Sassy-mouthed. Voluptuous. Intelligent. Armed with a story birthed from tragedy and a tenacious dream, Los-Angeles born St. Louis-raised actress Carol Denise Nash brings a wealth of vivacity to every venue she frequents. With a degree in theater from California State University – Dominguez Hills, she has evoked laughter and awe in a number of roles, including a mace-mongering deputy on Reno 911, Bernie Mac’s unrestrained sister on The Bernie Mac Show, and the clutter-minded hostess on Style network’s number one rated show Clean House.
A star of two shows, Niecy Nash is set to take her flower and act to her own sitcom. On September 10, 9:30 ET, Do Not Disturb will air on Fox. Nash, who is costarring with Jerry O’Connell, is Rhonda Peete, a cheeky no-nonsense hotel manager in Manhattan. Nash does not come without wind at her back, and she sits down with Clutch Magazine to discuss her modus operandi, Barack Obama’s nomination speech, the use of comedy to heal, Bernie Mac, and the source of her fashion swag.
Clutch: So…what’s your reaction to the Democratic Convention?
Niecy: Hey (laughing)…I’m a fan, and I said let’s get into it. Bring it to the people Barack. I loved it! I remember having a conversation recently with a woman who said to me, “I don’t know about Barack. I kind of feel like he is selling us a dream.” And I said, “Do you remember the last person that did that, don’t you? Martin, so get into it! “ The dream has to come into fruition, and how do you do that? You support it.
Clutch: What inspired you to become an actress/comedian?
Niecy: When I was five years old, I was watching a soap opera with my grandmother and one day they were interrupted by a special and I saw this woman come out on stage. I put my bag of chips down and sat straight up. I looked at that TV and had never in my five years of living seen a woman – a black woman – like that and said “Oh my gosh, she is gorgeous!” I asked my grandmother, “Who was that?” and she said “Baby, that is Lola Falana.” That’s when I said that’s what I want to be when I grow up: black, fabulous and on TV.
Clutch: But why comedy?
Niecy: For most comedians or comic personalities, their comedy was birthed out of a tragedy. And after I went through a string of tragic events, I realized that comedy was a gift. And I said “Baby, you better spread it around to some other people.”
Clutch: How does one channel their tragedy to something greater?
Niecy: I can only speak for myself, but if you don’t have a higher power to submit to, you’re going to have a harder road ahead. For me, my faith, in combination with the comedy, is what brought me to where I am. I would have to say if you’re down, get on your knees. When you get up from there, you should have a sense on how to move around in that tight period.
Clutch: How did you get started in the business?
Niecy: I called a casting director of a movie I had recently auditioned for, and said that I’m broke, I got a baby, and I need a job. He said, ”OK, be down here at 3.00.” I ended up receiving a role in Boys On The Side with Whoopi Goldberg. My career kind of took off from there.
Clutch: Is there any rhyme and reason to that direct approach, or was that more of an act of desperation at the time?
Niecy: Well, I mean, that’s how I move around period. That’s just my personality. I always felt like a closed mouth don’t get fed. The worse that someone can tell you is no, but if you never put the question out there, it’s already a no. So you got to put it out there. When you ask you have a 50/50 shot of what you want to hear.
Clutch: Your outfits on Clean House, many would say, are quite eclectic. How would you describe your style?
Niecy:My style of dress, I would probably say is comfortable glamour, if there’s such a thing. I’m a big fan of a dress because it’s a complete outfit. You get pants, you got to find a shirt or you get a shirt, you got to find a skirt. But if you put on a dress, baby you already ready. You’re killing it, and you got everything on you need, to say “I’m dressed.”
Clutch: Are you the neat-monger that you portray on Clean House? Tell me if I come to your house I’m going to find a junky room or something.
Niecy: (Laughing)…. You know, I try to keep it together as much as I can because I just feel like one day my show is going to knock on my door and say “SURPRISE!” It’s not so much that I’m a neat-nick where I never have a jacket laying across the bed, but it’s not out of control like my families (on the show), at all.
Clutch: What projects do you have coming up?
Niecy: I have a sitcom about to air called Do Not Disturb, and it’s about a woman that I play that runs the Human Resources department of a hip New York hotel. I describe her as an educated, ghetto-fabulous, truth-telling Mary Poppins. She’s the mother-hen to the people that work at the hotel. She pulls everybody together.
Clutch: How different is that from the real Niecy Nash?
Niecy: It’s not. (Laughing)… Niecy Nash, Rhonda Peete, we’re one in the same. That truth-telling aspect is one thing that is true about both characters.
Clutch: Tell me something about yourself that many don’t know.
Niecy: A lot of people don’t know that I was 15 when I saw my mother get shot. Many don’t know that I buried my only brother on the day before my 23rd birthday, and that I found my way in comedy because after my mother lost her only son, she went into depression and refused to get out of the bed. So I would sit at the foot of the bed telling her jokes and doing routines. Eventually my mother went from laying down in the bed to getting up, going into the living room and inviting people from across the street to see my “act.” So my comedy is all a result of trying to help my mother deal with tragedy and loss. Then after I saw what it did for her, I said, “Niecy, don’t be a selfish heifer, it’s a lot of people out there suffering. You better get up and spread this thing around.”
Clutch: You have worked with Bernie Mac many times. What have your experiences been with the legendary comedian?
Niecy: One of the best times I have ever had on set is being with Bernie Mac. I have never met a comedian of his stature that was so gracious. He really wanted to make sure that you did well and you were funny, even if that meant him falling back. He meant so much to so many people behind the scenes. I’m like goodness, this is going to be such a loss to our actor community, and then it dawned on me that you have got your own show, so Niecy, the same values that he instilled in you, you implement it on your set, with your crew.
Clutch: You’re going out for a night in the town with your girls. What is in your Clutch?
Niecy: My Iman Pressed Powder, lip gloss by Mac, a gorgeous case with crystals on it to carry my cards and ID, my camera, and some type of a mint because you have to stay fresh (laughing).
Clutch: Complete the following sentences:
Barack Obama is…the next president of the United States.
My favorite movie is…Sparkle, with Irene Cara and Phillip Michael Thomas, only to be followed by Claudine.
My children are…my joy.
The first thing I do before I wake up is…thank God for another day.
The last thing I do before I go to sleep is…thank God that I made it through this day.
[Photo Credits: Derek Blanks]