Perhaps, best known for her role as Lovita Alizé Jenkins-Robinson on hit sitcom,”The Steve Harvey Show,” Terri J. Vaughn has proven that hard work and focus pays off. In this exclusive interview, she shares why “Girlfriends Getaway 2” is important to black women in TV and film.
Tell us how the ‘Girlfriends Getaway’ came about initially?
My production partner, Cas Sigers, and I are always trying to figure out what our next project is going to be. A couple of years ago, we were talking about doing a comedy, much like “Bridesmaids,” but instead it would feature African American women. We started throwing around some ideas and she finally got a script together, and I started thinking about who I wanted to (act) in the movie. They had to be funny, really talented, in their 40’s, but still hot. We wanted to feature black actresses in funny roles. We didn’t have to be the scientist that was funny, or the best friend. This time you have four black women who get to be funny.
I love our craft, our business, and how film affects people. I love taking on that responsibility as an actress, but now I’m able to be behind the scenes as a producer. I get to come up with ideas and tie in my peers, which makes me love it even more. I feel a huge responsibility to my peers, but more importantly, our community; especially to our young girls and giving them the opportunity to see people who look like them in a positive light. It’s my cross to bear, and I put a lot of pressure on myself.
What was the transition from acting to producing like for you, and what have you learned from it?
It’s very challenging, because nothing ever happens the way you want it to. There are reasons and excuses that some networks and studios will give you for not wanting certain shows or people. It’s so frustrating sometimes, and I still have to learn not to let those excuses get me down. It did at first, and I was baffled at some of the things that the network and studio executives would say, or how they viewed us. It would make a person feel so small, like you don’t matter. I really had to buckle down and say, “That’s their loss.” We do have an audience, and there are people who want to see us. We know that we make an impact, and we do generate sales; although some people try to tell us we don’t. It makes our journey a little more challenging, but I’m up for that challenge. Now, I view challenges as something fun, because it gives me a goal.
I’m very aware of “the list” that studios and networks have with their go-to actors and directors. It is silly.
Absolutely! “The list” is bananas. (laughs)
Premiers Saturday, August 29th at 8/7c pm (video courtesy TVOne)
We encourage everyone to have their girlfriends over for their own watch party. We can all watch the movie and tweet together. The hashtag is #GirlfriendsGetaway2
Within the last 18 months, we have seen a resurgence of diversity on primetime television, similar to what we saw in the 90s and early 2000s with shows like “The Steve Harvey Show,” where you played Lovita Alizé Jenkins-Robinson. Did becoming a producer come from the decline of acting work?
Yes, it did. When I was on “The Steve Harvey Show,” I was always thinking about what was next for me, because I knew TV shows don’t last forever. Even when you’re a working actress, you always know that work is going to come to an end and you’re still going to have to make a living for yourself.
I met Cas Sigers around 2005 after she had written her first novel. She gave me a copy and I loved it. I really liked the characters and I thought that it could be an awesome TV show. Because I had been working on “The Steve Harvey Show,” I had established some relationships. So, Cas and I were able to get into some offices and pitch the idea of turning her novel into a TV show. Nothing ever happened with it because I had the challenge of getting the network executives to take me seriously as a producer, and not just see me as an actor. They were nice enough to take the meeting but, they didn’t take me that seriously.
That’s where it all began. I realized there were not many places for people of color to go and create projects. I remember one day I saw this documentary called, Searching for Debra Winger, and it was about various actresses sharing their journeys in the entertainment business and how to stay relevant. I was so inspired by the documentary, but like so many other projects out there, the film featured about 33 white actresses and only two black women – Whoopi Goldberg and Alfred Woodard. I felt a little sad because I loved the documentary, but they had such a limited viewpoint represented. I would have liked to have seen more of my peers like Tisha Campbell, Tichina Arnold, or Regina King. These are beautiful, well-known actresses who many women look up to, and we’re not able to hear their voices.
So, our first project was a documentary called, Angels Can’t Help But Laugh, which features black actresses. We talked about our journey in the entertainment business, being mothers and wives, and the various challenges we face. It was the most fulfilling thing ever and that project set the bar for what our production company, Nina Holiday, was about, and what we were going to do in this business. We’ve been on that path ever since.
“Girlfriends Getaway 2” is your latest project that will air on TVOne on Saturday, August 29th at 9/8C pm. Tell us about your character and what changes she has made from the first film?
In the first film my character, Sophie, was pregnant because I was (pregnant) in real life. [laughs] We had to adjust the script so that Sophie would be pregnant. It was so cool because, from the first script Sophie was going through a divorce with her husband Kyle (Khalil Kain). Once I got pregnant I was wondering how we were going to work that out in the film, but we kept it. Sophie and Kyle were pregnant and still split up. He’s still around because they have a teenage kid, but Sophie and Kyle decided that they no longer wanted to be together.
Now, Sophie has the baby and she’s trying to get her shape back. She’s a little insecure about herself, so she’s over working out. Plus, her and Kyle are dibbling and dabbling with each other, trying to keep it all secretive because they don’t want the judgment from Sophie’s friends. She puts so much pressure on herself to be this perfect woman, so to admit that she’s going back to her ex-husband is a big step for her.
I love playing Sophie because she’s sort of the glue that keeps the whole gang together. You know how you have that one girlfriend of the group who is in contact with everybody, all the time, and everybody connects through her? That’s who Sophie is.
What other projects that you have in the works?
For “Girlfriends Getaway 2” we’re going to do a watch party. We’re each doing a watch party at our individual homes with our friends, and we’re all going to be tweeting during the live broadcast. We encourage everyone to have their girlfriends over for their own watch party. We can all watch the movie and tweet together. The hashtag is #GirlfriendsGetaway2
We are also talking about turning, “Girlfriends Getaway,” into a series. So, I definitely need for everyone to tune in so that this can happen. We want to make sure that there’s more positive images of black women on TV, and the only way to do this is if the viewers tune in to watch.
We also just made a co-production deal with Flavor Unit for a television project that we created. I love working with them, and we’re currently shopping the television project.