Jasmine Burke Talks Her Church Upbringing, Filmmaking, & Latest Projects
As little girls, we all had this preconceived notion as to what we wanted to be when we grew older. Maybe it was a teacher, a lawyer, a nurse. Maybe it was even a scientist. Whatever it was, we were just attracted to the idea of what it was we thought we wanted to be—not knowing what it would take to actually get there. Hard work. Dedication. Patience. For Georgia-bred actress Jasmine Burke, she has managed to successfully master all three of those things, earning her position as one of Hollywood’s esteemed creatives in television and film.
Born and raised in the ‘dirty south’, Atlanta, Georgia, Jasmine Burke studied theater and business at Kennesaw State University. The 33-year-old has always had an eye for the world of the entertainment arts. Early on in her career, she was a finalist on MTV’s Making The Band 3. However, after not making it, God wasn’t quite through with the Southern belle just yet. Her dreams of acting were soon turned into reality when she landed a small role in Tyler Perry’s 2007 film, Daddy’s Little Girls. Though things were just kicking off for Burke, she continued to stay consistent in her pursuit to become the phenomenal actress and filmmaker she is today.
With outstanding film credits, such as The Secret Life of Bees, Preacher’s Kid, Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, Ride Along, and VH1’s 2014 breakout film, Drumline: A New Beat, Jasmine Burke is definitely not one to be slept on. As a filmmaker, the actress has directed, produced, and written her own content. She even acquired her first filmmaker’s award at the 2010 Women in Film & Television Film Festival. That just goes to show how stellar and passionate this woman is about her craft.
Burke recently starred in Lee Daniels’ FOX musical drama, Star, as Danielle Jackson. Her latest television endeavor is Bounce TV’s hit soap opera, Saints & Sinners, where she portrays the role of Dr. Christie Johnson, a preacher’s daughter, who just so happens to be involved in an insurance scam at her medical clinic. The series also features Vanessa Bell Calloway, Clifton Powell, Christian Keyes, and Keith Robinson.
Jasmine Burke is persistently knocking down stereotypes, one by one, creating a new normality for Black women in Hollywood.
Read our exclusive interview with the dynamic actress below!
Parlé Mag: Saints & Sinners recently returned for a second season a few weeks ago! Let’s talk about that.
Jasmine Burke: Oh, wow! Well, I had a very in-depth conversation with Ty Scott, the creator of Saints & Sinners. Wonderful woman, our creator. She said, “You know, I’m going to take your character some places this season. I’m going to write some really heavy, meaty things for you. I just want to prep you. I want to make sure you’re ready!” I was like, “Whoa! Uhh, yeah! Yeah, I’m ready! Let’s go!” When the script started coming in, and I would see what she was referring to, I was like, “Wow, you were not playing!” So, my character, as we saw her on season one, began a downward spiral. Season two picks right back up in the middle of the turmoil, where she was, and she just tries to hang on for dear life. But, she loses her grip, and things begin to get real scary.
Parlé Mag: So, what was it like working with the production crew, along with the amazing cast? You’ve worked with some pretty handsome men! [laughs]
Jasmine Burke: Oh my goodness! Yes! I mean, the guys on my show are like the best guys because they’re very professional; they’re gentlemen. They are just there to do great work. So, we respect each other so much. You know, at first, when I first met them—because I didn’t know Christian Keyes, I didn’t know Keith Robinson, I didn’t know them, I was like, “Wow, they are definitely handsome!” [laughs] But, once you get to know them, it’s like, “Oh, go on somewhere, Christian! Go on somewhere, Keith! Get out my face!” [laughs] Because they’re just guys.
Parlé Mag: [laughs] Right! Saints & Sinners is based in the Atlanta area. As we know, you’re from Atlanta, too. So, would you say it’s easier to relate to characters with southern attributes?
Jasmine Burke: Hmmm, not necessarily. You know, Saints & Sinners is based in a fictional town of Cypress, Georgia. I’m from Atlanta, and just being able to play with the backdrop of the South, I always love doing that because there’s flavor everywhere in the world—everyone has a different taste, every city, state you go to, but it’s something about the South! We just put a little extra salt on everything! Everything that we do! So, it’s always great to be able to play the real rich, flavorful type of character, and Dr. Christie definitely gives me the opportunity to do that.
Parlé Mag: Yes! So, do you come from a church background?
Jasmine Burke: I come from a family with a very deep church foundation. Both of my grandmothers are pastors. They definitely had me in church Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and twice on Sunday! So, I know all about that life. But, my mother gave me the freedom to choose what I wanted. My mother said, “You know what, just as long as you know that there’s something bigger than you, and you put your faith in that, then I don’t care if you want to be a Christian, I don’t care if you want to be a Muslim, I don’t care if you want to be Catholic. Just believe there’s something bigger than you, that created you, and you rely on that source.”
Parlé Mag: Amen to that. Let’s go back a minute and talk about your recent role on Lee Daniels’ Star. You portrayed Danielle Jackson, who was, unfortunately, gunned down by a police officer—which is something happening in our society as we speak. As a young Black woman, how important was it for you to take on this character and really share her story?
Jasmine Burke: It was very important. Lee called me and we talked about it before I read the script and saw the direction. He called me, and we had a great conversation about what he wanted to do. Like, his purpose. He was like, “I love you, Jasmine! We’re going to be working together again, and again, and again. But, I really want to use you and your talent to make an important statement, through this platform.” And, that is talking to what’s happening in the world with the police, and how civilians feel, and our relationships between us and the people who protect us. So, I felt honored to be used, honestly, to tell an important message. That was our goal; that was Lee’s goal. I just feel privileged that I had a chance to start a conversation, because a lot of people were on my page, talking. Yeah, they were sad about my character, which you never know what’s going to happen. Hint! Hint! Hint!
Parlé Mag: Okay!
Jasmine Burke: [laughs] Like, as we saw, I already have come back to life and was singing and dancing in one episode. Everybody was like, “Wait a minute! You got killed, but then, the next episode, you were in the salon, singing, and dancing! Are you coming back?” I was like, “You never know!”
Parlé Mag: Well, we sure hope so!
Jasmine Burke: Yeah!
Parlé Mag: So, how have you managed to stay afloat in such a demanding industry?
Jasmine Burke: Let’s see. You know, I have my moments. I’m a real person. This is my profession, being an entertainer, but I’m a human being first. So, I definitely have moments in the industry; it’s definitely tough. If it was easy, everybody would be successful. Like, it’s a five percent success rate. I don’t know. I just have faith that I’ve been put here to do some extraordinary things. That’s what keeps me going, even when it gets tough. I just say, ‘My life, what I’m here to do is bigger than this one moment.’ So, I just keep my eyes focused on ‘Alright, keep going. Keep going, because, if I got through it sometime before, I can do it again!’ That’s what keeps me motivated.
Parlé Mag: Would you say you’re your worst critic? I know a lot of actors and actresses when they see themselves on TV, they criticize themselves the most. Would you say that’s something that you do?
Jasmine Burke: Oh, definitely! Oh, yes! It’s so bizarre because, girl, even when I’m doing the scenes—like, when I’m actually in the scenes, acting. I don’t know what it is; I have to get over this. I don’t know if you ever get over it, but, sometimes, I walk away feeling like, ‘Yeah, I did that!’ Then, sometimes, I walk away like, ‘Dang, man! I cannot get it! I did not hit the emotion I wanted to hit!’ Sometimes, as an actor, you’ll feel like, ‘Nah, I don’t trust that.’ But, you have to trust that your director got what he needed to get out of you, even if you didn’t feel like you gave it. So, those moments are hard, but I have to let it go. I have to walk away and say, ‘Okay, trust my director.’
Parlé Mag: You’ve already worked with an array of amazing people in this industry. Who do you want to work with next?
Jasmine Burke: For me, I’m inspired by people who create. So, I’m very inspired by Shonda Rhimes, very inspired by Issa Rae.
Parlé Mag: She’s awesome!
Jasmine Burke: Yes! I love her trajectory of coming into the business. I think everybody has their own individual path, and I love her story! I love what Nate Parker did, with Birth of A Nation. He sat back for a year. He told his representatives, from what I read, “I’m not going on any auditions; I’m shutting it down. I’m going to go over here. I’m going to read. I’m going to write my own script. I’m going to direct it, and I’m going to produce it. I’m not going to wait on Hollywood to verify me or give me a break. I’m going to do it myself.” I’m inspired by those people. As a filmmaker, because I’m also a filmmaker—I write, produce, and direct content, those are the people I want to meet and work with. Other creators.
Parlé Mag: So, when you’re not directing, producing, or playing in your own, what are some of your favorite films or TV series?
Jasmine Burke: I’m obsessed with House of Cards, on Netflix. I have to get my ratchetness in there somewhere, so I’m a huge fan of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta. I actually make a cameo, this season, on the new season of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta.
Parlé Mag: Really? Tell us how that came together.
Jasmine Burke: Well, I’ve been friends with Lil’ Scrappy since middle school. We grew up together, and he had been asking me, since he got on Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, “Jasmine, can you please come on there and talk to me about acting?” He wants to get into acting. He was like, “I’m so proud of you and everything you’re doing. I want you to come on; I want people to see you, and then I want you to tell me about acting.” For years, I said, ‘Boy, I’m so busy. I ain’t got time!’ Finally, he got me at a good time! I said, ‘Okay, I’ll come on there.’ So, I’m on there talking to him about acting and helping him through his relationship issues.
Parlé Mag: Was that something you were nervous to branch into? Reality TV is a lot different than movies and TV series.
Jasmine Burke: Yes! If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it on my terms, because I’m not a reality star. I’m an entertainer, I’m an actor, I’m an artist. I felt comfortable because people know that about me. There’s no confusion. Everybody knows I’m a professional artist. So, to see me show up on a reality show wouldn’t be confusing people who support me. So, it’s not like, ‘Oh my gosh! Jasmine is going to be a reality star!’ No, people get it. They’re like, ‘Oh, okay.’ They respect me for my talent, and doing this cameo didn’t scare me because it’s in my element. I’m on there acting coaching. I’m an actor. So, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m on there trying to date somebody.’ You know? That would be different!
Parlé Mag: Let’s go into your music a bit. You released a single called “Hear What I Hear”. What was the inspiration behind that concept?
Jasmine Burke: Well, I had the opportunity to be in a movie called Hear No Evil, that aired on TV One. When I read the script, I was so inspired that I wrote a song. I pitched the song to the director, myself, and he loved the song. He said, “I’m going to put it in the movie!”, and that’s how that happened.
Parlé Mag: Do you plan to release more music? Maybe an EP or an album?
Jasmine Burke: Yes! Well, I have a single that soft launched called “How Many Ways”. I do plan to shoot a video for it and put it out there more massively in the next coming months. So, yeah, music is definitely something that I will be continuing to do and putting out.
Parlé Mag: Going back to what you mentioned earlier about being a filmmaker. What upcoming projects do you have as of now?
Jasmine Burke: As a filmmaker, I’m actually writing a script. I have the rights to the Michael Childs story, which he revolutionized the strip club industry in Atlanta. People are so crazy about strip clubs right now, but they don’t know that if it wasn’t for this man and what he did with the industry, nightlife entertainment in Atlanta, it wouldn’t be like it is now. So, I’m writing the script for that, then I have another series that I created that is more of a comedy, that we’re going to do a premiere for. I directed the pilot.
Parlé Mag: That’s awesome!
Jasmine Burke: Yes! I think that’s important for the next generation to see people being innovators and creators. I think that’s what inspired the people who came before them. Oprah looked at Barbara Walters. You have to have somebody who comes before you who shows you what’s possible. So, I take it very serious in using all my gifts, because I do want other young people to see, ‘Oh, I don’t have to run to L.A. or New York, or anywhere else, and try to beg for someone to see me. How about I use all of the technology? All this technology that’s out here today, how about I do my own?’ You know, like, Chance The Rapper, Wiz Khalifa. They didn’t sit back and say, “Oh, I’m just going to wait.” They got up and made it happen. So, I want to show other young women, get up and make it happen for yourself. If you want to be an actress, go write a movie and you star in it. You want to be on a TV show? Go write a TV show. Shoot it with your friends; put it up on YouTube. Go and be your own boss. That’s why I do everything that I do because I want to inspire that.
Parlé Mag: You’ve definitely done a great job at that. So, as a woman of color, in TV and film, what is something that you always try to remember or remind yourself of?
Jasmine Burke: That I am not my skin color, and that I am not just my gender. I’m so much more. I don’t have to play a Black role; I don’t have to play a typical woman. How about I play a role that doesn’t have a color marked on it? How about I just play a human being, trying to figure out life? So, I mean, that’s how I think about being a ‘Black’ woman in this business, that I shouldn’t be confined by it or defined by it. I’m very proud, but it shouldn’t put me or anyone else in a box and limit you to what you can and cannot do.
Parlé Mag: What advice would you give aspiring actors, actresses, or filmmakers?
Jasmine Burke: I would say, really understand the class of what it is that you’re trying to do. So, if you want to act, then figure out the acting styles. Figure out the different acting styles. You know, there are different ways to approach the work. Even if you find, ‘Okay, I read that book about acting. I read that book about acting. I went to that class.’, and something is still not clicking for you, then go inside yourself and figure it out. I would tell you, don’t always look—going out into the world with your hand out. Be more so of the mindset of, “Let me come to the table with something.” Not “Let me show up to the table looking for something.” “Let me come to the table and bring something.” So, that’s what I would say. Come to the table with something in your hand to offer.
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