Sheryl Lee Ralph Says She Was Fired From A TV Pilot Because She ‘Was Not Black Enough’
In an interview with PEOPLE, the 65-year-old actress reflected on her journey to make a name for herself in Hollywood and doing so while Black.
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“People's thinking was not very inclusive,” she said. “ You [had] directors who were still trying to tell you how to be Black."
She didn’t mention the director’s name, but vividly remembers the moment a director for a particular television pilot she was hired for, informed her she wasn’t “black enough.”
"I was fired from a pilot because the producer told me I was 'not Black enough.” Those were his words. It was horrible. I can still remember the way I felt."
Ralph, who currently plays a stern but empathetic kindergarten teacher (Barbara Howard) on the hit Hulu series Abbott Elementary, didn’t let the director’s comments defer her acting career. Instead, she optimistically noted, “it’s all about the lens that you see through.”
Ralph’s acting journey led her from Broadway to pursue Hollywood dreams in the ‘80s. During her March 4 appearance on the daytime show The View, she recalled another moment of Hollywood’s evident struggle to be inclusive of Black women.
“Everybody knows you're a beautiful, talented, Black girl. But what do I do with a beautiful, talented, Black girl? Do I put you in a movie with Tom Cruise? Do you kiss? Who goes to see that movie?'"
She went on to say, "But I left that audition with some of the best ammunition. Everybody knew I was a beautiful, talented, Black girl and I should be in the movies with the likes of a 'Tom Cruise', and he should kiss me."
Ralph has been nominated for a Tony Award, a total of five NAACP Image Award nominations, and scored an Indie Spirit Award for her work in the 1990 Indie film To Sleep With Anger.