Growing up as an only child with a single hard-working mom and a single hard-working dad had me caught in the middle between two Los Angeles households. And if I wanted to equally see both of them (which I did), it meant suitcase living — one week here, one week there — and an all-too familiar sense of 101 and 405 traffic patterns while belting out the same KIIS top-10 songs on repeat daily (wonders when the first iPod came out). I’m in no unique position, I may share a similar story with many of you and, without a doubt, I’ve been blessed with a beautiful family and I wouldn’t have wanted to change it any other way. Over the years since, friends walked into my life, stayed, or left on a different path (life, right?), but I’ve been incredibly thankful for the those that have seen me through my back-and-forth patterns as a pre-teen and still stand by my side to this day, essentially the siblings I never really had.
Jurnee and I met when we were 13, and we’ve grown up side-by-side — whether it be in the same city or across the country — ever since, developing knacks for our own unique style and full-fledged personalities. I was introduced to her family of 7 at the time, all complete with J first names, and a bond and rooted love for each other beyond any family I’ve ever been exposed to remotely of such size. Over these 14 years (pause: whoa…), we’ve been through a lot. That includes a 2-day riot-of-a-car-drive to LA from NYC in a 5-person Dodge Taurus comprised of 6 people (that’s the only rental we could get our hands on to!) in 2001 after seeing Michael Jackson’s second concert at Madison Square Garden, which, if you remember, also happened to be the day before that fateful September day. And that was only a year after we met!
Even before then, I remember when I was her date during the premiere of her film Ruby’s Bucket of Blood with Angela Bassett. We were taking pictures on the red carpet and one of the photographers gave me a little hand gesture to get out of the way (I mean, what was I doing there taking pictures in the first place?). So I had to walk right off that long red carpet by myself — holy embarrassing. Not to mention I was wearing leather pants and a leather car coat (2001, people) with a black, ribbed turtleneck (OK, no excuses with that combination). Good thing her brother Jussie, was there to meet me at the end. Every time we look back on it, though, we laugh and it puts huge smiles on our faces.
And over the years of countless 3 hour phone conversations, high school prom dates, carpools here and there, her surprise visit to my college graduation in Michigan and watching her marry into a beautiful relationship with Josiah Bell, we’ve really watched each other grow and seen each other through it all. For a few years in high school, we even lived almost across the street from each other! She’s developed into one of the most talented actresses I’ve seen on screen and along with, carried her heart of gold, that same one when I first met her, only now, bigger.
Please keep your eye out for Jurnee Smollett-Bell on the current and final season of HBO’s True Blood. I can’t wait to see what projects she’ll unfold next. You can stay up to speed with her on Instagram or Twitter, too (you’ll love following her).