I try to give each performance my own soul, to bring a truth to my character. Hopefully, when I bring that much truth to a character, it resonates with somebody, and it sparks some kind of emotion in them.
I come from a family of four brothers, so I like sports.
There are so many people who will try and make you feel like your opinion doesn't matter, and I've learned how important it is to use your voice.
I walk in a space of gratitude. I'm so grateful to God for blessing me with an amazing family and the opportunity to do what I love.
Little Richard played my uncle on 'Full House.' He's fabulous. I remember him being incredibly kind to me. I just remember him being super, super nice.
I have a complex heritage: my mom is African American, and my dad is Jewish. Both were activists, and they met during the movement in the '70s.
When I was younger, I really struggled with confidence.
I wouldn't say I'm a Method actor, but there are times where a role will require you to live in their world.
I think, as human beings, we try to hide our flaws and try to present this perfect person, this person we wish we were, to our spouse when that causes so many troubles.
Everyone has a past, but I try not to let that affect the way I see them; I want to get to know who they are today.
My mom is African-American, Native-American, Irish, and Creole, and my father is of Jewish, Russian, and Polish descent. It's made me who I am. Because of my diverse background, I think I can relate to many different people, different stories, and different communities.
I'm so proud of 'Underground' because it's this thriller; it's this action- adventure. It's unexpected. People think it's gonna one be one thing - they think it's gonna be very depressing and downtrodden - and it's empowering.
I like sitting down and watching games.
As an artist, you want to stretch. That's the only way you're going to grow. If I stay inside my comfort zone, do roles that I've done before, then I'm never going to get better as an actress.
Marriage is a work in progress, but it's beautiful.
Never let anyone silence your voice.
I love music, and I love drumlines. I like school bands a lot. There's nothing wrong with cheerleading, but I'd rather be a band geek. It's a little more interesting.
My little brothers loved baseball. I'm not as big on that as basketball or football, but I understand the game.
After being a mom, we are now in a different chapter in our womanhood, and instead of trying to be our old selves or get our old body back, we should embrace who we are now.
I don't really think about the critics or the commercial success.
I just live my life. I go where I feel God is calling me.
My mom bought me an 'Anne of Green Gables' journal. And I just remember thinking it was so cool, and I could write anything in it.
My best advice would be that you have to be vulnerable with each other. Like, everyone says you have to be honest, you have to communicate; like, yes, of course, but you gotta be willing to be vulnerable.
Vanessa Williams in person is like... the camera cannot capture how gorgeous this woman is! She is just so breathtaking.
I have so many passions outside of my passion for acting.
You learn a lot about yourself just by writing it down.
I am oftentimes the ear for some people that I know and love. Which I like being. I don't know if I'd like being a marriage counselor, though, because that's too deep for me.
Oftentimes, a history book in school will talk about the Underground Railroad as if it's one sentence. But thousands of people decided to run, and they single-handedly changed the trajectory of our nation. By running to the North, they put a face to slavery, which recruited a lot of abolitionists.
I'm a grandma at heart.
You go through those awkward, dorky, geeky stages, and growing up in the industry amplifies all that. Fortunately, I have a mother who encouraged me to build my confidence from within and embrace my imperfections.
If I have a jump rope and a resistance band, I can work out anywhere. Even without a jump rope. If you do 200 jumping jacks, then drop and do some crunches, and then do some squats, you're good.
I'm such a huge fan of Gap! My mom used to dress me in Gap overalls that I would wear all the time, and now the idea of bringing my son into that tradition is so ironic and full-circle for me.
I always said, 'Whenever I get pregnant, I'm going to embrace all of the body changes that happen.' My focus has not been on any sort of snap-back or anything like that, because your body won't be the same after giving birth, and if anything, that's something to be celebrated, embraced, and owned.
There are obstacles and challenges that my dark-skinned sisters face that I will never know. How they are perceived when they walk in a room of strangers is something I will never truly know.
I wouldn't even call myself a former child star. I was a child actor; there's a difference.
I would be ignorant to say colorism doesn't exist; it's gross and disgusting.
People look at you, and they think they know you. They think they can place you in a certain category by what they think they know about you. But there's so much more to all of us than what we know and what we see at face value.
It is a beautiful thing to work on your relationship.
It's such a transition and it's so empowering to become a mom, but there are also many challenges. Just remind yourself, every minute, every day, to be kind to yourself.
That's something I've struggled with my entire life - people underestimating me.
There's a lot of progress happening in TV. You have amazing shows like 'How to Get Away With Murder.' You have people like Shonda Rhimes, Lee Daniels with 'Empire,' and Jason Katims with 'Friday Night Lights' and 'Parenthood.' You have people behind the scenes writing complex women.
I'm a nature lover.
We never get fashion shows in L.A.! Ever!
I read so many scripts, and it's not really exciting to just be the girlfriend.
With 'Underground,' we see that the wounds that we all, as a nation, inflicted upon our brothers and sisters during slavery have not been healed.
The real trendsetters are the ones who rebel. Those are the ones who everyone in fashion eventually follows.
There's still a really divisive residue in our nation that's called racism and prejudice and oppression and sexism.
The AIDS epidemic began before I was born - I've never known a world without it. And yet, despite its omnipresence in our lives, there remains a pervasive silence around AIDS among young people, particularly young women.
A lot of the issues today may not affect us personally, but we can't stay in our comfort zone when it comes to protecting our brothers and sisters. We have to get out there and use our voices for them as well.
How often do you see young actors playing scholars? Or striving to be intellectuals, you know? It's not that often.
The slave narratives, there is a wealth of research there, because you are hearing stories from the first person account, and that's a whole different thing than reading about it in the history books. You're able to really personalize it.
Before being a mom, I remember going on a Twitter rant during the whole George Zimmerman trial in Florida about my younger brothers and how one day I'll be the mom of a black son.
It's not very exciting to go to work to just have your character's identity being defined by her relationship with her male counterparts.
Marian Wright Edelman is a mentor and hero of mine.
The Underground Railroad, which was the first integrated civil rights movement, is a part of our history that not a lot of us know about. And it's actually a very empowering side of our history.
I can get a little scattered and want to be everywhere and want to do everything for everyone.
There's this notion, kind of like unspoken, that you can't live your dreams and be a mom. You can't have a career and be a mom. There's still that preconceived notion, and I reject that.
I'm a research queen.
Henry Louis Gates is such a wealth of knowledge in himself.
I love to get in the library and just spend days researching characters.
There's injustices within our system that we inherited from this time, from slavery, and until we confront our past, we're not going to be able to heal the wounds for our future.
Injustice is either very blatant - you walk down the street and someone calls you a name; you don't get a job because of your gender or your skin color or your sexual preference - but injustice is also very subliminal.
I'm very picky about the kind of work that I do, and I'm fortunate to have been able to work with great directors and great actors who've helped me grow as an artist.
When I was 12 years old, I got involved with an organization called Artists for a New South Africa. One of its missions is to help with HIV/AIDS awareness.
I started shooting 'The Defenders' two days after I wrapped' Friday Night Lights.' I was doing research for 'The Defenders' throughout - interviewing lawyers and sitting in courtrooms just to watch - but there's something fun about throwing yourself in the water and learning by doing.
There's something about driving through Texas, and it's hot, your skin is sticking to you. The environment affects your attitude and your swagger.
My siblings are so talented. My sister's a producer, and my brothers and I all write.
They did laugh; they did fall in love. And while they were under incredibly oppressive conditions, they constantly were trying to steal pleasures. When you go back to the slave narratives, and you read books like the 'Bullwhip Days' or 'Incidents in the Life of the Slave Girl,' they will share what life was like, and it's a 365-degree view.
We used to play touch football, where you put the little rag in your pocket. I was good because I was fast. I wasn't the greatest at catching. Sometimes the ball would come so hard and fast that it'd knock the wind out of me.
I've always been proud that I come from people who were activists, who have this indomitable spirit. I am proud to have inherited the spirit of resistance and revolution.
The lullaby my husband puts our son to sleep with is so random. It's 'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough' by Michael Jackson.
As women, I think we give so much of ourselves.
I like the idea of matchmaking; I'm just not very good at it. It's too much pressure!
With film, there's a consistency to it, but what I like about the TV shows that I've been fortunate to do, like 'Friday Night Lights' and 'True Blood,' is that it feels like you're doing a film.
I'm very grateful to have been able to work with so many talented filmmakers and actors during my career. I've learned so much from them. It's been my college, in a way.
I have respect for therapists in general, because they hear so many stories. It's a lot to hold and take in.
My mom is from New Orleans. And all of my maternal relatives were there during Katrina. We couldn't even find my uncle for four months. We literally didn't know where he was. I had been there just four days before the storm hit.
Until we really heal the wounds that we dealt with during slavery, I don't think we'll be a fully realized country.
I'm very opinionated and passionate when it comes to my characters.
We all try to pretend we're the person we want to be when we're really not, and you've just gotta be willing to say, 'Here are all my flaws; here's who I am - take it or leave it. If you love me still, then let's do this.'
I don't know if I would be doing what I do without 'Eve's Bayou,' and I don't know if I would have the career that I have without working on 'Eve's Bayou.' The love for what I do, I found it in that project.
My dream role is actually behind the camera. I want to direct.
I want to tell human stories not solely based on race. There are so many great actresses and actors that are out there, and I just want to see them do good work.
Far too often, I read a script where the girls are the girlfriend or the set dressing.
We got spoiled with 'Friday Night Lights.' Not every show is like that, and on other shows, if you try to bring that same truth or that same approach, the system of television doesn't always allow for that level of collaboration, which is unfortunate because the work would be richer.
Part of an ensemble show is realizing it's a collaboration. It's like a symphony. Everybody takes their turn, but it's really the collective group that matters.
'Full House' was the first time I had ever been in front of a live audience. I said a line I had rehearsed with my mom, and they laughed. It was wild. To have that energy of the live audience was like, Whaaat? Feeding off that live audience was, to a 4 or 5 year old, a high.
I'm told I'm a statistic. I'm told that my young black sisters are disease-ridden... but we are greater than what society tells us we are.
I always told my representatives, 'Look, I come from the 'School of Janet' - that's my mom - she raised me to know that I'm more than just set dressing.
There's something about Jason Katims' writing that just feels like home to me. He gives you so much liberty to play, which you don't find on most TV shows. You just don't.
I wouldn't be able to tackle a character like Rosalee on 'Underground' without having tackled the many characters I've played before.