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Greenleaf’s Jennifer Sears, A Force to be Reckoned with

Jennifer Sears

If you are like any of the millions across the country that are obsessed with OWN’s biggest drama, Greenleaf, then you probably know Jennifer Sears. Jennifer plays the role of Tara James, the sister of Rochelle Cross, on the acclaimed series. Now in its final season, Greenleaf draws in millions of viewers every week and we are all at the edge of our seats to see how this story ends! We caught up with Jennifer Sears to discuss her career, upcoming projects like Coming 2 America, and possibly, some Greenleaf spoilers… 

Cliche: How have you been spending your time while quarantined? Are you anxiously waiting to get back on set?

Jennifer Sears: During quarantine, I’ve been using this time to be still and present. I’m often moving around, focusing on what’s next with the aim of productivity, that I rarely relish in stillness. I’m usually so busy doing that I neglect being. I’ve been using this time to catch up on some reading and watching some great shows and films, both as a fan and a student. I have also been reigniting the flame of writing and doing a great deal of self-work through meditation and journaling.  It’s my hope that I come through all this a more evolved version of myself, a much more accurate reflection of my true self.

As for acting, my goodness, you have no idea how ready I am to be back on set! I call that space my playground where I get to be a big kid in a world of make-believe. It’s an opportunity for me to escape to another world and live the lives of other people through different characters. Being away from set is like having your parents say you can’t go outside and play. As a creative, you must find ways to tap into your gifts. Rediscovering writing as well as taking virtual acting classes, allows me to stay sharp and to remember what it’s like to “play”.

What drew you to acting as a profession?

As the youngest of four, I was quite the animated child, always entertaining my family during family night or at functions! So I guess you could say I got my start in show business early. I was immediately bit by the acting bug as I watched the sheer joy on the faces of my family and hearing the hysterical laughter as I was performing impressions. What solidified it for me was watching the iconic Coming to America, unquestionably my favorite movie, and seeing the legendary Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall magically morph into four different characters… each. It was then at the tender age of 7 that I knew undoubtedly my desire was to be an actress. I just didn’t know how or where to begin.

Because I excelled academically, my family looked to me as the one to graduate from college and become an executive of some sort. I took the road more traveled and studied political science at Clark Atlanta University with the LSAT and law school in view. It wasn’t until after undergrad, where I found myself at the proverbial crossroads of young adulthood. Randomly, I was presented with an opportunity to audition for a role in a feature film. Reawakening the dormant entertainer inside, I decided to take a chance and attend the open call, completely unequipped might I add. I didn’t have a headshot, resume, or anything. All I had was just my blissful optimism and a desire to play. Much to my surprise, I ended up booking the role that same day and an even bigger surprise, it would be an unforgettable role on Tyler Perry’s directorial debut and box-office hit Madea’s Family Reunion. Needless to say, law school was “adjourned” as I walked into what has now been a 15-year acting career.

Jennifer Sears

Greenleaf is a show beloved by many who tune in every week! What is it like playing the role of Tara James?

The life of Tara James is strangely similar to my own. She and I both lost our father in our youth. We both do mission work in the community and the frills of life don’t easily thrill us. If it weren’t for the twists and turns in the great writing, I would think that we were one and the same. With that said, it was fairly easy to get into her skin and live her life because I was able to pull from my own experiences and lend my truth to these imaginary circumstances.

Honestly, I think my favorite part of this whole experience has been watching via social media how the audience is taking to Tara. Because of my “sketchy” siblings, the devout fanbase of the Greenleaf family isn’t quite sure yet if they trust Tara, so they’re all looking at her with squinted eyes. Also, it goes without saying, the cast is outstanding. Sharing scenes with the incredible Keith David, Lamman Rucker, and the incomparable Lynn Whitfield, who also starred in Madea’s Family Reunion, was truly amazing. They were incredibly generous and welcoming of Tara James into the successful series. After all the blood, sweat, and tears they’ve invested in the show throughout the years, I simply wanted to make the cast and production team proud of my work and humbly add my contribution in its final season.

What can you tell us about this final season of Greenleaf that is currently airing? Any spoilers?

All I can say is this season will keep you on the edge of your seat. Just when you think you have everything figured out, the writers test your knowledge and hit you with something unexpected. You definitely want to tune in each week. If you miss an episode, you miss a lot!

You also shot “Coming 2 America” alongside Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall and Tracy Morgan! What was that experience like?

It was utterly life-changing! My favorite movie is the original Coming to America. So, to be on set with THEE Eddie Murphy and THEE Arsenio Hall was something I will never forget. Together, they set the trajectory for my life. Had it not been for their iconic film, who knows where I’d be! Also, who could forget Tracy Morgan, who is inarguably the personification of joy. Every day, he showed up in the hair and makeup trailer with music, stories, and laughter. Some of my fondest memories were rocking out with him and the rest of the cast to his selections. Also working alongside comedy queens Luenell and Leslie Jones, I knew I was learning from the best. Working with this stellar cast was like getting to play around with the best there is.

What can we expect from you next? 

After wrapping Coming 2 America, I was cast as the lead in a romantic comedy that I’m thrilled about. This is my first lead role in a feature and I’m super excited to take on a character who is as quirky and eccentric as I am. Much like Tara, my character Jada and I share very similar life experiences, particularly in the areas of love. Anything you could imagine happens to this poor girl, in a comedic way. Also, it was refreshing to not have to portray the damsel in distress waiting for her “knight in shining armor” to rescue her. It was fun to just play a girl who doesn’t have it all together. However, with her best friends by her side, she’s doing her best to figure it out while seeking revenge on some unsuspecting guys on behalf of all brokenhearted women. In addition to tender moments, the film provides non-stop laughter. Thanks to the amazing writer and director, I was able to go full throttle with my comedic imagination. After “Greenleaf”, Coming 2 America, and this incredible rom-com, I hope the industry acknowledges me as a multidimensional actress who can deliver the drama and the laughs.

Over her outstanding 15 year career, Jennifer Sears has starred alongside some of Hollywood’s finest. Using acting as her playground, Jennifer continues to hit it out of the park. From blockbuster comedies to gut-wrenching dramas, Jennifer Sears is definitely proving that she is a true force to be reckoned with. 

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Images Provided by Derek Blanks and Ira Carmichael

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