THE POPCORN REEL PROFILE:
Talented, Hard-Working and Attractive,
Actress Najarra Townsend Makes Waves On The Independent Film Circuit
Jill of All Trades, Master of All: Najarra Townsend
is just 18, but has already appeared in more than 30 feature films and is a
singer-songwriter, theater performer, dancer and model, all of which she has
done in some way, shape or form since she was three years old. (Photos
courtesy of: SBPR)
Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel
November 16, 2008
She'll turn 19 on December 5, but Najarra Townsend has already accomplished more
in her fledgling life than many of us will in 19, 38 or 57 years.
Is that a depressing thought?
No. But Miss Townsend works hard to avoid both complacency and the
pitfalls that befall childhood stars. And she is succeeding. Najarra
Townsend has been working in show business -- singing, dancing, acting, modeling
-- since the age of three, and keeps a mature head on her shoulders.
She is an attractive presence, possessing a confidence, self-awareness and sex
appeal that is powerful for a woman so young.
Her new website serenades each visitor with the soulful sounds of Hot
Chocolate with their 1970's song "You Sexy Thing", including the
lyrics, "Where did you come
from, baby? How did you know I needed you?"
Intelligent, with a keen sense of herself, Najarra Townsend is controlling her own
image while flaunting a persona of openness and an inviting way that is as disarming as it is
seductive. Nonetheless, the private Miss Townsend is cheerful, friendly and
not living with her head in the clouds, even though her resume gives her every
right to. She's starred in more than 35 films, including several shorts,
in a 10-year-period, and there's lots more to come. She has a song called
"All A Lie" on her MySpace page, which she sang and wrote. One or two of
her songs have appeared on the soundtrack to at least two of the films she has
starred in. Miss Townsend has also done a lot of stage work (see the
partial resume below), not to mention modeling and dancing, making her a
If you've seen Najarra Townsend in the independent film "Me And You And Everyone We
Know", you would have instantly recognized an impressive performance. And
right now in several cities in the U.S. (with additional venues to come this month) you can
see her in "Tru Loved" as Tru Spivey-Johnson, a 16-year-old who has moved with her interracial
lesbian mothers to Southern California from San Francisco, where both her
fathers live. Tru has a romance with a young black football quarterback
(played by Matthew Thompson) who has identity issues of his own, and the film,
directed by Stewart Wade, constantly makes one think
while entertaining. In "Tru Loved" Miss Townsend makes an impression,
carrying an intelligence and older-than-she-looks attitude to her character.
"I shot ("Tru Loved") last year . . . it was an amazing experience. I got
the script and fell madly in love with it, which you're not supposed to do,
because of like, the whole rejection thing. You don't get (psyched) for
something before you have it. But I really did. But looking at it, I
was overwhelmed. I was so excited."
During interviews some big-name actors have fumbled and disguised their
inability to answer with sarcasm when they are asked what they learned from
playing a character, but it wasn't even necessary to ask young Miss Townsend,
who answered unprompted. "I learned a lot from playing Tru, actually.
Being sixteen and knowing who you are and what you stand up for and you're
standing up for it. And, you know, she has her own opinions and she's not
scared. She wants to speak up and let people know. And that was like
a great thing to learn and be able to play because I was 17 when I played her.
It was just like, 'oh!'. I was learning so much. I felt like a
stronger person just for playing this character. So that was really, it
was really exhilarating and exciting."
As for the real-life young lady who plays Tru, the name Najarra was given to the
Santa Barbara, California native by her mother, whom she is very close to.
"She said I looked like a Najarra, so she named me Najarra," said the actress by
telephone in a conversation with The Popcorn Reel late last week. "It
seems to be very popular in Brazil," she added, though she was unsure of the
meaning of her name but expressed a desire to investigate its meaning and
The origins of Najarra Townsend's career were planted very early, with an
abiding love of the theater, a medium for which she remains passionate.
While she expresses a preference for working on the big screen in films, you can
hear the excitement in her voice as she speaks about musical theater. She
first heard the music of Al Jolson from her mother's record collection and fell
in love almost immediately. "I wasn't really into pop music until I was
ten or eleven. Before that I was into more oldies -- that's what I love,
that's what I was very passionate about. I think I saw (the movie) "The Al
Jolson Story" . . . and totally became obsessed with that music. There was
just something I just connected to when I was little, and I still do. It's
still a big, big part of me. I think it's good to have a wide variety of
music and then movies . . . it's good. It keeps you diverse, really.
I like it. I'm always open to new things."
She has achieved a balance of work and relaxation with friends and her boyfriend
with whom the relationship she says is "working out quite well." Miss
Townsend spoke about childhood celebrities under the Hollywood glare, analyzing
the possible reasons for why some of them might face adversity in later in life.
"I'm not sure -- I think one of the biggest problems with young stars is that
they get into, like, when you're 17, 18 and you have . . . a celebrity status
you can get into nightclubs and you can drink and people don't really stop you
because you're a celebrity and they want you at their club, you know?"
Miss Townsend is conscientious, maintaining a discipline that has marked her
film performances, and a steadiness that extends to her personal life.
"I've never been really into (the nightlife). Nightclubs aren't my scene.
I just, I'm very like -- kind of a homebody. I love to work. That's
the fun I have. And I have my friends, my boyfriend. I have my home
life and it just seems like that's always been what I'm into . . . even though
I'm a night person because I came from theater so I like always stay up until
three, four in the morning and then get up. But I like being at home.
I like watching movies and reading books. I'm very kind of odd. I
Odd or not, Miss Townsend has no desire to change her routine. "The
nightclub thing and all of that just isn't really something I want to get
involved in," said the 18-year-old. "Once you get involved with it you
kind of get stuck in it."
Najarra Townsend as Tru Spivey-Johnson in the
film "Tru Loved", which is making its way around select U.S. cities now.
(Screen shot by Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com via Regent Releasing)
And the independent film circuit is where Miss Townsend will
be planted for the foreseeable future. "I love indies. I love
independent film. It's something I'm really passionate about. So I
feel like no matter what, I'm going to want to stay in that for the rest of my
life, even if I'm branching out to bigger things, I still want to be able to go
back and do indies and work in that network because I've learned so much from
every independent film I do. Not only am I in the cast but I'm getting
close to the crew and I'm get to learn how all behind-the-scenes stuff works.
And I don't think that's true of blockbuster films because they don't really
have the time and it's not as low-budget."
Other actresses on the independent film circuit in the U.S., such as Parker
Posey, Rosario Dawson, Chloe Sevigny, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jennifer Connolly
and Patricia Clarkson go back and forth between indie and Hollywood, and all
have fared well.
"I would love to do both, really," Miss Townsend adds.
Not surprisingly the actress-songwriter-singer-dancer-model receives
considerable attention from the opposite sex, and messages of adoration and kind
compliments are left on her My Space page by her admirers. Of this the
admired thespian remarks: "Of course it's nice. Every girl likes to be
complimented. I don't know. I mean, it always leaves you feeling
good, because you know, I'm an 18 year old. Of course you have -- I still
have insecurities of course, and I'm still like very, 'ah I need to like work
out, or, hmm, I don't look so good today.'"
The answer about insecurities surprises the questioner.
"Oh yeah -- of course! I mean, who doesn't? I feel like everyone has
to have some insecurities about themselves, you know? Especially at 18.
I mean, gosh. So much is going on with you as a person. You're
changing so much. But it's really nice. It's reassuring. It's
nice to hear what people respond to, because I change my hair color a lot.
I change my style a lot. I'm always trying new things on. So
whatever gets more responses -- it's fun to experiment . . . with hair colors,
with styles just in general."
A little later though, the voice of what sounds like a very settled, not so
restless spirit emerges when asked if there was anything about her that she
wishes the public who sees her could know. "I'm pretty -- I want to say --
down to earth. Acting, modeling, singing -- all those things I'm so
comfortable with. So I can be myself, I can change. I feel very
comfortable with all that." Miss Townsend allows herself to reflect for a
beat before adding an interesting revelation about herself. "It's funny --
I'm an actress, you know, I act for a living and then if I have to talk in front
of people or do interviews like this -- I get all flustered, and I'm like, 'oh
my God, I can't do it!' It's not scripted, and it like worries me that I'm
going to be a blubbering mess. I like having a persona out there -- that
I'm all put together -- because I'm kind of just like, 'whoo, whatever . . . I
just, I don't know how to explain it! Aaah!"
Momentary panic has set in, but it seems this is more an indication of Najarra
Townsend working hard at articulating her feelings clearly than it is about any
kind of fleeting meltdown, or as the multi-talented teenager puts it --
She then underlines the fundamentals of her reality.
"I'm just -- I'm eighteen."
She laughs again.
"I mean, as much as I feel like I'm mature for my age -- I've been through a
lot, I've done a lot, I've worked a lot -- I'm still, still eighteen. I
like what's out there (in the public) about me, and I hope it will always be
good, you know? That's all I'm worried about."
The ever-busy Miss Townsend has no reason to worry -- she has multiple films
coming up. "I did seven or eight feature films last year . . . all of them
are in post-production, and hopefully hitting the festival circuit soon. I
just finished a independent film called "Cupid's Arrow", which I'm excited to
see. It's a very cute love story but it's very smart. It deals with
love and pheromones and kind of like the scientific part of it. What makes
a person fall in love, like why. It's very, it's a really cute script.
I also just wrapped a horror movie, "The Telling", with Holly Madison from "The
Girls Next Door" . . . that was actually great fun. I'm only in the
beginning and the very end, but it was a very fun new experience. I've
done a few horror movies, but nothing like this."
Miss Townsend said she was also doing short films for friends. Aside from
that, she said she was "kind of taking it easy right now." She noted that
one of her films, "Marin Blue", was selected to appear at next year's Berlin
Film Festival in February. Understandably ecstatic, she said she hoped to
go to Berlin to represent the film.
Ever self-observant, Miss Townsend said the following after a few moments of
contemplation about why she seems no natural and confident on the big screen as
an actress: "I probably come across -- I think I come across like that because
I'm so comfortable in that environment and I feel very, yes, comfortable, and
strong, like in acting behind the camera. I feel so . . . good."
At 18, Najarra Townsend has set some very reasonable goals. "I hope to
learn more and become wiser, hopefully. I don't know. I hope to stay
Is there a piece of advice that she's received from anyone, advice that she has
"That's a good question and I've never gotten this question before . . . not
really one piece of advice, more just like the support I get from my Mom and the
agent, my manager -- people who have always been there for me. I'm
surrounded by very good people . . . people who really believe in me. It
helps so much to have people that are always believing in you. I would
just say that, always, if you're passionate about something, then you know, do
it. Go for it with all you have. Don't give up. Whatever you
do, don't give up. There's always going to be, you know, heartbreak,
rejection and hard times and that's part of life. And just keep going, you
know? There's always a better day."
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Audio Popcorn: Najarra
Townsend, audio excerpts from The Popcorn Reel conversation with the
Popcorn Epilogue: And She Also Sings, Dances and Acts When She's Not
Najarra Townsend's official website:
Najarra Townsend's partial resume of musicals and plays: "Cut", "Much Ado About
Nothing", "As You Like It", "Gypsy", "Scrooge", "Charlotte's Web", "Danny and
The Golden Millennium Seeds"
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