Photo by Jaimie Trueblood
Assassin Sharice Watters (TARAJI HENSON) and her partner, Georgia Skyes (ALICIA KEYS), discuss business in a dark action comedy about the interlocking tales of high stakes and low lifes. Photo by Jaimie Trueblood


When Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys set out to act in her first feature film, one thing was certain—she wasn’t going to be cast, as she says, as “the girl who plays piano.”  Instead, she plays a not-so-sweet street assassin in the upcoming Smokin’ Aces, opposite Ben Affleck, Ray Liotta, and Andy Garcia. 

“I didn’t want to play a character similar to who I am,” Keys said.  “I wanted to play a character completely out of the box, and blow people’s minds.”  In this gritty wild gangster world created and directed by Joe Carnahan (Narc), Keys plays Georgia Sykes, one of many assassins sent by the mob to kill Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven).

“This role challenged me in many ways, and that was rewarding,” explained Keys.  But, how does one go from winning nine Grammy awards and selling more than ten million albums to becoming a vicious gunslinger in an action film?  “I re-discovered how close the two worlds are.  Growing up, I was always amazed at how actors were completely transformed.”  Continued Keys: “I reconnected with the way I was moved as a child when I would see a film.”

For Alicia Keys, who grew up in artistic family, acting and singing are the same animals.  “The two are very close.  For me, this film confirmed how close they are.  I personally feel acting is not totally different from singing.  When I write a song, it is a memory.   When I perform, I have to recall that memory.  It’s that same technique I use in a basic way for acting as well.  It’s not such a leap.”

Photo by Jaimie Trueblood
ALICIA KEYS as assassin Georgia Sykes. Photo by Jaimie Trueblood


In her characteristically soft voice, the slight, articulate woman in the wispy dress confessed:  “There was much work that went into developing [the character of] Georgia.”  Keys worked with an acting coach that helped her to find the extreme elements that went into building the role.  “She dug things out from inside of me,” Keys explained. “There were things that, if I didn’t address them with [my coach], I would not be able to address them as Georgia.”

In discussing her rigorous regiment to transform herself into the character, Keys explained that “our gun-training was extensive.  I was cut and hurt very badly, but it was all part [of] developing Georgia.  I had to answer, ‘Why did she do what she did?’, and ‘What drove her to this point?’.  ‘What was it with men, as Georgia’?”

“There were some deep discoveries,” the singer revealed of her process.  “This role gave me the opportunity to be completely different in every way.  To take that character and be the complete opposite is the excitement of it.”

Smokin’ Aces will be opening January 26th, and also stars Grammy Award winner Common, Van Wilder star Ryan Reynolds, Peter Berg, and Nestor Carbonell. 

Jim Holt studied journalism in Canada at Carleton University and Ryerson Polytechnic University. He covered crime for 10 years in the steel-producing city of Hamilton, near Toronto. His investigative work earned him many awards and nominations including a National Newspaper Award nomination for having exposed a wife-beating police officer. In 1997, he moved to Los Angeles where he began working as a stringer for the Canadian Press (CP) wire service. As a freelance field producer he produced crime-related TV stories for KABC-TV and KCBS-TV. In 2001, he was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Serious News Story (multi-part) for his profiling of a terrorist. In 2007, the Canadian Association of Journalists named him in a team award for outstanding investigative reporting, specifically a story of wrongdoing by the CBC's The Fifth Estate. The team is also nominated for a Michener Award in Canada for the same story.