×

Listen: Niecy Nash on How ‘Getting On’ Convinced Hollywood She Could Mix Comedy With Drama

Audiences first got to know Niecy Nash as a comedic actress on shows like “Reno 911.” But the short-lived HBO series “Getting On,” which mixed comedy with plenty of drama, gave Nash a chance to show off another side of her acting skills — something that she’s since put on display in the TNT comedic drama “Claws” and the Netflix limited series “When They See Us.”

“I spent a lot of time in my career being told that I could only do one thing,” Nash told Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode” podcast. “You do broad comedy, that’s your lane. And I’m like, no, I can do something else. When I finally got the opportunity, this was the first time to step into those waters. Tonally, it was so different for me. Visually was very different from me. I do a lot of TV where I have on five packs of hair, three pairs of eyelashes, and 45 Spanx. But this was a very stripped-down character.”

Nash chose the premiere episode of “Getting On,” titled “Born on the Fourth of July,” as her favorite ever. Written by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer and directed by Miguel Arteta, the pilot episode introduces DiDi Ortley (Nash) on her first day as a nurse at the Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit.

“People who can make you laugh can make you cry,” Nash said. “It’s not the other way around. When you look at the work that Robin Williams did, and Jim Carrey and some of the people who we consider to be our comedy greats, like Carol Burnett, when they took that turn and did drama, everybody was like, ‘Wait a minute!’ It took a while, but I’m very blessed to be able to thread the needle.”

As the episode opens, DiDi must learn the ropes from fellow nurse Dawn Forchette (Alex Borstein) — while also encountering the eccentric Dr. Jenna James (Laurie Metcalf) and her bizarre fecal study.

On this edition of the podcast, we sit down with Nash to talk about her two Emmy contenders, “When They See Us” and of course, “Claws,” and began by talking about the lasting impact of “Getting On.” Listen below:

CREDIT: HBO

“Getting On,” which ran from 2013 to 2015, earned Nash two Emmy nominations for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series, and she said the show was a game-changer for her.

“There wasn’t a place on television for our actors and actresses of a certain age to go and still get work,” she said. “Laurie, Alex and myself are all women of a certain age, and then you have women and men significantly older than us, that could still come and get a great guest star part.”

Unfortunately, “Getting On” only lasted three seasons, with just six episodes each.

“‘Getting On’ wasn’t necessarily shiny enough in the moment that it was on,” Nash said. “Big shows were coming out of HBO at the time, ‘Ballers’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ and all of these big loud shows and this was just a tiny small little thing, which probably should have been on a streaming service.”

But after “Getting On,” Nash’s phone began ringing with different kinds of opportunities. Ava DuVernay cast her in “Selma” after seeing her on the show, and it also led to a guest arc for Nash on “The Mindy Project” and the lead role on “Claws.”

“The thing that I love about [‘Claws’] the most is watching women do things that were typically reserved for men,” Nash said. “You would not be surprised to see men selling drugs for the Dixie mafia or committing crimes for their families, a la Tony Soprano or ‘Breaking Bad.’ Now you get to see women who are badass. Who boss up, who don’t all look like each other, but have a common thread of wanting more out of life by any means necessary.”

As for “When They See Us,” Nash lauded DuVernay for providing a crisis counseling number during production, and she remains moved by her work on the miniseries and its depiction of the five young men who were wrongfully convicted. Nash plays Delores Wise, the mother of Corey Wise, one of the men who was exonerated in the “Central Park Five” case.

“The real Corey Wise saw all four episodes,” Nash said, “and he came up to me and he said, ‘you were my mother.’ That was the best compliment I could get.”

After filming “When They See Us,” Nash said she got involved as an ambassador for the Innocence Project.

“As soon as we wrapped filming I was like, this cannot stop here,” she said. “Now I’m grateful that they get a chance to have their story being told.”

Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode With Michael Schneider” is where stars and producers gather to discuss their favorite TV episodes ever — from classic sitcoms to modern-day dramas — as well as pick a favorite episode from their own series. On “My Favorite Episode,” some of the biggest names in TV share their creative inspirations — and how those episodes influenced them.

Be sure to subscribe to “My Favorite Episode” on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, Soundcloud or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week. 

More TV

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolosnaro attends the

    Bolsonaro Threatens Brazil’s Central Film Fund with Censorship or Closure

    In typical shoot-from-the-hip remarks, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has declared that Ancine, Brazil’s powerful state-backed federal film agency, should accept “filters”or face closure. “If it can’t have a filter, we’ll close Ancine, or privatize it,” Bolsonaro added, attacking Ancine, which plows some $300 million a year into Brazil’s film and TV industries, for supporting [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    CBS Stations Go Dark on AT&T's DirecTV, U-verse Platforms Amid Contract Battle

    CBS’ 28 O&O stations are going dark for about 6.6 million subscribers of AT&T’s DirecTV and U-verse platforms as the Eye and AT&T battle over a new retransmission consent contract. The blackout affects CBS and CW-affiliated stations in 14 major markets including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Also off the air are the CBS [...]

  • Orlando Bloom Comic Con Immigrant San

    Orlando Bloom Claims San Diego Mayor Ran From Comic-Con Exhibit Featuring Immigrant Characters

    Did an immigration storyline cause Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer to run out of Amazon Prime Video’s Comic-Con activation this week? According to “Carnival Row” star Orlando Bloom, that’s exactly what happened. At Amazon’s “Carnival Row” panel, Bloom told the audience that Faulconer stopped by the Prime Video activation and chose the “Carnival Row” [...]

  • 'Game of Thrones' Cast Calls Final

    'Game of Thrones' Cast Calls Final Season Backlash 'Media-Led Hate Campaign'

    What is life like now after “Game of Thrones?” That’s the question that fans have been asking themselves and that cast members had to answer at the show’s final Comic-Con panel. But first, Conleth Hill, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and several others cleared the air and addressed the perceived negative response to the final season. “I don’t [...]

  • SDCC Roundup: AMC Drops 'The Walking

    SDCC TV News Roundup: AMC Releases 'The Walking Dead' Season 10 Trailer (Watch)

    San Diego Comic-Con has become a hotbed of entertainment news in recent years, especially for the television industry. In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, AMC dropped a trailer for the 10th season of “The Walking Dead” and FX released a first look at “Mayans MC” Season 2. FIRST LOOKS AMC debuted the trailer for Season [...]

  • ARCHER: 1999 -- "Cubert" -- Season

    'Archer' Renewed for Season 11 at FXX

    “Archer” has been picked up for an eleventh season. The announcement was made Friday at San Diego Comic-Con. The news comes less than a week ahead of the Season 10 finale. Season 11 is slated to debut on FXX in 2020. While the show initially focused on the agents and support staff of a covert [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content