After finishing filming for Tyler Perry’s fifth season of ‘For Better or Worse’, actress Kiki Haynes is in a state of relief and ready for relaxation before flying back to Los Angeles. The For Better cast filmed their most recent season of the series in about three weeks. Haynes says, “We work really fast and really hard.” Who could expect anything less working with Tyler Perry, who writes for three sitcoms that run almost simultaneously?
Kianya “Kiki” Haynes plays Keisha in the comedy-drama sitcom. Keisha is the ex-wife Marcus Williams (Michael Jai White), and the mother their first child (Dominique) in the series. Keisha is the antagonist who won’t stop until she gets her way. “She’s the villain of the show”, Haynes says, “But she’s also the spicy glue that makes everybody stick.” The actress referred to the spiteful baby-mama role she plays as scorned and resentful. “She’s hurt and bitter, therefore no one around her is going to be happy unless she’s happy.”
This is the actress’ first role where she’s not – as she puts it – “the goody two shoes.” Haynes jumpstarted her acting career in 2000 landing a role in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled. She has also graced the big screen in “Shaft” (2001) and Brown Sugar (2001). The seasoned actress guest starred in daytime television shows such as “As the World Turns” and “100 Centre Street.”
Haynes admitted to being fearful of the character when she learned she booked the role. “I kind of got into my head a little bit and I was scared because a lot of America, who watches television, they believe the character. Especially if we as actors do our job,” she said. Haynes quickly found out she was miles from the truth. In an era where there is Love and Hip Hop, Real Housewives and Basketball Wives she realized, “everyone loves a bad girl. The bad girl represents power, sex, control; win,” she said. Keisha is that glamorous – yet competitive – spitfire woman who seems to know she’s better than you and secretly you know it too. Haynes laughed and said, “She’s so opposite of me!”
This time around Haynes is having fun with her fiery character. She professed, “I take her [Keisha] to the limit!” In the past, Haynes has played the easy-going character, the helpful character, now she can truly test her craft as an actress. She’s doing a damn good job, because people love to hate Keisha.
There is a more vulnerable side to Keisha that Haynes can relate to. “She’s been hurt before,” she said. “The year before I booked this role was one of the most hurtful relationships I had ever gone through. A guy that I was dating literally just… we were planning a future together, and we were talking about building something and one day he just decides he didn’t want to do it anymore – and just left.”
At the time, the ‘For Better or Worse’ star had no acting representation and she had “took a break from the business [acting]” to sort out her life. Haynes noted she wasn’t pleased with Hollywood at that moment. She said, “Everything was about, not so much as who is the best actor, but who has the most followers and who’s popular.”
The casting director at the time reached out to Haynes to audition for an upcoming “project.” She vividly remembers getting to the audition at 4:40pm, surprised to see that Tyler Perry was in the room, and two hours later she received the call that she booked the role. Haynes said she went from being “completely off the map” and selling “salon packages” to being back on set doing what she loves.
Haynes was close to letting go of her dream but somehow her dream grabbed back at her. “It just confirmed in me that saying, ‘what’s meant for you is meant for you,’” she said. “And even if you quit – I didn’t quit for good – but I did take a break. If the opportunity is meant for you, somehow some way it will come and find you.”
Kiki and Keisha share an ongoing fight for what they feel is theirs’. Keisha fights by being vindictive, and masking pain with bandage dresses and designer handbags. Kiki fights by going to different places within her to deliver a performance as an actress. “I know what it feels like to have something or someone ripped from up under you,” she said. “There’s been times in my career where I felt over-looked, I felt forgotten about.”
Haynes does motivational speaking and seminars; she revealed that she and Wendy McKenzie, a renowned casting director and acting coach had been in talks about putting a tour together. After hearing Haynes’ story it was McKenzie who told her she should start doing motivational speaking to let the world hear her truth.
The relentless actress is far from finished she’ll be starring in a romance-drama, Message from a Mistress, which she co-produced. Haynes will star alongside Angell Conwell of The Young and the Restless, and McKinley Freeman from VH1’s Hit the Floor. “I’ve definitely had to fight my way through life,” she said. We’ve all had instances in our life where we’re fighting for something, fighting for relationships, jobs, everyone has to fight at some point in their life.”