Alfre Woodard Speaks Passionately of South African Democracy

December 22, 2010 by  

A Cause Dear to Her Heart

Alfre Woodard and Nelsan EllisRecently Alfre Woodard, who plays Lafayette’s mother, Ruby Jean Reynolds on HBO‘s True Blood, appeared on the Smiley & West radio show to express her passion and concern for for South Africa.

Woodard, who grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, talked first of the sense of community growing up in the mainly African area and how it has led to her activism in South Africa.

Artists for a New South Africa:

Woodard, who is not only portrays Lafayette’s institutionalized mother on True Blood, but appears on ‘Memphis Beat’ on the TNT network, also serves on the board of Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA).

She explains that she grew up with a strong sense of purpose due to the political and changing climate of the time, as well as her Catholic beliefs. She explained that this led to her need to help others less fortunate than herself.

And this is where Artists for a New South Africa steps in for Woodard with their anti-apartheid support.  The group was originally a grassroots way for people to spread information about South Africa and their needs through their own communities.  Woodard was able to do this even though she claimed she had ‘no community’.

It turned out that the whole country was her community as an actor. ANSA started to hold press conferences using the theory that if you got three actors together, people would listen, regardless of what they were saying.

Woodard then talks about how South Africa is going with its new democracy. She talks of descending crime syndicates as well as trying to bridge the vast difference between the haves and have-nots.

Alfre and Acting:

It is amazing that Woodard can find the time for her political activism with all her other activities. She has starred in such shows as The Practice, LA Law and Hill Street Blues. She has won four Emmys and been nominated for an Academy Award for‘ Cross Creek‘.

Interviewer Cornell West wanted to know how Woodard blended all her artistic endeavors with all the finer details of her activism. She responded with:

You missed the most important job I have – raising children.

Woodard is the proud mother of Mavis, 19, and Duncan, 16. She goes on to explain:

Love is exponential.  When you act out of good motives… energy comes to you. Sometime you burn out…but I love going to work.

She calls her work art, regardless of what it is, whether it be two lines of script or a main character. This is because she sees herself as coming from a long line of storytellers. She relates it back to being African American and telling stories around a fire in order to reach out to people.

Life in LA:

Woodard claims she is always happy to get home to LA and particularly Southern California because she now calls this area her own. For all the shallowness, she states, there is just something special about California. Even as a small child she said she wanted to live there. She puts it all down to the fact that in California:

You have the ability to be whoever you want to be, which leads to tolerance of others.

Which in turns leads her back to the belief that a democracy is important. For both America and for her beloved South Africa.

The full interview can be viewed here.

Source: Smiley & West – Actress Alfre Woodard takes us inside her work for South African democracy

(Photo Credit: HBO, Inc.)