There are many reasons to love OWN’s newest drama Queen Sugar — all of which we won’t get into here lest we get sidetracked — but one of the major draws is the onscreen relationship between Violet and Hollywood. Seeing these two together is like all of us watching that one auntie and uncle of ours who’ve been drunk in love since the ’70s and will be until death do them part. Their chemistry and the care they show for one another is warming to viewers, but it seems it took Omar Dorsey, who plays Hollywood, a little time to warm up to Tina Lifford as Violet off screen.
During Essence Fest, we got a chance to talk to Lifford about she and her co-star’s chemistry and she shared when the two first met there wasn’t quite the enthusiasm we see between them now.
“I wish Omar were here with me so that he could verify that when we first met he was giving me a little shade,” Lifford said laughing. “He was called to Warner Bros. to test with me and it was on a Saturday and he had been testing with women for months and he did not want to get up and test on a Saturday. So he gave me a little bit of…you know, and I tried to engage a little because I saw him coming down the hallway and I thought, ‘Oooh, chocolate bald-headed drop, I can do this!’ and he’s giving me shade.
“Before the camera started rolling for the test I said, ‘do you mind if I touch your head?’ and he said ‘Do whatever you gotta do’ and then the audition started. And the moment I started acting he moved in and before it was over I was touching his head, he was rubbing my feet, and we were pecking on each other.”
Lifford cracks up about that moment now, considering rubbing on that chocolate bald-headed drop is what landed her the part. But even when Dorsey was throwing his shade, the actress wasn’t phased.
“When I was younger that might’ve thrown me off, but I was here for my blessing and I was not about to let him rob me of my blessing,” she said firmly. “And I have faith in the work. I have faith that two actors who love to act –that was going to be an opportunity to leave the egos and see what shows up outside of that.”
What showed up was an amazing performance that landed Lifford the job and, ironically, she credits that to Dorsey.
“Omar told me that he left that audition and on the way to his car he called Ava and said, ‘I think we got her.’ So I actually attribute my job to Omar. I know Ava (DuVernay) signed off on it because it is hers, but Omar made the call. And Ava said she was going to watch the tape and then she called back and said ‘that’s hot.'”
Lifford’s audition was in February 2016 and by the end of the month she was in New Orleans beginning filming on the wildly popular series. Though we didn’t get a chance to ask Dorsey about the shade he was throwing our girl, we did chat with him about his beloved character Hollywood and what, if any, character traits he shares with him.
“Omar is supportive,” the Georgia-bred actor told us. “I don’t know if it’s as nuanced as Hollywood. Sometimes my support is like, ‘C’mon now’ because I’m an ex-athlete so I’m like a coach, like ‘C’mon baby what you doin’ here?’ but in my own mind I think that’s support.
“My wife is sometimes like, ‘Look, you can attract more bees with honey,’ but I think that’s how Hollywood is. He’s the one who attracts bees with honey. He has such a pure spirit and he believes in this woman so much. In season two, you’ll see him championing her a lot because you’re going to see Vi taking her life to a whole different level and Hollywood is there to be her champion, to be her ear, and the one who’s like, ‘You have a dream, go live your dream. I’m right here beside you to help you get your dream.'”
Check out a sneak peek of tonight’s episode which airs at 10 pm on OWN.