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Cass' Interview with Malinda Williams


Windfall
One of the stars of
NBC's drama series : "Windfall"

Copyright Cassandra Henry, 2006

Malinda Williams, an esteemed Hollywood sweetheart, stars in two highly-anticipated projects this summer. The exciting television drama, Windfall (NBC), Malinda portrays Kimberly George, a 22 year-old single mother whose luck finds her winning the $386 Million dollar lottery and leaving her life in the trailer park behind. Additionally, Malinda will grace the silver screen in the eagerly awaited for film, Idlewild (Universal). Idlewild will be Malinda’s first starring role in a major musical production. In this period piece, also starring Outkast members Big Boi and Andre 3000, Malinda will portray Zora, the wife of “Rooster” (Big Boi).

If you ask this talented actress some of her career goals, she will tell you, “I just want to portray African-American women accurately, because that is all I represent; not necessarily positively or negatively, just correctly.”

If this beautiful actress’s face seems familiar, it may be because she spent five years portraying Tracey “Bird” Van Adams, a beauty salon owner and struggling entrepreneur on Showtime’s ground-breaking, history making series “Soul Food.” Malinda has worked consistently in a business where many careers are short-lived. Her versatile talents and distinctive beauty have led her to a list of admirable credits.

In 2003 and 2004 she earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for “Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series”, and in 2002, 2003 and 2004 the series received the NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Drama Series” with yet another nomination in 2004.

Malinda’s leading role film credits include: The Wood (MTV /Paramount), High School High (TriStar), and An Invited Guest which won the Best of Show at the 1999 Acapulco Black Film Festival and the Audience Award at the 1999 Urban World Festival in New York. She also starred in Dancing in September (HBO). Other film credits include: Sunset Park (Columbia/TriStar) and A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (New Line). Malinda’s guest starring television credits include: CBS’s "The District," "Law and Order: SVU" and ABC’s "NYPD Blue".

Having the ability to portray characters ranging from a sophisticated beauty salon owner, to a mentally challenged teenager, has branded Malinda Williams one of Hollywood’s most well-respected actresses.

Malinda was kind enough to chat with me about Windfall and her Modern Goddess Contest and new lingerie line.


Cass:
Hi Malinda. How are you? Did you have a chance to check our site out?

Malinda:
Hi Cassandra. I did and it’s lovely. Thank you so much!

Cass:
Let’s talk a little bit about Windfall. How did you get involved with that project?

Malinda:
It was just one of those things. Last year during pilot season, it was initially a project that was set up over at Regency Television and Fox Studios. I went in and I auditioned. I had been reading a whole lot of scripts that particular season and a lot of them were shows that I definitely wasn’t interested in. Not shows that the general public wasn’t interested in watching, but I wasn’t interested in performing in.

Cass:
Why?

Malinda:
The main reason was it was a lot of heavy drama – cop drama, medical drama. You know, a murder happens, then you get to solve the murder, which I love those Law and Order type shows.

Cass:
In fact you starred in a Law and Order: SUV episode.

Malinda:
Yes, but I just thought, if I’m going to go to work everyday, I don’t want to go to a place and do material that is heavy. I wanted to do something that was a little lighter, light drama, or just entertainment.

Cass:
Especially if you’re going to be on the set for such a long period of time.

Malinda:
Yes. I definitely didn’t want to deal with dead bodies or people dying. You know what I mean?

Cass:
Certainly.

Malinda:
Especially on an everyday basis. So, I passed on a lot of projects I happened upon last pilot season. Toward the end of last pilot season, Windfall popped up. Initially, it was only a guest starring role in the pilot, but then I thought, you know what, this would be so much fun to do regardless if it’s just one episode or 21 episodes. I also thought it would be fun to play someone, even for 5 minutes, who won $20 million. Can you imagine being yourself and winning that kind of money?

Cass:
No. [Considering my current situation and still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I'd settle for FEMA providing timely rental assistance].

Malinda:
Just to have the feeling inside of actually winning a windfall - e.g., being down on your luck, then all of a sudden, the tables turn and you’re RICH! I thought how fun would that be. So, I auditioned for the producers, and they hired me. Subsequently, that turned into another episode, then another episode, then that turned into me...

Cass:
Being part of the cast?

Malinda:
Yes, being part of the cast.

Cass:
The typical question that you’re going to be asked, because you’re the only African-American character, is how do you make your character not appear stereotypical? They’ve already written your character as yet another black single parent living in a trailer.

Malinda:
I thought living in a trailer was anything but stereotypical, because girl, we live in the projects. Black folks don’t do trailers. [Laughing]. I thought right then and there that’s not stereotypical. Also, I think initially, my character was also written as a white female.

Cass:
That’s good because your audition certainly did change that and now there's a African-American character.

Malinda:
That’s right. Actually, I’m not the only African-American character on the show.

Cass:
Oh really?

Malinda:
There’s a couple on there that’s in the midst of a divorce. The husband is white and the wife is African-American, so their daughter is bi-racial.

Cass:
Who is the wife played by?

Malinda:
The wife is played by Tembi Locke (Addie). I don’t know if you are familiar with Tembi Locke.

Cass:
No, I’m not.

Malinda:
She is amazing.

Cass:
Have you had an opportunity to see a couple of the episodes already and how does it look?

Malinda:
Yes. I love it. Again, it’s one of those things for me, it’s light drama. I really don’t have a lot of time to commit to a series. I can’t sit down every week and watch something regularly. Even if I TiVo it, chances are that I’m not going to watch it.

Cass:
Why?

Malinda:
Because I just don’t have the time. But once something grabs me, like Prison Break, which is the one program I do TiVO and I do get a chance to watch. I was kind of mad because now I have to commit an hour a week to watch this show. [Laughing]

Cass:
How many episodes did you guys put in the can?

Malinda:
13.

Cass:
If the show does well, are you going to do more episodes?

Malinda:
It would be nice and I’m certainly keeping my fingers crossed.

Cass:
The young man who plays your son, Ethan George (Terrance Hardy), how was that experience?

Malinda:
He’s such a sweetheart.

Cass:
How old was his character supposed to be?

Malinda:
I think he’s supposed to be 8.

Cass:
Was he a bratty kid or was he good to work with?

Malinda:
He’s a kid. I think it’s important when kids get on the set that they show some kind of professionalism because it is a work environment. But, at the same time, you still have to let them be a child. You do have to be understanding that if they do get a little unfocused it’s because they are kids.

Cass:
I can certainly understand that because sometimes it can be boring for adults too.

Malinda:
It’s work. It’s a job.


Cass:
How many times a day does someone call you Tracy "Bird" Van Adams on the street.

Malinda:
Every single day I run into at least one person.

Cass:
WOW! Does it bother you?

Malinda:
Not in the least. I loved Bird. I really loved that character.

Cass:
Why?

Malinda:
Because she’s so close to my heart and so close to who I am. So when people call me Bird, it’s a term of endearment.

Cass:
When I see pictures of you, I always mistake you for someone else, and I guess that’s because of your hairstyle. Who do you think you are often mistaken for?

Malinda:
I won’t say mistaken for, but I get lots of different women – Regina King, Lauren Hill.

Cass:
Lauryn Hill, reeeeeally? [Now that I think about it, perhaps Malinda does look a little like Lauryn Hill’s Sister Act character].

Malinda:
Yes, a lot. And, Nia Long.

Cass:
I could probably see Nia because of your height and hairstyle. How tall are you?

Malinda:
5’2”

Cass:
How old are you?

Malinda:
30.

Cass:
How did you get involved in acting overall? How did it become this profession that you wanted to be a part of?

Malinda:
When I was younger, I started in commercials back in New York. From there, it was just a natural transition to go from doing commercials to guest starring on television. My first guest starring role was on The Cosby Show.

Cass:
Really? How was it working on that show?

Malinda:
Personally, it was amazing because The Cosby Show was THE COSBY SHOW! All of my friends and family were like, “You are going to be on THE COSBY SHOW! It was a huge deal back then.

Cass:
How old were you when you were on The Cosby Show?

Malinda:
I was about 12. My experience on The Cosby Show was exciting, but it was also a learning experience because I was very, very new to the industry and I was very fresh. When you’re young, you’re like a sponge absorbing everything. I just watched everyone, particularly, Billy Cosby. I think that’s part of where I got my work ethics from and just paying attention to how the real professionals do it -- how they conducted themselves on the set. I learned a lot from that initial experience.

Cass:
What would you consider your big industry break that made you the new Hollywood chick to look out for? What movie or what role sent you to the next level?

Malinda:
From The Cosby Show?

Cass:
Yes.

Malinda:
Wow. I would say it was a mini-series I did for HBO, called Laurel Avenue. It was produced by Charles “Roc” Dutton, directed by Carl Franklin and starred Mary Alice, Juanita Jennings, and Gary Dourdan....

Cass:
That was an excellent mini-series because it was an African-American family drama.

Malinda:
That for me may have been the turning point because I remember Charles Dutton saying to me that you should really come to Los Angeles. But, Carl Franklin said, “You should really take some acting classes.”

Cass:
Are you serious?

Malinda:
Because I was in a scene and I allowed myself to lose focus during the scene because something fell off the shelf or something like that. So he said, “You need to take some acting classes.”

Cass:
So did you take any acting classes?

Malinda:
Yes I did. I took those guys very seriously. When Charles Dutton said I should move to Los Angeles, I thought about it and I said, “You know what? May be I should give it a try. I had never gone away to college and I felt this was my opportunity to leave home.

Cass:
And where is home?

Malinda:
Home is New Jersey. I came to Los Angeles and at the time Charles Dutton was doing Roc. He told me, “If you come to Los Angeles, I’ll give you a job.”

Cass:
Really that simple?

Malinda:
Yes. Me being so naive and not knowing when you come to Los Angeles and people say to you, “Yeah, call me,” you don’t really call anybody. Two weeks after I arrived in Los Angeles, my very first job was on Roc.

Cass:
And from there?

Malinda:
The casting director who cast Roc, she also cast several different television shows, like Moesha and Sister, Sister. I did a lot of guest starring roles when I first came to Los Angeles. I think that’s what got the ball rolling.

Cass:
And then the mini-series Soul Food?

Malinda:
Right, and then Soul Food.

Cass:
How long did that series run?

Malinda:
We were in production for 4 years, but it ran for 5 years.

Cass:
How did it feel to be nominated for an Image Award for Soul Food?

Malinda:
Throughout the project, sometimes people see the show, and sometimes people don’t. But, to be recognized by a whole group of people, your peers, your community is something that is very, very special.

Cass:
What do you think they thought about your particular character that portrayed such a positive image that garnered you the nominations?

Malinda:
Whenever I see an African American woman and she’s portraying an African American woman in a correct and positive way, it makes me happy and it makes me feel good about myself. Hopefully, they felt I was capturing an African American woman in a positive image. Also, keeping alive the image of being a beautiful and strong woman.

Cass:
You certainly did capture that. However, the writers did go off a bit when they threw in that little lesbian twist. How did you feel about doing that?

Malinda:
Well, it’s interesting because there are a lot of things that Bird and I have in common and that’s definitely NOT one of them. I don’t have that experimental thing about myself. I would never do something just to experience it or just to see what it’s like.

Cass:
But Bird did?

Malinda:
Right. There were some choices that Bird made that I wouldn’t necessarily make. Again, that’s where I would have to draw the line between Malinda and Bird and I have to go, “Oh, okay. I’m playing a character.” At that point, that’s when I realize I’m playing a character. It was easy because Terri J. Vaughn is a good friend of mine. We were both extremely nervous about doing it. We said to each other, “If I’m going to do this with anybody, I’m glad it’s with you because I know you.

Cass:
I guess it does help a little bit because you have this kinship with somebody, which makes it a little easier to do that role. When we talk in terms of doing more intimate scenes with Darrin Henson, who played your husband, Lem, can you dispel some of the rumors that this is a fun thing to do when in fact it’s not?

Malinda:
Doing a love scene is one of the scariest things that an actress will do in her career. I remember our very first love scene was on the very first day of filming. We didn’t know each other that well, but needless to say we got to know each other pretty intimately after that. We became very protective of one another because it really is a situation where there are 30 people standing around. One of them is the lighting guy, the grip, hair, makeup, a woman standing by with a robe and there are lots of people watching you during these scenes. And, I don’t know about you, but I don’t do intimate scenes in front of a group of people. It’s very unnerving. Someone asked me the other day, "Is that how people fall in love on set?" I said I don’t think so because doing these scenes is anything but intimate. If someone does fall in love on set I gather that it’s behind the scenes and not in front of the camera.

Cass:
How old is your son?

Malinda:
My son is 6-years old.

Cass:
Would you like him to be an actor?

Malinda:
I would like him to be or do whatever makes him happy. I would always encourage him to follow his dream, whatever that dream may be. I'm one of those people who believes that you can have anything you want, whenever you want it.

Cass:
Was that something you were taught or something your parents instilled in you?

Malinda:
My parents did not physically speak that to me, but somehow it got instilled in me. I didn’t see limitations. Somehow their example to me was that I can do whatever I want because I do carry this belief and my sisters carry that belief as well – whatever you set your mind to you can achieve. I also think that part of it has been growing up in the church – ask and you shall receive. Those have always been and still are very powerful words in my heart.

Cass:
So I guess in essence your life itself, has been the windfall? The lessons that you have learned and received have been a positive windfall of sorts?

Malinda:
I agree. My life has absolutely been a windfall. I cannot even begin to tell you that I have gotten everything that I’ve wanted.

Cass:
Everything?

Malinda:
May be not everything I’ve wanted, but certainly everything I’ve asked for.

Cass:
It’s not because you don’t do the work because you have to do the work in order to get it?

Malinda:
Oh no, you absolutely have to do the work. It hasn’t necessarily been the “hard” work that has gotten me what I’ve wanted. I think it’s the belief and faith more than anything because I feel like I can ask for something and it will absolutely fall into my lap. But, what I also need to ask for is the capacity to handle what I have asked for.

Cass:
Exactly. Be prepared for that windfall especially if you’re going to ask for this blessing. Speaking of blessings, let’s talk about your Modern Goddess lingerie line. How did you come up with this idea? You look so beautiful in the promotional pictures.

Malinda:
Thank you. I love lingerie.

Cass:
Really?

Malinda:
Oh yes I really do. I’m so anxious but I know I have to take my time in creating the brand. What I did was just start out with just basic underwear, bras, panties, thongs, boy shorts. I definitely want to get into negligees, teddies, stockings, everything that encompasses lingerie.

Cass:
Did you wear some of this lingerie while you were still on Soul Food?

Malinda:
No. This came about after Soul Food was over. This was actually during my self-imposed hiatus. Lingerie makes me feel beautiful. Some women love shoes, I love panties. I love shoes too, but when I go into a store, I love to go into the lingerie department and see all the details on the bras and how they put them together. Also to see how they fit, or what kind of cleavage it creates. Does it lift or push?

Cass:
Are you actually making it or do you have a company making it?

Malinda:
No, we make it.

Cass:
You pick out the fabric, the stitching?

Malinda:
That's where all the fun is when you get to see or say how beautiful this or that will be against my skin.

Cass:
Do you have models try them on to see how they look on different shapes?

Malinda:
Our patternmaker does that.

Cass:
Is it lingerie for all sizes?

Malinda:
All is a very broad term. I don’t want to say all. Let’s say most, because we do have sizes like 34A and 38DD. Obviously you cannot please everybody, but we are trying to accommodate especially women of color because we do have curves. We tend to have hips, breasts and beautiful nonetheless.

Cass:
When did you think about starting this lingerie business?

Malinda:
A little over a year ago, it came to me. I didn’t necessarily want to just start a business, but more like starting a movement where I wanted us to share with one another our beauty and high points of self-esteem.

Cass:
Do you exercise a lot?

Malinda:
I wouldn’t say a lot. Only 3 days a week and only for about an hour.

Cass:
What do you do to keep in shape?

Malinda:
I jump rope.

Cass:
Are you serious, and for how long?

Malinda:
Yeah. It totally depends and it’s not really a time factor. Some days I’ll skip a hundred skips, and if I’m not feeling great that day, it will only be about 50 skips. [Laughing]. I don’t have to do much but I do watch what I do eat.

Cass:
What is your favorite food?

Malinda:
Pasta.

Cass:
Isn’t that a bad carb?

Malinda:
I know, a horrible carb. I’ve tried those low carb pastas and just not the same.

Cass:
I know, they taste like paper. How many brothers and sisters do you have?

Malinda:
I only have two older sisters.

Cass:
How big of an influence have they been in your life?

Malinda:
They both have largely impacted my life, even when we were growing up and even today. I talk to my sisters everyday.

Cass:
There’s nothing like sisters.

Malinda:
There is never a day that goes by that I don’t think of them and I never take my sisters for granted because they are two of the most important people in my life. The other two are my parents and the other one is my son. [Can you hold for a second? That was one of my sisters, saying “Why aren’t you answering your phone?” [Laughing]. I work with one of my sisters and my other sister is in New Jersey and we are all very close. One of the other things my parents definitely instilled in us is that, “There are no other people on this earth that have the exact same blood coursing through their veins as you and your two sisters.” My father, in particular, always said, “No matter what happens, you never, ever go against your sister.”

Cass:
You can be upset and mad, but don’t go against your sisters. I totally agree.

Malinda:
Yeah, we can disagree, but they are still your sisters.

Cass:
Windfall is about winning money, what other windfall would you like to win as opposed to a monetary gain?

Malinda:
Love! Just a windfall of love, which I can honestly say that I’m getting. I’ve always gotten that, but I don’t want that to cease. I want that to always be.

Cass:
But in order to receive love you have to give love.

Malinda:
That’s right. I think that goes with everything. Whatever you put out, you will get that back in return.

Cass:
Now you know there’s a difference between a hairdresser and a stylist right?

Malinda:
[Laughing]

Cass:
A hairdresser is somebody you can tell ALLLLL your juicy, gossipy stories to. A stylist on the other hand, is just somebody who does your hair on a whim for an occasion or something like that. What juicy gossip would you tell your hairdresser about you that nobody knows but you don’t mind sharing?

Malinda:
You know, I’m so candid anyway, I don’t hold back. I have a hard time sometimes to a fault, I talk too much. So if you want to hear about all may bad laundry, I’ll tell you everything.

Cass:
Your hair is so beautiful and I wondered what your hairdresser knows about you that nobody else knows.

Malinda:
He definitely knows a lot. My hairdresser is a Christian and a lot of times when we get together I think we kind of reaffirm for one another what God does in our lives and how God works in our lives. In that way, he’s very important to me. Obviously, he’s also very important to my look. But, I don’t even know if he knows how much he encourages me when I sit in his chair besides just making my hair look beautiful but we connect spiritually.

Cass:
That’s wonderful. What products does he use because there’s such a glow around you?

Malinda:
He uses Avalon and Aveda products.

Cass:
If you are having a bad hair day, do you wear a hat or a scarf?

Malinda:
No, no. This is not bad hair. My hair is too short to be bad hair. Keeping it cut and short means it’s always fresh. It’s too easy. If I had a bad hair day, then there’s a problem.

Cass:
Let’s go back to the Modern Goddess Contest. How does it work?

Malinda:
It’s called I Am A Modern Goddess and I’m asking women of all ages, shapes, sizes, color, or background, to tell me what makes them a Modern Goddess. Really, it’s basically sharing with me. I was reading a submission this morning where this woman just talked about how she knows life is not perfect and she knows she’s not perfect. However, she strives everyday to be the best woman she knows how to be. She said a whole lot of other things about herself but in the end, her last sentence read and I’m paraphrasing, “And even if I don’t win or get a chance to come see you in Los Angeles, I'm going to thank you right now for the opportunity to say this about myself.”

Cass:
That’s powerful.

Malinda:
It’s so powerful to affirm who you are, your beauty, your sexiness, and your intelligence. This is what these women are doing, and I was telling my sister, “I’m sure it would be nice to win a trip to Los Angeles for someone, but this is really good for me too.”

Cass:
That you put that out there for others because it also re-affirms it for you.

Malinda:
Yeeesss. Someone else is seeing their own beauty.

Cass:
The problem I think women have is what the industry markets as beautiful and then we try to live up to that standard. I think what you are doing with this Modern Goddess Contest is letting women re-affirm that for themselves, which I think is GREAT!

Malinda:
Thank you.

Cass:
You have another movie coming out?

Malinda:
In August.

Cass:
Idlewild. Perhaps we can do a follow-up interview and talk more about that project? Have you seen it yet?

Malinda:
I saw a rough cut and I’m very excited.

Cass:
I can’t wait to see it myself and see you starring in it as well. Malinda, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.

Malinda:
Thank you Cass. It was great talking to you.

Cass:
You too and take care!

This interview could not have happened without the assistance of Joseph Babineaux at Lisa Sorensen Public Relations. Thank you Joseph!!!

 

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