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Victoria Rowell of "Home of the Brave"

3BlackChicks Review™... HOME OF THE BRAVE - The Interviews (The Diva)

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The Diva's interview with

Victoria Rowell
One of the Stars of
Home of the Brave (2006)


Copyright Kamal Larsuel , 2006




There is this little Day Time Soap Opera called “The Young and the Restless” you may have heard of it. Y&R as we call it has been a mainstay in our household since 1973. My grandmother watched it religiously as did my mother, as do I. I suspect my daughter will too. At almost 4, she knows that’s mommy’s “story” and I love to watch it. She is too young, although I watched it with “Grammie” when I was her age, yet still, she knows some of the characters and a little bit of what’s going on. She asks the questions and I always tell her the truth even if it’s a little over her head. ANYWAY. One thing that was always missing from “the stories” were people of color. Ocassionally they would throw us a bone and give us a brown face, but often they were from the wrong side of the track or thugs or something. One exception was Jesse and his family on All My Children, but someone my age? Unheard off. Then came Drucilla. Drucilla. Drucilla. She entered Y&R as the wayward niece of the maid for the Abbot’s. My oh My was she a mess. Street smart with a mouth to match. But I didn’t care. Here was a young black woman who looked like me and talked like me. I could relate to her. And instinctively, I knew this was going to open up tons of storylines and possibilities. And I was right. She had a sister who was a Dr. married to a private eye and in Neil, a upwardly mobile black man, she had a boyfriend (then husband) she had a brother in law and a child. I was in heaven. We finally got some juicy stories about black folks. Finally and Halleluah!

But of course it was more than that, you have to know that. It gave us something to aspire to. It gave us hope again. “Generations” the all black soap opera, lasted about a minute. But now we were mainstream on my soap. Sure there were or may have been other soaps, but Y&R was the soap that all of “Us” watched and we rejoiced. Here was a stong black woman, fierce and loud, but her heart was in the right place. She’d whip your ass at the drop of a dime, but she would also whip ass for you. With Dru, you were going to get into mess after mess, but you knew she had your back. Dru was a diamond in the rough and you relished in watching her being polished into a lady.

But there is no polishing needed for Ms. Rowell. Imagine my surprise when I knocked on the door and was met face to face with the beauty and grace that is Victoria Rowell. Carrying her self like the ballerina that she is, she gracefully opened the door and greeted me then almost as if she were carried by a soft breeze, and again like the ballerina she is, she glided past me.

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The next words out of her mouth were to offer me tea. I was briefly stunned into to silence. She’s not supposed to be taking care of me! She’s the star. Where are her people? This was rocking my world, but it shouldn’t have. Victoria, having spent 18 years in foster care, comes from a humble background. While she is the vision of grace and dignity, she also exudes an earthiness, that envelopes you in comfort and security. I imagine that if Victoria were my sista-gurl, she would be the one who always sets a perfect table and who organizes all of the functions and everything would be “just so” and yet she is would also be the one that will come to your house at 3 in the morning when your world is crumbling. You can’t find a way out, but there would be Victoria, guiding you and making everything all right. Even if it wasn’t going to be alright, you believe her.

These are some of the qualities she brings to Home of the Brave . She plays Penelope, the wife of Sam Jackson’s character. For 8 months, she’s held down the fort, while he was practicing medicine on the Iraqi battlefields. The government sends her husband home a broken man and she, with poise and grace, must find a way to help him get fixed.





The Diva:
The people who have seen you on Young and the Restless should not be surprised with how intense and serious you are, but for the fans who don’t watch Y&R do you think they will be pleasantly surprised?

Victoria Rowell:
Oh yeah, my fans have been so incredibly loyal. I have some fans that are just stay in day time and I have a loyal fan base from primetime because of “Diagnosis Murder “ and we have a whole international fan base because those shows are airing in many many markets overseas. The film fan base – they’re there. I hear all the time about their favorite films whether it was working with Eddie or Jim Carrey, or in “Eve’s Bayou” people don’t forget the movies. I mean there are people who have only seen the movies so that’s what they know me from. The have been waiting for me to do another movie. I’m always asked when I’m going to do another movie and it is hard to explain how this machine works to a person and why it takes so long to get another movie, but I am so so grateful to be invited to come in and audition for this role and to get the role – it has been an extraordinary ride.

The Diva:
You had a love scene with Sam Jackson. Were you nervous about that? Image

Victoria Rowell:
Well here was my approach because there is more than one occasion where we are intimate in the movie. I’m from the theater and I know that Sam is from the theater and I made a commitment to be his wife in the movie. A wife that not only held down the fort while he was deployed – twice, but also we he comes she is extremely committed to being extremely compassionate. And of course once she realizes that all is not well with her husband, she has to navigate and massage some answers out of him. When intimacy comes about, it’s very tender and loving and well – very intimate. I know some people are like “Wow, we haven’t seen Sam Jackson in this light before.” And I think they will appreciate that facet he has to offer to the audience. It was a beautiful experience for me, because he allows an actor to bring the performance to the table. Just be prepared!

The Diva:
That I know. That I know. He is a stickler for being prepared and showing up on time and knowing your lines. He is truly a professional.

Victoria Rowell:
Right. I think in terms of overall intimacy, you’ l recall that we worked together briefly in Eve’s Bayou. This was a really beautiful movie. With intimacy roles in general, I like to have an approach of complete openness. If you need to discuss just how open you need to be then you need to discuss that. But in the way it was directed – Irwin Winkler was very specific in what he wanted. There wasn’t going to be any wrestling. It was going to be an intimate interaction between two people who have not been together in 8 months.

The Diva:
As a black woman, I really appreciated that scene, because I don’t see a lot of black love on the screen. Normal black love. Not some clothes being ripped of and furniture broken… I mean there is a place for that, but this was just a normal married couple loving each other.

Victoria Rowell:
Right. And it really has resonated with people, If I were to say that I was not nervous at the onset of this scene, that would be a non truth. There’s something necessary about having angst in a performance. I know that from the ballet world because it is the unknown because you don’t know what’s going to take place so it was really a very very special opportunity.

The Diva:
Did you talk to military wives to prepare for your role?

Victoria Rowell:
I took a different approach. I know military wives. Not in this particular circumstance, but prior, so I had that background, but I took a different approach in that I interviewed military doctors – male doctors. I wanted to know what goes through their minds when they abroad in war. I learned some very interesting information in that they have to come home eventually and they have to live with themselves and they can’t be haunted by who they said “No” to because they have to almost seem adversarial, but ultimately, a doctor has to make a decision and it comes down to a single moral decision and I found that fascinating. And this was research on a man who was a military doctor for 20 years. So it helped me get into the mind set of what my husband, played by Sam Jackson, was going through. Some of the torment that takes place and maybe going against the grain to save someone’s life.

The Diva:
What message do you want people to take away from this movie?

Victoria Rowell:
. The tremendous hardship endured by families at the expense of war and not this war, but all wars centuries old wars the excruciating pain that families endure from loss and the bigger message is that loss in any capacity that is comes is painful and what we do as a people – as a family unit reunify to repair.

The Diva:
Deep I’m totally against this war and I won’t solicit your opinion, but I have a new perspective. My father was a Vietnam vet. I didn’t know this until we buried him.

Victoria Rowell:
You’re kidding!

The Diva:
Nope. I was born in 1970 and he served in the 60s.

Victoria Rowell:
He never spoke of it?

The Diva:
Not to me he didn’t. It wasn’t until my stepmother told me we had to get his benefits that I knew. My jaw hit the ground. Now I understand why I didn’t know. Why he would keep something like that to himself. The stigma of wanting to seek counseling and talk about it. Even in the movie the one soldier is called the P-word because he wants to talk about his feelings. But I also now know why some people keep going back and re-upping. I also now know – without a doubt that we as a nation have to get our act together and we have to treat our soldiers better. We need to support them and not just by putting a ribbon on our car bumpers.

Victoria Rowell:
That’s right! There has long been a stigma with mental health. And bringing a soldier home and giving him a badge is not going to address the mental health issues that are abound. We touch on that in the movie which is very brave. And hence the title is so apropos – That it’s Home of the Brave because the mental health issues is Huge and why we have so many vets on the bowery and their mental health needs have not been met to the extent they should be – let’s supposed. People are quite surprised that it is not a typical military movie, but it speaks to the human condition of these people in many capacities – the mental health capacity the familial capacity.

The Diva:
Absolutely. I didn’t expect Jarhead, but I also did not expect a character piece about each persons struggles. It was almost an art house film. It gets really deep into each character. I loved how your character was portrayed in that she kept home fires burning. And being a military wife is about taking control of the situation –changing the job; changing the schedule; paying the bills. You know I caught that. For 8 months everything had been her responsibility.

Victoria Rowell:
And giving the perception that everything is alright. And military wives have this innate ability to be crisp. They are very matter of fact. Because there is no room for fat. They are very matter of fact people. At the same time, I find that they have tremendous grace. Those were some of the characteristics that I tried to bring to the role. You know it is pretty weighty to try to portray so many women who are in this predicament right now. It was an honor.

The Diva:
I wanted to ask you a question that has nothing to do with the movie or Y&R. – Being a working mother. Your children are about the same age as those in the movie, just gender reversal, right?

Victoria Rowell:
Yes! Pretty much 10 and 17.

The Diva:
Your baby is 17!!???

Victoria Rowell:
Laughing – yes Maya is 17 and Jasper is 10. He’s going to be 11 next month.

The Diva:
There was a time when you were doing Y&R during the day and Diagnosis Murder at night and then you had “Distinguished Gentlemen”, :Dumb and Dumber”, Eve’s Bayou…all sprinkled in during the same time. How have you dealt with that? I’m sure it’s not so much an issue now, but when they were younger?

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Victoria Rowell:
I have an interesting life – which I’m writing about. I’m going to just throw this into the coffer – Harpercollins is release a memoir that I wrote called “The Women Who Raised Me” and it speaks to the extraordinary mentoring I had during my 18 years in foster care and post emancipation. I’m saying that to say, “yes, I’m plugging the book.” But also to say that in my particular scenario working two jobs or even working now, there’s no one to fall back on. Which I can’t tell you how many times I had to stand in the middle of the room and say, “ there is no one that I can call as a grandmother, an aunt, a mother..” so I was reliant upon the generosity of my sister-girlfriends. And the employed services of a qualified person who did that for a living – hence a baby sitter. But it was really a test of my will to do the work because I knew that the work meant stability for my family and I had to break the cycle. I had a goal about that one and of course to give my children an inheritance. So I was very driven about it and it was very hard. Just like any other single mother I think that’s missed because people assume that because your are on television and because you are making movies ”Oh she can just hire a nanny!” Hiring a nanny does not absolve parental guilt.

Victoria Rowell:
Yes and that can come. That can come. It helps if you are attached and I was at the time. Because it’s just my children and myself and I dialogue with them. My children understand why we’re doing this. Why I’m doing this. It’s not some mysterious place that mother goes to and I don’t see mother for hours at a time. No I break it down in no uncertain terms that if I don’t go to work you won’t be getting a play station or you can’t go to summer camp. I equate it to an exact interest that my children might have – my daughter drives a car now. So we all understand the purpose and the greater good of the work. Of course I dialoged it in different ways when they were younger and in a more simplified fashion why I have to work.

The Diva:
I tried that with my daughter – “Baby, mommy has to work so you can have nice clothes and toys and what not.” She said, “Mommy… Santa is gonna get that stuff” and told her “Santa doesn’t pay a house note, baby” she said. “But we have a car.” I told her, “You don’t want to live in the car baby.” Back on topic… you mentioned foster care and I know that is near and dear to your heart. You have a charity. Can we talk about it?

Victoria Rowell:
I’m proud to say – I just stepped off the plane this morning – I’m proud to say that last night I was presented with the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award from the National Urban League last night for youth and education because of my work in foster care and adoption. I’m the national spokesperson for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Diva:
Which is?

Victoria Rowell:
It’s a privately funded that serves families in America and it was founded by the 2 brothers who founded the UPS. I’ve been doing this work – I’ve never not been a part of foster care- I don’t know how other people do it, but it is a big part of who I am. So I’ve always remained connected. I started The Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan 16 years ago in memory of one of my primary foster mothers and what we do is provide fine arts scholarships to foster youth and adopted youth to study anything from piano to tap we also provide scholarships for youth attending higher education. We also collaborate with other organizations and about a year ago we collaborated with the Magic Johnson Foundation to help a young man go to school we gave him a $10,000 scholarship and he graduated from Pepperdine Law School. That’s the kind of work we do among many many other things. You can learn more about us at http://www.rowellfosterchildren.org -

The Diva:
That makes me so proud of you. You know what I mean? It’s not often that people put their money where their mouth is and this is such important work. This isn’t some tax shelter for you this is your heart. This is “must do”.

Victoria Rowell:
Thank you. We have fun too. Every Christmas , and this might be apropos, but every Christmas we had a party and we used to have it at my house and we out grew my house.

The Diva:
You live locally?

Victoria Rowell:
Yes here in Los Angeles. And now the Christmas parties are graciously hosted at the House of Blues Foundation Room and we’ve had – prior to the House of Blues, Bruce Willis has lent us his club and Sam Jackson has come out and done a play with the kids. Since we’ve been in the House of Blues, we’ve had Cedric the Entatainah – that’s my Boston coming out – Cedric the Entertainer. He was our celebrity Santa, we’ve had Snoop as our Santa and I have to see if 50 will come out for me.

The Diva:
You know he will. How was it like working with Sam again? You were together briefly in Eve’s Bayou. And by the way we love “Eve’s” We hold that up as “the must get to” in terms of the state of black cinema. We need more Eve’s Bayou’s and less Soul Planes.

Victoria Rowell:
Yeah well wait ‘til you see what’s coming. We are working on some movement with Madame CJ Walker.

The Diva:
That’s what he mentioned! He said LaTanya (Mrs. Samuel L. Jackson) was working on various projects and that was one of them. You’re going to be involved?

Victoria Rowell:
Yes, I was just in Indianapolis doing research?

The Diva:
Are you going to be Madame CJ?

Victoria Rowell:
Oh no no no

The Diva:
Yes, that’s what I thought. LaTanya is perfect for it. I first heard about Madame CJ when I was a kid because I had very aware parents, but I’m not sure a whole lot of black folks know that she was the first black woman to become a mega millionaire and she did it selling pressing combs! And hair care products. Big Screen or Small screen?

Victoria Rowell:
You’ll have to talk to LaTanya about that. I think it can be on the big screen, I know it warrants it.

Victoria Rowell:
So where were we? Yes working with him! It was magic. Just magic. Because he is approachable,. He is not what I call untouchable. In Hollywood we have what we call mega-stardom and he is a mega star. And by design, he makes himself accessible to another thespian and that is so important – it’s important to the other actor as I’m sure it is for him. Because you have to be human to be an actor. You have to be feeling to be an actor and once you take yourself out of that equation, God help you.

The Diva:
I understand what you mean. I’m blown away constantly that when I my cell phone rings, sometimes it might just say “Sam” and I’m no one special. Just a wife and mother in Kent, Wa and yet sometimes Sam Jackson will take my call and ask after me. And people think he is Jules and walks around cussing and fussing and barking orders. And that is so not reality. He is a sweet, kind, and funny man.

Victoria Rowell:
That’s true.

The Diva:
Okay so one Dru question. Please?

Victoria Rowell:
Okay.

The Diva:
Who did it?

Victoria Rowell:
*laughs* I do not know! I wouldn’t be surprised, now, if you caught Dru in a cinched orange jumpsuit! Well you guys have been arrested.

Victoria Rowell:
Right! We’ll she might have to be cinching that Jumpsuit and folding military corners… wouldn’t you just love to see Dru do that? Wearing all those braided hairdos and manipulating that jumpsuit? Don’t you just want to see Dru do that?

The Diva:
Yes! I want to see her working the jumpsuit.

Victoria Rowell:
Collar up.

The Diva:
Yes! Collar up! Why won’t Devon call you guys Mom and Dad?

Victoria Rowell:
Well its um its

The Diva:
Is that something that you can’t tell me about?

Victoria Rowell:
It might be coming up. Its just so odd to me, because that is your boy. He is your son!

Victoria Rowell:
Well it takes time to work into that space. It is true to life It was a story line that I introduced to Sony 4 years ago about foster care. I think initially it as going to be a trial basis, maybe a summer storyline, and then the audience went absolutely crazy about the young actor Bryton, McClure and the storyline. The executive producer came to me and said we are getting resounding approval over this storyline and I said, well foster care is at pandemic levels in this nation, so perhaps the people watching the show are actually foster parents too. So its evolved has evolved and I said to tell the story in absolute truest form we have to take the foster care to piece to the fullest extent and I think in the future you will see a very happy ending to this foster care situation. I’m really proud of that we received congressional recognition for this.

She and I briefly went on to talk about all of the wonderful people in Congress who are helping to change the laws. It a big and time consuming task, but I’m sure Ms. Rowell will be there to see it through to the end. Before I left, she and I shared a laugh over Drucilla and hDru’s smart mouth. “Don’t make pull out an Afro Puff” we hollered over that one. WE talked about her book coming out and I was blessed to be shown the cover. A cover that brought tears to my eyes. The wonderful pictures made me think about all of the strong women in my life. With that, I hugged her and left, feeling like a million bucks and singing “I met Druuuuu. I Met Druuuu . Then upon reflection my song changed to “I met Victoria” one bad sista who just might single handily end child poverty and neglect

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