Travina Springer is wasting no time making her mark in Hollywood as an actor and comedian. She is a refreshing, down-to-earth dose of optimism and positivity, while at the same time exuding that spark and passion that has made her instantly recognizable on the screen. Last year she made her debut in the Marvel Universe for her role in Ms. Marvel, one of the franchise’s most ambitiously diverse pieces to date. She can currently be seen in NBC’s hit show, The Irrational, renewed for season 2, holding her own opposite the show’s star, Jesse L. Martin.
Her father served in the military and before she settled in Florida, she moved around the country. That childhood experience forced her to create her own identity early on and gave her the tools that would prepare her for her later career.
I think it did give me a lot of survival skills. I grew up in various parts of the country and I was always the new kid, and it probably instilled my desire to be creative and entertaining and make people laugh because it’s harder to ostracize or bully someone who’s making you laugh. It also made me really adaptable to a lot of different situations because we were in different parts of the country. One skill I got was probably just being able to adapt to different environments and roll with the punches very easily.
Comedy has been a constant in Travina’s life. She’s been a member of UCB Comedy, performed in the CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase, her stand-up was featured on the reboot of BET’s Comic View, and she’s taken the stage at powerhouses like Flappers, The Comedy Store, and The Ice House. She uses her comedy to bring up social themes that play a big part in her life.
Comedy has been in a way, like a savior. It’s always been something I felt so comfortable in. It lightens up spaces. It’s a companion of mine wherever I go, and sometimes I’m not even trying. It’s been this wonderful playground to show up and express myself. In stand-up, when I’m writing my own things to use my own voice, it’s an opportunity for me to be vulnerable and discover more about myself as I explore the world with comedy. I think it’s also a beautiful, beautiful vehicle to bring people together. That’s something that I really love about comedy, whether it’s through the stage, television, film, standup, or anything like that. It’s storytelling while educating people, and they don’t even realize it.
Stand-up has been a point of contention lately, with certain comics making disparaging remarks towards the LGBTQ community, all in the guise of comedy. Having first-hand experience, what is Travina’s opinion on what comics should be allowed to say?
Comedians shouldn’t be limited in what they say. I think comedians should always challenge themselves, me included, to involve and evolve with their comedy, and to listen to their audiences because that’s our immediate feedback, right? If people don’t like it …. I think we can say whatever we want, but understand that we’ll get feedback. Comedians have so much power in what they say, in the messages they send, and what they normalize, and it’s a responsibility we shouldn’t take lightly. Sometimes when one says something in jest, it can feel light, but there’s a lot of gravity sometimes. It’s important for comedians to never punch down, and to grow and evolve. Things that were funny in the 1920s don’t fly anymore, and it’s not because people are weak or sensitive. Sensibilities change and evolve, and that’s important. What comedians say has to be funny and it has to make sense.
It’s an actor’s dream to be part of the Marvel Universe, something that Travina can now check off. She plays Tyesha Hillman, a complex, intelligent, and unapologetically witty, Black Muslim. What does it mean to be part of this mega-franchise?
It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around. It was such an amazing experience, especially when we started filming at the beginning when people were coming back to work after the pandemic began. So just to have that opportunity to be in the universe and be in a particular story about the first Muslim and Pakistani American superhero, was very exciting and special. And Tyesha, I hold her very dear to my heart, and I hope the world gets to see more of her.
Like Tyesha, Travina is a convert to Islam. Talking about religion in the queer culture is not often talked about, as many have bad experiences with organized religion. Being Muslim is something that Travina is particularly proud of, with the elements of the faith fueling her everyday life.
I was raised as a Baptist and I just started questioning what that meant and what my relationship with God meant, and Jesus specifically. One of the pivotal moments was reading the autobiography of Malcolm X. It was very life-changing for me.
In college, I just became friends randomly by sitting next to someone at a computer lab and they were reading an Arabic newspaper and I started asking questions. We became friends and I found out that they were Muslim. Azam taught me a lot of stuff. I just started asking questions. He took me to a mosque, and the imam was extremely kind and patient – I had like four pages of questions. I was prepared. I had no intention of converting at all. Ramadan was around the corner. (Ramadan is a holy month, the ninth month of the lunar calendar where Muslims fast and abstain from food, drink, and other activities.) As a social experiment, I gave it a try. And it was life-changing for me. I fasted and it was such a healing experience because the beautiful thing about fasting in general and in particular with this fast, is that no one knows that you’re fasting, but you and your creator. It’s not just minding what you eat, but it’s the words that you use. You try not to have road rage or gossip or get angry as you would maybe if you’re not in a fasting state and do more charity and be more thoughtful. The holistic approach of fasting is really what moved the needle for me with Islam. And then a year later I took my Shahadah and converted.
Playing Kylie Mercer in The Irrational is Travina’s first, major primetime show. Going into it, it felt just right for her, nerves out the window, she felt like she was supposed to be there. Her chemistry with Jesse L. Martin is palpable, and their brother/sister dynamic is a joy to watch. Though different than Tyesha in Ms. Marvel, Travina has also been able to bring a lot of herself to Kylie. Even down to the pink hair. With her positive outlook, self-confidence, and star quality, it will be exciting to see this rising star’s journey.
And her message to her fans?
First of all, thank you. Thank you so much for watching and being on this journey with me. I am so appreciative. Sometimes when I’m on Instagram, I see the messages and I get the fan mail, so thank you. I also would like people to see and remember the power that we all have within ourselves. If we can do our best to show up as authentically as possible and carry our own light that way, it’s such an inspiration to other people. If you have people giving you negative energy and hating on whatever it is you’re doing, I promise you it’s that they are intimidated and they are troubled by the fact that they can’t show up as authentically as you can. That’s what that is, a hundred percent. So, keep doing it.
Watch The Irrational on NBC
Last modified: February 1, 2024