Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Bern Nadette Stanis (Thelma from Good Times)

By Lenell King

The year was 1974 when we were first introduced to the young, sassy Thelma Evans from the Iconic TV show Good Times that has stood the test of time. Today, BernNadette Stanis has created a legacy from the Good Times brand as a successful author, painter, and a creator of a foundation dedicated to her biggest fan, her mother Eula Stanislaus.

Lenell: First of all I just want to thank you for being apart of such an iconic TV series. It is very influential, and we still watch it today.  Did you think it would last throughout the generations?

BernNadette: Thank you. We never anticipated that it would last so long.

Lenell: Do you still keep in contact with the cast members?

Bernadette: Last weekend we were at Chiller Theater in New York for the first time in 40 years.
Lenell: Wow, so is that an indication that a reunion is in the works?
BernNadette: Yes we will be touring across the country because people want to see us all together.

Lenell: before obtaining the role of Thelma, it looks like you had some prior training in the arts, is that correct?

BernNadette: I was a dancer first; I had a lot of classes at Juilliard School of Performing Arts. I did know my stuff. They helped me with my speech and my diction and other attributes to help me land the part.

Lenell:  It’s amazing that you studied at Juilliard.   Was that something your parents wanted for you or did you know you always wanted to be an actress?

BernNadette:  My parents were very influential in my career. They wanted the best for us, so they made sure that we had the best education.

Lenell: How important would you say the arts are for kids, especially in an urban environment?

BernNadette:  It gives you a place to go mentally. It gives you a place to dream. It gives you a place where you can be all these wonderful things. You can develop all these ideas and find your inner you. It gives you a place to escape to other than drugs.

Lenell: Since Good Times, we have seen you make a few cameo appearances as well as witnessed you become an avid writer. How did you make the transition into writing?

BernNadette: I feel that when a person has a talent in one area and if they focus on other areas they will eventually develop a talent there as well. I don’t feel that people should be limited to just one thing.  Although I was a dancer, I also had talent to act.  When I wasn’t acting, I started producing which landed me an opportunity on Broadway. I always painted, so it all came in together in which next year (2015) I will be presenting my paintings. These are some of the things that I do. I feel that God always shows you artistically what's next to do. That's all about growth. 
Lenell:  How important is it for a Black entertainer to be multi talented in this industry?

BernNadette: Very important. We don't get many opportunities as our white counterparts. We don't have as many scripts written for us nor do we have quality work. So you have to learn to sustain the time when there are no scripts. You have to be able to be diverse. Back then… during the time of Sammy Davis Jr. and Pearl Bailey they had to sing, dance, act, and perform acrobatics. They had to do it all. We've gotten away from that, but really we need to do it all because you don't know where the next job is coming from and you don't know what it requires you to do.

Lenell: Tell us about the books that you released. There was Situations 101: Relationships  The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

BernNadette: Throughout my life, I became a person that everyone would come to for advice about relationships. I was pretty good, because psychology was always one of my favorite things. I always said that if I wasn't going to be Thelma, I could always be a psychologist. I studied a lot of that. So when people would come to me with relationship situations, I would tell them things that I thought they should do. Although, I 'm not a doctor, I give good advice. Many did take my advice and I really did help them. There were a 101 situations and I responded to each and every one of them.

Lenell: Wow. Fantastic.

BernNadette:  Then I wrote the book Situations 101: Finances, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, because a lot of relationships have a lot of problems with them in the money area. 

Lenell: So true.

BernNadette: If you don't speak the right language with that money, a lot of relationships can and will fall apart. That was the meaning behind that book. My latest book is called, The Last Night A Caregivers Journey. The book talks about the journey throughout my life with my parents and how my mother got Alzheimer’s disease. There is a lot of information that I experienced as a caregiver that I would like to share with other people who are going through a similar situation. 

Lenell: Tell us about the foundation that you created in dedication to the memory of your mother.

BernNadette: It's called "Remembering The Good Times" an Alzheimer’s Foundation. The reason why I named it that,coincidentally, everybody associates me with Thelma from Good Times.  However, this is the truth, this is how the name developed. Mother and I were watching Good Times and Thelma and JJ were fighting, that was many years later, but she remembers Thelma and JJ as teenagers. So, we're watching the show and she looks up at me and says, "That's a cute little ole girl.”

Lenell: Oh, wow.

BernNadette: Yeah, so she no longer knew that was me. She just remembered this is the way I look now. That's the sad part about the disease. Good Times was one of the best part of our lives, and my mother was the one to get me to that point. For her not to remember that was a very hurtful thing. So that's why I pray that one-day, we find the answer to this disease.  I call it the monster in the mind. To me that's what it is and it just eats away at the brain. 

Lenell: My heart goes out to you. That is a wonderful thing that you are doing in memory of your mother. In a way you are carrying on her legacy as well as yours. 

BernNadette: Thank you.

Lenell: What can we expect from you in the immediate future? 

BernNadette:  Of course, I will be releasing my new book, “The Last Night” A Caregivers Journey. I will also be traveling the world promoting my paintings because I want the world to recognize me as a painter as well.

Lenell: How do stay looking so young?

BernNadette: It’s really funny. The years keep rolling by, but I don't go with the years. I just go with me, and how I feel.  I don't feel old I feel young.  I know I keep getting older, because the years keep telling me that… (laughing) but if you don't focus on it, just be yourself. You age slower if you do it that way, I think.

Fans can keep in touch with BernNadette Stanis through twitter https://twitter.com/TheRealThelma22  her website at http://www.thelmaofgoodtimes.com 

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