Ruby Dee: Jill Scott, Kerry Washington and More on the Grande Dame
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The following article was featured in the March 2008 issue of ESSENCE.

When I saw Ruby Dee in A Raisin in the Sun in high school, I remember thinking, Who’s that pretty lady? She’s an amazing actress. But it was in Jungle Fever that she captured me. Her character tried so hard to stand by her husband, yet nothing was more important than the love she had for her son, even though he was a crack addict.

As an artist, Ruby Dee has no boundaries. She’s done pretty much everything: from performing onstage and in film to writing poetry and being a part of the Civil Rights Movement with Ossie Davis by her side. I know for certain that working with your husband is hard. I admire her for letting us know that Ossie was, simply, a man. She accepted him as he was, and he did the same for her.

I watched her performance in the play Checkmates, and I’ve listened to her voice on the cartoon Little Bill. There’s a refinement there. I don’t know what she can’t do, which tells me that we are not limited to our first talent. We can continue to grow and keep on moving.

A couple of years ago I joined Nancy Wilson in Philadelphia to honor Ruby Dee. It was incredible to meet her. She has withstood so many challenges—including the loss of a husband—yet she still has such lovely grace. She is an inspiration, a revolutionary woman, someone to follow. When I see her again, I will say, “Thank you.” I just love her. And she’s still so pretty.

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PAULA PATTON: “I was introduced to Ruby Dee after seeing her in American Gangster. She was incredible. Hollywood has always been hard on Black actresses, but Ruby Dee is still hanging in there and doing remarkable work.”

KERRY WASHINGTON: “Ruby Dee’s performance in Jungle Fever really resonated with me. She was brilliant. She walks with such courage and has made authentic choices. Ruby Dee is one of our sheroes. She’s the reason why I want to pause and be thoughtful about my choices.”

ANDREA NELSON MEIGS: “Ruby Dee is the quintessential role model for young African-American actors today. You don’t need to take every role you’re offered. Be selective. She lets this younger generation know what being a star really means.”

KASI LEMMONS: “In 1995 Ruby Dee appeared in the short Tuesday Morning Ride, and it was one of the most beautiful performances I’ve ever seen. I thought it’s about the scope of a career, to be brilliant for that long, and to be that effective throughout your entire career.”