Crystle Stewart celebrates new role in Tyler Perry TV series
It was an encounter that read like something right out of a Hollywood script … aspiring actress walks into a restaurant and meets a major movie and television mogul and nabs her first major acting role.
However, for Crystle Stewart, Miss USA 2008, there was nothing scripted about an opportune encounter last year with Tyler Perry that led to her role in his new television series.
A month shy of graduating from acting classes from the New York Film Academy’s Acting and Film School in L.A., Stewart crossed paths with Perry at a Beverly Hills restaurant where her boyfriend works as a waiter.
“My boyfriend asked if I would like to meet Tyler Perry and I said, ‘of course I would, but he is eating and I don’t want to bother him.’”
“If it is meant for me to meet him, then I will, eventually,” Stewart says of her reaction.
Crossing Paths With Destiny
Not one to take ‘no’ for an answer, her boyfriend persisted and approached Perry’s table to ask if he would like to meet Miss USA.
When he agreed, Stewart walked over and was greeted with a slight look of surprise.
‘I didn’t know that Miss USA was black,’” Stewart said of Perry’s response.
Stewart greeted Perry and complimented him on his recent movie, “Colored Girls.”
“I told him I thought it was an amazing movie and told him that I loved his work, and to enjoy his meal,” says Stewart.
Before she could leave, Perry asked if she was an actress and when she responded, ‘yes,’ invited her to sit down.
He said she had the look for a part in a new show he was launching and invited her to audition for the role.
On parting, Perry told Stewart she would receive a call from his casting director.
“I tried to save myself from being disappointed or hurt by becoming too excited, just in case it didn’t come to pass,” says Stewart.
But a call the next day turned into an audition, followed by notice that she had gotten the part.
“You hear that a lot in Hollywood, ‘I have a part for you,’ ‘I am going to make you a star,’ but somehow when Tyler Perry says it—it sinks in. He stands by his word,” says Stewart.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Stewart, ecstatic about the door of opportunity afforded her, doesn’t take it lightly.
The debut series aired last year and ranked as basic cable’s #1 sitcom of 2011. This past spring TBS ordered an additional 35-episodes.
Since receiving word that the show was picked up, Stewart has been hard at work perfecting her acting skills for her new role.
The new series returns July 13 and centers around “Marcus and Angela,” the popular leads from Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married?” movie series, played by Michael Jai White and Tasha Smith.
Stewart describes her character, “Leslie,” as “the peacemaker” and “very loyal,” similar to her own personality.
“When it comes to my friends I don’t back down for anything. If you mess with my friends, if you treat them wrong, I don’t like that. You can do whatever to me, because I can bounce off of it, but with my friends, I don’t take that too kindly,” says Stewart of traits she shares with her character.
Viewers who tune in to the show will see that loyalty in action in future episodes as the relationships among the characters play out on screen.
Preparation Meets Opportunity
A graduate of the University of Houston with a bachelor of science degree in consumer science and merchandising, Stewart admits that acting was never in her game plan, but when she received a scholarship to attend acting school as a part of her Miss USA winnings, she decided to give the opportunity a shot.
“I never grew up wanting to be an actress, never thought I could, until I won the pageant and received the scholarship and decided to give it a try,” says Stewart.
She credits her years in the pageant world for preparing her for acting.
“From the hair and the make-up to memorizing and choreography, pageants have prepared me for life and the entertainment industry. Running for Miss USA and Miss Universe also taught me endurance,” says Stewart.
For Stewart, that endurance comes in handy as she and cast members film from 7 a.m.—7 p.m.
“One thing Mr. Perry does is shoot an episode per day, which is really unheard of, normally you shoot an episode in one week. I think that is when my endurance kicked in and my pageant training,” says Stewart.
The mult-faceted Stewart calls her acting debut in Tyler Perry’s series a major highlight in her life.
“I can say God has really opened up the floodgates of blessings for me—I am blessed with a wonderful family, I am in a wonderful relationship right now, am a past Miss USA and have a great career. To have Tyler Perry now be a part of those blessings, I never would have imagined,” says Stewart.
According to Stewart, Perry has given her valuable acting critiques that have helped her hone her acting skills.
“This is my first show and one thing I like about him is that he will take the time to help you and is very patient. I also like that he does work in excellence. That is the same way I work, I like things to be the best they can be,” shares Stewart.
Stewart also appeared in her first movie in background scenes in Perry’s recently released movie “Good Deeds.”
Family, Faith and Community
A resident of Missouri City, Texas, Stewart appreciates her family and the community’s support on her journey.
Her mother, Cynthia Stewart, a retired educator, describes her daughter as “an amazing young woman who meets every challenge head on,” and commends Perry for his talent and professionalism.
“We have so much respect for Tyler Perry, the name stands on its on. He has been a boss, friend and mentor to her,” says Stewart’s mother.
Stewart’s father believes the sky is the limit for his daughter.
“I am patiently watching her career evolve…and the journey continues,” says her father, Robert Stewart.
Stewart’s siblings, Robert IV and Breanna, had faith the show would be picked up and are celebrating their talented sister’s continuing success.
Stewart’s success also is being celebrated by many in the community.Dr. Michael P. Williams and Pastor Taylor Dimes, co-founders of The Genesis Church that Stewart attends in Houston, credit her with a very down-to-earth demeanor and strong values.
“I think that Crystle’s ability to get up and not be knocked out – sometimes knocked down – but never knocked out, has really served her well and has certainly served other young people that pay attention to that model,” says Dimes.
Williams, who has known Stewart since she was three years old, is not only her Houston pastor, but a family friend.
“She is an absolutely beautiful woman and her beauty has more to do with the inside than the outside. She is a young woman of great spirituality, a young woman of poise and intelligence and has a wonderful sense of humor,” commends Williams.
Williams considers the current door of opportunity that has opened for Stewart, not a “chance encounter,” but “providential.”
“I don’t believe in chance, I believe God is constantly positioning and aligning us to be blessed and this was her alignment,” says Williams.
The Houston pastor was one of the many people in her support system who encouraged her to continue her quest for Miss Texas when she was trying to decide on whether to give it one more try.
“We were encouraging her that she had everything to gain and nothing to lose,” says Williams.
Williams credits Stewart’s persistence and dedication, and the value system her family instilled in her, for providing a sound foundation for her success.
“Her parents are extraordinary people of faith,” commends Williams.
A host of family and friends joined together for a special viewing party in Stewart’s Missouri City home for the debut of the pilot last fall and shared their excitement and support for the next step in her journey.
The community in her hometown of Missouri City also has celebrated her success.
“One thing I can say about Missouri City, they have always been there for me. From the sign at the city limits, to the key to the city. I am so grateful and I am sure that Missouri City is going to support me in this new venture in my life. The pilot received great ratings and I am sure that Missouri City put in half of those numbers and I look forward to many more people watching,” says Stewart.
Persistence and Faith
At the end of the day, it is Stewart’s own determination and persistence in following her dreams that have factored the most.
“You have to follow the dream and wake up and start doing something about it. Too many people keep dreaming and don’t do anything about it,” says Stewart.
Stewart practices what she preaches.
“It took me five years to become Miss Texas, but if I had given up or just kept dreaming ‘Oh I wish I could be Miss Texas,’ and never acted on it, I would never be where I am today,” says Stewart.
Her vision for the future is to continue to perfect her craft and see “For Better Or Worse” become a household name, in addition to a host of other goals.
“In five years hopefully Tyler Perry will give me my first movie role, hopefully I will have a couple of movies under my belt, and maybe I will have a family by then,” says Stewart.
A natural motivator, Stewart encourages others to follow their dreams.
“When it doesn’t seem to come as quick as you thought it would, keep persevering and be patient and persistent and that dream will come to pass, I am sure of it,” says Stewart.