Tracee Ellis Ross has just officially reinvented herself on the small screen. After playing sexy single gal Joan Clayton for eight seasons on the hit comedy, Girlfriends, she’s back on television in the new BET sitcom, Reed Between The Lines. This time around she’s portraying a happily remarried therapist — Dr. Carla Reed, who is also wife to TV hubby Alex, portrayed by Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and mom of three children.
BET.com got the inside scoop on if she’d ever do a Girlfriends movie, how Reed Between the Lines has affected her personal life and exactly how her iconic superstar mom Diana Ross influences her trailblazing sense of style.
Just wanted to open with a quick Girlfriends question. Would you be open to a Girlfriends movie the way Sex & the City moved to the big screen?
Yes, I would love to do a Girlfriends movie. I think it is a matter of the viewers speaking up. I would certainly be game if we could get a great script. It would be wonderful to see what happens with Joan and Toni, and hopefully to see Joan get married.
After playing Joan for eight seasons on Girlfriends, why did you want to play Carla, the married therapist on Reed Between the Lines?
I did a teen self-esteem workshop across the country when I left Girlfriends and one of the questions I always ask the teen girls is what do they watch? And often they would say, “BET.” And I would say, “Why?” and they say because, “they see themselves on television.” I thought it would be interesting to bring therapy and the tools that it offers thru comedy, not like "sit down" and really heavy information, to the BET audience. The second part of why I wanted to play her was that my character is happily married. The combination of therapist and happily married was just very intriguing to me.
How cool was it to find out you’d be teamed with Malcolm-Jamal Warner? I think you guys make a very sexy, believable married couple.
Yes and we found Malcolm [Jamal Warner] and it was sort of that magical piece of the puzzle that you could not pay for. We do have great chemistry and it was organic and authentic. From the first moment when I was in that screen test with Malcolm I could already feel the potential of what the show could be. For the first time I got a taste of who Carla was and so it’s been a good choice.
How different was it for you to play a mom this time around?
I’m not a mother in the actual physical form, but I have always been a very mothering person. I was very involved in raising my brothers [Evan Ross and Ross Arne Naess], who are 15 and 16 years younger than me, and I have many godchildren. I also love being around kids of all ages. There’s also a curiosity and newness that children bring and I always want to hold on to that in myself. I come from a very family-oriented family so it’s just a part of me. So it’s really fun to play on television. I don’t know why people say 'don’t work with children or animals' — I think [anyone who says that] is crazy.
In an age where celebrity hook-ups and break-ups now play out over Twitter, you’re always tight-lipped about your love life. Why has that approach been more appealing to you?
I come from [a] public family but I’ve always been a very private person, as is my mother. And I’ve followed in my mother’s footsteps on how to handle that. I also know you can’t control what people think in public or private, even with your friends — that’s just a part of life. I live my life for my joy and my growth and my blossomings.
So, still not fully prying, how would you say Reed Between the Lines has affected your personal ideas of love and marriage?
I don’t know how many weddings I have created for myself over the years. I’ve been redesigning wedding dresses since I was 11 or 12 years old. I’ve always been one of those girls, and now I am now one of those women. The kind of couple that Alex and Carla are is what I want and what I am looking for. It’s obviously the TV version but part of the joy of playing this role is that it's something I believe in. And it’s something that I am walking towards in my life. The fact that Malcolm and I have a personal relationship that is based on the same building blocks that Carla and Alex’s relationship is built on — that of love, respect, acceptance and the joy of each other — makes it even more fun to play, because Malcolm and I have that genuinely.
Coming from a legendary music family who are some of your favorite artists and albums right now?
I’m obsessed with Adele. I am so sorry for that woman’s heartache but I’m so happy for the music it has created because I think she’s wonderful. I have both of her CDs; I saw her perform at the Hollywood Bowl and I was like crying, “I love you!” I like that new Kanye and Jay-Z album, Watch the Throne. Music is so much a part of my life that I’m not one of those people that can always tell you what I’m listening to. I think it’s because it’s literally a part of the fabric of what I come from.
You have an amazing fashion sense and your mom was known as a style icon for several decades. So I was wondering, just how much do you borrow from her wardrobe?
Actually I take all of her clothes, all of them. No, I mean literally. I call it "going shopping." I take pillows, if she’s not there, when I go by the house to get something. Last time I was there, I was like, “Ooh I like those pillows.” And I took them and I was like, “You’re a gosh darn robber, you’re just a stealing person!” And then my Mom was over at my house and she said, “Those are nice pillows.” And I said, “They’re good, aren’t they, Mom?” She didn’t even realize they were hers. It was so funny. I just take stuff from her all the time — it’s really bad. But I can’t help it. It’s like having the best antique or vintage store where everything is your taste and everything is your size.
Reed Between The Lines premieres tonight at 10pm/9C on BET.
(Photo: Brad Barket/PictureGroup)