Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Up Close and Personal with Robin Givens

Ever since the day she appeared as the fresh-face Darlene Merriman on the sitcom Head of the Class in the late 80’s, Robin Givens has captured the attention of viewers everywhere. Aside from her highly publicized marriage and divorce to the troubled former heavy-weight champion Mike Tyson, Givens has gone above and beyond to prove that she is much more than just “Mike Tyson’s ex”.

Now with an impressive resume of successful films to her credit and a plethora of hit stage performances to boot, Ms. Givens has returned to Detroit for another theatrical venture. While visiting the Motor City in preparation for her role as Cat Jones in Church Girl, the new stage play by Detroit’s own Angela Barrow Dunlap, Shop Talk got a chance to catch with her to find out more about the roles she plays on stage and in real life.

Shop Talk: Tell me about the new play Church Girl that you’re starring in and the role you’re playing.

Robin Givens: It’s an interesting show because I think it sort of blends with what’s going on now -and its very contemporary- which is the idea that many young women consider stripping as an option for life. And then for looking at it in a larger spectrum, which is sort of a lost soul in sort of the sense of coming back to who you are and who God intended for you to be.

I play sort of, I would say, one of the main girls at this club. I mean, now she doesn’t even really take her clothes off anymore, she sort of helps this man build this business. She’s sort of like a Madame to the women.

ST: How do you keep yourself looking so great?

RG: Oh my god! Well, I do yoga. I found my yoga in Detroit; that’s the first thing I do anytime I’m traveling. You know, I’m at an age where I can’t eat anything that I want to eat, which doesn’t make me happy (laughing), but I try to stay active.

ST: Of all the roles that you’ve played, stage and otherwise, which one would you say has stretched you the most?

RG: I would say that my favorite one was my [role] in A Rage in Harlem. Once I did that, I felt…I was so happy. Imabelle, I mean I loved her and I love Bill Duke so that was a big one for me.

ST: I loved you in “The Game”. What happened to that show?

RG: I don’t know! I know that they seemed to pull it and now it’s on BET. So I don’t know if it’s still continuing with new shoots. I get asked that question constantly. People really seemed to love that show and we don’t really seem to have much out there in terms of material for us, and things for us to watch as a group of people.

ST: What is the climate like in Hollywood for Black actresses right now?

RG: I don’t know. I mean, that’s not a space where I really live. I think that in doing this for so long, I love sort of just watching young people come up. And I love my friends who, you know…Cicely Tyson has been like a mother to me and in my business and career I try to give the advice. I think that as people we’re still kind of growing and paving the road. We had MoNique win an Oscar! How exciting was that? So I think you just sort of keep at it.

ST: I read that you’re somewhat of a genius. You went to college at the age of 15?

RG: Well, that as a long time ago so I don’t know about my brain cells now (laughing), but I did go to college fairly young.

ST: What was that whole experience like?

RG: I think it was a little bit difficult. I wouldn’t encourage it. You know, then it just seemed very natural, but I think it was a time in my life when I didn’t know anything if it didn’t come in a book. And I think that life and education and being smart is much more about life. I think you kind of learn life by living it, not necessarily by reading about it.

ST: With all the media that you’ve had surrounding your life as it related to your ex-husband and (Mike Tyson) and everything, when you wrote your book “Grace Will Lead Me Home” how therapeutic was that for you?

RG: It was magnificent. And not so much regarding…my ex-husband is not something I want to talk about at all, I’m just so over it, but I think in terms of life as we try to figure out who we really are. I do believe that so much of who we are is because of the family that we’re born into, so that’s what I tried to do was really examine and really figure out: Who am I? Why did I make certain choices? When I decided to do that exploration, I began to decipher who my mother was…not only as my mother but as a woman, and then my grandmother. So I did three generations, and I think we’re far more the same person. It’s almost like, you know, a continuation; time to perfect a soul and a being. And that, for me, was quite magnificent.

ST: Have you been able to use your life experiences to help mentor other young women?

RG: I sure hope so because I’ve really tried. So I believe that so much of the way we feel, and I know it’s worked for me, is by helping other people. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense. It’s like why did I go through that? For me, kind of reaching out to other people, especially young women, and talking and help, and hopefully, being a source of encouragement has made me feel like ‘ok, that was worth it then.’ That’s what it’s about. I think often times we’re so busy worrying about what the world’s going to provide for us and God is important for my life. We’re always looking for blessings and praying please God, and we don’t realize that sometimes maybe he’s using us to bless other people. So that’s important to me.

ST: do you have any new movie projects coming up, or anything that you’re producing personally?

RG: I’m working a show with Debbie Allen where I get to play a mother. So that’s very nice. It’s called My Sister, My Parents & Me, and I just love it.

It’s an interracial couple. My character’s divorced, I have a daughter and my husband’s character is Jewish and his wife died. He has a daughter and our daughters hate each other. So I think that’s a good thing, and I love working with Debbie Allen. And then I’m hoping to shoot my book. I just sort of signed something to shoot Grace Will Lead Me Home as a movie. So that’s really important to me.

ST: Well, you’ll have to make sure that you come screen that here with us in Detroit.

RG: Yes! I love Detroit! I love the people of Detroit. I feel such warmth here. I eat way too much catfish here, but everybody’s just so warn here so it’s always very nice.
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