Jasmine Guy will again step into the role of Patricia—Quinn’s wealthy mother, who wants her daughter to settle down and let go of her dream of becoming a designer—in Tracy Oliver’s comedy “Harlem,” which was renewed for a second season on Prime Video. The series is also executive produced by Dave Becky, Kim Lessing, Pharrell Williams, and Mimi Valdés.
Here’s a question: what’s not to love about the Jasmine Guy? To begin, there’s something comforting about the sound of Guy’s voice because the second she greeted me, I was tossed back to a different time, a happier period when the television series “A Different World” ruled the airwaves.
The original series, a spin-off of “The Cosby Show,” aired for six seasons on NBC, from 1987 to 1993, followed by a healthy syndication deal. The series focused on Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet) and the life of students at Hillman College, a fictional historically Black college in Virginia. It was inspired by student life at historically Black colleges and universities. Once Bonet departed, the remainder of the series primarily focused more on Southern belle Whitley Gilbert-Wayne (Jasmine Guy) and math whiz Dwayne Cleophus Wayne (Kadeem Hardison).
Here’s a link to a YouTube clip. Just close your eyes and let the voice of Mrs. Whitley Gilbert-Wayne take you down memory lane.
Guy is a busy woman and although she kicked ass and took names in the aforementioned iconic series, she’s done more than just shape a single, legendary character. In fact, she never let a single blade of grass grow under her lovely feet.
Currently, she’s lending her creative energy to the aforementioned “Harlem.” Her other credits include “Vanished: Searching for My Sister,” a movie for Lifetime; she stars in a new feature film “The Lady Makers,” which is currently available on Amazon Prime; and she recently completed filming “Not Just Another Church Movie” and “A Wesley Family Christmas,” a holiday-themed feature film slated for release this winter.
Guy’s long list of television credits includes her recent multi-episode role in “Grey’s Anatomy,” Showtime’s “Dead Like Me,” HBO’s “America Me,” BET’s “The Quad,” the CW’s “Vampire Diaries,” NBC’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and the CBS miniseries “Queen” and “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” In 2019, she starred in the Oscar-nominated short film “My Nephew Emmett” and HBO’s short film “Irreconcilable.” Jasmine’s other film credits include “October Baby,” Spike Lee’s “School Daze,” Eddie Murphy’s “Harlem Nights,” and “Diamond Men.”
A trained performer, Jasmine started as a dancer, performing with The Alvin Ailey Repertory Company and appearing in “Grease” (as Rizzo), “Leader of the Pack,” “The Wiz,” and “Chicago” (as Velma Kelly). On stage in Atlanta, she starred in the Alliance Theatre production of Pearl Cleage’s “The Nacirema Society,” Theatrical Outfit’s production of Sam Shepard’s “Fool For Love” (with Kenny Leon), and she has starred in Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre productions of “Miss Evers’ Boys,” “Blues for an Alabama Sky” and “Broke-ology.” She has directed productions of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf,” “Brownie Points,” and the Martin Luther King Jr. opera “I Dream.”
As an author, she wrote “Evolution of a Revolutionary” (Atria Books), about the life and times of Afeni Shakur, Black activist and mother of slain rapper Tupac Shakur. As a vocalist, Jasmine has enjoyed performing on Broadway stages in musicals and has toured the country in the one-woman show “Raisin’ Cane” with the Avery Sharpe Trio, which explores the literature, music and political climate of the Harlem Renaissance, the rich decade between World War I and the Great Depression.
A woman in demand, she now travels the country sharing her vast and diverse experiences with people from all walks of life, speaking at colleges, universities, conventions, conferences, and leading workshops on diversity, acting, and living out your dreams and aspirations, and staying true to your calling.
Here is what actor/author/producer/dancer (and soon-to-be children’s book author) Jasmine Guy had to share about her life and career.
Jasmine Guy: I like your name. It sounds very musical.
AmNews: Wow. Your voice. It takes me back. Growing up, did you have a show or a favorite song that connected you to happier times?
JG: Of course!
AmNews: Well, you are that voice for me. Your character, Mrs. Whitley Gilbert-Wayne, takes me way back to my $750 a month, three-bedroom apartment in Harlem. So you know, that’s way-way back.
JG: Well, thank you, that means a lot. [said, in the perfect, Mrs. Whitley Gilbert-Wayne voice]. I used to live in Harlem myself.
AmNews: Harlem’s changing. Follow me on social media and I will show you. Yup, I am going to show you just how much.
JG: (laughing) Ok. I will.
AmNews: Question. Did you know that you would be stepping into television history and becoming a cultural touchstone?
JG: No. I had no idea. I was such a gypsy when I got this part. And I was, you know, young, so thinking ahead, six months was a lot.
AmNews: You didn’t know the power of the show?
JG: No, not until the show was over did I realize just how powerful the show was, and it cut across the board. Young people. Kids going to college, and that families were able to watch the show [“A Different World”] together. On this show, we addressed a lot of important issues, and it gave parents and people a lot to talk about. Things that were not easy to talk about. It was a great vehicle for people to talk about those heavier issues.
AmNews: Listen. I want to tell you that you created an iconic character in television history not unlike Archie Bunker, or Rhoda, Martin, or Seinfield. You did that.
JG: Thank you.
AmNews: I suspect you grew up around strong, creative people. Am I right?
JG: Actually, my father taught at Morehouse College for 35 years, so my sister and I used that campus as our personal playground, riding our bikes through the school, we knew all of the buildings and dorms. It was a great experience. But I didn’t realize when I got to LA how disconnected the West coast was from Black colleges. I thought it was natural to be connected to these institutions, and these powerful, directed, and intelligent Black people. That’s why when now-President Barack Obama was running, I was like, ‘Why did they keep acting like he’s this unique?’ He’s not a unicorn.
AmNews: Hey. I hope you don’t think I am weird but are you a children’s book author?
JG: That’s funny. I do love children’s books. I keep buying them. They’re so beautiful. Especially the artwork that they use. You know, I didn’t have these choices when I was growing up or when my daughter was small. She’s 23 but I keep buying children’s books.
AmNews: Jasmine Guy. It’s a sign. Step into the circle. Write your first children’s book. I will check in with you to interview you for the upcoming Christmas movie. I love those.
JG: Let’s do it.