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  • - 1992, The Jacksons: An American Dream.

  • I watch every, like, it's a holiday movie now.

  • Because it comes on every Thanksgiving and Christmas

  • somewhere. - Absolutely!

  • I get to spend those 14 cent checks every year.

  • - Ooh! - They're great!

  • - Wow, I didn't even think about that.

  • - Yeah!

  • - I still sit and watch all 16 hours every year.

  • Twice a year.

  • So you played Jackie Jackson of the Jacksons.

  • Is it difficult, or is there more pressure,

  • portraying someone

  • who actually lived and is still alive

  • versus a fictional character?

  • - That's a good question,

  • and yes, when they're on set looking at you, yes.

  • - Right! Because the family was there, right?

  • - Yeah, yeah.

  • - What was shooting that movie like?

  • - That was amazing.

  • The whole process of it was pretty crazy.

  • The auditions were kinda Broadway-esque.

  • I say that, never been on Broadway but

  • from what I've heard.

  • We had to act, sing, dance, and then do choreography,

  • all of which, while I was doing sitcoms and stuff,

  • wasn't really a part of what my mainstay was.

  • But,

  • filming it, we filmed in my senior year of high school,

  • and I actually didn't get to go to my senior prom

  • because we were working.

  • - Were you sad or upset about that?

  • - Nah.

  • I mean, it was the trade-off, right?

  • Again, I got to be on TV.

  • - Also, prom is dumb.

  • It's just a waste of money.

  • - That's what I heard.

  • - You met Jackie?

  • - I did.

  • - Did he give you any pointers like,

  • "Okay, here's how you play me"?

  • "Here's what to do and what not to do."

  • - You know, I didn't meet him until after.

  • - Oh interesting. - Which I was thankful for.

  • But Jermaine was on set a lot,

  • and Jermaine's son played him.

  • - Right. - Played his dad.

  • It was interesting, it was something that,

  • once we were cast they kinda trusted us with.

  • And then a lot of the folks around,

  • like the choreographer was Michael Peters,

  • who had worked with the Jackson family,

  • with Michael for years and years,

  • so we were kinda molded into

  • a lot of tape watching, a lot of--

  • And then just the feel of the family,

  • like being around some of them,

  • they're a unique family.

  • Yeah.

  • The largeness of celebrity that they had experienced

  • for so many years was something that,

  • even having been on TV myself for all my life,

  • it was just...

  • I don't think anyone can wrap their head around

  • what it was like for a Black family

  • - We have to talk about it, we have got to talk about you

  • on A Different World.

  • Dorian,

  • oh my God,

  • oh my God!

  • He was so fine, he was so sweet, and as soon as I think

  • about A Different World, I think about two things.

  • There's a Tupac episode-- - Right.

  • - And I can't remember if this is the same episode or not,

  • but the moment when Dorian told, ah, ah,

  • Jada, what was her-- - Lena.

  • - Lena, yes, yes, yes, that he was celibate.

  • - Yes.

  • - That, Jada's response was just so, so good.

  • - Yeah, it was.

  • - Did you feel like a heartthrob

  • when you were on A Different World?

  • - You know, I was fresh out of high school,

  • and I literally was just 18.

  • Not really, because I was working, everybody on the show,

  • I was the youngest, and you know,

  • I was a freshman coming in supposedly,

  • and I was a freshman, I felt like a freshman.

  • Like, that literally was where my first year

  • of college was legitimately.

  • I was going to UCLA part time. - Oh wow.

  • - And I was working a lot with Debbie Allen actually.

  • I was doing some apprentice directing behind the scenes,

  • she was taking me through

  • some courses of stuff.

  • So, I didn't feel like a heartthrob at the time.

  • And it was always super difficult for me

  • to parallel my life to the character that I was playing,

  • which was very similar.

  • I didn't have a lot of time to date,

  • I didn't have a lot of time to, you know,

  • coming from set life to my regular life,

  • I was one who was ready to go to a basketball court quickly

  • rather than try to go to the mall with everybody else

  • and chase folks.

  • So, but that was a long winded answer to no,

  • I don't think I really did feel like that, no.

  • - No? - No, 'cause everybody there

  • was a heartthrob, right? - That's true, that's true,

  • I mean, you made out with Jada Pinkett

  • for Pete's sake. - Right?

  • - So tell me about your most memorable episode

  • of A Different World.

  • - Probably the, for doing it.

  • and then the life that it's had after doing it,

  • was the episode with Tupac. - Yeah?

  • - I think it was called "Homie, Don't Ya Know Me"

  • And I don't ever remember names of an episode

  • of any show that I've done.

  • But that one in particular, because yeah, I was 18,

  • he was this huge hip hop star,

  • and we were supposed to be at odds

  • over character Lena, Jada.

  • And he was great to work, I was kind of nervous,

  • you know, coming in.

  • - I bet. - I was like,

  • I grew up on TV, I didn't really,

  • I wasn't from the streets or nothing.

  • (Tracy laughs)

  • The streets of Warner Brother Studios is lots,

  • but those streets were empty 'cause they

  • were shells of houses.

  • But he was great, he was really cool.

  • He actually invited me to a Poetic Justice screening

  • afterwards. - Did you go?

  • - I did. - Oh my gosh!

  • - Absolutely, how could I not, right?

  • - That was gonna be my follow up question

  • if you said no. - Yeah,

  • it was an incredible experience, he was great.

  • I was nervous that maybe we wouldn't get along,

  • maybe we'd be, you know, but he was fantastic.

  • And I learned a little bit of the depth of him as an artist,

  • able to come in a work in something

  • that was completely different, you know?

  • - There's lots of reboots happening now.

  • Would you do a reboot of Dorian on A Different World?

  • - Why not?

  • For sure. - Alright.

  • - Reboots are amazing.

  • I'm glad they're finally coming around to us.

  • - I did see a bit of criticism, I guess,

  • about all of the Black reboots that are coming out,

  • and somebody was like, "You know what?

  • "These reboots are great, but I wish that they would invest

  • "in new Black stories, and new Black sitcoms,

  • "and new Black movies."

  • Does that move you any particular way?

  • - Yes, it does, I can relate to that notion.

  • But I also, I think that the reason

  • that people feel like that is because we never really

  • get the same sample size.

  • You know, a lot of times, people would,

  • people complain about, "I don't wanna see

  • "another slave movie, I don't wanna see another."

  • But the reason why I think people have that notion

  • is because there's not enough to balance it.

  • - Mm-hm, that's a good point. - So, if we are able

  • to have new projects, and then to watch shows continue

  • to get redone,

  • and they seemed to be when all of the rebooting started

  • all shows that we weren't in--

  • - Yeah, yeah.

  • - And then, you know, I think there's enough room

  • on the freeway for lanes of the new shows

  • and lanes of paying respects, and allowing the audiences

  • to see where those characters have gone

  • and can possibly go to in the future.

  • - Yeah, for sure. - 'Cause folks are

  • still acting, that's for sure.

  • - Still out here. - Yep.

  • - Still grinding. - Yep.

  • - A reboot that I am living

  • and absolutely holding my breath for is Living Single,

  • a.k.a. one of the best Black shows.

  • One of the best shows, period, of all time,

  • in my humble estimation.

  • I have heard Queen Latifah say flat-out that Friends

  • was just a complete ripoff of Living Single.

  • Is that a thing that you have heard or that you feel?

  • - I've heard it, I don't know.

  • I mean, I know how people feel about formulas.

  • Sitcoms in particular are formulas, you know?

  • Or they have been, I mean,

  • you take The Honeymooners, and without The Honeymooners

  • you don't have King of Queens,

  • you don't have Family Guy. - Yeah.

  • - And you don't have The Flintstones.

  • I think imitation is the, what is it,

  • the biggest form of flattery?

  • It sucks, because I feel like she felt,

  • and others felt like that, as well,

  • because we don't necessarily get the credit

  • for the origination of an idea,

  • and that's where the problem is.

  • It's okay if you copy, it's okay if you borrow.

  • - Just be real about it. - Yeah, for sure.

  • - So when you were on Living Single,

  • you played the role of Ivan. - Mm-hmm.

  • - As much as I love me some Dorian,

  • I think that this may be my favorite role of yours.

  • - Really? - Yes.

  • And I mean, I'm watching the show

  • and I'm young, and I'm not fully

  • radicalized or woke, as the children used to say,

  • but I'm watching this happen, I'm just like,

  • "This feels important, some kinda how."

  • It's so radical, and I hate that it is radical,

  • but to see a young, handsome man

  • chasing after Queen Latifah, who was gorgeous,

  • but was not like conventionally beautiful or whatever,

  • you know what I mean?

  • Usually, it's always like some frumpy dude

  • who has the hot wife or whatever,

  • but here's young Ivan with his nose wide open

  • and Khadijah's like, "Go on somewhere, child!

  • "You're bothering me!"

  • And I was like, this just feels different.

  • - Mm-hmm.

  • - I was like, "Maybe I can get me a Ivan too one day!"

  • You know, as I think about it, I feel like this show

  • may have shaped the woman that I became.

  • Not that this is about me, but.

  • If anybody ever wants to hear

  • me talk about that, I'm around.

  • What was the vibe like on that set?

  • - That vibe, for me, was incredibly comfortable.

  • - Yeah.

  • - A lot of times, coming in,

  • 'cause I never had my own show.

  • So I had the blessing and curse

  • of coming in and fitting in.

  • - Blessing and curse

  • of fitting in? - Yes, because it's a blessing

  • to come work with talented people,

  • it's a blessing to get paid,

  • it's a blessing to have those experiences.

  • But it also, as a guest or a recurring,

  • you don't necessarily get the attention.

  • It's a machine already going.

  • Relationships are established. - True.

  • - Character arcs are already established.

  • So there's not really a lot of time

  • to deal with what you got goin' on, you know?

  • But that show in particular, there was a,

  • one of my first episodes I was trying to give an ad-lib.

  • The director didn't really know anything