A CHI-PRO­FILE ROLE

Ken­wood Academy alum, who went vi­ral in protest video, stars in Tyler Perry se­ries about Chicagoans in Ge­or­gia

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY EVAN F. MOORE, STAFF RE­PORTER emoore@sun­times.com | @evanF­moore

When it comes to a Chicago ac­tor play­ing a role that has a lo­cal back­story, is it act­ing or go­ing with what comes nat­u­rally?

Ac­tress Court­ney Nichole, a Rose­land na­tive, does a lit­tle bit of each in her de­but as a se­ries reg­u­lar on BET’s “Tyler Perry’s As­sisted Liv­ing,” where she plays the ma­tri­arch of a Chicago fam­ily in which the fa­ther (ac­tor Na’im Lynn) loses his job and finds work in Ge­or­gia help­ing his grand­fa­ther, who re­cently bought a run-down as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­ity.

“I had to throw some ‘Chicago’ in there. I had Na’im do a lit­tle Chicago step­ping with me so they could take some pic­tures of that,” said Nichole, a Ken­wood Academy High School alumna. “All of the stars are lin­ing up. … And you’re like: OK, this was meant to be. My son on the show is ac­tu­ally from Chicago, this fam­ily is from Chicago, I’m from Chicago.”

The se­ries, which airs at 8 p.m. Wed­nes­days, in­cludes cast mem­bers J. An­thony Brown, Tayler Buck and Alex Henderson, along with David and Tamela Mann, long­time Tyler Perry col­lab­o­ra­tors who will reprise their roles as Mr. Brown and Cora Sim­mons (“Meet The Browns”).

“When I got the role I think I was so filled with so many emo­tions,” said Nichole. “I re­mem­ber say­ing in the room that I couldn’t find any words, other than when prepa­ra­tion meets op­por­tu­nity. And I am grate­ful for the lead­er­ship of Mr. Tyler Perry for [the film pro­duc­tion stu­dio] he’s built there in At­lanta.”

Nichole rev­els in play­ful Chicago high school ban­ter with her co-star and TV son Henderson, a Whit­ney M. Young Mag­net High School grad.

“We met go­ing up on the el­e­va­tor to go have the con­ver­sa­tion about the cast’s first meet­ing,” said Nichole. “That’s a bit of a ri­valry with Chicago high schools.”

Nichole has gar­nered act­ing roles in FX’s “Snow­fall” and CBS’ “SWAT” but may be fa­mil­iar to most view­ers from a vi­ral video of her con­fronting two van­dals who were spray-paint­ing “Black Lives Mat­ter” on a Star­bucks lo­ca­tion dur­ing a Los An­ge­les protest.

“I think it was the teacher in me; the mom in me, but I just couldn’t let that mo­ment pass with­out ac­knowl­edg­ing and say­ing some­thing,” Nichole said of the event in June. “We’re out here to peace­fully protest, and you’re not go­ing to say any­thing to this per­son who was van­dal­iz­ing this build­ing? To me, it’s go­ing against what we’re fight­ing for be­cause I know they’re [the press] go­ing to try to spin those sto­ries and make it seem like it was one of us.

“And if you walk past the next day and you’re like: ‘Oh yeah, Black Lives Mat­ter,’ but I’m like: That wasn’t even a Black per­son. … If you’re go­ing to be out here rep­re­sent­ing us at this march, I need you to do it how we would like for you to do it.”

Nichole takes her South Side ex­pe­ri­ences with her wher­ever she goes — a his­tory she cred­its for be­ing the im­pe­tus be­hind her ac­tivism.

As a child, her mother took her to see plays at eta Cre­ative Arts Foun­da­tion, a Grand Cross­ing-based cul­tural per­form­ing arts in­sti­tu­tion.

“It was def­i­nitely a place that nour­ished that cre­ative side that I was lean­ing to­ward,” said Nichole. “I re­mem­ber tak­ing Kather­ine Dun­ham dance [classes] there; I re­mem­ber tak­ing piano. I re­mem­ber do­ing my first stage play at eta. I re­mem­ber my daddy bring­ing me my first bou­quet of roses after­ward, and I think that was the mo­ment that I was bit­ten by the bug — the act­ing bug, as they say.”

As a 17-year-old, she left Chicago af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Ken­wood to at­tended Alabama A&M Univer­sity in Huntsville.

Nichole, an ed­u­ca­tor by trade, hopes to be a role model for young Black girls.

“If any­thing, I’ve al­ways wanted to be an ac­tress so that I can rep­re­sent women who look like me,” said Nichole. “When peo­ple see me, they’ll see that I’m not your av­er­age small, model ac­tress or some­thing like that. I’ve al­ways been a thicker girl.”

Af­ter the film­ing for the “As­sisted Liv­ing” sea­son was done, Nichole gave the stu­dio em­ploy­ees she worked closely with a Chicago-centric gift.

“The guy who was my hair­dresser and the beau­ti­cian, and even Tyler Perry, I gave them a can of Gar­rett’s Pop­corn as my go­ing-away gift,” said Nichole. “So I’m try­ing to sprin­kle Chicago all up and through there.”

BET/TYLER VI­SION LLC

Na’im Lynn and Court­ney Nichole play a Chicago cou­ple trans­planted to Ge­or­gia on “Tyler Perry’s As­sisted Liv­ing.”

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