Like most former child stars, it took Paige Hurd years of kicking around Hollywood, playing bit roles in unknown TV shows and movies before finally getting her big break. It was on the Chris Rock sitcom, Everybody Hates Chris, where she played Tasha Clarkson, the girl next door— y’know, the love interest. By then she was all of 13 years old.
“I always laugh and joke and say I had a Hannah Montana lifestyle,” Hurd tells us from her home in Santa Clarita, offering tips on staying normal when you’re a child actor in Hollywood. “I was working, yes, I was around all that fun cool stuff. But at the same time I was in public school with regular kids who aren’t doing that, and they’re mean and they’re bullying you. So, that gave me balance in my life.” Just look at Hurd now, 28, curvaceous, audacious and just a touch salacious. With 900,000 Instagram followers and counting.
These days she plays Lauren Baldwin, college coed, alongside Tariq St. Patrick played by Michael Rainey, Jr. on the Starz series, Power Book II: Ghost. A spinoff of Power, Starz’s highest-rated series, the new show, which also stars Mary J. Blige and Method Man, just wrapped its second season. Tariq is an undergrad trying to navigate the campus world of fictional Ivy League Stansfield University, while also trying to come to terms with his crime family’s legacy. Lauren is a new friend.
“It’d be really cool if Lauren could somehow get involved in Tariq’s other life and play this rebel side of life where she’s a good girl, but on the other side she’s helping him do whatever he needs to do, or having his back,” Hurd spitballs on the future of her character. “I would like her to have a little bit of a dark side as well. She does have secrets and we don’t know what they are. But they’ll be revealed in season two.”
Entertainment history is littered with child stars whose careers could not make the transition to adulthood. Of course there are examples of the opposite. Jodie Foster started as a child and is one of the most respected names in Hollywood. Christian Bale is another. Hurd is not quite an Oscar winner, but give her time. In Everybody Hates Chris she showed a sweet and innocent side. Years later, as kidnap victim Samantha Grover on Hawaii Five-O, she was a compelling and empathetic teenage damsel in distress.
Along the way in her career there have been advisors and mentors, including Queen Latifah, with whom she worked on the 2005 movie, Beauty Shop, and rapper DMX, who she met when she was eight years old, playing his daughter in the 2003 action movie, Cradle 2 the Grave.
“They adopted me into their family as their goddaughter and I spent a lot of time with them. And I was able to be around the adult world and watch for myself,” Hurd recalls her relationship with the stars, and learning from grownups in her life. “They kind of let you figure it out on your own without being overbearing, but let you know they’re there if you need them. My mom was a big advocate of my career and an important person in my life. And even though she wasn’t an actor, she knew what she was talking about in the business.”
For Hurd, like many celebrities, the life has its ups and downs. Ups include playing Justin Bieber’s girlfriend in his 2010 video Never Let You Go, which features her and Bieber meeting by chance at an aquarium. “Getting a passport and getting to the Bahamas was way more surreal than anything else about that situation,” she laughs. “From the beginning I was able to not fangirl, but understand him from a peer standpoint. But we had a great time. For a 17-year-old, it’s pretty cool.”
Downs include anxiety and bouts with depression since her teen years. “It’s important to me to educate people and let them know they’re not crazy. It’s normal,” she says, adding that she plans to establish a charity to address issues dealing with mental health. “Just create a safe space where people feel like they can talk. And I want to encourage people to do therapy.” Also therapeutic is staying home and cooking during the pandemic, whipping up faves like salmon and rice when she’s dieting, and tacos when she’s not. And through it all, like many of us, feeling anxiety and hope for a better 2021.
“I’m praying we get a handle on COVID and we can go back to a normal America, but bigger and better.”