You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Niecy Nash on Finding the Funny After Tragedy and Walk of Fame Connection With Ed Asner

Few kids have their professional lives mapped out before they reach their preteens, but when a 5-year-old Niecy Nash saw Lola Falana in her “long black dress and eyelashes like butterflies,” she turned to her grandmother and said, “I want to be black, fabulous and on television.”

So four years later, when she spotted “a man she knew from TV” while visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame with her father, she had no qualms about approaching him. That man was Ed Asner, and Nash yelled after him to remember her name, because one day it would be etched onto one of the stars she was standing on.

It took a few decades, but on July 11 Nash’s childhood prophecy comes true as she receives a star commemorating a career that has included such shows as “Reno 911!,” “Getting On” and her newest series, “Claws” on TNT.

It’s a full-circle moment for the actress following years of hard work, paying it forward and always having the self-confidence to stay true to herself.

“I never forgot that moment with Ed Asner. I knew early on what I know right now,” she says. “I was always very clear about my purpose. Time, maturation, seasoning and opportunity all had to catch up with what I knew. So the knowing it was never a question; when it was going to manifest was a whole other conversation.”

After her Walk of Fame achievement was announced, Asner sent Nash a card with a star on it and her name inside, she continues. Inside it, he wrote, “Of course I know your name,” she says. “And I just cried like a baby.”

Nash may have had the confidence, but finding the opportunity to pursue those dreams was another matter. Nearly two decades ago, after she gave birth to her third child, she turned to her then-husband, Don, and outlined a plan for finally giving acting a real go.

“I said, ‘three times in my life I’ve given my body over for nine months, for somebody else. I would love the opportunity to have nine months just for me. To pursue my dream full out, and to be diligent about it,’” she says, recalling that she promised to return to work if it didn’t pan out.

And so she booked auditions and dragged her preschool kids with her, putting acting back in sight. “Seven or eight” months later she had landed the home-makeover show “Clean House,” (for which she won a producing Emmy), had booked “Reno 911!,” and been hired to recur on “The Bernie Mac Show” as the titular comic’s sister.

What Nash didn’t predict for herself was the steep comedic path into which she’d unexpectedly veer. As a young actress, Nash auditioned for dramatic roles, but no one would hire her.

“People would tell me I was so funny and I would get offended,” she recalls. And then on the day before her 23rd birthday tragedy struck when her brother was murdered at an L.A. high school campus.

“My mother went into a deep depression, and the only thing I knew at that young age was [that] I could make my mama laugh. I performed at the foot of her bed every day, and she went from laying down in the bed to sitting up. And then from sitting up in the bed to inviting neighbors from across the street to come and watch me perform,” she continues.

“When I realized that comedy was a gift, I went outside and I said, ‘I’m Niecy Nash and I’m funny.’ And people said, ‘Little girl, yes, you are. Get over here.’”

Finding the positive in an impossible situation seems to be Nash’s other gift. In an industry full of “high highs and low lows,” she’s the first to tell others about an audition in hopes of paying it forward, and when she does book a gig, she ensures someone else she knows gets a job out of it, too. That may be the reason she’s appeared in myriad guest-starring, recurring and ensemble roles over the years, from short stints on “Modern Family” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” to longer gigs on “Scream Queens,” “Masters of Sex” and “The Mindy Project.”

“I’ve never gotten a job and not gotten somebody else a job once I got that job, ever,” she says. “There are always going to be a number of reasons why you don’t book: too big, too thin, too light, too dark, too much, too whatever. My assignment is to be of service. My job is what I do, but my ‘who’ is to be an extension of God’s love and his grace in the world. If I get a job, other people I know should benefit and eat because of it. That’s just the way I do it and I think because I’ve always moved that way it keeps coming back to me.”

In 2013 things came full circle once again when Nash booked the role of Didi Ortley on HBO’s “Getting On.” Although the series is classified as a comedy, it was the first time Nash was finally allowed out of her usual “lane” to test-drive more dramatic material. She credits executive producers Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer for their “philosophy that people who can make you laugh can also make you cry,” and casting her in the role that landed her back-to-back Emmy nominations, a part in Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” and now her first leading role on “Claws.”

“So many things have happened as a result of being in a different part of the industry, including my first leading role,” she says. “I worked my way up the call sheet, but this is the first time my name has a one in front of it. And I like it.”

As for Asner? He plans on attending the ceremony if production on his current New York-based project allows. Nash she says she’ll “take one of my mama’s nerve pills and cry my freaking eyes out” if he does show up, but if not, the legacy of what she’s being honored with isn’t lost on her, and she may cry anyhow.

“Living in gratitude has been my biggest takeaway in the business,” she says. “It’s one thing to have a dream and it’s another thing to live long enough to see it manifest. This is happening in my mom’s lifetime. My grandmother is still living; my daddy is around. To be able to share it with people whom you love and who have supported you along the way is just … I am beyond grateful.”

More TV

  • "Raven's Home" Executive Producer, Eunetta Boone.

    Eunetta Boone, Showrunner and Creator of 'One on One,' Dies at 63

    Writer-producer Eunetta Boone, creator of the UPN comedy “One on One” and showrunner of Disney Channel’s “Raven’s Home,” died Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 63. Boone was found dead at her home of an apparent heart attack. Boone had most recently worked as showrunner on the third season of the Disney [...]

  • Global Sales for ‘Les Miserables’ Series

    Global Sales for ‘Les Miserables’ Starring Dominic West Ahead of Series Mania

    The BBC and Masterpiece adaptation of “Les Miserables” will play on a numerous international channels after a raft of deals were sealed for the series, which features Dominic West, David Oyelowo, and Lily Collins. Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic has been acquired by broadcasters in Scandinavia and southern Europe, and by several buyers [...]

  • Kevin Hart

    TV News Roundup: Kevin Hart Netflix Comedy Special Drops First Trailer

    In today’s roundup, Netflix releases the official trailer for the comedy special “Kevin Hart: Irresponsible” and Josh Charles joins Showtime’s Roger Ailes series “The Loudest Voice.” DATES Season two of “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, will premiere on Paramount Network on June 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The sophomore season will continue the story of rancher John Dutton [...]

  • adidas game of thrones

    5 New 'Game of Thrones' Collaborations Coming in Time for the Final Season

    Some of the biggest lifestyle brands in the world are jumping on the “Game of Thrones” bandwagon this spring, hoping to capitalize on the fandom and popularity of the HBO hit, as it enters its eighth and final season. From sneakers to spirits, these officially-licensed collaborations extend the characters and colors of the show beyond [...]

  • Nicole Richie

    Nicole Richie Joins Fox Comedy Pilot 'Richard Lovely'

    Nicole Richie has been cast in a series regular role in the Fox single-cam comedy pilot “Richard Lovely.” The project follows Richard Lovely (Thomas Lennon), the disgruntled author of the best-selling children’s book series, “Mr. Mouse.” He doesn’t hate children, but rather just everything about them. After a publicity fiasco involving an unexpectedly savvy 9-year-old [...]

  • Gabrielle Union Marketing Summit

    Gabrielle Union on Building a Brand as a ‘40-Year-Old Black Woman From Nebraska’

    When New York & Company approached Gabrielle Union to be their new brand ambassador and the face of her own clothing line, the actress reacted with “disbelief.” “We are not supposed to be getting those offers, I’m not supposed to be having a career resurgence, my value isn’t supposed to be this high,” Union explained [...]

  • Lachlan Murdoch

    New Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch Announces All Employees to Receive Stock in Company

    The new standalone entity Fox Corp. held a town hall on Thursday, just over a day after the official closing of the 21st Century Fox-Disney merger. Fox Corp. chairman and CEO Lachlan Murdoch led the meeting, at which sources say he announced that all employees would receive stock in the new company. The amount of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content