You could not have watched the sitcom Half and Half and not love Mona Thorne.
Remember my hairdo on THIS picture?? Well, it was me trying to "look" like Mona so imagine my "excitement" at getting an opportunity to interview her! I decided it would be best to take my friend Dee with me, just in case I got star struck heheheh.
I think I loved Mona because she is one of the few "real" characters on Television. She gets dumped, she gets fat, she has fashion disasters and just a whole lot of things that I could personally identify with.
Rachel True may not be your "always in the tabloids" kinda celebrity but to me, she's a star! An even bigger star after the awesome interview she gave me...
As you know, I do tend to get carried away when I'm excited so if it's too long, take a break and come back.
We sat down with her at the Michaelangelo Towers in Sandton and here's how the interview went.....
Brown Shuga: Wow, you look more beautiful in person…
Thank you, I think I like the way I look in film better than on TV though. TV kinda pushes you into that little box…that’s why I love doing movies coz then you are 30 ft tall!! BS: Yeah and TV made you look bigger than you really are…
Also, my father passed away during the first season of the show so I gained a lot of weight. And if you’re working on a comedy, you can’t really deal with what’s going on so like a lot of women, especially in America, I ate!! Ate a lot!!!
So I gained a lot of weight but lost it again around the 4th season. But like a lot of women, I go up, I go down, part of being a woman, isn’t it. Brown Shuga: Fosho! You’ve obviously done a lot of interviews since you’ve been in the country, what is the weirdest question anyone’s asked you? Rachel
: Ahh, I haven’t really been asked too many weird questions but I think the weirdest has been “what’s the most exciting thing you’ve seen in South Africa?”
because really I’ve been working.
I’ve come here, do interviews, go to set, maybe go to the mall so I feel like I wish I could tell people what the most exciting thing is but I still have to do it. I think I will stay a bit longer so I can experience SA coz I love traveling and I wouldn’t wanna go back to the US without seeing anything. Brown Shuga: Has anyone warned you against referring to Africa as the “muthaland”?
Here’s the thing, nobody had to warn me! I had read an article where people here were making fun of an African American singer, a woman, who had come here and went “oh muthaland, muthaland”
and they were really mocking her and after I got here I understood why coz ultimately I’m American but my ancestors are absolutely from this continent, I may not have an idea where coz it’s a huge continent but… Brown Shuga: Well, you actually look a bit like me so maybe we are cousins??
You know it’s funny coz I’d be walking in a mall and look at everybody checking who looks like me , but it’s a tricky question for Black people in America because we want to connect with something.
We’ve sort of been shunned in our own country for a long time so I think it’s only natural that people may wanna refer to Africa as the muthaland but the truth is that I’m an American gal and I realize that there are cultural differences between us so I would never say “I’m home”!
Brown Shuga: Mzansi knows and loves you as Mona Thorne in Half n Half. You must have had an awesome time playing that character? Rachel
: It was really fun and that’s a character who was similar to who I am…not exactly but… Brown Shuga: The shoes? Let’s see your shoes…. (She's wearing mini-Mona typa boots)
Rachel : (Laughs)
Okay, I do like big shoes coz I’m short. And this is a Mona dress actually, Brown Shuga:
Yeah, you look exactly like Mona today… Rachel:
Yeah, I’ve worn this as Mona on the TV show, I’ve worn it in the movie too, I like it coz it’s so colourful so okay, okay I’m like Mona!!
Brown Shuga: How did you feel when the show was suddenly not renewed by the network? Rachel:
I felt really fortunate that we had 4 years and it was actually about 5 years out of my life by the time it was done. I was down that they didn’t give us one more season because I thought Spencer & I were gonna get together!
Brown Shuga: Oh cute Spencer
Yeah, lotsa girls like Spencer but I mean, that’s how it goes, you’re in a similar business where anything can happen and so I was just grateful that I had a job for that period. Brown Shuga: Were there signs that it might not be renewed though?
No, that was the hardest part of it all.
They do something in America they call “The Upfront” where they announce all the new shows so up until 2 days before the upfront, this is what I’d heard off the record from one executive who was on the board & on the very last second, they pulled us off and replaced us with another show but literally the day before the upfront.
Before that we had been told, "don’t worry, you’re gonna be back etc"
so I was disappointed but I’m pretty practical. I don’t count my chickens before they hatch so I wasn’t spending money or doing silly things counting on another season. Brown Shuga: Were you left jobless?
Yeah but every actor is jobless everytime they finish a job and sometimes you might have jobs lined up like, "okay now I’m doing this movie, that movie
" and sometimes a movie takes a month or two and you can’t really plan that far ahead so it’s part of the challenge of being a perfomer I think, not having job security. Brown Shuga: And how do you deal with the competition coz it’s very tough being an actress in Hollywood.
The thing is I only feel like I’m competing with myself.
There are lots of people who could play Mona for example but I didn’t worry about that, I just go and do the best job that I can and I think that helps to alleviate some of the stress and pettiness that goes on & it’s not about anyone else you know. It’s about me doing my best job. Dee:
It’s funny, how you look like your mother on the show & little Dee dee looks like Big Dee Dee… Rachel:
They did a great job of casting it, Telma Hopkins played my mother, they said when we screen testing, both of us looked to our right and our profiles were similar so they said “oh, they could play mother & daughter.”
Essence Atkins & Valarie Pettiford, they were a lot alike. Big Dee Dee wears wigs on the show though, you should see a picture of her without the wig, she is sexy, she’s got sandy blonde hair and little blonde streaks, beautiful! Brown Shuga: She's always looked like a sexy mama. Have you mostly done comedies?
No, actually I started in Drama, then I did a movie called Craft, it's about witches...Brown Shuga: What do you enjoy though?
I think I like all of it. That’s the nice thing about being an actress, there’s a side of me where I like being serious, which you’re not seeing right now.
There’s also a side of me that’s silly & wacky so that’s why it was so much fun doing the TV show.
For example in the movie, The Killing of Wendy, it’s a drama so I’m playing a woman who’s pregnant and has 2 kids at home and it’s definitely a different character to Mona or Mona with 2 kids. Brown Shuga; Now , the character’s name is Ayanda, isn’t that a South African name?
I believe it is… Brown Shuga: Do you know what Ayanda means?
You know what, I love words but I’m embarrassed to say, I have no idea what it means….I’m thinking “lovely one” ?Brown Shuga: hahaha It’s usually a gal’s name Ayanda Amantombazane” meaing there are more girls in the family or in short gals are “increasing”
Oh maybe that’s why they gave her that name coz she’s got 3 kids…raising a family…. Brown Shuga: Will you be having kids anytime soon?
Well, here’s the thing…I wanted to do the character coz I’ve been thinking about maybe I’ll have a baby soon but just wearing my costume, I don’t know…. Brown Shuga: It’s only for a couple of months, after that you’re fine…. Rachel:
Do you have a kid? Brown Shuga: Yeah,
Oh, cute! How did you get to be so little? You’re tiny! Brown Shuga: Pure luck…
I think if I had a baby I’d be as big as this house…I really do want children but I think this character has made me realize that I may not necessarily want to carry them myself, which is something that I have really thought about…I want to have a child that looks like me and my man…y’know part of the excitement but there are so many kids out there and that’s what I’ve realized. I may have my own but maybe I’ll adopt. Brown Shuga: And if you adopt, are you gonna come to Africa? Madonna, Angelina…
I notice it’s the in thing but you know what, there are so many babies in the United states too...Brown Shuga: Charity begins at home
Charity does begin at home and there really are, especially kids of colour who need homes. You know if you’re a Caucasian baby you’re adopted right away in the US, so there are many many kids in the US who need families too. I would love a baby!!!
Brown Shuga: The Killing of Wendy is a movie based in LA. Why is it being filmed here?
I think that’s like a big thing that the producers did. They wanted to bring more filmmaking to South Africa and not just Cape Town but to bring more black filming here, hire more people of colour on the shoot, and to have black people being producers so as to open doors for the future of South African filmmaking so for me that was one of the biggest draws, for me to come to South Africa and shoot a movie, even if it’s set in LA. Brown Shuga: Great. you also shot a movie recently with Queen Latifah, please tell us a bit about it?
Oh yeah, it was super fine, I don’t know if you’ve met her but her name is Dana and she is great!!! She is so nice, from the beginning of my career when I first met her, to now. Lovely person, it’s really a cute movie.
Mostly in the USA, there’ll be Christmas movies with kids in them but it’s mostly Caucasian so here’s a movie that everyone, no matter what flavour you are, can enjoy.
I'm glad that kids of colour will see kids that look like them and kids they can relate to when they go see this movie and maybe Santa Clause might even be black…and maybe Santa Claus might be Queen Latifah. Brown Shuga: I’ve been on your myspace page so I know all about it!!!
Oh, I wrote a blog there when I got here but I haven’t been able to update it yet coz I’ve been like I can’t just go write and say I’ve only been to work & the cinema.
As soon as I do something exciting I’ll update it but myspace has been great, even a lot of people from Africa responded and told me to go here and there just to experience it.
That’s what I love about technology coz all of a sudden I’m connected….all these people, and I think for Americans it’s great because, now we get to see visions of other countries like Africa and different places that we hadnt’ thought of before. It’s now right on your computer, it’s amazing.
Brown Shuga: And all so simple., so you’ve been watching Generations??
Yes, I have!! Brown Shuga: You have to tell me what you think?
I think it’s kinda crazy, the stuff that they get to do but that’s part of being an actor, one minute you’re happy, crying, then you’re mad ….
it’s pretty much like our soap operas, we used to have one called Generations so I don’t know if it’s the same one and they bought it or not… Brown Shuga: No, it’s not
(maybe a theory I need to investigate...mmmhhh Mfundi?)
It didn’t seem like it so yeah, watching that I was trying to learn the Accent. I’ve been watching Big Brother Africa coz it’s people from all over Africa and that way I can kinda learn the different accents coz if you are in America, you don’t get to hear many African accents unless you’re particularly in an African neighbourhood. Brown Shuga: Yeah and when we go to America, we wanna sound like you…
I think in LA there’s a Ethopian population and a bit of Somalian I’ve noticed but it’s fairly hidden unless you go to those neighbourhoods.
I see them coz I go there for the hair products and the food, especially the food. I’m not gonna do my accent for you now….it sounds horrible. You must explain this summer of yours to me though…. (Feel free to skip this part.....)
Brown Shuga: What do you mean?
Rachel: I mean in Los Angeles it’s winter now…
Brown Shuga: Yeah, we’re in Spring going into Summer so when you guys are having your white Christmas, we'll be burning up..…
Rachel: Not in LA though…
Brown Shuga: Oh yeah, it’s not that cold hey... I visited LA during winter and it wasn’t as bad as New York would be at that time.
Rachel: Yeah New York is freezing but LA is very civilized, though at night you need a coat coz it’s a desert & the temperature drops like 20-30 degrees.
Did you like it?
Brown Shuga: I did except I couldn’t handle the food. It made me sick so I decided I was gonna stick to Pizza & soup, the safe options.
Dee: What was wrong with the food?
Brown Shuga: I don’t know I couldn’t keep it down for some reason and it tasted funny… Rachel:
Well, this is what I’ve noticed and people from the US will be shocked to know that your food is healthier than the food we eat in the US because we pump it full of preservatives & chemicals. Brown Shuga: I believe so! Ours is natural.
Exactly, coz I’ve been wondering why everything expires in two days!! And I’ve realized it’s because there food here is not full of preservatives, whereas we can keep it in the shelf for long. Brown Shuga: Yeah, you guys can keep bread for two weeks!!!!
Everything, you can keep for a long time in the States. That means it’s hard to digest, and I guess it explains why most Americans have weight issues because they’re eating all this food packed with things that your body isn’t designed to digest. Brown Shuga: And how do you feel about our food…
I feel it’s pretty good. Super fresh, very yummy but I also can’t wait to go out maybe barbeque or have something … Brown Shuga: Like maybe go to a place like Wandies….
That’s what the one person said on Myspace….did you see it there? Maybe you could give me some more suggestions… Brown Shuga: Yeah I think Wandies or Nambitha in Soweto would be the best places to visit coz then you’re presented with all these African dishes and you can choose what you wanna try… (please note I haven't even been to either one of these places...only know what I saw on TV!)
It would be great to try them… Brown Shuga: Yeah and you won’t have to eat anything that looks scary…but you’ll find that the scary looking ones are the ones that taste really good.
I’ve been eating a lot in the restaurant downstairs & the food is the same really, even this area, Sandton looks so much like Los Angeles so I feel like I’m home but I’m not home and it feels like I’m in my house, but where’s my stuff…y’know. Brown Shuga: Yeah Sandton is really posh, minus all the building that's going on. You must have heard about the passing of one of our music legends, Lucky Dube?
Yeah, I was listening to one of the public radio station early in the morning and it is quite tragic. Brown Shuga: Did it make you worry about Crime in South Africa?
: I’m from New York originally so I think there’s crime everywhere…I looked on the website before I came and they did kinda stress that you have to be careful, be careful but I think that’s true of any area though, not just South Africa. Brown Shuga: I’m so happy to hear you say that!
Yeah, it’s true! I mean I know someone who got mugged in Los Angeles, in their car, in Beverly Hills, right outside a posh restaurant so it can happen anywhere. I don’t think “Oh South Africa, no!”
I think as a gal anywhere, you have to be careful so as a gal that people know on TV, I want to be with someone coz you’ll never know.
Brown Shuga: Do you still have to audition for roles or do you get scripts and get to turn them down etc?
: It depends on the project to be honest. The Queen Latifah movie, I didn’t have to audition coz she knew me I guess, and knew my work.
This movie, also they’d seen me on half & half so it depends. Sometimes you audition, sometimes you get offered a script but I don’t mind auditioning especially if it’s for the director because that’s just you showing them what you can do with the character.
It’s also a challenge and it’s fun coz you get to show them what you think the character should be like…
Let’s face it, most of the time Halle Berry will get offered something but if she really wants a project and it’s a really prestigious one, even she will go to audition. She may not talk about it but she would go for a screen test with the other lead actor just to see if there is chemistry because in a movie where they’re gonna spend a $100 million, they wanna make sure those two people look great together and act well together.
Brown Shuga: So you last worked on Half n Half about a year ago, right??
Yeah, a little over a year ago. Brown Shuga: So it’s gone, dead buried, not coming back so you can tell us how much you got paid per episode!
No I can’t hahahah! That’s so funny!! Do people know what you make? Brown Shuga: Well, I’m not out there like you guys!
But still if your family was to ask you how much you make… ??Brown Shuga: None of their business….
That’s right! See, sometimes for a job you get paid a lot, and I’m not gonna deny that especially for Television because it’s all about the advertising dollars.
It’s a TV show but it’s about how much they’re getting paid the 30s spots. All I’m saying is that I was compensated well.
But I remember when the people on Friends were trying to get more money and the people were calling them greedy and I’m saying no, they’re not!
The show is making, let’s say a $100 million dollars a week, why shouldn’t the 5 or 6 people whose faces are out there everyday, who are only asking for $1 million out of the $100 million, why shouldn’t they ask for more?
Of course if the show wasn’t making that much money, they wouldn’t have been asking for more. Share the pie, that’s me the actress but I’m sure a producer would feel differently. Brown Shuga: Oh definitely! The Killing of Wendy, what can we expect?
It won’t be released for a while here but you can expect a fabulous cast, great women different shows, a bit almost like a bunch of women get together for a weekend and let’s just say something bad happens…if you put women together, someone’s bound to act up and get into trouble.
The main character, Wendy is a famous gossip columnist, actress not a nice person, she gets together with us for a weekend and we show her what we do with not so nice people.
(shwashwi watch out)Brown Shuga: Sounds interesting….anything else that you think South Africa needs to know about you?
No, other than I’m having a fantastic time in their country & it’s amazing to be hear and feel it for myself. Also it’s been amazing to walk around and see people who look like me. Brown Skin in all different shades, all here together…it’s amazing. Brown Shuga: That statement......Rachel:
I gotta break it down man, coz a lot of people think we’ve had it easy in the USA but even though it may not have been the same struggle that you guys had. It was a different struggle but still a struggle. It’s still a struggle to be a lead on a TV show or a movie ....Brown Shuga: We've all come so far but we're still positive about the future man!
You should be!! Brown Shuga: So, who’s your Celebrity Crush??
It changes all the time… You tell me who yours is?… Brown Shuga: Gosh, the list is endless.., TI is cute
But he’s in a bit of a trouble now…. Brown Shuga: Yeah these musicians… but who's your crush, really?
They change all the time….the last one I can remember, I don’t know if you watched the last season of Half and Half where I’m choosing between the two boys, let’s just say I had a crush on one of them and I won’t say which… Brown Shuga: Okay, I’ll put their pictures up and ask the readers to guess which one you had a crush on…
(So guys, what do you think? Was it Charles Divins or Lamman Rucker? My bet is on Lamman
)Brown Shuga: Rachel, thank you so much for the chat, it was awesome!
Thank you for making the time!!They say seeing is believing so...
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