When it was announced that Oprah’s OWN Network was entering scripted TV, no one could have seen the amount of fandom that would accompany the Tyler Perry-helmed series, The Haves and the Have Nots. Not only has it broken viewership records for the network, but it’s cemented its status as one of cable’s top shows. One of the characters that has made this show event-television for millions is Veronica Harrington, brought to life by the multi-talented Angela Robinson. We caught up with her to talk about the show, Broadway, and staying grounded.
Let’s start with The Haves and the Have Nots. It’s a phenomenon.
It’s amazing to be a part of a show that’s taken off so big. It certainly wasn’t expected though it’s everyone’s hope when you start. Our fans are the best ever. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. I enjoy being a part of something people love so much and are so invested in. They share it with their families and their friends at work. It’s really great.
Your character is known as “The Ice Queen.” I’ve seen you speak at Broadway Inspirational Voices concerts and it seems to me that your character on the show is very different than you are in your life. How do you tap into the strength to get into character?
You know, I’m an actor. It’s what I study and this is what we dream of doing as actors, tapping into another character and bringing that character to life. It’s definitely more craft than anything. It’s me doing my profession, but I have to say, tapping into a character like her is so much fun. To get all of that hostility and diva out on screen is so much fun. That’s the excitement of breathing life into a character who isn’t like us.
You mentioned that you continue to study your craft. How so?
I’m always in class. I think studying is something we should always do. When I’m not working, I try to find a class to take. I read a lot of books about the craft, I read a lot of plays, I see a lot of theatre, and I’m even studying when I’m watching movies of television. I watch the actors work and I’m constantly learning.
TV has become far more inclusive and you’re part of a wave of strong female characters that includes Viola Davis and Kerry Washington. In your opinion, how does this momentum of diverse faces on TV continue and not be a passing moment?
I worry about that. I worry that it is just a fad and just here for the moment. It’s what’s popular now, but I saw that change happen in the 80’s with the black supermodels. Everyone was in love with that look, but when looks changed, you didn’t see us on the catwalk anymore. I’m hoping that’s not the case now. We have proven that not only can we do the work as actors, but also as viewers, we tune in. Economically, it benefits everyone to have a diverse cast and to have TV look the way America looks. When that happens, it affects the pocketbooks of the producers and the network. Diverse casting invites diverse viewing.
You’re on TV, a Broadway veteran of shows like The Color Purple, and a member of the Broadway Inspirational Voices. How do all of these things feed the different parts of you creatively and spiritually?
Creatively, I think doing anything in the theatre prepares you for the other areas of the craft. You can’t really beat the live theatre experience – being prepared and not needing a second take. You don’t get a second take when the curtain goes up. The theatre has prepared me for this time on TV, which I’m loving a lot.
Spiritually, it’s so important to know who you are. When you know that, you’re not so easily moved when things are going great or when things fall short. You’re in a more stable position. A place with grounding. When fans of the show say “You’re amazing” and “I love you,” I’m so flattered and I praise God for it, but at the end of the day, it isn’t the praises of people that sustain me. What sustains me is that God provides for me and keeps me and I have a relationship with him and my family. We tend to depend on the spiritual when we are down and out, but it keeps us grounded when things are great. The Haves and Have Nots is such a blessing, but it’s still not the thing that satisfies me. If it were, when it ended, I would too.
What’s coming up for you?
I have a lot of irons in the fire but something great is coming up for me. I’m looking forward to doing more TV.