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Wendy Raquel Robinson: The Playmaker

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There's nothing about ornery, strong, independent women that riles Wendy Raquel Robinson. Perhaps it's one of the reasons why her role as Tasha Mack, the overprotective mother and on-again, off-again manager of her football player–son on the CW sitcom "The Game," resonates so much with her fans. "I often play these women who are extremely strong, but in real life, I live a life of normalcy" said Robinson, who founded the Amazing Grace Conservatory with her friend, the late Tracy Lamar Coley. The children of Blair Underwood and Regina King attend the school. "I'm not a Hollywood type, but more of a stay-at-home-wit- my-family kind of gal." Portraying characters that are the total antithesis of her being has served Robinson well, earning her praise from her peers and superiors. ESSENCE.com engaged in some real talk with the former dancer and acting coach about her alter-ego Tasha, dumb jocks, and how she hopes Hollywood will benefit from having a Black president.

ESSENCE.COM: Wendy, we love you! As Tasha, the on-again, off-again momager of Malik (Hosea Chanchez), you take no prisoners and tell it like it is.  What’s Tasha’s biggest flaw?
WENDY RAQUEL ROBINSON: 
Well, she’s one of those sisters who will always put her son’s life and career ahead of hers, to make sure that he’s protected and gets what she deserves. She’s also a woman who speaks her mind without thinking twice, and if she did, maybe she’d take a second to consider the consequences of the possibility of hurting someone’s feelings or ruining a relationship. She’s too strong to be weak, but that comes from being a single mom and having to be everything for her son. My character is inspired by a dear friend of mine whose son is an up-and-coming rapper as well as the relationship between Malcolm-Jamal Warner and his mom whom I’ve known for a long time. I’ve always admired their relationship and how much he adores and respects her and what she has contributed to his personal and career growth.

ESSENCE.COM: But this season, Tasha meets her match in her coworker Rick Fox. How does he challenge her, and what other introspections will she encounter this season?
ROBINSON:
She does have an epiphany; she witnesses Rick’s mother’s behavior and realizes that she’s worse than she is, but is able to draw a clear parallel between her and her son’s relationship and Rick and his mom’s relationship. It helps her to release her son so that he can become his own man. Also, she’s in love with her coworker Rick, but they’ve got to keep it on the low-low. Rick is no pushover and he’s the one who’s going to check Tasha like, Wait a minute; you can’t talk to me any ol’ kind of way. And that’s when she begins to soften and all that tough-girl act begins to melt away.  

ESSENCE.COM:  Leave it to Pretty Ricky to have to set you straight! If you had to play a position on the field, what would it be?
ROBINSON:
You know what, now? The Leo in me would have to be the wide-receiver, because I want to make the touchdown, and I want to shine. The quarterback, that’s too much pressure. I like to be the go-to person. I don’t have to be a star because I’m a team player. Give it to me and I’ll take the ball. Although most folk will say it’s all about the quarterbacks, they wouldn’t be anyone without a great receiver. Again, I don’t want to carry the weight of victory all on my back, nor do I want to be the captain. I am just happy to be a part of a great ensemble.

ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs.) Great choice as the receiver. Often, athletes have had the stigma of “the dumb jock.” How would Tasha deal with a dumb jock?
ROBINSON:
My girlfriend and me came up with this word— “dumb-assity.” For example, the poor with the dog incident, Michael [Vick]—I can’t say he’s a dumb jock, but as a [Black man], people will hold you accountable at a whole other level than they will other folk.

ESSENCE.COM:  (Laughs.) Understood. The election is 31 days away. How has the election affected you personally and professionally?
ROBINSON: 
Depending on the outcome, there could be some civil unrest. I have never seen so many actors or people of various races and creeds get involved in an election and trying to get the word out for folk to vote and make change happen. On a personal level, it’s not so much about the candidacy but about surrendering and seeing what difference I can make as a voter. In Hollywood, we [Blacks] are so underrepresented, and I’m truly concerned about African-Americans’ futures in entertainment. Who knows what this could mean, not only for the world but how [Hollywood] might be affected if Barack were to win. Change won’t happen overnight because it would take him a good four to eight years to clean up this mess with the country, but perhaps under his leadership, maybe more images of us will be reflected on the big and small screen and maybe there will be more acceptance.

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