Oprah Winfrey launched her eponymous Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in 2011. After linking up with Tyler Perry in 2012, at the suggestion of Winfrey, the two spearheaded the network’s most successful series, The Haves and The Have Nots. (THATHNs.) The show’s soap-opera style, hour-long episodes revolve around three modern-day, Savannah-based families. One of which includes NJ-based actress, Angela Robinson.
The Haves and The Have Nots is scandalous, gossipy, addictive…and fun. In fact, you can watch the whole show online if you’re seeking a new series for a binge-watching session. Currently in its fifth season, which runs through early November on OWN, season six premieres in early 2019.
Best of NJ spoke with THATHNs cast member Angela Robinson, who plays wealthy vixen-slash-lawyer Veronica Harrington. She generously spoke about her career trajectory, philanthropic work and life in the Garden State.
Best of NJ Interview: Angela Robinson
Best of NJ: Why is this show so special compared to others out there?
Angela Robinson: Warning! If you binge watch it, you will be hooked. There’s something on our show for everyone. It’s racially diverse, features different economic backgrounds, and focuses on faith, sexuality, abuse and much more.
BONJ: Veronica is…well…not the nicest character in the series. But what do you love about her?
Robinson: I actually love a lot about her. I love the fact that she came up from nothing and made a great life for herself. She is a successful attorney who doesn’t lose. She was addicted to pills. When she kicked it she opened a rehab facility to help others. She is a multimillionaire and all because of her strength and perseverance. The very things that make her great are also her downfall; she is controlling and a perfectionist. These are great qualities to have when you pull yourself out of the Southside of Chicago. They’re terrible qualities when you can’t accept people for who they are. She’s complicated!
BONJ: What do fans in NJ say when they come up to you?
Robinson: Everyone is so kind. People love the show, they love to hate the character and they want me to know. I have felt nothing but love from my NJ peeps.
BONJ: Your husband, actor Scott Whitehurst, is in show business as well. What’s that dynamic like; actor-with-actor?
Robinson: He’s an brilliant actor. He is an acting coach, a dialect coach, and he co-heads the MFA acting program at the New School for Drama in New York. It’s wonderful running lines with him. Sometimes I have to ask him to JUST run lines; don’t teach, just run lines. Other times, I say “I need help with this scene.” He’s respectful of either request. We really respect one another’s talent. He’s one of the most talented actors I know.
BONJ: Were you a Tyler Perry fan before accepting the role of Veronica?
Robinson: I was a fan, but not nearly to the degree that I am now. I am a huge fan today. That says a lot about him because many times when you get up-close-and-personal, the admiration may not be great. Mine is greater. I admire his work ethic. He works harder than anyone I know. I also admire his commitment to his faith, his generosity, his sense of humor, his drive, his vision; I could go on and on about Mr. Perry. If you’re ever in Atlanta, visit Tyler Perry Studios. You will be amazed. One man, built one of the largest studios in the country and he’s still humble. He still returns texts and sends flowers and condolences. He’s very special.
At Home on The Stage
BONJ: You’ve described yourself as a “Theatre Girl” who loves Broadway. What Broadway show, past or present, has had the greatest impact on your life?
Robinson: Way in the Past – Bye Bye Birdie. I’m originally from Jacksonville, Florida. My mother was a high school English teacher and she directed all the senior productions. When I was 10 she directed Bye Bye Birdie. I sat in on every rehearsal. And I loved it. I learned the lines and lyrics better than the actors. Also, I played the album (yes, album!) all day on Saturdays. I read the album cover and fell in love with all of the actors. This was the beginning of my love for theatre and Broadway, when I knew this is what I wanted to do.
BONJ: A few years ago you were in Broadway’s The Color Purple.
Robinson: Yes! I was in the original Broadway company of The Color Purple; my longest running Broadway show. I went from being an understudy for Shug to taking over the role. I met Oprah, Alice Walker and Quincy Jones. We performed on the Tony Awards and the Oprah Winfrey show. I joined the touring company and the tour went to my hometown. My teachers, neighbors, church family, everyone got to see me do what I always dreamt of. Plus, my hometown rolled out the red carpet and it felt so good. My father had passed away earlier that year. It was bittersweet, but I honored his memory every night on that stage. Currently, I am a little behind on my Broadway show attendance. Hamilton is my current all-time fave. However, I recently saw Once On This Island and was completely blown away.
The Other Job
BONJ: You’re a new mom. Are you looking forward to raising a child in NJ? What kind of NJ-based activities have you done with your child?
Robinson: YES! I’m looking forward to sharing New Jersey with my son. We haven’t done many activities yet, but I have a great ‘gym family’ in Paramus at Maven Fitness. The baby goes with my husband and I to work out. We take turns holding him while the other works out and our gym family loves him! Maven Fitness has kid’s classes; when he gets older, he will definitely be there.
Life in NJ
BONJ: What drew you to Englewood, and what are some of your favorite local hangouts?
Robinson: I LOVE ENGLEWOOD! I love the quick access to Manhattan and love the diversity of my community. I know my neighbors; my church is only a few blocks away. Many artists also live in Englewood. The Actors Fund nursing home is in Englewood. I walk-in there to volunteer and take in all the creative history in that building. It’s a wonderful place to live. We also enjoy shopping, the park, and all the views of the Hudson. We try to take them in from Exchange Place to the GWB. The views are spectacular.
BONJ: Does NJ feel like ‘home’ to you?
Robinson: We moved to Jersey to have a quieter and greener (trees/grass) life close to the city. Even though we lived in Jersey, we considered ourselves New Yorkers because our work, our friends and the Theatre were there. The first 12 years of our time in Jersey, we were renting. After buying our home in Englewood, and being involved in the Englewood community, we finally feel like we are home. We still commute to the City, but we have a full life right here in Jersey. Our Church has just completed a capital campaign to build the first community center in Englewood. Through our church, I ran an arts camp for 4 years in our local park. My husband and I have taught acting workshops in Jersey. We are very involved in several organizations in Jersey. We feel like we have the best of both worlds.
BONJ: You graduated from Florida A&M University. Why was attending college so important to you?
Robinson: I did not have a choice. College was a given for me. My parents took me to their reunions and football games my whole life. Both my parents went to Florida A&M University; it was a family tradition. My siblings and my aunts all went to FAMU. I reluctantly followed the tradition, and it was the best time of my life. Life influences our art and our ability to create characters. My life at FAMU definitely gave me much to pull from.
BONJ: Tell us about the WJRobFund, your foundation.
Robinson: My own organization, the WJRobFund is named after my father Willie James Robinson. We provide financial assistance to artists going through a rough financial season. My father gave to everyone. So we are following this example.
BONJ: You’re also active with New Jersey’s Zimele charity, right?
Robinson: Zimele—which means ‘to stand on one’s own two feet’ in Zulu—supports women in South Africa. Instead of sending money, we are involved in selling their products, training women to start and maintain their own small businesses. It is very near and dear to me.
BONJ: Besides THATHNs, what other creative projects have you been working on?
Robinson: I’m always working on something creative. I’m an artist, my evening dinner is a creative project, ha! Regarding work, we are headed back to Atlanta to film season 6 of Haves. I’m very excited about that. I’m also working on my own one-woman show. I will be doing it in NYC, but my plan is to debut the show in New Jersey.