Jasmin Brown returns as Deja in season two of “Zatima” on BET+.

You might have heard of Toya Turnup. Now it’s time to get to know Jasmin Brown, too.

While Brown now wears many hats, her career started in earnest with stand-up comedy and Toya Turnup, a character she created who became a social media persona well-known for her rants.

When the first opportunity for stand-up came along, Brown hadn’t really considered the medium as something she would be interested in. But her performance as Toya garnered attention and her stand-up slowly evolved into a one-woman show of sorts – she would open as herself, have another comedian come out for a few-minute set, and then head back onstage to headline as Toya. 

But after years on the road, Brown was ready for a change. Now, she’s landing acting jobs more consistently and gearing up for the season two premiere of the Tyler Perry show “Zatima,” where she’ll return as Deja – the villain you love to hate. Not only is the acting game going strong, but she’s also going back on the road as Toya for the first time in a while. 

Season two of “Zatima” premieres on BET+ on March 16, and Toya will be returning to the stage at the Atlanta Uptown Comedy Corner for two shows on March 25. Ahead of both of these events, Rough Draft Atlanta spoke with Brown about her career path and what she’s looking forward to next. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

I would love to hear a bit about the beginning of your career – where you’re from, how you got started in the business?

Jasmin Brown: You know, it’s so funny – when people ask me to talk about the beginning, I’ve never said where I’m from! So it’s funny that you ask that.

I’m from West Palm Beach, Florida. I’m a Florida girl at heart. I love the sun, I love the beach. I grew up in a church, so I have that background. And I pretty much started acting – my personality has always been what it’s been, and my parents, they couldn’t afford to put me in acting classes or things like that. So I ended up just doing local plays at my church, and things like that. I would get an allowance every week for doing my chores, and I would buy wigs and props and things, to turn myself into a different character. From there, the personalities and the characters were like, subconsciously being created, you know?

I would do photo shoots in these alter egos, and things like that. Even like, my Barbies and baby dolls, they all had different personalities. They all had different voices. I’ve always just been a character. But I never thought it was anything special or unique until I probably got to high school and people thought I was so funny. 

I used to – oh my gosh, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this – I did voices all the time. So I would get somebody’s phone number, and we would prank call them and I would pretend to be someone else. This is like, the real “Catfish.” I was catfishing people. I used to do this guy voice really good. I would get the numbers of the girls that I didn’t really like in school, and I would call them and I would say, “This person gave me your number, and he showed me a picture of you, and I think you’re really pretty.” I would find out all this information about them, and then I would use it as blackmail [laughs]. 

I feel like prank calls were such a big thing when I was in high school, and I don’t know if anyone still does that, or really has the ability to, you know?

Brown: No, they don’t! I used to prank call and pretend to be someone else. I would do it at sleepovers. Like, I would always have a sleepover, and me and my girlfriends would be calling people and cracking up. We would call everybody and just pretend to be different people. You know, I didn’t think it was anything crazy until people were like – oh my god, do this voice, do that voice, or whatever. But I’ve just always been on my Robin Williams shit, you know?

I know you have a social media following, and you’ve been doing stand-up and acting and writing  – which lane came first for you? 

Brown: First, I was in acting class. I remember, I was like, I want to be like Viola Davis, a serious actor! But in the meantime, I was still on social media, just doing rants – just talking about things that would get on my nerves, or whatever, and other people would relate to it. But it wasn’t like I was trying to be an online personality, or anything like that. 

Somebody reached out to me and was like, we want you to do stand-up … and I was like, no! I’m a serious actor! I’m not a stand-up comedian, I would never do stand-up! And [they] were like, well what if you do it as your character, so then you’d technically be acting? And I was like, ok! I ended up doing it as my character Toya Turnup.

I was on the road for consecutively a good three years. I remember the pandemic hitting and me being like, what am I going to do? My life is on the road and theaters are shut down. From then on, I really wanted to focus more on acting. That’s when I just told Toya – hey listen, I’m putting stand-up on the backburner for now and I’m going to work on acting. Now, I’m doing “Zatima,” Sisters,” “Double Cross,” and a feature film this year. Things have been going. 

So it was around the pandemic when you started that shift over to acting?

Brown: Yes, because I was on a roll. It’s funny, because I was already feeling like my character was getting bigger than me. I would still get booked for things, you know, I would still do red carpet stuff, I would host shows, I would do things like that. But I wasn’t getting the acting jobs because my schedule was on the road. Like, I lived in a hotel out of a suitcase, I’m bouncing from hotel to hotel. I didn’t really have real structure when it came to trying to sit down and film something. 

I had to really just say, ok I’m just going to take a break and focus on this because the auditions were coming in. But the pandemic is when it really made that shift for me. 

You’re writing, acting, doing stand-up – is there one mode of expression that you prefer over another? 

Brown: I just have different moods. So when I’m in a writing mood, I’m like, okay – glass of wine, music, and I’m in my zone, right? When I’m in a stand-up mood … I don’t tell jokes, I tell stories – just long stories. So my shows will literally be like one really long story, or two or three different stories kind of combined into one. There are days where I just feel really inspired, and I’m like, that’ll be really funny and I write it down. And then there are days where I’m just very mellow. 

I do so many things, it just depends on the mood. But I can never control when they come [laughs]. I can never control when they come! So it’s like, oh I’m in a writing mood! Damn, I don’t have nothing to write on. Or it’s like, that would be so funny, I’ve got to make this video! Ah, I can’t, I look like shit, you know? They just come at such random times. 

Do you find it easy to switch back and forth?

Brown: Yeah! I mean, I’m a super creative person, so it’s easy for me to go from one thing to the next. Even when I’m doing my stand-up shows and I’m transforming from different voices to the other – I’m telling a story, and this person speaks like this and the other person talks like that, and they’re having a conversation with each other – I can just go back and forth … It’s kind of wild. But that’s kind of how my brain works. I know how to just switch when I need to. 

Going back to the acting route, do you remember the first job that you booked?

Brown: It’s funny, because I like to tell people, I started at the very beginning, like the first step, being a background actor – doing extra work, you know? My acting coach would always say, don’t practice on the industry, have the industry ask you where you’ve been. Even in the smaller jobs that I would do, I would always just [give] 110%.

I remember I had a role on “Graceland” when that show was out. It was a yacht party. And I remember being on a yacht, like this is so cool! I’m partying in the background, and I’m getting down! I’m having a ball. They had to tell me – hey, orange shirt. Just chill. You have to chill out a little bit! But listen, if my job is to party, I’m going to party! 

When it comes to “Zatima” – you’re returning for the second season as Deja. Is there anything you can tell us about your character this season?

Brown: She’s definitely a villain, Deja. She’s definitely a villain, and people love to hate her. She’s also comedic relief, so every time you see her, it’s always like the same response. It’s like, ugh – here she goes! 

I love that. I love that feeling of just being the one that’s just going to poke. Because I’m not a messy person. I’m so opposite from her, it’s so fun to be able to play somebody like her. But this season, it just unfolds more. You get to see how Deja really is. She just takes it to another level, and I feel like there are going to be times where you’re actually like, you know what? She’s not that bad. I kind of like her! And then other times, you’re like, you know, nevermind – I hate that bitch [laughs]. But I really do love being the villain. 

So maybe a hint of a redemption arc?

Brown: Yeah, yeah, a little bit. 

You also mentioned a feature film. Is there anything you can tell us about that, or do you have anything else coming up we should be excited about?

Brown: Well, I can’t say too much about that one. But I will say that I do believe in my heart of hearts, that this is going to be the role that really breaks me. It’s going to be the one.

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.