Fascinating Things We Learned From Erika Alexander’s Interview On “The Breakfast Club”
Her early years
“I was born in the mountains of Arizona and I lived the first 11 years of my life in a hotel called Starlight of Route 66.” Her father was a pastor but an evangelist preacher. So he would basically live off of tips from the money that was left after the pastor took his share.
Erika never went to college herself.
As brilliant as Maxine Shaw was on “Living Single,” Alexander herself never went to college. She said, “I just graduated high school and kept working because my father passed and I need to help my mother.” But her role as Maxine helped to inspire other people to pursue law, people like Marilyn Mosby and Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray.
She lost her home
“It was that bad for me. (It being the time after “Living Single” went off the air.) I would work and do guest spots and people would often say, ‘We don’t see you as much.’ Well, you don’t see me as much because there are very few parts. And the parts that we do get, they’re not paying as much.”
“We were used to dumpster diving, diving into incinerators for cans, digging though couches for money.”
Both her parents were orphans
“They met one another in church. Alexander’s grandmother was a witch and died in witchcraft.” Her father started to preach at six-years-old. Before he could even walk, he would stand up and preach and then go back to playing. He was also a healer.
About the witchcraft
Erika’s grandmother would go to the deep south to get dust to shake on top of people who would enter the restaurant. She went down one time and they said that she was all mangled up with her head in between her legs, barking like a dog.
A Reverend told her, “The Lord told me to tell you, ‘If you go back again, you’ll come back in a box.’ She said she wouldn’t go back but she eventually did and two weeks later, they brought her back in a casket.”
Alexander had joined a theater company that took her to Paris where she performed in a play that Camille Cosby ended up seeing. She told Bill that he needed to see her. Eventually, she went to a meeting at Cosby’s home and they created the role of Cousin Pam for her. While things seemed to have worked out nicely, it wasn’t the first time she’d tried to get on the hit television show.
I had already auditioned several times for The Cosby Show. They kept saying ‘Oh we’ll find a place for you.’ And by the way, back in the day, that was the only game in town. There was no other place to be.
Did she ever see anything unsettling from Cosby?
Unfortunately, he wasn’t who we all thought he was. And it was disappointing. And it’s not only regretful, it’s painful. I think I saw things that I thought were cruel at the time but I had also been raised in a cruel world. You kind of talk yourself into things like, ‘That’s how adults are.’ You kind of know in your heart that that’s much more than what you would want to see from that person.
Did he try something with her?
No! Thank God. Both my mother and sister were raped in life so I take it very seriously, allegations like that.
Church and religion
I see it as a tool to clear your mind and give you therapy when you need it but also to give us a place to cry and scream. Now, I see it as something that can be freeing. It’s not for me, not like that. I believe that no one is right but there are things that are right with [several religions.
Was “Friends” a rip off?
It was. The original name for “Living Single” was “My Girls” but it didn’t test well so they came up with some other names. “Living Single” and “Friends” were some of the names presented. Obviously they chose one and the other went to another show, also produced by Warner Bros.
A Living Single Reboot
“I think it’s great people are nostalgic for things in the past but for me I always try to be honest. If my film and television career had been a lot better, I might not have any problem dipping my toe into that water and going and doing the Max character. But for me, time is finite. We have so little time, I think I just want to see if I can do other things and see if I can get people as happy for me or into a different character in a different way. That’s my goal now. Never say never. I enjoyed them and that wouldn’t be the reason I didn’t do it.