When the character of Stacy, originally slated for Malinda Williams, was recasted, it opened the door for actress Nadine Ellis. A founding member of “The Pussycat Dolls,” Ellis is no stranger to the small screen, with previous roles on “Reno 911!,” “Two and a Half Men” and “ER.”
Yes, you read that correctly. Ellis had a cameo on “Two and a Half Men,” Charlie Sheen’s former hit CBS comedy. Ellis recently chatted with BET.com about Let’s Stay Together, her interaction with Sheen and the challenges she’s faced as a Black actress in Hollywood.
How did you land the role of Stacy on LST?
It happened about a year ago. I was fortunate to meet with Robi Reed [Vice President of Talent and Casting, Original Programming] and, of course, the writers and producers. It was amazing. I walked in and it was just really kind of mind-blowing at the time. Bert Belasco and I had really great chemistry. More than anything, I just had fun. I remember getting into the car thinking, “God, that was fun.” There are certain jobs where you’re like “Please let me get this” or you really think you’re dead-on for what they’re looking for. And though I really connected with Stacy, it felt like more than anything that I had a good time. Those always feel good because then it doesn’t become the business side of it—it’s the love side of it. A few weeks later, I got the call that I booked the part and I was blown away.
What challenges have you faced as a Black actress in Hollywood?
I think the most frustrating thing about being a Black actress in Hollywood is the fact that you will watch TV—and I’m a fan of television, specifically comedies—and it’s really frustrating to watch and then go, “Where are we? Why are we missing? Why couldn’t they give that part to someone who looks like me?” For the most part, I feel that way across the board. Like, why couldn’t they interject an Asian character in that or an Indian character? Why does it always seem like for the most part it’s one tone, one color on television? That’s the most frustrating thing. Knowing that you have the capacity to do it and you would love the opportunity to attack and bring in your own flare. As actors, we bring in our bag of tricks. To be able to come in and do that would be pretty cool. It is frustrating to look around and think there’s not a space for you. That’s why BET bringing this show to life was such a blessing.
Why do you think there has been a decline of Black actors and actresses on network television compared to the increase of minorities on cable programming?
I’m not really sure. It does seem like we kind of drifted away and then there was resurgence with “Girlfriends” and “The Game.” Those shows went away and then it felt like we were missing again. I’m not really sure why that is because I feel as we progress we’re obviously growing as a culture. It feels like, Barack Obama is in the White House, so why would it be that we’re taking steps backwards? I don’t want to misquote her, but I remember seeing an interview from Marta Kauffman, one of the producers from “Friends,” and they asked her if she thought this is a realistic depiction of New York, [one] where there are no minorities really. And again, I don’t want to misquote her but she said something to the effect of “I live in New York and I don’t interact with a lot of races myself.” It seemed like “whoa,” but I guess that is a reality for some people. It’s really important for us to make those opportunities for ourselves. Obviously, that’s what she was doing. She has her lifestyle and the way she thinks, and she created those characters for television.
You had a cameo on “Two and a Half Men”—what was Charlie Sheen like on set? What do you make of his behavior these last couple of days?
When I worked on the show, my scene was with Jon Cryer, so I didn’t get a chance to work with [Charlie Sheen] one-on-one. He was at the table read and he was very nice. He was very cordial with everybody. I will say this: I thought this was a sweet moment, during a rehearsal, Angus T. Jones, who plays the teenager on the show, was starting in a baseball game. He had been waiting and you could see him, almost like ants in his pants, and Charlie took the time to say, “Can we let him go? Because he has a baseball game.” I thought that was really sweet that he was looking out for this kid. Everybody goes through their ups and downs and I guess right now this is just his down. It happens and I hope he gets some help.
What’s the response been like from people who have come up to you about LST?
What’s been really sweet and what I really love are people that say, “I love the show and that there are new faces.” That’s just a huge compliment because as a new actor, sometimes the audience is skeptical about trusting you. It’s great that people are giving it a shot and are interested in learning not only about our characters but about us as well. I think that’s a pretty huge compliment.
Growing up, what television shows did you watch?
“The Cosby Show” was of course a huge influence in me, but I remember my brother sitting and watching “Battlestar Galactica” and going, “Who is this Twinkie character?” From sitcoms to dramas, “Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” all of the good stuff. But “The Cosby Show” definitely was a huge inspiration for me.
You’re brand new to Twitter. How are you enjoying it so far?
I’m really confused about a lot of stuff; I’m not going to lie to you. I just figured out how to reply on my phone, so that was a huge Twitter moment for me. I feel like I need more tutorials to find out what the proper etiquette is.
(Photo: Valerie Goodloe/PictureGroup)