WJBF – Sweet Life: Los Angeles was a reality show, which was executive produced by NAACP Image Award winner and media mogul Issa Rae, that ran for two seasons on MAX (formerly known as HBO MAX).
Jerrold Smith, II, one of the stars of the series, chats with WJBF Digital about his time on the show plus he discusses his basketball career and how making a pivot changed his life.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. Now, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Oh, man. I was born and raised in L.A. At my core, I’m a son, a brother, a friend, a fiancé to my current fiancé. I’m a man of many trades if that kind of sums it up. I really don’t like putting one particular label on myself because I feel like there’s multiple things to be done in this lifetime. There are multiple things that I have already done in this lifetime and way more that can be done.
Now, you did play for the UCLA Men’s basketball team while you were in college. What position did you play?
I played point guard.
How was that experience playing college ball?
It was amazing, man. It was amazing. I mean, I think it’s, what, 300-something Division One schools. Only so many actual colleges that have basketball programs, and then, there are only 14 or 15 guys a year that can say that they were part of a particular program, let alone some place as historic as UCLA. I’m extremely grateful for my time there. I owe a lot of my success after college to a lot of the folks that I met during my time there. It’s an experience like no other. If I could go back and do it all over again, I’d do it in a heartbeat even given everything that I’ve done since then. It’s the adrenaline rush, the feeling of being in the locker room, having the camaraderie with those guys on a roster, building and developing as a person, being able to establish leadership skills and take direction from the great coaches that I had during my time at UCLA. I really don’t know how to put it into words unless you experience it. There’s nothing like a Thursday night in Pauley Pavilion when somebody like Lonzo Ball hits a game winning shot, the crowd literally erupts, and you have a front row seat to be able to watch stuff like that happen. I don’t know how to put it into words.
That’s amazing. I read in one of your interviews where you talked about how you realized after playing ball that you were not going to play professional basketball, and you talked about how you had to pivot. Can we discuss the pivot? Because a lot of times in life, we’re afraid to make that change. Sometimes, life happens or our passions change. Discuss that pivotal moment for you when you realized, “Hey, I got to make a switch.”
Yeah, I think, as individuals, we’re told that 10,000 hours of time that you put in is the amount of time you need for practice to make perfect. So, the more that you work at something, the better that you’ll get, and the better that you get that becomes your thing. Right? And I spent so much of my life focused on playing basketball to get me to the point of playing Division One college basketball. And you start to realize that those guys that are going to go to that next level really separate themselves there. Obviously, I could have went and played somewhere. I don’t think that’s where my passion lied. I have a lot of friends that still play overseas that aren’t in the NBA. I don’t think that was a route that was good for me, and I think that nobody really talks to us or teaches us about figuring out what’s next whenever you decide that you want to jump into something else that may not be serving you at that time, but that you feel like what you want to move into. I struggled with it a lot. It was a self-reflection point for me in my life at that time, like figuring it out. I didn’t know how to do anything else other than play basketball and be me, and I had to get comfortable enough with being me to figure out, okay, internally, what does that next step look like for me? And how can I take the skills that I’ve learned in these 20-something years that I spent perfecting my craft of basketball and putting it into figuring out what that next step is going to be?
Now, we have to get into Sweet Life: Los Angeles. There are definitely a lot of people know you from that show now. How did you get started? How did you get cast on the show?
Oh, man, they were looking for individuals like myself: young, Black, creative, entrepreneurial, headstrong that were born and raised in L.A. I remember they were they were going through the casting process, and a friend of mine actually had interviewed: Jordan [Bentley], who ended up being on the show with us (during season 1). He had actually interviewed, and they were looking for, you know, just more people like him. They were asking if he had friends to suggest. I’m thankful and very grateful that he suggested me for the opportunity, and then, we kind of ran with it from there. But it’s one of those things where you kind of manifest. We used to say in college, “Somebody’s got to put us on TV!” Like all of this really cool stuff that we’re doing, all of these really big plans that we had, like somebody deserves to see us do these things. You know, I feel like I deserved to see myself do those things on that level. And yeah, just right place, right time. All grace to God, things ended up happening the way they ended up happening.
So, your fiancé, Cheryl, she’s also on the show. How did like didn’t have that conversation about pull your relationship on television because you know, you know how people say about reality TV or relationships that can be a little murky. Did you all have that conversation beforehand?
Of course. Cheryl, specifically, it took some convincing for her to be down with it from the jump. I’m not even talking about from a relationship standpoint. The type of people that we are – or were before the show was – that put our head down, we work hard, and we kind of stay within ourselves and what’s for us is for us, and we kind of live within that. There was a really deep conversation that we had to have about the benefits of an opportunity like this, not just for us in a relationship, but for us as individuals. Cheryl is a brand owner. She’s a fashion designer. The visibility behind that for her brand was something that is too great to pass up. And even then, you know, from the relationship aspect, like I know that they’re out there, but I don’t know very many couples like us that have been together for as long as we’ve been together. I’ve had some really great role models as far as relationships, especially, you know, looking at my parents, who’ve been married for 30 years now, grandparents, and aunts and uncles, who have been married. It was really important that I was able to use this platform to showcase that love is still real. Love is still out there, and it exists, if not anywhere else, within me and Cheryl. That was the conversation that we had. No matter what it is that we’re putting out there on screen, what the world is going to know is that I love this girl, and I wouldn’t want to take on an opportunity like this without her by my side.
Now, how did reality TV change your life?
Oh, very loaded question. Reality TV changed my life in a way that it forced me to start looking at myself as the brand, right? As some of us who work within specific industries, we either work for a brand or we work to promote a brand. After being on a reality TV show, the brand became myself. It became, “How do I amplify everything that I’m doing?” Even with the show being canceled now, how do I continue to find what’s next for me and build upon everything that the show was able to give me? So, it forced me to look at myself as a brand. In building that brand that is myself, it also forced me to take a step back and really just live and enjoy the moment. The reality of reality TV is that is real, and it’s for that moment. Even though it still lives on – you can still go stream it right now – that was a specific point in my life that not only did viewers get to see, but that was me living in real time on screen. It forced me to kind of stop, take a step back, and really just enjoy the moment of what we had with the show.
Besides Cheryl, of course, who else do you talk to from the show?
Everybody. The beauty of that show is that everyone that you saw on screen, those are my friends in real life. I’ve known Jordan since high school. I’ve known Tylynn [Burns] since high school. I’ve known Kofi [Jones] since elementary school… since literally the third grade. You know, Bri [Jones] and Rebecca [Magett] are folks that I’ve met more recently, but, you know, even since then, we’ve locked in. I’ve known Amanda [Scott] since high school. I’ve known Rob [Lee] more recently through Amanda. But you know, those, those are all my friends in real life. I’ve known P’Jae [Compton] since forever. P’Jae’s cousin and I went to elementary school together, and I’ve met P’Jae a really long time ago. And, you know, we all have our own things going on in life, but those are my friends for real.
You did mention about the show being canceled. That’s so unfortunate. But if things were to change and they would say, “Hey, we’re going to bring back you guys back for season three.” Would you be down to do that?
Of course! Absolutely! I feel like there’s so much at the point that we left off at… there’s so much more that needs to be said. There’s so much that we’ve done since that point. I think that was around this time last year, we were preparing for season two to come out. So, in a year’s time, there’s so much stuff that’s happened: Cheryl and I being engaged and planning a wedding, all of the new projects that I’m doing on top of the other stuff that I’m working on, all the new brand campaigns that we’ve all been featured in, not just me. So absolutely 100%.
Now, we also have to talk about your podcast that you have called Basketball Adjacent. Can you tell us about that?
Yeah, that was a podcast that I created. After college, before I realized I wanted to get into entertainment, I realized I had spent 22 years of my life playing basketball since I was two years old; 22 years of my life perfecting that craft. Everyone’s dream is to make it to the NBA, but when that ball stops bouncing, figuring out what that next step looked like for me was probably one of the toughest points in my life. I never feel like there’s anything that I can’t do, but also the main thing that I was good at and did for so long was playing basketball. So, it was an adjustment period for me, and I didn’t want anyone else who was in the process of transitioning careers, or stopping playing a sport, or even wanting to get into the world of sports and entertainment, but not necessarily through the actual avenue of playing that sport, I didn’t want anyone to ever feel like they lacked the resources to figure out what else was out there for them or find that next step. So, I created Basketball Adjacent to talk about all the opportunities that basketball afforded me that were adjacent to basketball. The career that I ended up going into is still very much so connected to basketball and entertainment. I interact with athletes, agents, and managers 24/7 all the time. There’s behind the scenes stuff with brands. I work with brands 24/7 all day, every day, who are also working with athletes, agents, and managers. People don’t really understand a lot of time how most of these things and careers are connected, and I just wanted people to feel like they had an outlet where it was simple enough or easy enough to learn about some of the stuff that was out there.
Sounds good. Now, you did mention that you have some other things that you are working on. Can you tell us about some of that stuff? Can you give us a little clue or a little hint?
A little bit. I’m very content focused right now. One of the things that Sweet Life and working with Issa Rae, in general, has taught me is that nobody is going to tell our stories if not for us sitting down and taking the time to tell them. So, that’s what I’m looking to do. I’m hopefully going to do more of the Basketball Adjacent podcast just because of how important that was for me and how important I’ve learned it was for the audience of the show. Also, I’m looking to be developing some other podcast shows maybe with some of my cast mates talking about some of the things that we’ve experienced since being on reality TV and some of the things we experience in culture as people living in this time this day and age with the voices and platforms that we have. Also, you know, other TV projects. I’m a full-time actor and host. I’m hosting digital content for multiple platforms. I’m actively auditioning for scripted roles and other TV shows. So, you know, just making it do what it do.
Now if people want to follow your journey and keep up with what you got going on, how can I do so?
They can follow me on all platforms at @jerroldhtims.