Tony Award-winning TV and film actress and producer Tamara Tunie has found unbelievable success in both her professional and personal lives. She has been (very!) happily married to jazz musician Gregory Generet for 17 years, and with more than 25 years in the industry under her belt, she is still one of the hardest-working Black women in Hollywood today.
The Flight star credits essentials like pre-marriage counseling, awesome communication and having his-and-hers home offices as a few of the secret weapons in her marriage — although it’s clear that what really makes her marriage unbreakable is the love and true friendship she shares with Generet. “A joyful person is whom you want to be with, and whom you want to live with,” insists Tunie, who says each year her marriage gets better. So what’s their secret? Read on to find out!
ESSENCE.com: Seventeen years!? That’s amazing! Does it just keep getting better?
TAMARA TUNIE: Yes, it seems to get better with every year. I just feel even closer to my husband. We still enjoy each other’s company very much. There’s nobody I would rather share things with — oftentimes, when I’m traveling or out and about, I see something and I think to myself, "Oh, Monsieur (my nickname for him) should see this or he should taste this." He is truly my best friend.
GREGORY GENERET: We’re not joined at the hip. We can be in the same room and be in different places in the room and not have to be near each other at every moment. Yet we can just feel each other’s presence all the time.
TUNIE: Not only do we love each other, but we like each other a lot. His warmth and his...
TUNIE: ...And his cooking! I can cook, but I don’t have to because he’s so much better at it. The key is allowing your partner to be who they are and not having expectations that really have nothing to do with the person you married. We have great respect for each other’s talents and abilities, wherever they may lie. We celebrate who each other is and we’re supportive of each other in our careers.
ESSENCE.com: How do you balance work and love?
GENERET: We spend a lot of time together supporting each other’s different projects because it’s a part of our lives. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s what gave me the strength to go out and do what I’m doing right now. My wife is a champion, a cheerleader, a note taker, a note giver — these things help me.
TUNIE: At the end of the day, it’s about love and support. Any suggestions or constructive criticism that we might have for each other is about making the other person better. That’s a very critical component. We both have home offices. Mine is on the basement of our brownstone and his is on the fourth floor of our brownstone. We shared an office for a little while but that didn’t work. We moved to the opposite ends of the house, and that’s why we’re still married! [Laughs] We still get to see each other a great deal.
ESSENCE.com: You two seem to enjoy each other’s company so much. How do you keep things fun between you?
TUNIE: My husband and I swore to each other that we’d never be that couple who is sitting at dinner and has nothing to say. That is the most depressing picture to me. So we enjoy each other, all the time.
ESSENCE.com: When you’re asked to offer marriage advice, what’s the first thing you say?
TUNIE: Even though you’re married, you’re still individuals. You still have to grow and nurture your individuality. And what you have to gather is the marriage. Each partner brings his or her own special joy to that marriage and that’s what helps the marriage grow. You have to continue to grow and evolve as individuals in order for your marriage to evolve. It takes two pillars to support a structure. If those two pillars become one, you have a structure that teeters.
ESSENCE.com: How do you keep unwanted drama out of your marriage and stay so positive?
GENERET: It’s about communication. We communicate about communicating because we don’t fight; we just disagree about different things. There’s never a day where you’re going to hear us seriously arguing around here. Sometimes we just agree to disagree because we’re individuals and you’re going to feel the way you’re going to feel.
TUNIE: For me, it’s living in NYC as opposed to Hollywood. I think that that environment sometimes creates an unrealistic kind of picture or equation for people. Living in New York, for me at least, just keeps it very real and keeps my feet firmly planted on the ground. I’ve been in this business a long time and I’m very clear on what is real and what is fleeting. And what I know is that the relationship I have with my husband is very real and very solid. Pretty things may pass before me, but I know who really is my rock and my anchor. I would never jeopardize what I have.
See Tunie in her new film Flight, in theaters Friday, November 2, and catch Generet performing every Thursday night at renowned Smoke Jazz Club in New York City or visit his website to listen to his debut album, (re) generet-ion.