TV One continues to debunk the social media illusion that being an actress is lights, cameras, red carpets and riches. Especially if you’ve fallen from grace and have spent some time out of the limelight, the process of reinventing yourself is anything short of easy. In season 3 of “Hollywood Divas”, audiences see cast members Countess Vaughn, Lisa Wu, Golden Brooks, Paula Jai Parker and Malika Haqq use their reality TV platform to create the lives of their dreams all the while navigating the drama and pettiness that can arise with the ladies acting like, well…divas!
In the midst of taping their reunion episode, the cast, as well as executive producer Carlos King get candid about opening up their clique to a new diva and how reality TV has breathed new life into their careers.
LAS: How has reality TV helped propel your acting goals and what advice would you share to someone hoping to use reality TV to relaunch their career?
Malika Haqq: I didn’t always have patience with the acting business hence why I haven’t been actively in it. I’ve done little things along the way like guest starring TV roles that were literally called to me to do so I wasn’t really pursuing it because it can get difficult. For me, I’ve always been aware of my livelihood so I’ve always had a job whether it was in front of or behind the camera, but when it comes to being in this business, you have to be patient with yourself. Your growth and your process may not always look like it’s good but if you don’t quit, then you won’t miss out on what’s for you.
LAS: You seemed to fly under the radar when it came to drama on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Hollywood Divas”. This season, we’re seeing more of your personal life and a scandal with your ex-husband, Ed Hartwell. In the midst of this drama, what’s kept you coming back to reality TV?
Lisa Wu: It definitely has its benefits. It’s the only platform where you can advertise your business. It is a little intrusive because they’re following your everyday life but as a business woman and an actress, I’m able to use the network as my commercial.
LAS: Are you happy with how you’ve been portrayed on the show?
LW: I’m portrayed exactly the way I am, I’m the same person on camera as I am off camera and I’ve been doing that for as far back…since the first season of ‘RHOA’. I’m very consistent. I’m always me and I think people can appreciate me being genuine.
LAS: Congrats on landing a recurring role on the Showtime series, “Ray Donovan”, how did that opportunity come to you and how has it changed your life?
Paula Jai Parker: I auditioned for it. Usually in Hollywood if you did a good job, you get a call by the time you get to your car but it took a month for them to get back to me. I had almost forgotten about the audition, I blessed whomever got the role so when I got the call and it blew my mind it was genuinely a gift from God. It’s the biggest role I’ve had in my 20+ years in the business. It came right when I was ready to quit reality TV. Carlos [King] tells me that the honesty I’m giving to people is going to pay off in the end. That’s hard to believe when you’re in the midst of everyone being mean to you on social media.
There’s a reason why I’m a part of this series right now, in this moment. I was able to share with people the honesty of being homeless. This season I share the honesty of fear—it wasn’t easy for me to walk on set with Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight (stars of “Ray Donovan”) and say ‘hey, I’m a diva!’.
LAS: Can you talk about your decision to be so vocal about your weight loss on the show?
Countess Vaughn: I’ve always wanted to fix [myself]. I had my ‘mommy weight’ from having my children so I knew I wanted to get liposuction. I just needed a fresh start but I wanted to work out as well so I knew surgery wasn’t the answer to everything. But I feel good about myself. I wanted to be able to show women that you can pull it together and be beautiful at any size whether you’re a 0, a 12 or an 18. I never wanted to be a size 0, I love where I’m at right now, I simply wanted to be a healthier, shapelier me.
LAS: Lisa Wu has previously said in reviewing the show, she would describe herself as the ‘pot stirrer’, what role do you think you play on the show?
Golden Brooks: I’m the scapegoat for everything. She may be stirring the pot but I’m the food that’s going into the pot, I’m the ingredients! Each year you take on a different role considering the drama that’s going on. But I definitely think I’m the scapegoat for the drama.
LAS: This season we see you land a huge role then get recast. In dealing with that setback, what advice would you share with other actors who are ready to give up on their dreams?
GB: The most important thing is perseverance. You can’t give up, no matter what. You have to stay focused on who you are regardless of what the naysayers think; you have to believe in yourself as an artist. And if you believe in God, take anchor in that, don’t take anchor in the negativity or focus on someone else’s path. You have to focus on doing it your way. Focus on your training, your art and your passion then everything else will fall into place as long as you don’t give up.
LAS: How do you continue to keep the reality, ‘real’ but at the same time up the ante each season?
Carlos King: The beauty of working in reality TV, I’m always intrigued by the journey that each person is going through. I feel like we’re all on this journey together, some have more dramatic lives than others but it’s still relatable. When it came to season 3, I wanted to dig deep and show the world where these women are at this point in their lives. From Golden being hired for a network show then being recast to Countess losing weight and finding her voice. My job is to follow the reality and make sure that it’s relatable to everyone else.