MADAMENOIRE recently chatted with the one and only Wendy Raquel Robinson.
As a Best Actress NAACP Image Award recipient and a 2021 Emmy-nominated executive producer, Robinson has a diverse body of both TV and film credits beneath her belt. Notable roles include her time as Regina Grier on The Steve Harvey Show and her history-making role as the first African American actress to portray Disney’s iconic villain Cruella DeVille in Descendants. She’s also appeared in countless other productions, including Dear White People, Grey’s Anatomy, The Parkers, Insecure, Miss Congeniality and Two Can Play That Game.
However, for many fans, none of the other characters Robinson has played will top Tasha Mack from the football-focused dramedy The Game.
Robinson played Tasha Mack for over nine seasons as the show has been picked up, canceled, brought back and changed broadcasting networks. Regardless, Robinson never faltered when it came to portraying Tasha’s witty, hilarious and sharp sensibility as the character navigated managing her football star son’s success, her career, love and life.
The show wrapped up Season 9 in 2015, but early this year, MADAMENOIRE reported that it was making another comeback — its third.
Read all the details Robinson shared about The Game‘s return and watch both old and new episodes of the series via Paramount+.
MADAMENOIRE: Fans revere The Game as such a cultural snapshot of the times from when it first aired. It really explored topics relevant to the Black community through the lens of its plot, which circled the professional football world.
When it comes to the show’s latest chapter, how do you feel the series has been modified for where we are now culturally in 2021?
Wendy Raquel Robinson: I think we’re holding up a mirror to America — not just Black America — but a mirror to America as a whole.
With Tasha for example, we talk about her being a female in a male-dominated world that’s still trying to get high-profile clients. But they’re not sure about her because she’s a woman, and they think she doesn’t have the balls to get everything done.
We talk about mental health and how it can be taboo, although we see when something’s wrong with somebody in our family, but as a society, we often dismiss it and let it go.
We talk about hairism and racism and not being able to be an owner of a football team as a Black person for years even though it’s a pretty much Black-dominated sport. What is that about?
This season is all about second chances. Everybody is digging themselves up and trying to find their purpose. So it’s bigger than just The Game. It’s the game of life.
MN: And so for your character, Tasha Mack, what was it like reprising that role?
Robinson: It was intimidating [laughs]! But it’s been exciting too. She’s such a firecracker. Coming back was like putting on a new pair of shoes or riding a bike again. It all came back to me.
I was so ambivalent about returning to Tasha because, as an actress, I didn’t want to get stuck in a little box of how people view me on-screen.
But it’s amazing. The writers have expanded that “box” of Tasha into something that is just beyond.
When I look at soap opera stars like Susan Lucci — someone who played her role for 30 something years — what a wonderful gift as an actor to portray a character through all these different journeys and chapters in our lives.
MN: As you mentioned, Tasha’s such an iconic character. How has she evolved and what can viewers expect from her?
Robinson: When I started with Tasha, she was figuring out her dating phase and why she couldn’t keep a man. At the same time, she was managing her son and his career and living vicariously through him.
Now, Tasha’s really found her own voice, her own foundation, her own balance — even though she’s still juggling to keep that balance even.
She’s also the mother of a beautiful eight-year-old daughter, so viewers get to see motherhood through a new lens for her.
Just seeing her over that 18-year arch has been a wild ride. She’s found her purpose.
Tasha’s like mom, auntie, sister, cousin and friend — I feel like I’m a little bit of “I’m Every Woman” to everybody when I play her.
What’s very interesting is that they are people who tell me, “I’m watching the show now with my grandkids, girl! It hits different!” [laughs]. When those fans were younger and watching the show versus now looking back and binging the show, they’re seeing an episode and thinking about where they were in their lives the first time they watched. They think about Tasha and where she was as a character. It’s such a different perspective.
MN: And what does that longevity of Tasha Mack and The Game for the fans mean to you?
Robinson: Without me getting emotional, it’s really so humbling. I’m so grateful and appreciative of this opportunity. It’s like a “pinch me” moment because it’s unprecedented that a show has come back three different times.
To have this type of longevity and still have the fanfare and hype — I feel like the excitement has gotten even higher this time around.
This inclination of the show is definitely one of the highlights of my career — let alone of the character Tasha Mack. And I’ve done some amazing things during my time in the industry, but seeing the support we’re getting from Paramount+ and the positive feedback has been great.
MN: What has that feedback been like?
Robinson: When you put yourself out there on the front lines — and that’s one of the things I mentioned to Hosea [Chanchez] when the idea of us returning came up — you have to just hold hands and jump.
I wasn’t trying to get thrown under the bus [laughs]! You know, cause certain people weren’t coming back to the show, and I know the fans loved all of the original cast.
It’s been scary, so scary. But now it’s just so gratifying. I feel like I’m living my dream come true.
I’m trying not to cry, but I’m just smelling the roses, and they smell so divine. These three inclinations are like a trilogy, so I know it’s divine.
MN: That’s so beautiful. We love that for you! As you said, The Game has such loyal fans —
Robinson: — that will LOVE the new season or HATE it! And they will let us know [laughs]!
Yeah, I read the comments — I read what people have to say [laughs].
MN: Well, exactly, let’s just keep it real [laughs]. A big part of why fans love The Game so much is because of its cast. From the latest trailer and MN’s past coverage, we know favorites like Melanie, Derwin and the Pitts won’t be in this new season much, if at all.
How do you think those absences were navigated?
Robinson: I think things were navigated very cleverly. Viewers might not see all of the Pitts, but they get two out of the three. Their daughter Brittany is in this season, and Jason comes through with his little bobblehead.
You might not get “Med school” [aka Melanie], but you do get “new school — you know? I don’t want to say too much, but we have just enough to keep the show familiar while keeping it fresh.
MN: To wrap up, we’d love to hear anything you can share about an episode you filmed for this season that was particularly special to you.
Robinson: This season — I’ll get emotional if I talk about it — there’s a very special episode that talks about hairism in the Black community. I believe it’s number five or six within the season.
It’s beyond texturism. It’s about “I am more than my hair.” It’s about “My hair doesn’t define me.”
The episode unpacks an event between my daughter and me that’s really powerful. It changes the trajectory of what Tasha Mack’s true ambition is about — it changes course. Like we’re not just going to do football, we’re going to do a whole lot more. And the catalyst of it all is hair.
It’s going to be so powerful and so socially relevant — it’s going to strike a chord with so many women. I’m so proud of that episode.