Almost two decades later and most people still know Tatyana Ali as Ashley from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” but the actress said she has evolved since those early acting days.
“I’m taking on more challenging projects now,” she said through email. “I’m interested in telling stories that reveal truths about life.”
Ali explained that one of the biggest differences between now and when she was younger is that she is not afraid to say no to a role.
“I’m comfortable turning down roles in projects I don’t believe in or don’t resonate with,” she said. “I’m more confident and I think it’s starting to show in my choices.”
She has a few new projects in the works that she is proud to share with fans. The biggest is her role in a Queen Latifah produced film, “November Rule,” which doesn’t yet have a release date. Ali’s character in the romantic comedy plays the love interest of the protagonist Steve, played by Mo McRae. Steve is a shoe entrepreneur still dealing with the loss of his dad. He creates a “November rule,” which Ali explained.
“If he’s dating anyone regularly, he breaks up with them before November, to keep him from having to deal with the forced intimacy of the holidays [like] New Year’s and Valentine’s Day,” she said.
When McRae’s character breaks up with Ali’s character, Leah, he quickly realizes he made a mistake and desperately tries to win her back.
Ali said she enjoyed working on the movie with Kali Hawk, Lala Anthony, DJ Quails, Nick Gonzales, calling them “amazingly cool people.”
She said there were a few scenes that were “hilarious” and she is amazed they got through them on set.
Ali said she loves acting because it’s always different.
“The minute you think you know something, a role will call that completely challenges that,” she said.
Besides “November Rule,” she is preparing her commencement speech for American InterContinental University’s Chicago graduation ceremony at Navy Pier, Aug. 2. She said she is very excited because education has been a part of her life.
Ali graduated from Harvard University and supports the efforts of educational related programs like the Millennium Momentum Foundation, Step Up Women’s Network and the United Negro College Fund. The actress is also an ambassador for Teach for America.
“Education has been such an important part of my life and of my family’s life,” Ali said. “I really want to help commemorate this awesome milestone in the lives of the graduates.”
“I feel like I’ve experienced so much since my own graduation [that] I’d like to impart some of the things I’ve learned; it takes real dedication and commitment to get a degree.”
Besides working on the movie, Ali plays in BET’s “Second Generation Wayans.” She also has a recurring role in “The Young and the Restless” that comes on CBS. Acting isn’t all she does. She also sings. Ali’s new R&B album, “Hello” came out earlier this year and is available on iTunes.
Staying busy comes with the job, but when Ali can find some downtime, she said she likes to spend time with loved ones, read, attend concerts and dance.
“My mind moves pretty fast so downtime only ever lasts but so long before I find the next thing I want to tackle,” said Ali.