In crowning Sheryl Lee Ralph for our latest Of the ESSENCE cover, we were symbolically giving the Emmy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated actress her overdue flowers. Doing so was also important for Jackée Harry, who sat down with Ralph for a conversation about their parallel paths in Hollywood and the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series that ties them together.
In doing so, Harry reflected back on Ralph’s first major role as Deena Jones in the original 1981 musical production of ‘Dreamgirls’ on Broadway alongside Jennifer Holliday and Loretta Devine. The musical was adapted into a movie in 2006 starring Beyoncé, Anika Noni Rose, and Jennifer Hudson, whose portrayal of Effie earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Yet despite the ties between the film and the Broadway musical, none of the theater cast was involved in the movie.
“I first remember you from Dreamgirls, like everybody does; the original Deena Jones,” Harry stated. “But I must say, I felt that you guys didn’t get your due from the play to the movie. I know that’s quite a broad statement, but you never got your flowers.”
Agreeing with that sentiment, Ralph replied, “You know something, Jackée? You and I have been around long enough to realize that everything comes around the way it is supposed to come around. Yes, they ignored us when they made the movie. Whatever that choice was, it hurt my feelings, because we literally created Dreamgirls. Tom Eyen handpicked us, put us all together—and we improvised and put those moments together that became that groundbreaking musical. And when they chose to go to Hollywood and make the movie, to act like we weren’t a part of it—there were so many things they could have done. They could have added us, but the choice was made not to. And God and Goddess know why.”
Ralph, forever taking the high road, added, “It’s okay. Because we are moving forward,” which prompted Harry to offer this insight: “It’s show business. You can’t live in the past. But don’t get amnesia. That’s what I say. “
Watch the conversation unfold between the actresses in the video above.