Where Are They Now? The Black TV Moms Edition
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! To celebrate this moment, we’re bringing you some of the best TV mothers in the game.
TV mothers have always been the backbone in many series. They were the voice of reason, undying love, and would put you in place with a smile on their faces without raising their tones. So let’s go down the line with some of the best TV moms that have graced our television screens and see what they’ve been up to:
Phylicia Rashad as Clair Huxtable
I had to start this list off with one of the most iconic television moms in American History. From 1984, Clair Huxtable stole the hearts of many viewers, regardless of their age, race, or social standing. Even to this day, through the help of syndication, she continues to be a fan favorite. But her popularity wouldn’t be as substantial if it wasn’t for Phylicia Rashad.
Phylicia Rashad was the power behind Clair Huxtable, and was a power on the stage as well. She started her career in plays and musicals, as Sheryl Lee Ralph’s understudy for the character Deena Jones in Dreamgirls. She also had regular roles in television before she landed the role of Clair.
After “The Cosby Show,” Ms. Rashad continued to do what she does best, which is own every single character that she embodies. Some of the shows and movies that she has appeared in are: “A Different World,” “Little Bill,” “Touched by an Angel,” For Colored Girls, “The Cleveland Show,” Gods Behaving Badly, Frankie and Alice, and currently “Psych.”
She also made history by being the first African American woman to win the Best Actress Tony Award in 2004 by portraying Lena Young in the Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun (which she also played in the television movie), adding that to the large number of awards and nominations that she has racked up over the years. She has opened her repertoire to directing, and has directed a number of theater productions.
Esther Rolle as Florida Evans
Before there was Clair Huxtable, there was Florida Evans, the strong backbone of the Evans Clan.
Esther Rolle started off as a stage actress, and became a hit in that medium. Her popularity in her stage performances gained the attention of writer, television producer, and series creator Norman Lear who went on to create the series “Maude,” and cast Esther as Florida Evans, the housekeeper. By seeing how the audiences took to Esther, he gave her character her own spin-off, which was “Good Times.”
“Good Times” started off as a series showing a family struggling and surviving, but being comforted by the love and strength their bond brings them. However, when they began to center the show around J.J.’s character, it caused dissension for Esther Rolle and John Amos, and the two eventually left the series.
Esther came back for the final season, but after “Good Times” ended, she continued to be active in the film and television arena. Some of the many titles that she appeared in are: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, “The Love Boat,” “Singer and Sons,” Cape Fear, How to Make an American Quilt, and “Touched by an Angel.”
Her final role was the movie Train Ride, in 2000 before her death due to complications with her diabetes.
However, Esther Rolle’s generosity and good deeds continued posthumously. She requested that instead of sending flowers to her funeral, to donate to a list of organizations such as the American Diabetes Association, The Black Academy of Arts and Letters, and a number of different schools.
Ja’net Dubois as Willona Woods
Though Ja’net Dubois’s character, Willona Woods, started off as the sassy, funny, and smart neighbor to the Evans’ Clan, she got on this list when she adopted the abused Penny.
Ja’net Dubois started off in the entertainment industry as a stage actress, singer and songwriter. She wrote and sang the theme songs for shows like “The Jeffersons” and “Good Times.” Once she made an appearance on “Sanford and Son,” she caught the attention of series creator Norman Lear, who decided to cast her as Willona Woods in “Good Times.”
After “Good Times,” Ja’net Dubois continued to act, and appeared in shows and movies, such as: “A Different World,” “Sister Sister,” “The Wayans Brothers,” Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, and and won Emmys for her voice acting abilities in shows like “The PJs,” “As Told by Ginger,” and “GI Joe Renegade.” She also worked with Janet Jackson again in her “Control” music video playing her mother.
Along with acting, she is also very active in community service, by holding fundraisers, benefits, and youth events through her Dubois Cares Foundation INC. She also released an album in 2008 named “Hidden Treasures,” and she’s a very accomplished painter.
Isabel Sanford as Louise “Weezy” Jefferson
Weezy Jefferson was Yang to her husband, George Jefferson’s, Yin. The two, who started off on the popular show “All in the Family,” where George and Archie Bunker butted heads, were then given their own vehicle, “The Jeffersons” where you saw the duo thrive. On top of that, she was the first African American female to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy.
After her role, and with the her background in theater, she proved how talented and versatile that she was. Her other roles were in shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (where she reprised her Weezy Jefferson character with Sherman Hemsley), Original Gangsters, a voice role on “Pepper Ann,” and “The Young and the Restless.” All of this led to her getting her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2003, she died, but has been remembered by a number of awards, accolades, and scholarships that she created, and those that were created in her memory.
Marla Gibbs as Mary Jenkins
“227” was an amazing show, and was so due to great writing and characters, and Marla Gibbs’s portrayal as Mary Jenkins. Marla was in the center of all the entertainment. As the main matriarch, and the epicenter of all the action, Mary Jenkins was the woman with all the answers, while being a mother to her daughter, Brenda (portrayed by Regina King).
After “227” Marla Gibbs continued acting, and being the amazing force that she is. Some of her roles were in shows and movies like “The Hughleys,” The Meteor Man, voiced Duchess in “101 Dalmatians,” Madea’s Witness Protection, “The First Family” and she just finished shooting The Man in 3B.
Mabel King as Mabel “Mama” Thompson
“What’s Happening!!” was a fun show about the teenage trials of inner city teenagers from Watts in Los Angeles. While Raj, his sister Dee, and their friend Rerun were trying to navigate their way through teenaged peril, Raj’s mother, Mama was able to always steer them in the right direction.
After the show went into a direction that Mabel King didn’t agree with, she left “What’s Happening!!” and was cast as “Evillene” in the motion picture version of the hit musical, The Wiz. She was also in films and shows like The Jerk, “Fantasy Island,” “Tales from the Darkside,” “Wiseguy” and “Dead Men Don’t Die.”
The former theater heavy hitter sadly died from complications from diabetes in 1999 at the age of 66.
Janet Hubert as (The First) Aunt Viv
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was a hit the moment it premiered. With the comedic talents of Will Smith, the entire ensemble cast, and the great writing. It was no wonder that the series became iconic. However, behind the smiles and jokes, there was dissension brewing in the air between Will Smith and Janet Hubert.
Janet Hubert wasn’t a stranger to sitcoms, series, or the stage, and seemed at home as Aunt Viv on the show. After three seasons, she left, but continued to work. A small list of the shows and movies that she has appeared in: “The Job,” “The Bernie Mack Show,” “One Life to Live” and “House of Payne.”
Though she was able to cultivate a pretty steady career, her career came to a halt when a number of health issues worked against her and she couldn’t work anymore. Here’s sending her good vibes and hoping and praying that she gets better!
Daphne Maxwell Reid as Aunt Viv (the sequel)
Most people don’t like change, but after having a small adjustment period of “What happened to the first Aunt Viv?” People grew to not only accept Daphne Reid as the new Aunt Viv, but also love her as well.
After finishing the last three seasons of the hit show, Daphne Maxwell Reid went on to appear in numerous productions, like: “Linc’s,” Slavery and the Making of America, “Eve,” “Let’s Stay Together,” and she just finished shooting the movie Mr. Doula.
On top of acting, Mrs. Reid is an accomplished photographer and has a moving collection of photographs, check them out!
Jo Marie Payton as Harriette Winslow
Who knew that the life of an elevator operator was so interesting? Apparently the fine people at Miller Boyett knew when they created the series “Perfect Strangers” and cast Jo Marie Payton as Harriette, the sassy, straight shooting lovable elevator operator. She became so much of a fan favorite that they created “Family Matters” to give Jo Marie Payton a larger vehicle to expose her talents.
After leaving “Family Matters,” Jo Marie Payton continued to find great work in popular series, like: “Moesha,” “Will and Grace,” “Girlfriends” “The Proud Family,” and just finished filming the pilot for the show “The Rev,” and the movie 54:17 this year.
Judyann Elder as Harriette Winslow 2.0
Replacing a popular character isn’t for the weak, and Judyann Elder proved how strong she was when she took on the challenge to become the new Harriette Winslow during the final season after Jo Marie Payton left “Family Matters.”
Judyann Elder was already popular with audiences due to her stage work, and recurring role on the hit series “Martin,” but made the transition in “Family Matters” to finish the series.
After “Family Matters” the proud breast cancer survivor not only continued to work in the industry in productions like: “Mad About You,” “That’s So Raven,” “Love that Girl,” Seven Pounds, and “Family Time,” but used her experiences in becoming a spokesperson and ambassador for the American Cancer Association.
She also ventured into the arena of writing and directing, collecting multiple accolades for directing stage productions and films.
Rosetta LeNoire as Estelle Winslow
While Carl and Harriette were trying to keep Steve Urkel away from creating destruction, Mother Winslow actually encouraged him to be himself, and also encouraged her son, Carl, to be patient with him as well.
Rosetta LeNoire was known not just in front of audiences, but behind the scenes as well. While becoming a force onstage, she was also a prominent producer, casting agent, and founded the theater group “Amas,” which was created to add diversity in stage plays.
After portraying Estelle Winslow, Carl Winslow’s mother on “Family Matters,” she had her last role in “Cosby.” Sadly, in 2002 she died at the age of 90, but not before being awarded the National Media Arts award, and had an award named after her for her pursuits of trying to get equal acting opportunities for people of color from the Actor’s Equality Association.
Jackée Harry as Lisa Landry
Jackée Harry always played the sex kitten on popular series like “227,” but “Sister Sister” allowed her to not only show her sassy side, but her nurturing side as well, as Tia’s adopted mother.
“Sister Sister” wasn’t just a hit because of the Mowry twins and the writing, but also due to the acting talents of Jackée Harry and Tim Reid. After the show ended, Jackée continued to show off her acting chops in shows and movies like: “Everybody Hates Chris,” “The Business of Acting,” “Friends and Lovers,” “For Richer or Poorer,” “The First Family,” “Let’s Stay Together,” The Man in 3B, and the anticipated series “Girl Meets World.” She also worked on her physique on the popular show “Celebrity Fit Club” in 2005, and she still looks good (go’n girl!).
T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh as Tanya Baxter
When “The Cosby Show” alum got her own show, “That’s So Raven,” many people (including myself, no shame) tuned in to watch the shenanigans. Besides Raven creating her own chaos to get out of, the viewers fell in love with her family, particularly her mother, Tanya Baxter.
T’Keyah, who was one of the original cast members of “In Living Color” has to be one the hardest working women in Hollywood. After leaving “That’s so Raven,” T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh has continued to act (voice in “American Dragon: Jake Long,” “Let’s Stay Together,” Revival, and the “The Black Soap”), write (Some of My Best Friends, Natural Woman/Natural Hair, Step by Step Instructions of Taking Care of Your Natural Hair) , direct (“That’s So Raven,” S.I.S.T.E.R., and others), she’s also active in the acting community and charitable and civic organizations. On top of that she’s pursuing her Master’s degree in Psychology at California Southern University. Just purely amazing!
Martin Lawrence as Mama Payne
I HAD to include Mama Payne, because after all of these years, Mama Payne is one of my favorite TV mothers of ALL time. Her comedic delivery, her unbridled hatred of Gina, and her focused devotion to her son…just amazing!
Mama Payne made her debut on “Martin” while insulting Gina, rocking a full mustache! That takes talent.
What can be said about the comedic genius that hasn’t already been said? Martin Lawrence, who is a force in stand-up comedy, movies and shows, continues to do him and be extremely successful. You can also look forward to him reprising his hit role of Marcus Barnett in the movie Bad Boys 3. You go boy!