Catching Up With Tracee Ellis Ross
By Dustin Fitzharris
For eight years, Tracee Ellis Ross lit up the television screen as Joan Clayton on Girlfriends. The role earned her a slew of awards, including two NAACP Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. Now, Ross, 37, is ready to take center stage again. Earlier this year she fulfilled a dream of performing on stage in New York in Love, Loss, and What I Wore, a play by Nora and Delia Ephron. In a series of vignettes about purses, bathrobes, bras, and even mothers, Ross had the opportunity to let her comedic timing and wit shine. The theater community, as well as the Ephrons, took notice of Ross's abilities and she's slated to be a part of the opening cast in the Los Angeles production.
It's not surprising that Ross would be a natural on stage. Not only did she graduate from Brown University with a degree in theater, she is also the daughter of the legendary singer and actress Diana Ross.
We caught up with Ross to chat about her mother, her thoughts on Betty White's Saturday Night Live performance, and her five or six dream projects.
Out: This is your second time around in Love, Loss, and What I Wore. What are you feeling?
Tracee Ellis Ross: This honestly is a fantastic cast. I'm madly in love with Rita [Wilson] and Natasha [Lyonne]. I mean, I'm madly in love with everybody. It's great. You just have to come see it.
Why did you want to do this show again?
I love theater, and I love being on stage. I was on Girlfriends for eight years, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and career. I loved the woman I played, but I was the same person for eight years. I'm an actor and part of the fun of being an actor is you get to be different people. I did theater all through college, and I've always loved the stage. I grew up around the stage because of my mom. The ideal thing about this play is that it's a short run. It just works with an actor's schedule because you get to come in for a month and have the most delicious and hardcore experience and then move on to something else. The fact that it's a series of monologues where I get to play many different people is so fun.
What about the clothing aspect of it?
Clearly, fashion, clothing, and style has always been a huge part of my life, so you add that layer in, and I'm like a pig in shit here!
One of your dreams is to have your own one-woman show. What would that show be like?
I'll leave that to the mystery of letting it reveal itself. The more I say it out loud, the more it makes me want to do it. It's a process and a journey. It's getting there.
Would you sing in it?
I hope so. I love musical theater. Glee is like my favorite show on the planet!
You've done modeling. You've done TV, movies, and now the stage. What's your favorite?
I love them all. That's part of the joy of the career. I'll never give up any of it. I feel like I'm a woman with many layers.
Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball are two of your idols. What did you think of Betty White on Saturday Night Live?
OMFG. No, OMFFFFFG! That was one of the best episodes they've had in forever. I almost pissed my pants that it was the all-star cast. Betty White was just second to none. She's the most wonderful thing. She's 88! I hope to God that I'm anywhere close to her at 88. Then, with the all-star cast, I just couldn't take it! Mya (Rudolph) coming back! She just kills me. That 'My Muffin' (skit), I thought I was going to die.
Would you like to do SNL?
It has always been my dream. I can think of nothing better.
Should people start a Facebook campaign?
Please. I wouldn't even begin to think that I could do anything like Betty White, but it would be my joy given the chance.
Another thing you've always wanted to do was portray Lena Horne in her life story.
Yes, it was my dream to play Lena Horne. I have all these dreams. Get on stage in New York. Get on Saturday Night Live. And play Lena Horne.
A lot of gay men love you.
I love gay men. I mean, what's not to love?