‘Sistas’ actress says she felt pride in being back on set during the pandemic

KJ Smith is a part of history.

That’s because the actress is one of the stars of Tyler Perry’s BET series “Sistas” and she is back at work in Atlanta. Perry has been at the forefront as Hollywood tiptoes back into production during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Smith spoke to CNN from the set of her show at Tyler Perry Studios where she said she felt fortunate to be working for Perry, who made history himself as the first African American to fully own a film production studio.

“It feels like an incredible blessing that I work for someone who made provisions and made sure that we were safe,” Smith said. “I feel pride in being part of history the second go around, because the first time was him opening the studio.”

Perry told Variety that he took special care with the cast and crew of “Sistas” as they shot the 22 episodes of the new season in two weeks. No cases of Covid-19 were reported during the filming, he said.

“I made sure that the cast and crew and everybody wore their masks when they weren’t on set because I do know for a fact that masks help stop the spread — scientifically, I know that,” he said. “And everybody adhered to that, even though we were all testing negative. I just didn’t want someone to be incubating with (Covid-19) for three to 12 days, and we not know it.”

Smith portrays Andrea “Andi” Barnes on the show and told CNN life was good on the set dubbed “Camp Quarantine.”

Those involved in the production were initially quarantined and tested. Perry housed and fed everyone, with frequent testing and adherence to CDC guidelines regarding sanitation and social distancing.

Smith told CNN the regular testing helped mitigate some of her anxiety about working during the pandemic.

An advocate for Black mental health, she said she’s been FaceTiming with her therapist, journaling and practicing yoga and mindfulness training to relax.

“There’s extra pressure for (the cast and crew) to take care of each other,” she said. “Extra pressure for us to hold each other accountable because we’re all in this together.”

Smith, who is the lead actress and producer on the forthcoming film, “The Available Wife,” said she feels an obligation beyond just the work she loves as an actress.

“I hate what’s going on,” she said. “I hate the reality that people are dying, but the people who are left have an obligation to this world to heal it. And that means we have to spread love.”

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