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Condola Rashad talks Steel Magnolias and playing Shelby

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Condola Rashad talks Steel Magnolias
By Wilson Morales

October 5, 2012

Coming out this weekend on Lifetime TV  (Sunday, October 7 at 9pm ET/PT ) is the remake of the 1989 film, ‘Steel Magnolias,’ starring Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad, Jill Scott, Adepero Oduye and Condola Rashad.

Directed by Kenny Leon, and set in an updated contemporary version of the beloved stage play and 1989 film, Steel Magnolias chronicles the lives and friendship of six women in Louisiana. Supporting each other through their triumphs and tragedies, they congregate at Truvy’s beauty shop to ponder the mysteries of life and death, husbands and children – and hair and nails – all the important topics that truly unite and celebrate women.

Condola Rashad is playing the role of Shelby, who was famously played by Julia Roberts in the original film. For Rashad, whose parents are co-star Phylicia Rashad and former NFL wide receiver and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, the role represents another accomplishment in a breakout year.

An accomplished theater actress, having won a Theatre World Award for Best Debut Performance in 2009 Off-Broadway production ‘Ruined,’ the New York native was nominated this year for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for performance in ‘Stick Fly.’ That play was directed by Kenny Leon and produced by Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys. Earlier this year Rashad had a recurring role on the NBC series ‘Smash’ and was also featured in the romantic comedy ’30 Beats.’

Blackfilm.com caught up with Rashad as she about her role, working with her castmates, and working with director Kenny Leon again.

How would you describe Shelby and is the role any different from the one that most saw in the original film?

Condola Rashad: I don’t know. I haven’t watched the original since I was a kid and I purposely didn’t want to watch it before I did the film. I went in to tell the story as if it had never been done before. I can’t tell how people will think of the performance. What I got from Shelby is the kind of person whose spirit is bigger and stronger than her body. I know people like that and that was inspiring and interesting. She is the kind of person who sees a challenge and goes towards it. The one thing that I wanted to play with is that this is the one big challenge she’s facing, having a child. She knows she will be find but somewhere deep inside of her she knows she may not but she goes through with it. That’s a pivotal moment for her. That’s what attracted me to the role.

How did you come to be part of the cast?

CR: I had just finished working with Kenny Leon, who was the director of ‘Stick Fly,’ the Broadway production I was in. I had also worked with him a few summers back in a musical back in Atlanta. Over the course of Stick Fly and the year, he really valued my work and we developed a close professional relationship and he wanted me to play Shelby. Once Stick Fly was done, I got the call and offer to play the role. I went ahead and took that offer.

Was there ever any trepidation about playing the role that most remember Julia Roberts in?

CR: No. People are always going to think what they are going to think. No matter what, I’m walking into my own shoes. I don’t really remember the original but Julia Roberts did an amazing job and was awesome. I didn’t walk in saying I’m playing Julia Roberts’ character. I walked in saying I’m playing this character right now. I was in this play called ‘Ruined’ so technically in the book, one can say that Condola Rashad originated the role. I think it’s great, but at the same time, it’s not my role. I don’t believe in it being anybody’s role. When you are attached to or playing a role, that’s what you are working with, and when you leave, it’s over. Shelby is Shelby. She’s not Julia Roberts. She’s not me. We’re both two artists who played with her. That’s how I look at it.

You are working a great deal of talented actresses including your mom. What’s that feeling like?

CR: I had a few moments where I was like, “How did I get in this room?” I’m working with the most amazing cast ever, but again, similar to what I was saying about playing Shelby, as an actor, you have to let that go. I knew some of these women before being in the film and I admire all of them great but when you are an actor and are working on something, you must let all of that go and you have to work. You can’t be sitting around and be like, “Oh my gosh, I’m here.” All of those women, because they’re professional, did the same thing. We had moments where we talked about each other’s work and how exciting it is to work with each other and it was. It was the best time ever. The reason we had a great time is that we left all of that stuff (admiration, past work) at the door.

We came together as artists and we just worked together. I was so sad that I didn’t have more scenes with them. I had a few scenes with Tory (Kittles), but I barely saw Lance (Gross). I only got see him for two days out of the entire production shoot. We didn’t have any scenes together. There was one day where it was me, Lance, Adepero (Oduye) and the guys who played my brothers, who are also really talented, and we were all on set but weren’t needed for at least two hours, so I found a taboo set in the house we were staying at. We went back to our trailer and had a mini taboo party. It was fun. Everyone was supportive of each other. We were all one big family.

Is this the first time you have worked with your mom professionally?

CR: Yes. It is. It was fun. Me and my mother have a great relationship, both personal and professional.

How was working with Kenny Leon on this particular project?

CR: It was different because this was a film opposed to theater, but it was really interesting to work with him on film because there’s a certain level of familarity with the way he directs, and I sort of speak his language. I’m thankful that we had just worked on ‘Stick Fly’ over that course in time because I felt I got close to him in terms of the actor-director relationship. It was really great.

What’s next for you?

CR: I’m looking to do more films and I’m also a musician. I’ve worked on the piano since I was four years old. My music has to be on equal footing with the acting and that’s what I’ve been working on for the last month. I want the type of career where I can come back to theater. Theater is my home. Theater to me is like ballet for dancers. It’s my foundation.


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