The actress is nominated for her fifth Tony Award for the Broadway musical Porgy and Bess. "There's very few quiet moments for Bess," she says. "They're all very big, very emotional. ... And to commit to that night after night is very difficult.
The actress earned her second Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of a maid in the 1960s-era film The Help. She talks to Fresh Air about why she thinks the character is anything but the cliche some have claimed.
When Lena Horne first signed with MGM, the studio wanted her to play a maid. But on the advice of Paul Robeson and her father, she refused. Fresh Air remembers the legendary star of stage and screen with this interview conducted in 1986 with Horne's daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley.
Actress S. Epatha Merkerson just won the triple crown of television honors: an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actor's Guild award. To many Law and Order viewers, Merkerson will always be Lt. Anita Van Buren.
Actress and rapper Queen Latifah. She's written a new memoir, "Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman" (William Morrow). At the age of 19 she was the first female solo rapper to have a major record deal. She also had breakthrough roles in TV's "Living Single" and in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever." She also had a lead role in the recent film "Living Out Loud." Her latest CD is "Order in the Court" (Motown).
Actress Pam Grier. She's starring in the new film Quentin Tarantino film, "Jackie Brown." She got her start playing tough, scantily-clad women in black exploitation films, such as "Black Mama, White Mama," "Foxy Brown," and "Sheba Baby." She played a hooker in "Fort Apache: The Bronx," and (REBROADCAST from 5/10/90)
Bassett recently had the intimidating job of playing the legendary singer in the new film, "What's Love Got to Do with it." Her performance has been widely praised. Bassett's other roles include the mother of a troubled teenager in "Boyz N the Hood," and the wife of the black Muslim leader in Spike Lee's "Malcolm X."
Actress Pam Grier. She got her start playing tough, scantily-clad women in black exploitation films, such as "Black Mama, White Mama," "Foxy Brown," and "Sheba Baby." She played a hooker in "Fort Apache: The Bronx," and is now appearing in the new film, "The Class of 1999."
Now in her 80s, Frances Williams is still acting -- long after many of her peers have retired. She has a storied career in theater and film, and helped found nine theater companies. An advocate for meaningful roles for African Americans, she now costars in the television show Frank's Place.
Comic and actress Danitra Vance. She appeared on "Saturday Night Live" during the 1985-86 season. From there she landed a part in the revue "The Colored Museum," at Joseph Papp's Public Theater. She played everything from a stewardess on a slave ship to a talking afro wig. She's currently reviving the part at the Mark Taper Theater in Los Angeles. She can also be seen in the upcoming movie "Sticky Fingers," starring Melanie Mayron, Helen Slater and Christopher Guest.