Rolling Stone



“I HAVE NEVER FELT pressured to do anything in my career,” says Sheryl Lee Ralph, 66, who recently produced a Broadway play on top of winning an Emmy for her portrayal of Barbara Howard on the hit ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary.

“Except excellence.”

A onetime Dreamgirl with experience acting for luminaries such as Sidney Poitier, Ralph spent decades crafting quintessen­tial roles. But a lack of mainstream recognitio­n nearly led her to quit 15 years ago. “I wasn’t feeling seen,” she says. During a chance encounter with a casting director, Ralph was given a much-needed reality check. “Do you know who you are?” the director said. “You can do anything!”

Now, her role on

Abbott Elementary

feels less like work and more like celebratio­n. “The way people respond to me, I just love how they love Barbara Howard,” she says. And she does see a similarity in herself. “I’m gonna give it to you straight and upfront, but always with love,” she says. Despite her Emmy, Ralph wants people to know that she’s still on the rise. “Even though I’m on the top of the world, I see other planets out there,” she says. “I can’t help but think, ‘Let’s go!’ ”

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