Tinashe on 'Underrepresented Female Voices’ and Her Groundbreaking ‘Empire’ Role

Tinashe photo courtesy of Empire

Pop star Tinashe is proud of her recurring character on music drama Empire, which wraps its third season tonight (Wed. May 24), because she gets to show that she’s more than just a singer and a dancer. She’s also a songwriter and producer in real life, and on the show (on she portrays herself) she helps lead character Jamal Lyon work on music for a special When Cookie Met Lucious tribute to his mother.

While Tinashe plays the main girl in Jamal’s “We Got Us” video that premieres in the Empire Season 3 finale, she says it is a preceding episode that makes an important statement. “I get to kinda come in and collaborate with [Jamal],” she tells Yahoo Music while sitting in her trailer on set in downtown Los Angeles. “It’s always cool to be that female voice of that creative vibe that comes in and is able to produce a song and work on a record. I think that’s always something that is underrepresented, and so I think it’s really cool to do that on the show.”

With two successful albums, Aquarius and Nightride, and several mixtapes to her credit, Tinashe scored the Empire feature as a part of the Fox network’s partnership with Pepsi. She appears on Pepsi’s Empire visual album that debuts tonight, the Emerge online series and in the Sound Drop artist profile program. Though she’s a big fan of the show, she admits that her experiences in the music business are not as salacious as some of the Empire storylines. On the day of the interview, for instance, she sits quietly in her trailer, wearing sensible prescription glasses while talking to her cousin as she awaits her call time to shoot the “We Got Us” video with Jussie Smollett.

“I think the show is such a fun way to took at the music industry,” she says. “It makes it so much more theatrical and so much more fun and glamorous than it is in real life, which is always funny to see. I love it. It’s really cool.”

Tinashe knows a lot about being theatrical. She actually launched her career in entertainment as an actor, landing a part in a television film Cora Unashamed where she convincingly played a child who became ill and died. “I think I was able to tap into some deeper passion for trying to make the role really accurate even though I was like 5 years old. I was really trying to play dead as hard as I could,” she recalls. “I’ve always just loved entertaining and loved being in front of a camera and putting on a show. So acting for me, even as a really young kid, really early age, I just loved to do it.” She also had roles in The Polar Express and Two and a Half Men, but eventually put acting on the backburner to focus on making music.

“I kinda took a hiatus, so it’s fun to be back on this side of the camera,” Tinashe says. But she won’t just take any role. It’s got to be the right fit. “I’ve seen other things here and there,” she continues. “I auditioned for particular parts or maybe thought about it, but nothing really came along that I thought was the perfect thing. So, this is a nice little tease.”