Tony award-winning American actress Anika Noni Rose was recently in South Africa to promote The Quad, which is in its second season on DStv’s BET channel.
In this American drama series, she plays the character of Dr Eva Fletcher, a professionally and business-minded woman who is a chancellor of one of the historically black colleges and universities.
The 45-year-old seasoned actress says the role is perfect for her because she was one of two people of colour in her neighbourhood, and her family spent too much time in the Ivy League and many of them attended historically black colleges and universities.
“I went to one, so I really know that world. I have the good fortune to know this character inside out because I’ve lived both sides of who she is.
"I think that the creators recognised who I was and how that could assist with who she (Fletcher) is in her journey.”
Rose also says she was pleased that the creators let her character change the narrative about sensuality for women who are over 30.
“Often times when we see grown women in story lines where they no longer have sensuality or sexuality attached to them, they’ve been muted somehow in order to be professional.
“This is a woman who they’ve allowed to keep and connect with her sexuality.
"It’s something that I very much like about her because I think as women it’s very important for us to acknowledge that we continue to be sensual beings past 30 while the entertainment industry would have you believe that we die and become grandmas at 35."
Rose is among black women who are rewriting history in Hollywood. She is the first black Disney princess, Tiana, and to add to her feat she was inducted into the selecting team of the Academy as a judge last year, solidifying her as a power house in Tinseltown.
She has portrayed strong women roles, such as Lorell Johnson in Dreamgirls, Jasmine in For Colored Girls, Grace Makutsi from The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency and the alpha-female Jukebox on hit drama Power.
How does she get back to herself after playing these characters? “I don’t really have a problem pulling myself out of things, particularly if it’s a film. I think when I’m on stage the character sort of moves with me in a more inside way, because I live with it for so long.
“When you are doing scenes that are very difficult to pull away from, sometimes you need to take a break (to gather your wits).
"There were some moments in Roots, which came out a year ago, that were intense. For Colored Girls was very intense and so it’s always important to work with people who understand that you are going to a place that is extraordinarily vulnerable, and sometimes you need a moment to… breathe and calm yourself.
“Or, sometimes please don’t call cut until I’ve breathed through the scene, because what some directors don’t realise is that acting happens when the lines are finished as well and if you cut too quickly you lose something because there is a natural human reaction to what’s happening.”
Of all the characters she's played, she loved Jukebox the most. “I loved her, maybe that says something about me, probably not very good, but I found it refreshing to be able to play someone who was so lacking in conscience.
"There is a really wonderful thing about being able to do everything you want to do, say and feel like you gonna do, when you wanna do it.
“But of course we don’t wanna do that in life because you are now a sociopath. When you get that role, when you get to do all the terrible things that you might think about just as a joke and you know you are never gonna do it, it’s freeing, it’s really freeing.”