Interviewed and written by Tocarra Eldridge
There are plenty of ordinary actresses, even ones with storied careers who you may have never actually seen on the big screen, but Roz Ryan, one of TV’s most adored icons certainly does not fit into this category. The veteran actress has built a 40+ year career, having the sort of consecutive television series run that most actresses can only dream of. Roz is a true multi-tasker, wearing multiple hats as an actress, singer, comedian and marvelous Broadway performer. For someone so gorgeous, this multi-faceted phenomenal talent is as relentless and tenacious as they come. How Roz is best known depends on which segment of her long lived career that you might like to recall. Some remember her for her role as Amelia Hetebrink on the classic NBC sitcom “Amen”, some see her as she exceptionally performs in Broadway musicals, and some simply love her delivery of irreplaceable wittiness and humor.
When looking to cast the role of Aunt Sylvia on “The Rickey Smiley Show”, the Broadway veteran seems like the obvious choice, being the perfect fit. After viewing Roz’s reel, funnyman Rickey Smiley agreed as well, seeing Roz as a must have for the hilarious and endearing show. In this exclusive interview, we [Consciousness Magazine] speak with Roz as the vibrant actress talks about her role as Aunt Sylvia on one of the funniest shows on television, her advice for up and coming actors/actresses, and her genuine passion for ‘family’.
Tocarra Eldridge: How did you land the role on The Rickey Smiley Show?
Roz Ryan: I think the real reason why I got the role is because Rickey’s grandmother loved “Amen”. I sent in the videotape and when Rickey saw the reel, they said he said ‘I have to have her, my grandmother loves her.’ I think that’s really how I got it.
TE: What has your experience been like working on this sitcom?
Roz: It has been one of the most enjoyable. I’ve been in the industry for over 40 years. The way that this particular show is run is with such joy. It is so beautifully run. It’s run without any stress. I’ve never experienced anything like this. I’ve experienced the hectic schedules and times of Hollywood. This is not run like that. It’s entirely different. Rickey is the same on and off the stage. We have the best trailer in the world. Rickey put a swimming pool outside of the trailer with card tables and barbeques. This is how we wait for our next scene. It’s fabulous! We have so much fun.
TE: You play Aunt Sylvia on the show. What do you think makes your character so interesting and unique?
Roz: She [Aunt Sylvia] reminds us of the nanas and grandmas back in the day that would look over the families. They took care and raised the babies. It wasn’t unusual back then. It’s a little interesting nowadays because now grandmas are like 30 years old. They don’t have the skills that nanas and my grandmother had. They had original remedies for the kids. They had things that did not require a lot of medical drugs. They were so remarkable and pure…natural remedies. Aunt Sylvia is the same way. It’s very natural for her to come in and take over, because Rickey works all the time and Monica is away being a lawyer. It’s natural for Aunt Sylvia to be there; she is the mama.
TE: As a veteran actress and singer, what advice would you share with up-and-coming actors and actresses who are looking to have a long tenure such as yourself?
Roz: First of all, have a plan ‘B’ because this business is sketchy. Be fluent in English and math so that you can read the contracts and count your own money. You have to learn the business as much as the show. It’s actually 90% business and 10% show. All of those things are important so that you won’t have anyone ripping you off. Stay in school. If you really want it, put yourself in the environment. As they say, always be in the room. So if you have to start as a personal assistant or background singer just be in the room and learn as you go.
TE: When you played on Amen, sitcoms seemed to be more strong and solid. What do you think today’s African-American sitcoms are missing?
Roz: I think the sitcoms are better. It’s images being portrayed on the reality shows that I have a problem with. I think African American sitcoms are coming back with quality stuff. We’re so inundated with this reality stuff and it’s all a bunch of fighting and people who have no skills as actors. We studied to do what we do. We pounded the pavement in New York and LA. We auditioned and did everything so that we can do what we do today. Unfortunately, our children are being influenced by reality stars.
TE: Do you think the reality TV shows portray a negative image in regards to how children may perceive how families are to normally interact with one another?
Roz: Yes! I think it’s horrible! It’s horrible when you see grown women in evening gowns fighting. The producers are pushing the fighting and drama; our kids don’t need to see that. Our kids need to see more about families and people getting along. All of the reality shows do nothing but fight; they become so popular and the kids love those shows. It’s really bad because it has taken away from the families and unity and the respect of the elders in the family. It’s terrible. The kids look at it and think it’s funny. But it’s not funny; it’s sad! Of course all families have their differences. But a difference is a big difference than a fight. We’re dealing with issues on “The Rickey Smiley Show”, and that is the beautiful part. It’s a family show.
TE: Would you like to add anything else before we close the interview?
Roz: Watch the show people. Support us so that they don’t snatch us off the air. Support us! I think we should watch these shows because we have no problem watching the shows with the crazy stuff. Come on people, watch the show and enjoy yourself.
Interviews with the cast of The Rickey Smiley Show
Last modified: April 16, 2023