Niecy Nash On Role In ABC’s ‘The Rookie’ And Visibility In Hollywood  –


Niecy Nash’s longstanding career includes an array of characters across television and film that are brought to life by her effervescent personality and undeniable talent. After decades in the industry, the 52-year-old actress has entered a new era in her personal life as her career continues to elevate.

Glowing in love and life following her August 2020 marriage to Jessica Betts, whom she refers to as her “better half,” Nash has new projects, new partnerships, and new goals ahead of her.

“Listen, I said when I got married, I told my better half… You talk about the things you want and all these deep conversations, I said, “Can I just be real?” And she was like, “Yeah.” And I said, “I just want to make love all around the world. Stamps in these passports. “Let’s get it,” she lightheartedly shared with VIBE during a morning chat in early April.

We met the Claws star at a Beverly Hills hotel to discuss her new partnership with IHOP as she filmed promotional material and completed press for the tasty venture. There, we discussed her upcoming programs, representation in Hollywood, and more.

This interview had been edited for length and clarity.

VIBE: I know The Rookie is coming out soon. How was it working on that? What can fans expect from you there?

I had a good time on The Rookie. It was so much fun. I can’t get away from playing somebody in law enforcement if I tried, but I had a really good time. I play a character named Simone Clark. She’s spicy, she’s funny, she’s passionate, but she’s a little unconventional. So, she is having a tough time doing it the FBI way, because she wants to do it her way. And so, her bosses are like, “Get in with the program.” And she’s very much like, “But I finished the job, so what difference does it make how I got it done?” I had a really good time playing her.

What else are you currently working on that you can share with us?

I’m the new host of Don’t Forget the Lyrics! Wayne Brady used to host it. I’m hosting it and executive producing it now. I was very, very happy that my better half got to work with me on it, because she’s a member of the band. That was good times filming that. And it’s so great to give people bags and bags of money after we’ve gone through such a hard time with this pandemic. When I wrapped it, I just cried because I was so happy. So many people needed that money. And I’m like, “Well, if you know these lyrics, I’m going to give it to you.” So that was a good time, and that’ll be coming out on the 23rd of May.

Are there any types of roles that you haven’t done yet that you would like to add to your resume?

That’s a good question. Even though I’ve done a lot, I think there’s still a lot I haven’t done. And I’m interested in new things. I don’t like playing the same type of thing over and over. I had an opportunity to play somebody who was really mean, and schedule-wise, it didn’t work out. But that would’ve been so delicious because I’m always a good time and so fun in a lot of things. So, to be somebody who was completely opposite of myself, that would’ve been something interesting to play.

Do you think you would’ve had any major difficulties tapping into that… just being mean?

You know what? I feel like the major difficulty comes if the job is long. Because then, part of that bakes into you. And maybe even sometimes, your character could have a vernacular that’s not yours, but because you’ve lived in it for six months out of the year for five years, when you’re not at work, you can borrow some things from your character that you should have left on the page. But sometimes you learn beautiful things from a character, and then they change you as a person for the better. It can work both ways. So, you just got to be careful.

How do you feel the industry has grown since you’ve entered the industry, as far as representing different types of romance, different types of people of different types of backgrounds and looks…just different types of everything?

I feel like there’s a lot broader visibility. You can see it in commercials, with body types, with same-gender relationships, even skin tones. I just feel like it’s a lot broader than it used to be. Even my character on The Rookie, she would identify as fluid. She dates men and women in the series. So, I think that we have definitely come a long way. There’s always new ground to be gained, but visibility right now, you can pretty much go on a streamer or a regular TV and find yourself. And I think that is the most beautiful part about it.

niecy nash jessica betts on Oscars red carpet

Jessica Betts and Niecy Nash attend the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on March 27, 2022 in Hollywood, California.
Mike Coppola/Getty Images

What do you think that creators—not just the people on the screen, but also the people writing, the people directing, the people producing—what do you think they can do better or do more of to make sure that visibility doesn’t just stay on screen and impacts real-life? 

I think the gift is [the] people behind the camera. I think it’s people in the writer’s rooms,. I think it’s decisions by executives to be reflective of the real world. Because you might want to live in a certain world, but this is the one you got. And we don’t know about another lifetime because nobody ever came back from the other side to tell us, but if they did… You see what I’m saying? We don’t know because they haven’t, but I just think making projects that looks like the real world is where you’re going to win.

How do you think that responsibility spreads across Hollywood? Is it up to talent like you to decline certain roles? Is it opening the writers’ rooms to people who might not come from legacy institutions? 

I feel like it’s a shared community, and I feel like whatever your walk is in that community, we all play a part. Whether it’s you inviting somebody to think differently in a writer’s room, or a network directive that says “We want this diverse and inclusive in color, in gender, in life choice.” I think we all play a part.

I know that for me, when I was filming Claws, we had a role of a woman who was getting her nails done and she had lines in it. And as the lead of the show, I said, “I know this was written for a woman, but I know a guy who I think would be fantastic in this part.” They gave him [Nicco Annan] the job and you would probably know him best as Uncle Clifford from P-Valley. But I saw it before that network saw it. And said, “This guy has something. Switch this out and let him come and just be who he is in this salon.” They loved it so much, they invited him back. So, we can all play a part in the thing.


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