Hattie Winston [Interview]
In the late 1990’s, Ted Danson made his way back into our hearts and living rooms after a long stint from his days on Cheers. He came back as the grumpy practician with a heart of gold, and a medical practice in the hood. It was a basic premise, not entirely edgy, but still had relatable factoids for everyone. I still personally go on record as calling Becker one of the last great situational comedies to ever appear on television.
But, with all due respect to Ted Danson, for he was phenomenal, it was his supporting crew that truly made the show. There was the crew from the coffee shop he frequented and his employees at his run down doctor’s office which also became host to some very bizarre patience at times. Becker was basically an ill-mannered man who meant well, but he kept great company around him to keep him grounded. There was Jake (Alex Desert), the witty playboy blind newspaper man, Bob (Saverio Guerra) the dim-witted patron of the coffee shop who always seems to find himself in some sort of mess, Reggie (Terry Farrell) the good-natured ex-actress turned coffee shop owner/only employee/terrible cook, and Linda (Shawnee Smith), a woman who probably should have never been allowed near a doctor’s office professionally, yet Dr. Becker simply didn’t have the heart to let go.
And then…..there was Margaret. The rock, the savior of Becker’s life, and the only person on the show who was strong, most of the time, and kept a cool head on her shoulders. Margaret was portrayed with zeal and zest by the legendary Hattie Winston. The lovely and talented Hattie Winston. The versatile actress who can be the soft caring head nurse/favorite aunt at one moment, and then find herself dancing around in glittery outfits to the Supremes. She’s been on the silver screen for many years, and with her charm and charisma, she’s hopefully not going anywhere anytime soon.
I just wrote a whole lot about one time of her career, as Margaret on Becker, but that is strictly personal. This is where I knew her. I was 13 years old when Becker came on, and I was a fan until it ended 6 years later, and I still find myself intrigued by re-airings during the middle of the work day. But, Hattie Winston has been doing this thing for long time! You saw her in the 70’s in The Electric Company, in the 80’s in the drama Homefront, in Becker in the 90’s, and dozens of film and stage roles in between. She’s even got a new show going at this moment.
So take some time out of your hectic and dull lives to check out these few words we were able to steal from the legendary and infamously talented Hattie Winston!
What would you say is your fondest memory from working with the likes of Morgan Freeman and Mel Brooks on The Electric Company in the 70’s?
Those were glorious times. I do, however, must mention other cast members..Rita Moreno, Judy Graubart, Skip Hinnant, Luis Avalos, Jim Boyd, Short Circus…all excellent actors, who continue to work today. Mel Brooks, Gene WIlder, Joan Rivers, Zero Mostel did mostly voice-overs. The times were glorious because in addition to having a steady gig, we were stretched as actors…during the course of a shoot day, you could be required to improvise, sing, dance, use accents, cartoon character to librarian.
What was set life like on Becker, your longest running gig to date? When the show ended, was it similar to a relationship ending?
When Becker ended I compare it to losing a (or many ) member (members) of your family. Ted Danson was our leader and therefore our set was one of ease, laughter, fun and professionalism. Our goal was to do the best possible work and to do in an atmosphere of harmony. Wonderful, because this is always the case.
What are some unique items one might stumbled upon in the Hattie Winston Collection at the University of Kentucky (Lexington)?
The Hattie Winston Collection, which is housed in the Ekstrom Library @ University of Louisville includes, original scripts by primarily African-American writers ie: James Baldwin, Samm-Art Williams, August Wilson etc. and scripts of shows that I have been involved with. Original television scripts, movies, artifacts.
How did you become involved with AFTRA’s Equal Opportunities Committee? What was your role in the organization?
For many years, as a member of Aftra’s Board, I was Co-Chair of AFTRA’s Equal Opportunities Committee. I became involved, because as you know I have been in this business for a long time and sometimes this involved inequality in respect, opportunities, salaries. I felt that if things were to change, then I needed to do as much as I could to contribute to that. As Chair, I would sit in on contract negotiations, inform membership, make certain that EEOC requirements were implemented.
I hear you are quite the public speaker. Do you feel as though there is some coalition between acting and speaking? Does acting make a public address easier?
Public speaking is a different animal than acting. When there is a topic that I am passionate about, it is easy for me to address those issues publicly. I know some incredible actors that a absolute terrified to speak without the aid of a script. Just as some screen actors are terrified of the stage, where there is no re-take.
Was is strange and/or awkward doing a solo dance for Robert De Niro in Jackie Brown?
It was strange because IT WAS ROBERT DeNIRO!!!!!!!!!!! But I did my best!
Which do find to be the greater thrill – acting on the stage or on the screen?
Performing without a net on stage is the most nerve-wracking! Living the life of the character, in the moment is the ultimate risk taking.
What does the future hold of Hattie Winston?
I am currently a recurring character (Sister Corrine Pearly) on The Soul Man, with Cedric the Entertainer and Neicy Nash. I am also writing a book…very exciting….and hopefully book will be published, I will tour and do public speaking. Life is good!
What was the last thing that made you smile?
I woke up this morning and my husband said “Good morning honey.”
Continue to follow Hattie Winston as she recurs her role on the new hit comedy, The Soul Man
. And to learn more about The Hattie Winston Collection at the University of Kentucky, check out the school’s website
. Learn more about AFTRA’s Equal Opportunity Committee, here
and look for Hattie Winston herself on Facebook!