Tika Sumpter Talks “Candace Young”

There’s vulnerability in acts of “crazy.”

That’s something that Candace Young, Tika Sumpter’s character on ‘The Have and the Have Nots” knows first-hand.

However, the root of her vulnerability has yet to be fully exposed whereas her “crazy” and manipulative habits have become known all too well in the popular Tuesday night soap-opera drama, which airs on OWN TV.

In its third season, The Haves and Have Nots, continue to gain momentum with upward of 34 million viewers and an active social media fan base.

Adding to the intrigue and talented ensemble, is the star power of Tika. Her portrayal of Candace delivers the right amount of spite, scheme and deception that makes the story go round and the claws dig deeper.

The energetic actress stopped by the JPC offices and teases what’s to come for her scandalous character, “Candace Young,” the excitement of playing a role opposite of her norm, plus her take on diversity in Hollywood.

JET: I loved your role on “Gossip Girl” as Raina. Taking it back a bit, is there anything about that character you miss or maybe a few of her characteristics that you pull from and tie in to your current role as ” Candace Young” on “Have and Have Nots”?

Tika Sumpter: The funny thing about Raina which the producer of Gossip Girl told me was that, this is the one girl that never lied on that show about anything and the funny thing on Have’s is she lies all the time to figure things out.

There’s strength that I feel like is in all of my characters but with Raina definitely strength and respect in different ways. Also, she knows how to walk in a room and claim it and she makes people stop -whether if it’s for the negative with Candace or not – regardless she stops a room.

JET: Very true. “Have and Have Nots” is steamy, deceptive and fueled with drama. What are you enjoying most about “Candace” and the overall production and experience?

TS: What attracted me was playing opposite of what I’m usually playing. This is somebody who is deceptive and manipulative, very aggressive and I just thought it would be fun to play. I had never worked with Tyler at that point – well, actually I worked on a movie with him and that’s when he threw something out there that he was creating something – but I just figured, why not. And if two great people (Tyler Perry and Oprah) believe in me and that I can do it, then…do it.

JET: And it really does have the soap-opera feel. Given your experience with soap opera’s did that further aide in your decision for this show?

TS: No, when I first came on I didn’t know that it was going to be so “Dynasty-esque.” I think everything on TV is kind of a soap-opera, just they way it’s shot, it doesn’t feel like it. It’s all drama-full, all melodramatic. It wasn’t because I played Laiyla on ‘One Life to Live,’ cause I always ground every character in realism. I don’t go in thinking I’m going to be extra dramatic — that’s not how I “act.” I just come from being real first and what ever music they want to put on top of it, reactions from other characters etc. that’s nothing I can control. All I can control is trying to be real as possible with my character.

JET: Do you find yourself falling more and more in love with Candace while discovering her motivation and vulnerabilities?

TS: Yeah! And the reason why I do love Candace is because I know why she’s acting out and why life has molded her into this person. She’s not just this person and you know there are positive sides to her. I have girls who come up to me and say, ‘Oh my God’ I wish I had a friend like Candace — mean[ing] a friend like Candace who will protect you and who would push you to try to do your best and not the part that does all these crazy things because I wouldn’t want that as a friend. That’s very poisonous. But at the end of the day, I think people make choices from their past experiences sometimes and that’s what Candace does. I think she does want to be a better person. Not giving people passes but you understand. There’s empathy for another person. I recently saw an episode of this new show coming on ABC, which is going to kill, but there’s some characters where you’re just like ‘Ugh! I don’t even like her!’ But then they show the vulnerability of what shaped their reasoning and you’re like, ‘Oh, dang. Ok, I get it.”


JET: That’s so true. On last week’s episode, “April 7, 1979,” Candace learned that Jim’s disappearance actually worked out better for his governor campaign and learned about Amanda’s suicide, without giving too much away, what can you tease in regards to her next moves? How does this new information affect her?

TS: I think Candace is really about getting her life together. I think what you’re going to really look forward to in the next few episodes, especially in the next one, is you’re going to find out what drives Candace to do the things that she does. Why is she living this way and what affected her. She didn’t just show up like this. She went through a life where stuff started happening around her and people mold and evolve into this – whether they go to the left or to the right – and she went to the left. You’re going to start finding out exactly why. You’re going to definitely find out more about her son.

So, this next episode is really important for people to stay tuned-in because I think with every crazy thing that happens to Candace there has to be some show of vulnerability. I think you’re going to get a little bit of that and I think you’re going to see her really trying to figure out her life. Whether it’s good or bad, who knows!? But, you’re definitely going to see that.

JET: Switching gears a bit, there’s much talk surrounding diversity on screen amid these conversations, Issa Rae (Awkward Black Girl creator) recently stated that money is the cause for the growth of racial diversity on TV. Being on a show that lends itself to diversity, do you see this as a continuing trend? What are your thoughts on this statement and what you’ve experienced from working in the industry?

TS: I feel like, that’s the way of the beast. This country is built on capitalism and Hollywood is definitely not built on ‘Ok, we’re going to give you a movie or create a TV show because we like you.’ Maybe sometimes that happens. And it is true, Empire did amazing. Just from the first episode, they were like ‘OK, we’re ordering a second season’ already, which is not normal. Yeah, the dollars drive people being able to make another season.

I mean, I don’t have anything to say against it. It’s true. Money definitely does drive industry. If the product is working then they’re going to continue producing more product, now let’s hope the product is quality. And I do feel like there’s such quality Primetime TV and cable, too. Being Mary Jane is amazing. People are glued to their TV’s right now, whether it’s How To Get Away with Murder, Scandal, Black-ish or Empire. That’s exciting and Will Packer’s who a close friend of mine and produced Ride Along, he has a show on NBC coming out and it’s a comedy. It’s good TV and I think people are getting it now. The world’s not going to fall apart when the lead is a Black woman. Everybody wants to see themselves and that’s more of a reflection of this country. That makes dollars come in and advertisers want to buy space because people are watching. That’s just the nature of the beast, I think.

JET: Adding to that, social media has become a big part of watching TV these days. In what ways has it become more exciting for you, from a viewer standpoint and business wise? Do you think without it TV execs would even engage diversity and really knowing what the people want to see?

TS: I think what social media has done in general is it’s a quick, modern Nielsen Rating almost. Now you see the person, you see the group who’s talking about it, you can see ‘wow’, there’s a certain amount of people who make this trend. It’s quicker. Even with things that happen in society, a lot of time social media gets the news before mainstream gets the news because somebody’s at the source. So, it’s changed the environment in which we live. Executives are like, ‘wow, all these people are watching this show right now and talking about it.’ That’s some results that you can go in tomorrow and say: that was the number one topic on Twitter. That was trending. That’s how we change things and infiltrate. It’s a voice for people who thought they didn’t have one. You ignore the ones where you’re like ‘dude, you don’t even know what you’re talking about.’ But for the most part it’s given a lot of people a voice and that’s exciting.

JET: So, what’s next on Tika’s journey?

TS: Ride Along 2 is locked, stocked and done and then on May 9, I have the ‘Bessie Smith’ story on HBO. That’s with Queen Latifah as “Bessie” and she kills it! I play ‘Lucy’ which is her ride-or-die best friend, lover. Her life was tumultuous. She was a writer and sold so many albums and she didn’t change for anyone . It didn’t matter. She was just who she was and that’s it. So I’m really excited about that for Queen, myself, Michael K. Williams and HBO.

Keep supporting and tune-in to see Tika in action on ‘The Haves and the Have Nots’ Tuesdays, 9/8c on OWN