Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Latoya is no stranger to the stage. She has worked in film, television but mostly live performances for 15 of her young 33 years. The busy mother of a 13 year old daughter has always had acting at the forefront of her mind. She stated that although she loves both platforms, she loves the intimacy accompanied with the spiritually humbling experience of ministering to the masses with her God given gifts on the live stage. She also indicated that live theater is a more intimate experience that leaves both she and the audience in a better space for reflection of the story.
Her pre-performance rituals include prayer "Definitely prayer", and the normal preparation leading up to the performance (i.e., learning lines, rehearsing and character development) always helps her stay focused during performance.
According to Gardner, acting has always been her passion. She was and still is a Disney kid. She used to sing along with the movies and knew every line of all her favorite Disney movies. Admittedly, she didn't always know exactly what actions to take to pursue acting, but she always knew that she wanted to act. It wasn't until her adult years, that she really got serious about acting. "I'm not where I want to be, but I definitely have more confidence and peace about which direction I want to go", states LaToya.
Church Stars posed the questions " What has been your most challenging stage role thus far and why" as well as " What has been your most challenging stage role thus far and why" This is what she had to say. " A few years ago, I was cast in an ensemble production called Passing Strange. It’s an awesome musical about the “spiritual” awakening, or more so, the self-awareness of an African American teen from California. The show deals with many themes of grief and regret and at the time, I was dealing with the loss of my fiancée to cancer. That show was my first big show after losing him and we (the cast) cried a lot through it. The role was fun, yet challenging because I realized I was allowing myself to heal through the various characters I was playing onstage. This type of vulnerability is rough and rare on the soul, but it truly created some wonderfully memorable moments that helped me connect with the audience. And at the same time, it helped me reach a new level in my healing from his death.
One of my most favorite and rewarding (stage) roles was to play Celie in the musical adaptation of The Color Purple. It was a humbling experience to bring to life Alice Walker’s iconic character, Celie, and to see how the story and music effects the audience. I always take something away from the characters that I play. From Celie, I learned much about humility and patience, mostly with myself and realizing how much I’d grown in honing my talents and gifts. I was grateful for the opportunity to share my gifts to bring that character to life, and so rewarding that it literally took my breath away every performance.
We wanted to know about her current role, in the faith based film, "Hav Faith. "I play Dr. Lisa Jennings, a beautiful, smart, yet discouraged woman" stated Gardner. "Her faith is damaged due to what she’s been through, yet she is hopeful although she’s not quite sure what the road ahead holds. She’s strong, yet vulnerable and I believe audiences will connect with her because she represents the need in us all to keep fighting through all the obstacles and pitfalls that life throws at you".
Church Stars asked Gardner what prompted her to say "yes" to this role. and she revealed that she'd worked with the director of "Hav Faith", Howard L. Bell, on a previous film titled "KEYED". When he told her that he was working on another script (Hav Faith), and was considering her for a role, she couldn’t say no, especially after reading the script. Besides being a wonderful director, he is also an awesome screenwriter who has a gift for really making each character stand out on the page. He is one of the most laid back, down to Earth men you will ever meet, and he's super easy to work with. So according to LaToya, there was no way she was saying no! And thank God, she didn’t because according to her this project has been one of the most memorable film projects she's had the pleasure of taking part in.
And last but certainly not least of all, Church Stars wanted to know why people should go see "HAV FAITH" This film has something for everyone: comedy, drama, and romance, but most importantly a great message. Everyone should see this movie because it’s a wonderful reminder that everything will truly be okay and work out for your good, even if it’s not how you imagined. You may experience pain, but true growth is uncomfortable and necessary but as you will see in the film once we've done all that we're supposed to do, it's ok to just let go and ...have faith. Go see HAV FAITH in select theatres on August 26, 2016.