Obscure Black C-Listers: Tyra Ferrell
Stop The Presses: What happened to Tyra Ferrell?
Bringing her theater background from New York to Los Angeles, Tyra Ferrell wet her feet with numerous small roles on early 1980’s kid shows like Square One (a favorite of mine) and the notorious Afterschool Special. She also performed alongside late-80’s bigtime actors like Denzel Washington and Sheryl Lee Ralph in The Mighty Quinn and had a recurring role on the larger-than-mainstream-life drama thirtysomething. Perhaps the crux of her career was the combo punch of roles in School Daze, Jungle Fever, and Boyz N Da Hood. In 1991 Tyra Ferrell was listed as one of year’s most promising new actors and went on to prove her mettle in White Men Can’t Jump, through a recurring role on ER, and via an excellent turn in the legendary HBO miniseries The Corner in 2000. After that, Ferrell’s roles seemed to quickly dwindle, and her last credit is a movie called Coochie, a Florida State University M.F.A. thesis from 2004. This all sounds worse than it really is, since Ferrell is living as a mother and wife in Tallahassee with her husband Diop Kamau, who I can only assume is the same Kamau who had been up and through national television exposing police brutality by going undercover and getting his head smashed in. Well that is interesting and could explain why Tyra Ferrell is in Florida running a small acting course with a defunct website instead of trying to survive in Hollywood.
Ferrell’s life is her own so one can only speculate about whether a lifestyle change for the better or worse has her out of the limelight in spite of remaining opportunities for an actress as talented and renown as she was. The only theory that I’m willing to accept for is that Tasha Smith stole her career by somehow taking on some piece of Tyra’s essence and looking just enough like her to pull off a career coup. Think about it: Tasha is about ten years younger than Tyra, and was doing just alright as an actress in the late nineties on the short-lived Boston Common and absolutely wack The Tom Show (yes, I mean Tom Arnold). Here’s the rub: in 2000, Tasha Smith also starred in The Corner, and after that her career continued on a direct upward trend. Why is it that Tyra Ferrell only became less successful after The Corner, but Tasha Smith has worked steadily ever since, runs her own acting workshops that are featured all over the place, and is a Tyler Perry film mainstay? I don’t think it’s all about life choices. Somethin’ ain’t right and I’m keeping an eye on the situation. I would love to see Tyra Ferrell come back and play one of her authentically black female, no-nonsense salt-of-the-earth characters again!