is where it all starts.
[00:29:39] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:29:40] Taye: That's -- that's what I love doing most. Just being silly. With Set It Up, I got to be a character that was so different than who I am. I get to play extremes. And that was fun.
[00:29:56] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:29:57] Taye: Really, really fun. Yeah. I got to link up with Lucy Liu, who I had worked with on Ally McBeal. And you know, when you get to know somebody on one project and then work with them again on another and even an increase that relationship and go further, it's always great.
[00:30:17] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:30:17] Taye: It's always great because you can kind of -- you can go to work, work -- use the relationship you had in the first meeting and expound on that. And that's what we were able to do. So it was great.
[00:30:29] Tracy: Yeah. So you're now at a point in your career where you are acting with newcomers into the industry. New, fresh faces, black actors. What advice do you give them?
[00:30:40] Taye: I mean, I don't -- if they ask me, I give it to them. But I've been in this business long enough to know that people, you know, they have to find their own way. And a lot of times, if they are where they are, they kind of know what they're doing already. It's the ones -- usually the ones that are asking you shit, don't end up doing shit because when you're doing it, you're not asking about it. You feel me?
[00:31:09] Tracy: I think so. Can you not ask about it on Monday and then go do it on Tuesday?
[00:31:13] Taye: You can. But usually like the time that they spend asking -- like I was doing.
[00:31:18] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:31:18] Taye: You couldn't tell me what -- I didn't ask nobody nothing. I was doing it.
[00:31:21] Tracy: [crosstalk] You was learning by doing.
[00:31:22] Taye: I was doing it. When the people were like, so when you're -- you're guy that's starting out in the [laughter] -- like you shouldn't be --why are you sitting here with me? Figure it out. Because my -- what I do is everybody has their own path.
[00:31:36] Tracy: Yeah. That's true
[00:31:36] Taye: [crosstalk] Do you know what I mean? And so much of it is doing it on your own and then you attract people that help you along the way. You know what I mean, like I didn't walk up to Whoopi Goldberg on the street. I was already in a movie. And then she just happened to say, and gave me these --.
[00:31:53] Tracy: [crosstalk] By the way.
[00:31:54] Taye: [crosstalk] Yeah. And I learned from that. But it wasn't you know, I'm looking for a mentor. There's this program. Mm-mm. [laughter] No! Get out there. Do it.
[00:32:03] Tracy: Uh-Huh. So is that how you --.
[00:32:05] Taye: [crosstalk] To me, to me. That's how it worked for me. So I can't tell other people, how did you -- I don't -- I didn't do it your way.
[00:32:11] Tracy: Right.
[00:32:11] Taye: I didn't sit and ask Denzel Washington, do you have a few moments, sir? No, he didn't have time for that.
[00:32:18] Tracy: [crosstalk] Also Denzel's busy.
[00:32:18] Taye: Yeah.
[00:32:18] Tracy: He's out there doing too.
[00:32:18] Taye: [crosstalk] Idon't know how to do it. Somebody said the other day, see, I really want to move further in this business and I want to be an executive assistant, you know. Do you know how I can do that? I said, I'm an actor. I don't know how to be -- why you asking me how to be an executive assist --.
[00:32:32] Tracy: That was an odd choice. I agree. [laughs]
[00:32:35] Taye: I don't know.
[00:32:36] Tracy: [crosstalk] It's like asking me how they [inaudible].
[00:32:36] Taye: [crosstalk] I don't know how people get jobs.
[00:32:36] Tracy: [crosstalk] I don't know.
[00:32:38] Taye: You know I wasn't rude, but --.
[00:32:40] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:32:40] Taye: You know, I know how to be an actor.
[00:32:44] Tracy: How did you learn how to be a children's book writer? Did you just do it?
[00:32:50] Taye: Yeah. [laughs] I had -- this a whole destiny thing and coincidence. This is something I feel like I was supposed to do. My cousin, best friend is an amazing artist and illustrator -- a children's book illustrator. He took this poem that I wrote back in college called, “Chocolate Me”. And years later, when he was, you know, thoroughly along his path of being an illustrator for children's books, he thought -- he said, he thought that would make a good children's book. I said, alright. Let's try it. We made a couple of edits, went around to some publishing houses and got it done. And then once that came out, I was like, oh this is something that I enjoy. Let me continue doing it and let me try to -- to fit in to this, like this area that needs more attention.
[00:33:43] Tracy: So pretty much as we sit here today --.
[00:33:46] Taye: Yes.
[00:33:46] Tracy: You and I, looking each other in the face.
[00:33:48] Taye: Right.
[00:33:49] Tracy: You've kind of done it all or like half of it all. You've been on stage, TV --
[00:33:51] Taye: [crosstalk] I'm trying. Yeah.
[00:33:54] Tracy: [crosstalk] You're writing children's books. Like what is what's next? You gonna cut -- cut a good album. You about to--.
[00:33:58] Taye: [crosstalk] I don't need that.
[00:34:00] Tracy: [crosstalk] Reality shows.
[00:34:00] Taye: [crosstalk] Well, I'm producing. Pro -- I like creating. I like, I like creating. So and I like being in a position where I want to be my own boss. I want to help bring others up. So, you know, to that cat that's like, what can you do to help me? I want to be -- this is where I can give them a role. Like can you do what you say you can do? Well, then come over. Let's do this. I would -- you know, I want to be that -- I want to be able to do that. That to me is helping them.
[00:34:28] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:34:28] Taye: So, yeah, I want to provide -- I want to, I want to create.
[00:34:32] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:34:32] Taye: I'm going to create.
[00:34:33] Tracy: [crosstalk] You are going to create.
[00:34:33] Taye: [crosstalk] I'm in the --.
[00:34:35] Tracy: [crosstalk] Just gonna do it.
[00:34:35] Taye: Yeah. I'm in the midst of that now.
[00:34:37] Tracy: Is there anything that you're working on now that you can share with us? Anything that we should be looking out for?
[00:34:43] Taye: I'm very excited about this new black porn label.
[00:34:48] Tracy: I'm sorry, what?
[00:34:48] Taye: Called Sticks and Quit. Just kidding. [laughs].
[00:34:52] Tracy: [laughs] I was like, did y'all hear that? [laughs] First, I was confused and then I was intrigued. So maybe it's something to add on. I don't know.
[00:35:03] Taye: I don't -- a bunch of stuff. A bunch of stuff.
[00:35:07] Tracy: [laughs] Sorry.
[00:35:08] Taye: What's the latest? I can't keep -- keep track. I'm doing a podcast on Fathers, CWC. Trying to -- in the process of selling some non-scripted creating -- Yeah, creating stuff.
[00:35:21] Tracy: All right.
[00:35:23] Taye: Yeah.
[00:35:23] Tracy: This is super easy, easy peasy. This is our Rapid Fire segment that we like to end all of our interviews with.
[00:35:28] Taye: Got it.
[00:35:29] Tracy: Random questions. Black, silly, what have you. If you had to choose someone from the cast of The Best Man, who would be most likely to break a scene by making you laugh?
[00:35:43] Taye: Terrence.
[00:35:44] Tracy: Who's most likely to be late?
[00:35:47] Taye: Terrence.
[00:35:49] Tracy: [laughs] Who would the best wedding planner be?
[00:35:52] Taye: Nia.
[00:35:52] Tracy: Who would make the best potato salad?
[00:35:54] Taye: Monica.
[00:35:55] Tracy: Mmm. I believe it. That would also be my answer, even though I'm not -- I've not met her. So you've been in movies about being the best man. Have you been an actual best man and real life?
[00:36:06] Taye: To Shane Evans.
[00:36:08] Tracy: Oh.
[00:36:08] Taye: Yeah, yeah, to the -- yeah.
[00:36:09] Tracy: Who was your first celebrity crush as a kid?
[00:36:13] Taye: Lucy Liu is up there. Nia Long was up there. Tudi,.
[00:36:20] Tracy: Tudi!
[00:36:21] Taye: Tudi was up there. Lynda Carter was my first white girl crush, Wonder Woman. [sings] Wonder Woman!
[00:36:31] Tracy: [laughs] Last question.
[00:36:31] Taye: Yes.
[00:36:32] Tracy: You're at a wedding, let's say. There's a Soul train line happening.
[00:36:36] Taye: Soul Train line.
[00:36:38] Tracy: What move is gonna carry you down the train tracks, as it were.
[00:36:42] Taye: That's -- the step -- the step ball chain, step ball chain --That's an easy one.
[00:36:46] Tracy: Hey, I can do that one.
[00:36:47] Taye: Could -- yeah, everybody can. Yeah. Yeah. Soul Train lines. Jesus Christ, they're so played.
[00:36:57] Tracy: Oh! Well, this interview is over.
[00:37:00] Taye: [crosstalk] Jesus. [laughs]
[00:37:00] Tracy: [crosstalk] Thanks. Get this guy outta here.
[00:37:02] Taye: But everybody does them. So.
[00:37:04] Tracy: Yeah.
[00:37:05] Taye: It's for a reason.
[00:37:05] Tracy: Soul Train lines and the Electric Slide will never die.
[00:37:07] Taye: Oh, the Electric Slide, I love. I love that --.
[00:37:09] Tracy: So the Electric Slide's not played. But Soul Train's are?
[00:37:11] Taye: [crosstalk] Totally played, totally played but I love it.
[00:37:13] Tracy: Okay.
[00:37:13] Taye: There's some about that with the repetition, it's not like -- it's everybody together.
[00:37:18] Tracy: [crosstalk] Unity.
[00:37:18] Taye: [crosstalk] Unity.
[00:37:19] Tracy: [crosstalk] Community.
[00:37:19] Taye: Yes. That part I love.
[00:37:20] Tracy: Mmmkay. All right. Well, you are now back in my good graces Mr. Taye Diggs.
[00:37:23] Taye: Thank you.
[00:37:23] Tracy: Thank you for being so generous with your time and your conversation.
[00:37:27] Taye: I appreciate that. Please continue what you're doing.
[00:37:29] Tracy: [crosstalk] We'll see you in the movies. I will as long as they pay me. [laughs]
[00:37:37] Tracy: Friends and family, we have once again arrived at the part of the show where I give metaphorical flowers to something or someone black that I really like. This segment is called Tracy's Flowers. I know, very inventive and artistic title. This week, my flowers go to drum roll, please. [drumroll] Front porches! [audience clapping] Yeah! So deserving? It's about time! Woo! Now, before we proceed, let me tell you what a front porch is not. Mkay? Like a front porch is not a stoop. I know how y'all far East coasters just love your stoops. Not a front porch. And it's also not too folding chairs pulled up on the sidewalk, which I have seen and I understand y'all just trying to make do with what you got. I get it. However, it is not a front porch. There are lots of things that I miss about living in a smaller city. The peace, the quiet, the lack of continuous car horns. People who smile at you on the street, whether they know you are not. The food. Oh my gosh. I could go on for actual years. Actual years. We ain't got the kind of time. But a while ago I opened up a book called Heavy by one of my absolute favorite, favorite writers. His name is Kiese Laymon. And I've been thinking about his dedication ever since, which is quote, "For the porch my grandmama built." I don't know what it is, but something about that land just punched me in the gut and immediately made me so homesick. Like there's just something about a front porch. There's just something about it. Like, you know, how in movies the kitchen table is like a metaphor for family and home and all that other stuff. So porches are like that but on the outside. You see? You see what I'm saying? Alright. So where I'm from, sitting on the front porch is its own activity. Like, what are you doing? Sitting on the porch. That's what I'm doing. I'm not sitting on the porch reading something. I'm not sitting on the porch about to go nowhere. I'm sitting on the porch. I'm watching people. I'm talking to neighbors. And the cutest thing in the world, if you were in like the country country, like the countriest part of the country, when you drive down the street, everybody on their front porches will wave whether they know you or not. And then it's just the sweetest, warmest feeling in the world. I can't describe it. Go to the country y'all and feel it. Porches are such a perfect way to be a part of your community and the world around you without having to be out in the world. You know, and for an agoraphobe like myself, [laughs] front porches are perfect. Porches are not just porches. They are so many other things, like [ding] hair salons. My favorite thing is seeing somebody sitting on the front steps getting their hair braided or their scalp greased. It just feels like home to me. I don't know. [ding] Extended kitchens. One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting cross-legged at my granny's feet on the porch helping her snap green beans. [ding] Security offices. What's the very, very first thing that you do when you're at home and you see or you hear something going on outside. You and all your neighbors run out onto the porch to get the tea, compare notes, see what's going on, making sure everybody's good. [ding] A therapist office. I have definitely had my fair share of comforting my niece after one of her eight thousand breakups. Everything is does better when you do it on a porch. It's it's it's science. I can't explain it, but it is. And so front porches, these flowers are for you.
[00:40:53] [Music In] [Music Out]
[00:40:56] Tracy: Also, honorable mention goes to Kiese and his book, Heavy. It is so good. I really think that everybody should read it. But it's heavy. Watch out. [laughs] You -- I'm sorry.
[00:41:04] [Music In]
[00:41:10] Tracy: And that is it for this one, everybody. That is a wrap. Thank you so much for hanging out with me again. Make sure to come back next week so we can do it again. I'll be just as fun, I promise. This has been Strong Black Legends. This show is a production of Pineapple Street Studios in partnership with Netflix and Strong BlackLead. Executive Producers Max Linksy, Jenna Weiss-Berman, Jasmyn Lawson and Agrenesh Ashagre. Our Lead Producer is Josh Gwynn. Production by Jess Jupiter and Janelle Anderson with additional production support by Cindy Okereke and Alexis Moore. Our music is by the incredible Don Will. You can follow him on all the things @DJDonWill. I have been your host, Tracy Clayton. You can find me on Instagram @BrokeyMcPoverty. Come say, hey. I try to respond to everybody. That's all. My therapist said all I can do, is all I can do. The rest I got to leave it up to God. Make sure to follow us on the socials @StrongBlackLead. And if you had fun this week, if you like what you heard, do me a favor. Tell a friend. Tell some family even. And don't forget to rate and subscribe to Strong Black Legends on Apple podcast, Spotify and wherever free podcasts are sold. Until next time, shine bright like your name is Billy Porter and the world is your red carpet, darling. The man can do no wrong. Even if he wanted to, it would be so right. [laughs] Okay. Bye.
[00:42:37] [Music Out]