Friday, February 25, 2011

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jackée Harry's "Ideal Husband" - Part One

Jackée Harry has entertained millions of viewers throughout her extensive career in both daytime and primetime television.  Fans of her beloved roles on ANOTHER WORLD, 227, and SISTER SISTER will get the opportunity to see her back in action on the GMC network's world premiere of The Ideal Husband, debuting this Saturday at 7 p.m. ET (and again at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.).  But how does this daytime alum perceive her illustrious career? And does she carry regrets about her career choices? Find out in this special two-part original WE LOVE SOAPS TV interview.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Ms. Harry, it is such a pleasure to talk with you, I have admired your work all the way back to ANOTHER WORLD.  But I’d like to start by talking about this exciting movie that is coming up this Saturday, February 26th, called The Ideal Husband, airing on GMC at 7 p.m.. 
Jackée Harry: It’s about relationships between men and women, which I find fascinating, because there’s no way you can ignore the fact that sometimes it doesn’t work out.  I wanted to make sure that I could be in something that specifically discusses African-American relationships.  We don’t do that enough. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It’s certainly not done enough on network TV.
Jackée Harry: Yes, I want to convey that.  They think we’ve talked it through but we haven’t.  We have not dealt with the fact that we are not being represented that way. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you feel there were more representations of African-Americans and their relationships on television 25-30 years ago?
Jackée Harry: Yes, definitely.  During the 80s we were alive.  And then what happened?

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What did happen?
Jackée Harry: I don’t know.  It’s like we disappeared.  It’s like, “Now we no longer have to deal with it.”  Oh no! No, we do have to deal with it. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I remember in the early 80s on daytime and primetime there was much more diversity, many more example of African-Americans as just being part of the tapestry of a show. 
Jackée Harry: Right, and now you don’t even see it.  It’s like, what, are we dead? Hopefully by doing shows like The Ideal Husband, we are bringing it back so people can see we are still struggling, we are still hoping to be happy like everyone else. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What makes The Ideal Husband special and different?
Jackée Harry: It shows the complexities.  It talks about infidelity, lies, secrets.  That sounds like a soap opera.  But in the African-American community no one talks about it, we sweep it under the rug.  We are only now beginning to explore the fact that we do certain things.  There is a twist and turn in this movie as well.  That’s what makes it different.  There is a surprise.  He does something that is a little scandalous.  I play the mother of the young girl played by Shanti Lowry.  She and her husband have difficulties.  All the couples around them are having difficulties, but hers are a bit more complex.  It involves genetics, let’s just say that. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Does you character have a love interest of her own?
Jackée Harry: I hope not (laughs). 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Are there issues discussed in The Ideal Husband that you have faced in your own life?
Jackée Harry: Yes.  And it’s nothing nice.  I don’t even know where to begin.  I’ve had difficulties but I can’t help anybody with what I’ve gone through.  They are on their own. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you think shows like The Ideal Husband reflects their viewers lives in a way that can help them manage their own relationships?
Jackée Harry: I hope so.  That’s what I’m hoping will happen. There are no happy endings, but there are thorough endings, there is closure.  Sometimes people just leave and it’s not always about another man or another woman.  Sometimes one partner outgrows the other in experience.  They will get an epiphany about something they want to do and they leave because they want to pursue that.  They didn’t pursue it when they got married but then they get older and decide, “Oh the heck with it, I’m going to go do it.” That can be the most painful of all because you feel like, “Why didn’t you tell me you had a dream? I could have helped you get there. You don’t have to leave me after you made the commitment.”  That might be the most painful of all to deal with.  Another person is easier than an idea.  You can’t beat an idea. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Earlier we were talking about lack of representation of African-American relationships on network television.  I’m wondering if you’ve seen any of the shows whose content has been developed specifically for internet, such as ANACOSTIA or DIARY OF A SINGLE MOM?
Jackée Harry: Never! I didn’t know they had that.  I’ve never heard of that. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I will give you the links so you can check these out.  Now, you grew up here in New York City.  Before starting on ANOTHER WORLD you had developed quite a stage career for yourself. 
Jackée Harry: Right.  Then I started television.  I had a great career prior to that.  It didn’t pan out so I decided to go with acting on television, or at least what they call “acting.”

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Well I call it acting.  You are, after all, the only African-American actress to ever win Best Supporting Actress Emmy. 
Jackée Harry: It’s amazing.  I had no idea that television was that important. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What led you to go from being a Broadway actress to starting on television?
Jackée Harry: I had gotten a movie, Moscow On the Hudson with Robin Williams, and then was offered television.  I could have said no.  I didn’t want to do the sitcom [227] because I didn’t think it was serious acting. I was a dramatic actress.  I said, “What am I going to do this schlock for?” They said it was only going to be seven [episodes] out of 22.  I thought, “Fine, I can do seven episodes and then come to New York.”

Who knew? I had no idea that it would take.  It was luck, or whatever.  I don’t know what happened, it happened so quickly.  It was not something I planned.  I got locked in and always lamented the fact that I couldn’t get back to my serious acting.  Friends of mine have told me, “Jackée, don’t do that.  You did a wonderful role, people loved it.”  So that’s good.  I’m not sorry how I used to be when I said to myself, “I should have stayed on course.”  My course was chosen for me by some divine guidance and wisdom.  I have to let that go and do the top shelf stuff I can do.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How do we ever know what that course “should” be in our lives?
Jackée Harry: Nobody knows.  People think they do.  I thought I knew.  It didn’t happen. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: When you started on ANOTHER WORLD in 1983 you had some fantastic costars.  You worked with Morgan Freeman a lot.  What was that like?
Jackée Harry: Well you have to understand that back then Morgan Freeman didn’t know he was Morgan Freeman.  He had been on THE ELECTRIC COMPANY.  How could he know he was going to become that famous? He was just doing his job like the rest of us. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You also shared many scenes with Linda Dano.
Jackée Harry: I love Linda Dano.  I love her! She is one of my favorite people in the world.  She is wonderful, she is marvelous.  She’s cool people.  I can’t describe her as anything other than that.  She has always been so supportive. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How about Brent Collins?
Jackée Harry: My little Brenny. He was a good guy.  He was very smart, and a lot of fun.  That little body could drink you under the table.  He had a wicked sense of humor.  And he never lied about who he was. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Were you friends outside the studio?
Jackée Harry: Oh yes.  Me, Linda Dano, Brent, and Steven Schnetzer.  We were quite a group. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please come back for Part Two in which we discuss the struggles of being on 227, the consequences of standing out, and why she intends to be "The Black Betty White."

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist now accepting new clients in New York City.  He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve," currently available at Amazon.com. For more information about scheduling an appointment, please email him at Shouldless@gmail.com.

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