In these shaky economic times, temporary layoffs are more than “Good Times” song lyrics. The show’s sweetheart Bern Nadette Stanis (Thelma) knows the same outlook that worked for the Evans family in the 70’s can help people today to keep their heads above water. We caught up with the actress, author and motivational speaker who shared tips for staying afloat in the economy, her feelings about the passing of the show’s late artist Ernie Barnes and details on her abstinence message to teens.
ESSENCE.COM: Great to catch up again, Bern Nadette! How are you spending your time these days?
BERN NADETTE STANIS: I am continuing to travel the country with speaking engagements. Right now I am really pushing the message to youth to wait to have sex. I waited until I was married, so I know it’s not easy, but definitely worth it. I am realistic, so even if young people don’t wait until marriage, at least give yourself until after 18 or 19 to really let yourself mature. Find out what you like and your passions before you get so wrapped up in someone else.
ESSENCE.COM: Definitely. And the show of a family just getting by is so poignant today with the present financial state.
STANIS: Exactly. When you’re suffering, entertainment is the way out. And if you look at a show like “Good Times” you feel like you can still make it, instead of shows with over the top money and you are losing your home. I’ve always thought, if you learn to survive on a little, you can make it when hard times hit. I think Florida Evans would agree. That oatmeal went a long way.
ESSENCE.COM: And we we’re sad to hear this week of the passing of artist Ernie Barnes, who painted the show’s artwork each week. What was he like on-set?
STANIS: Ernie was always on the set for the readings to know what to draw, and he was excellent to have around. When I told him I was interested in art, he encouraged me to do it and I would visit his studio. I hadn’t spoken to him in years, and one day last year I was on tour and he was on my mind. I called and he called me back. We laughed and caught up. I told him his paintings were worth a lot now and he said mine could be worth millions too, and to keep painting. When you think of someone, always make the call. You never know what they are feeling. It is very sad he passed and I’m so glad I made the call.
ESSENCE.COM: Yes, that is great that you got to speak to him. So do you ever watch the show now and reminisce?
STANIS: I haven’t had the opportunity to watch television like I would like. I do watch “Dancing With the Stars,” and one day I would love to be on there. I need my fans to help me get on. (Laughs.)