Tami Roman talks pioneering reality TV with Jalen Rose

On last week’s “Renaissance Man,” we had Ice Cube tell us how John Singleton launched him from a rapper with no acting experience into a bona fide Tinseltown talent with his role as Doughboy in “Boyz n the Hood.”

This week, we have “The Real World: Los Angeles” star and reality television pioneer Tami Roman tell us how the director cut her from “Boyz n the Hood.”

Well, her face, at least.

“I booked my first [acting] job, and I was really good at it,” she told me. But then “John Singleton put me in ‘Boyz n the Hood’ and I was really bad at it. And he cut me out of the film. And listen, that man said, ‘You’re not good and we’re just going to use your legs in this scene.’ I get residuals for my legs.”

She said her gams are in the backyard barbecue scene when someone runs out of the house past her. Not a bad nor a tough check to get, but moneymaking legs aside, the harsh feedback from the late, great director did something positive for her. She said it pushed her to put a serious effort into learning the art of acting.

“I studied with a lady named Chip Fields, who happens to be Kim Fields’ mother. She changed my life and taught me everything that I needed to know about the craft of acting.”

With the help of Tootie’s mother — who, by the way, is a total sweetheart — Tami was able to parlay her TV fame into a legitimate acting career, working alongside some of the industry’s biggest names.

The mother of two is now appearing on Apple TV+’s “Truth Be Told,” where she plays Octavia Spencer’s stepmother. Yes, the Academy Award-winning Octavia Spencer. She is also on BET’s “The Ms. Pat Show” playing the comedian’s sister.

“We’re a part of a motorcycle club,” she said of her “Truth Be Told” role. “And I play Octavia’s sexy stepmother who’s married to her father, who is played by Ron Jones, who’s amazing. He’s like my celebrity crush. That character is very specific, very rooted, very grounded in being the family glue, so to speak, between Octavia and her father, where with ‘The Ms. Pat Show,’ that character’s a recovering crack addict. So there’s the difference.”

Tami Roman attends the Premiere Of Apple TV+'s "Truth Be Told."
Tami Roman attends the premiere of Apple TV+’s “Truth Be Told.”
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Talk about range.

But she called the gig with Ms. Pat the “most amount of fun that I’ve had on any set on a consistent everyday basis.”

It has to be noted that Tami — who also played Meg, a high-haired Peg Bundy clone, on the iconic “Married … With Children” — is pretty fearless when she wants to tackle a new project or industry, something she attributes to her mother. She sang in a girl group, she acts, she’s written a book, had her own footwear and beauty line and done other reality shows like “Basketball Wives.” Remember, she was married to legendary point guard Kenny Anderson from 1994 until 2001.

But we first truly met her as Tami on “The Real World: Los Angeles,” which aired in 1993, the Stone Age of reality TV, long before the heavily produced “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” was even a twinkle in Ryan Seacrest’s eyes. The New York native has lived through the evolution of the genre. She said her experiences in “Basketball Wives” felt more like fabrication than reality because they were crafting storylines.

“I think the negative was that there is a lot of public perception that I was broke, I was destitute. Let them tell it. It was like I was damn near homeless and living in a box and — guys, you know I used to be married to Kenny Anderson. I’m all right. I may not have $60 million, but I ain’t got $6 either.

“They’re not understanding that producers are behind the scenes crafting the footage to make it look a certain way,” Tami said of reality TV audiences. “And those may not necessarily be the way those instances or occurrences actually happened in real time.”

It’s in direct contrast to her turn on “The Real World,” when producers just told them to organically live their lives. And as she tackled some topics that were very taboo at the time, she naturally made waves.

“That’s what I did. Like, working at an HIV health care center at a time where people weren’t trying to be on the front lines. We didn’t even know, really, that people at this level of the game, 27 years later, could live healthy lives being HIV-positive. We were scared and didn’t know what to do with this epidemic.

Tami Roman attends WE tv celebrates the premiere of 'Marriage Boot Camp.'
When it comes to reality TV, Tami Roman is an all-star.
Getty Images

“I had an abortion on the show,” she went on, “trying to show irresponsibility with sexual promiscuity. I got my mouth wired on the show because I was dealing with body dysmorphia and bulimia. A lot of those things people weren’t talking about in ’93.”

Some of her scenes were controversial, but they also fostered her self-confidence.

“The impact was great. It really spawned this cycle of me realizing that it’s OK to be me. You know, a lot of people want to be somebody else … And it’s like, ‘No, you’re good enough. People like you.’ I’ve just kept that my entire life — what you see is what you get.”

And indeed maybe she wouldn’t mind if you saw more.

Because when I asked her what profession she hasn’t yet dabbled in but would like to, she didn’t hesitate to say stripper. As for her dream co-star, that would be rapper and mogul Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson III. And she wouldn’t mind joining the cast of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

Bravo should make that last part happen. Because when it comes to reality television, there is no doubt she is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.

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