Erika Alexander's an Iconic Actor, but Life in Hollywood Ain't No Crystal Stair

This just in: disparities persist in Hollywood.

Beyond a lack of inclusion and pay inequities—which are both critical—the ways that we see black women, as well as the breadth of our roles and even the level of imagination assigned to the specific characters we play, can be stifling.


“I think that black men [in Hollywood] get more opportunity than black women to become more of themselves. Will Smith got to be a rapper and act in sitcoms and then to save the world in Independence Day,” actor Erika Alexander said. The Living Single alum continued, “With black women we sort of go, ‘You were good in that.’ And then that’s it. That’s unacceptable.”

Say it louder for the folks in the back!

Best known for her roles as Cousin Pam on The Cosby Show and Maxine Felice Shaw on Living Single, the iconic actor has had a career spanning over three decades. And she ain’t done yet.


Currently, you can catch Alexander in the role of RZA’s mother, Linda Diggs, in the new Hulu series, Wu-Tang: An American Saga (Fun fact: Alexander got the role after being vetted by all of RZA’s siblings). Shout out to black mothers.

The Root sat down with the iconic actor ahead of the Hulu series to talk about Hollywood’s treatment of black women, stereotypes of women in comedy and the indelible impact of Maxine Felice Shaw.

See the entire video above.

Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.

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Hollywood has specific intentions when they commission material for women. Therefore all women aren’t seen as interchangeable for a character they hone in on a preferred type. Men unless otherwise stated have options and that is why space is made for Black men in the movies to headline and play parts original slated for white actors with regularity.

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