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When True Whitaker was in the third grade, she had a school biography project. The assignment was to pick a famous person, do some research, and write a little bit about their life. Pretty normal stuff for an 8-year-old, and, one would think, a rather simple task for a kid whose dad is Forest Whitaker.
“It was around the time my dad was shooting ‘The Last King of Scotland,’” True, now 23, told The Post. “My mom, my sisters, my brother and I flew out to visit him in Uganda.”
Now for the plot twist: “He was having a meeting with Nelson Mandela.
“So I got to sit and talk to Nelson Mandela, and I was able to interview Winnie Mandela, who was his wife at the time. There’s a photo of me and Nelson Mandela holding hands and talking, and I’m, like, eight years old,” she laughed. “I wish I was older so I could have really understood the importance — how insane and iconic that moment was. Those types of experiences I’ll cherish forever.”
Such is the life of a celebrity scion, and a refreshingly self-aware one at that. True, the youngest of four children, was raised in Los Angeles by her mother, actress Keisha Nash-Whitaker, and her actor/director/screenwriter/producer dad, who has co-starred in “Panic Room,” “Black Panther,” “The Butler” and countless other films.
“I feel like I’m half my mom and half my dad. My mom has put a lot of her energy into me. She’s very outgoing, very funny … I feel like the comedic side of me has been perpetuated by my mom,” said True of Keisha, who split from Forest last year. “My dad is funny too, but he’s a little more quiet in public spaces. My mom is always on 10, in a good way.”
True has inherited a lot of traits from her father, too: “My wit and my empathy. I feel like he’s taught me and my brother and sisters to approach life with a sense of understanding and openness to different types of people in this world — to embrace different types of people, with different energies and from different walks of life.
“I’ve always been really close with both of my parents. Sometimes a little too close, maybe—I feel like I share everything with them. Even if it’s like, ‘Oh, Dad, I followed a cute guy [on social media] today!’” added True, who is single. “It’s literally just anything and everything. But I love that I feel like I can just be myself and not be scared of being judged by my parents. I’m really grateful for the close relationship we’ve always had.”
Another thing that runs in the family is a penchant for film and television. At 18, True moved from LA to New York City to pursue a degree in creative writing from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
“I feel like I took every creative writing course they had to offer, to figure out what part of writing I really wanted to hone in on.” She graduated last year, and lives in New York.
“Writing has always been an emotional thing for me. Whenever I felt overwhelmed with joy or sadness or any other type of emotion, I’ve always turned to writing. I feel like sometimes when I speak I’m not as concise as I could be when I’m writing. It gives me a different sense of power, so I’ve always loved it.”
And yes, she’s also interested in acting.
“I acted in the last season of ‘Godfather of Harlem,’ starring my dad. I had a character named Sandra. She was definitely a challenge, but I loved every second of it and, hopefully, because it’s shooting right now, she’ll come back,” she said of the Epix series.
Although she didn’t have any scenes with her father, True recalled the first time she saw him on set — which was also her very first day of filming.
“I didn’t even know he was there at first. But when we wrapped, I walked off the set, and a guy came up to me and was like, ‘Oh, you just missed your dad.’ I was like, ‘What?’ I guess he was secretly watching with a little monitor somewhere.
“He’s very supportive,” she laughed. “When I went back up to my dressing room, I found him in there with balloons and a bottle of Champagne, congratulating me. It was really special, of course, to be able to do that with my dad.”
Ultimately, True hopes to continue both acting and writing professionally. In fact, since graduating from NYU, she’s been working on a treatment for a TV series with playwright, screenwriter and director (“Almost Christmas,” “First Sunday”) David Talbert, who is also one of her mentors.
“I’m a trillion drafts into my series. I’m hoping in the next few years you guys will see and be able to feel and hear my voice and understand the things that I care about,” she said. “Anything I work on will be something that means something to me.”
While it remains to be seen whether she’ll star in the show if it gets made, she plans to continue pursuing other acting opportunities.
“I’ve been doing a lot of auditions. I’m signed at William Morris [Agency], and I love my agent — he’s been giving me a lot of opportunities,” she said. “So hopefully that’ll pick up soon, because I’m really passionate about acting.”
Whitaker is also passionate about social activism, as is her father. (Forest is an official advocate for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, and the founder of Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative.)
“No matter who I am, what family I came from, what my dad does, or what success he has, anywhere I go, I am a Black woman. So I will face the challenges that this country presents us due to its horrible history. As a very tall, dark-skinned Black woman, I feel my Blackness everywhere I go. Even when I go into a store, sometimes I feel like I have to either buy something or keep my hands in plain view,” she explained. “I’m always gonna feel the weird microaggressions. But I also have a sense of power, of course, being a Black woman. I want it to be known that we deserve this type of recognition and success, to be able to live in the way that I’ve lived. I’m so proud that my dad, as a Black man, has been able to give this life and this legacy to us, a Black family.”
True’s Instagram bio reads “Black Lives Matter / Protect Black Women!,” and in between family photos and selfies, you’ll find photos from marches and protests.
“I stand up when I see things in the world happening that I think are wrong,” she said. “We need to put a little peace into the world, put some love and care into it.”
True’s Instagram also features photos and videos from the most glamorous side of her life — like debutante balls, red carpets, and celeb-studded nights out — but she insists that her day-to-day reality is pretty normal.
“I just try to work on my writing, and I spend time with the people that I love. Obviously, if there’s an event that I’m invited to, it’s sick to go and I love to be included. I always love to be thought of! But I wouldn’t say I’m doing it that often.”
In fact, you’re more likely to run into her at a karaoke bar.
“My sister and I, actually. In our own time, we, like, practice. We’ll perfect a song, and then we’ll just hop into a karaoke bar. We’ll be harmonizing, doing way too much, showing off our skills. We literally did it the other day—it was so much fun,” True said.
Their current song of choice is an oldie but goodie, from 2007: “‘Potential Breakup Song’ by Aly and AJ. They’re kind of having a resurgence, so we’re embracing that.”
Photos: Tamara Beckwith/NY Post; Stylist: Heather Blair; Hair: T. Cooper/crowdMGMT using Cricket Company; Makeup: Markphong Tram/ABTP using Maybeline; Location: PHD Rooftop at Dream Downtown.