Acclaimed actress Sheryl Lee Ralph chatted with Digital Journal’s Markos Papadatos about starring in “Abbott Elementary” and being an actress in the digital age.
Ralph stars as Barbara Howard, a 20-year veteran teacher in the new ABC sitcom “Abbott Elementary,” which was created by Quinta Brunson. “It’s a good show, isn’t it? So many people have taught or are teaching, and it is quite a wonderful army of people to have on your side,” she said.
She is drawn to playing Barbara for several reasons. “I love the fact that the role was for me. Quinta Brunson had this idea for this show and the person that she wanted for this role was me,” she said.
“She served up this beautiful gift wrapped so beautifully and handed it to me is something I will never ever forget for as long as I live. It has been amazing work with her and the cast and people that she had put together. I am with the kindest, hard-working group of people and that just makes for magic,” she elaborated.
The digital age
Ralph opened up about being an actress in the digital age. “When a show like ‘Moesha’ came out, it was about five years before the United Kingdom got to see the show,” she said.
“Now, it’s like 25 hours before a show is around the world and people are joining in the conversation about ‘Abbott Elementary,’ and that’s just amazing. It is happening fast and furious and it has allowed us, as a show, to quadruple our ratings, it has been a godsend,” she said.
Advice for hopefuls in acting
For young and aspiring actors, she said, “Get as much education as you possibly can. Get skilled in your joy and passion. Learn as much about it as you can so you can carry on. It actually takes practice so that you can get better. You need to pay attention and learn from your mistakes. You need to do the work. I have always shared this message.”
If she were to have any superpower, she revealed that it would be “empathy.”
Looking back in a rearview mirror over the last two decades, she reflected, “What really keeps coming up to me is ‘five-year-old me.’ I keep seeing her in my rearview mirror so clearly.”
On the title of the current chapter of her life, she said, “Full Circle.” “Barbara Hanley, Barbara Howard,” she said. “Barbara Hanley was the first role I did in the film ‘A Piece of the Action, I played a very unruly student that needed help. All of these years later, I have turned into Barbara Howard in ‘Abbott Elementary’. It has all come full circle.’
Ralph defined the word success as “being happy, waking up in the morning, and looking at my children and them being healthy and healthy.” “Success for me is being in a relationship with my husband for 20 years and we are still married,” she said.
For her fans, she concluded about “Abbott Elementary,” “I want the fans to keep watching it, to keep talking and tweeting about it. I love what the audience is going, they are thoroughly engaged in the show and it is intergenerational engagement, and that’s good for us and it’s good for the show.”
To learn more about actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, follow her on Instagram.