Wendy Raquel Robinson’s career dates back nearly 20 years. She made her television debut in Martin and soon appeared in other sitcoms, such as The Sinbad Show, The Parkers, and Brandy’s Thea. The Howard University grad was the queen of guest-starring roles. However, it was her role as Principal Regina Grier on The Steve Harvey Show that made audiences notice Robinson as a star on the rise. Her one episode on the hugely popular Girlfriends eventually spawned the spin-off The Game.
You surely know the story by now. In 2009, after three popular seasons, the CW canceled The Game. BET picked up the series and in January made cable history. The season premiere of The Game garnered an astounding 7.7 million viewers, which is the biggest ad-supported sitcom telecast in cable history.
The show is officially in the record books, so we had to talk to Robinson, who plays wisecracking Tasha Mack, for our final Black History Month celebrity feature.
The Game has been so successful and broken television records. Do you see the show as officially being a part of Black history?
Wow, I just got a chill when you said that! When I think of Black television and history, I always use The Cosby Show as the bar. It might be because I am in it right now, but I really feel like I'm just floating. I even watch the show, as hard as it is for me to watch myself on television; I'm even a fan of the show. I can watch it, see Wendy, and not pick it apart. I am so caught up in the characters. For me to say that it's history, I don't want to be that presumptuous and cocky. I just know that it's something incredibly special; I’m not minimizing it at all. I know we definitely broke records, so we did make history. The Cosby Show is so iconic; of course there is Julia with Diahann Carroll, the first African-American woman with her own television show. In terms of doing something out of the ordinary and making it extraordinary, we did come back after the two years and really put BET on the map—that is history-making.
Two years is a long time. Did you ever let go of the character?
I always felt like it was going to happen. I have very close friends at the CW on the executive level as well as at BET on the executive level, and then our producers kept ensuring us every three to six months it was going to happen. Yes, I did have a lot of doubt but I always kept Tasha tucked away. She's definitely part of my alter ego so it wasn't too hard for me to find her. I always maintained a little bit of faith; my whole mantra was we were the little engine that could. I always prayed. It seemed like it was so farfetched, so it was faith that kept me going and believing that it could happen.
For you and your family, what does Black History Month mean?
Wow, it means it's not long enough, let's start there! [Laughs] I don't like to compartmentalize it into a month. I’m always trying to learn and grow from barriers that were broken for me. I love that there is a designated month where children are taught our history. I work with a lot of young people, some privileged young people, some of whom who didn't even know who Angela Davis was. Without our history we can't go any further. There will be no respect for what Obama has done because we don't know the struggles we went through to get him in office. So, it's very important to me.
What is one of your favorite Black films?
Lady Sings the Blues, most definitely. The story and the music of Billie Holiday was just incredible. The performances were mesmerizing. What Diana Ross did in that performance blew me away. Richard Pryor, Billie D. Williams—that's when Black love could sustain everything. There was Claudine! I love to see the big, Black family. I always wanted a big family. Then the soundtrack with Curtis Mayfield, the music told a story. That's when music really meant something; it wasn’t just about beats and BS. As of late, "Boyz n the Hood" really impacted me because I grew up in that same neighborhood. It was the first time I saw a true reflection of me, my neighborhood and my surroundings.
Do you have a dream role?
If I could parallel it to a Lady Sings the Blues—even a biopic. I would love to do Tammi Terrell's story. I love stories of the underdog coming out on top and stories of survival.
I've heard many people say you would be great to play Whitney Houston.
Are you serious? Absolutely! I love her! [Did] you know we are both Leos too? I probably do channel her with different hairstyles. I go back to throwback ’80s Whitney! [Laughs]
Any last shout-outs to the BET audience?
Shout out to the BET audience! It's like Dorothy: "There's no place like home." I really feel like we have found a home where we are valued and appreciated. It's like, "Wow, you guys get us!” From the fans to the producers to the publicity, everybody just gets it. I’m just so honored and humbled to be a part of this journey and experience. I just pray we'll keep the artistic integrity, bring good work, and good episodes. We're having a ball. It's really just been the beginning of an incredible journey between The Game and BET. Thank you!