Being Tika Sumpter: ‘I’m going to make them remember me …’
Story by Stereo Williams
Photography by DeWayne Rogers
Tika Sumpter has been in front of the camera for the better part of a decade. The model-turned-actress is one of the stars of the action-comedy Ride Along, the Ice Cube, Kevin Hart film that kick-starts her 2014. It comes on the heels of what turned out to be a breakthrough year for the native New Yorker, but don’t think for a second that the beautiful star is basking in the glow of newfound fame or looking forward to “It Girl” status in Hollywood. Quite the contrary; Tika Sumpter is here to work.
“I think one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned is to put your head down and work,” she says. “Don’t look at other people and compare yourself. Just do the work. Because when the opportunity is there, you have to be ready. Make sure your craft is refined and you’re constantly working on it. Plow through the weeds. Go to the auditions and go to the meetings and be on time. Stop looking to the left or the right. Keep your head down and keep moving.”
That attitude has served her well. Sumpter started out in the early 2000s modeling for the fragrance brand Curve and appearing in commercials for Hewlett Packard. She landed the role of Layla Williamson on the long-running soap “One Life to Live” back in 2005 and she hasn’t looked back since. From there, Sumpter landed a role on “Gossip Girl” as Raina Thorpe and on the popular dramedy “The Game.” But as her career began to heat up, her perspective remained unchanged.
“When you don’t get a specific job and you’ve worked really hard on it; [or] when you read a really good script and you’re so close to getting a part and you don’t get it, it’s always hurtful,” she adds. “But what is for me is for me. My path is my path and it’s no one else’s. That’s how I’ve survived and it’s been in my head forever. You have a lot of disappointments as an actor. It’s a very tough business to get into and to be able to work [without being] a waitress on the side. You think ‘Oh, of course I can do that right now.’ But it’s definitely a wake-up call when you start out.”