One of few times in 30 years, I’ve cried during an interview is when I sat down with TONY Award winning actress, Phylicia Rashad. Ms. Rashad won a TONY for her leading role in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, making history as the first African American woman to take home that prize.
Tears rolled down my cheeks in a conversation for Tyler Perry’s FOR COLORED GIRLS movie. There is something so calming in her presence and moving in her tone that it brought me to a vulnerable moment. Moreover, she didn’t flinch or make me feel uncomfortable about the emotion, we just kept on talking.
Star of the late August Wilson’s Broadway production of Gem of the Ocean, Ms. Rashad is also beloved for her iconic role as Claire Huxtable, successful and loving wife, mother, and attorney on TV’s long-running, successful sitcom, The Cosby Show, that portrayed Africans American in innumerable reflections of art, education and excellence.
An excerpt from our FOR COLORED GIRLS conversation follows–
Talk2SV: You’re a sophisticated southerner, born and raised in Texas. This state is filled with nuances that some people understand and some don’t. How do you relate to being a child of Texas?
Rashad: The thing about Texas is, in my childhood, before they started building the ugly little apartment buildings that look like the wind could blow them over because they planned to tear them down shortly thereafter, destroyed communities. The plan is subtle, but not unseen. Houston was a great place for me to grow up in; as I experienced Texas –open space, open sky, very green grass…St. Augustine grass– there was not one African American community, there were several. There was not one African American elementary school, just in the area in which I lived, there were three elementary schools, two junior high schools, all of which fed into one high school and; there were four, five, six high schools. What I’m saying is, our communities were self sufficient and I saw myself reflected in positions of authority everywhere I looked yet I was living in a time of legal segregation.
But I had the good fortune to have teachers in the classroom who were there because they wanted to be there. Teachers who would say, ‘you’re
going to learn this, you’re going to excel in this because you can, because I say so, and because I know your parents.’ That’s a very different kind of education. That’s how I grew up and it was always openness to human possibility. I was getting that in my home, my mother was always about developing human potential, she wasn’t going to have it any other way and her associates were the same.
I loved growing up in Houston, Texas, in the time in which I did, watching the community grow and expand and change, only to be cut up by highways and other things for political reasons. There’s so much silliness that humanity does with itself. Humanity will get it sooner than later that we are much more alike than we could ever be different and begin to build on that understanding.
Ms. Rashad will be featured on “OPRAH’S NEXT CHAPTER” – AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN IN HOLLYWOOD, Sunday, June 23 from 9-10 p.m. ET/PT
Oprah Winfrey sits down for an in-depth conversation with some of Hollywood’s most powerful female African-American actresses including Alfre Woodard, Viola Davis, Phylicia Rashad and Gabrielle Union. In the discussion, the iconic actresses open up about the challenges, criticism and competition they face as African-American women in Hollywood. In the groundbreaking conversation, the women shed light on a topic that is not often discussed in the entertainment industry.
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is the first and only network named for, and inspired by, a single iconic leader. Oprah Winfrey’s heart and creative instincts inform the brand – and the magnetism of the channel. Winfrey provides leadership in programming and attracts superstar talent to join her in primetime, building a global community of like-minded viewers and leading that community to connect on social media and beyond. OWN is a singular destination on cable. Depth with edge. Heart. Star power. Connection. And endless possibilities. OWN is a joint venture between Harpo, Inc. and Discovery Communications. The network debuted on January 1, 2011 and is available in 85 million homes. The venture also includes the award-winning digital platform Oprah.com.