Mak­ing Dodd-frank pay

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS -

Oth­ers called Washington an­tibusi­ness. EJF Debt Op­por­tu­ni­ties seized on fall­out of reg­u­la­tion.

There’s a cer­tain po­etry in the fact that Phyli­cia Rashad has spent much of the past sev­eral months work­ing in Philadel­phia on a show for NBC.

This, af­ter all, is Bill Cosby’s home town, and Rashad, who’s acted as the co­me­dian’s wife on two dif­fer­ent net­works, is prob­a­bly al­ways go­ing to be most fa­mous for play­ing Clair Huxtable to Cosby’s Cliff for eight sea­sons on NBC’s “The Cosby Show.”

Cosby didn’t bring Rashad to Philly for the drama “Do No Harm” — which de­buted Thurs­day and has her play­ing the boss of a neu­ro­sur­geon (Steven Pasquale, “Res­cue Me”) with Jekyll-and-Hyde is­sues — but in a funny way, her old friend

Phyli­cia Rashad re­turns to net­work TV in NBC’s med­i­cal drama ‘Do No Harm’

and boss may be at least partly re­spon­si­ble for Rashad’s hav­ing taken so long to re­turn to se­ries TV.

Be­cause it’s not as if she’d never been asked.

Af­ter “The Cosby Show,” “I was bom­barded with a lot of in­vi­ta­tions to be­come the mother on some other 30minute projects,” Rashad said, laugh­ing, dur­ing an in­ter­view last month at the Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion’s win­ter meet­ings in Pasadena, Calif.

“But hav­ing worked with Mr. Cosby, hav­ing done the best of what there is — and I say is — I couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t do that. It’s not some­thing that I wanted to do. Un­less it was of that qual­ity, and that tier,” she said.

In the mean­time, Rashad, who co-starred with her daugh­ter, Con­dola Rashad, in Life­time’s 2012 adap­ta­tion of “Steel Mag­no­lias,” found plenty to do in film and in the­ater, win­ning a 2004 Tony for her per­for­mance in “A Raisin in the Sun,” a play she’s since di­rected, both in Los An­ge­les and, this past fall, at the West­port (Conn.) Coun­try Play­house, com­mut­ing from Philadel­phia for re­hearsals.

“I wasn’t think­ing of re­turn­ing to tele­vi­sion . . . but when I read [David Schul­ner’s script for ‘Do No Harm,’] that pi­lot script was so well-writ­ten, I thought, not only can I do this, I want to do this,” Rashad said.

What she learned work­ing with Cosby, she said, is “that the writ­ing is es­sen­tial. And I know that from the­ater, too. The lit­er­a­ture in the­ater is to­tally dif­fer­ent from the lit­er­a­ture in film and tele­vi­sion. So when you find a script that has that qual­ity of lit­er­a­ture, [you say,] ‘ Yes, I’ ll do this.’ ”

In “Do No Harm,” Rashad plays Vanessa Young, head of neu­ro­surgery at In­de­pen­dence Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal.

“It was pretty ex­cit­ing to get to work that first day and see Mrs. Huxtable,” said Pasquale.

“She’s smart, she’s savvy, she’s no-non­sense,” said Rashad of her char­ac­ter, adding that as the sea­son un­folds, view­ers will see that Young is less in con­trol of her per­sonal life than she is of her pro­fes­sional one, some­thing that couldn’t be said of Clair Huxtable, lawyer and ul­tra­com­pe­tent mother of five.

(Though it could be ar­gued that the fail­ure to no­tice that one of your key em­ploy­ees has an en­tirely sep­a­rate iden­tity 12 hours a day sug­gests a prob­lem at the of­fice, too.)

Con­trol’s some­thing Rashad’s learned a bit about in re­cent years, as she’s ex­panded her ca­reer to be­come a di­rec­tor.

Seven or eight years ago, she said, “Con­stanza Romero, Au­gust Wil­son’s widow, she called to say that the Seat­tle Reper­tory The­ater was go­ing to have a pro­duc­tion of ‘Gem of the Ocean.’ And she asked me to di­rect it. I had never di­rected any­thing. And she said, ‘I know you can do this.’ And so I did.”

She’d never con­sid­ered di­rect­ing up to that point, she said, but re­mem­bered that while she was an un­der­study in “The Wiz” in the early ’80s, di­rec­tor Ge­of­frey Holder said to us, ‘Ev­ery dancer should think in terms of be­com­ing a chore­og­ra­pher. Ev­ery chore­og­ra­pher should think in terms of be­com­ing a di­rec­tor. Ev­ery ac­tor should think in terms of be­com­ing a di­rec­tor. And ev­ery di­rec­tor should think in terms of be­com­ing a pro­ducer.’ He was giv­ing us per­mis­sion, telling us it was nec­es­sary to think ex­pan­sively, and to ex­pand one’s hori­zons. Now that was a seed that was planted.”

Act­ing, Rashad said, has al­lowed her to work with “peo­ple that I’d ad­mired, some­times, from col­lege days and be­fore, never even imag­in­ing that I would meet them,” in­clud­ing “Mr. Cosby, Sid­ney Poitier, James Earl Jones, Di­a­hann Car­roll . . . An­gela Lans­bury.”

Mr. Cosby? The ac­tors who worked with him as chil­dren still call him that in in­ter­views, but Rashad?

“We adore him,” she said. “When we’re to­gether, and I’m with his fam­ily, I can call him Bill. But when I talk about him, I have to give that re­spect. I have to do that. Be­cause that’s who he is. He’s so large.”

She doesn’t see him as much “as I’d like to,” Rashad said. “But I hear from him. He’ll call me up to tell me a joke.”


ON CALL: Phyli­cia Rashad stars as the head of neu­ro­surgery in the show loosely based on the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

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