For more than twenty years, actress, comedian and television personality Sherri Shepherd has proven herself to be one of the most hard working and versatile actors in Hollywood.
Kicking off her career with reoccurring roles on a string of hit sit-coms including “Suddenly Susan”, “Everybody Loves Raymond, and “The Jamie Foxx Show, Shepherd has parlayed those opportunities into various other ventures including a seven year stint as co-host of ABC’s revered daytime talk show, “The View”, for which she won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host in 2009.
Shepherd’s latest project is a hilarious sitcom/crime mockumentary for NBC entitled “Trial & Error” in which co-stars with John Lithgow. N’Digo recently sat down with Shepherd to discuss her new show, career beginnings, and upcoming projects.
Where were you born and raised?
I’m from the southside of Chicago off 83rd and Damen. We would go to what we called “Everblack” Plaza all the time. Then I moved to Hoffman Estates and worked at the Woodfield Mall at a store called Merry Go Round.
Did you always know that you would be an entertainer?
It’s so funny because everyone in my family is funny. I’m just the only one that gets paid for it. I have a few family members that are way funnier than me. My Auntie Bunny, my Grandmother, my Mom, my Dad…they’re really funnier than me but I’m so blessed I that I get to do it for a living. We would have a variety show every week where everyone got a chance to get up and do what they do. Growing up there was always laughter in the house… and were loud! I always thought I was gonna be on radio. I used to always hold a “microphone” in my hand and stand in the mirror and talk. But in thinking on it now, that could’ve been me preparing for stand-up. But growing up I always thought I’d be on the radio because that’s all I did was listen to the radio.
What was your first big break?
My first big break was in ABC’s “Totally Hidden Video” and I played a maid. This is where I learned that when they ask you what your size is, just tell the truth. They had to give me a maid’s outfit. I was a size 16 but I told them I was a size 10. As you could imagine I could get in that outfit and couldn’t get it over my boobs so always always tell the truth. But that was my first time seeing my self on TV, then I did “Living Single” and it seemed to take off from there.
When did you know for sure you could make a living in entertainment?
I don’t think I’ll ever know that. Every day…every comic I know or I’ve ever met, we always think “Okay this might be the last gig…”. I was just talking to Lil’ Rel, who is of course enjoying the success of his role in “Get Out”, he was saying “Man Sherri, I gotta find another script!” I told him “Man you just had a number one film!”. I say that to say I don’t know if we ever think we’ve made it or that it’s not going to end.
Do you ever look back in amazement at some of the things you’ve been able to accomplish in entertainment?
I feel very blessed about my career and being able to do the variety of stuff I’ve done. From sit-coms, to drama, to film, and even something like “The View”, then “Dancing With The Stars”, and hosting “The Newlywed Game, and being able to come back to my roots and do stand-up. I started with a guy named Jaime Foxx. Not sure if you’ve heard of him. Also came up with a couple other guys named Chris Tucker and DL Hughley. Then I met a girl named Mo’Nique. Sheryl Underwood used to have houseshoes holding the door open because it wouldn’t lock. Seriously those are some of the people that I was struggling with, so to look back at my career I feel so blessed to be doing it and still here.
Tell me about your new NBC sitcom “Trial and Error” and the hilarious character that you play, Anne Flatch?
Anne is quite the unique character. She suffers from a number of inflictions including facial blindness, dyslexia, inappropriate emotional response syndrome, short-term memory loss, she was born with no tear ducts, she speaks in a British accent after receiving anesthesia from the dentist, she walks backwards after receiving a flu shot, she has alien hand syndrome, and she drives in her sleep among other things.
When you first read the script what were your first thoughts?
I said to myself “I gotta be a part of this project!” It was so funny I literally laughed at every page and I don’t do that very often. It was very smartly written and then they told me John Lithgow was in it. Oh my God…if John Lithgow is involved, you know it’s good. With this show, taking this role scared me and when something scares me I know I have to do it.
What’s it like to be a part of a sitcom/crime mockumentary like this that’s never really been done before?
It’s surreal. It’s never really been done but it makes me literally laugh out loud. My hope is that people can relate and attach themselves to it and we get a loyal following like “The Office” and “Parks and Rec” did. I hope the people just cant live without Anne Flatch.
What’s something about you that people would be surprised to know?
I’m so transparent I think people know almost everything about me. I don’t keep too much away from the people. If anything maybe it’s my love of karaoke. I even ended up singing in the show because they caught me doing karaoke. I can do a meaaaaaaan “Proud Mary”. That’s my favorite song to do. That and Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family”.
With such a hectic schedule, what do you do to relax?
I get with my sista-girls. I like to get in my pajamas and hang out with my girls Niecy Nash, Laila Ali, and Kim Whitley and just laugh. We just laugh all night in our pj’s with a glass of wine.
Best advice for aspiring entertainers?
Don’t take no for an answer. If you cant go the traditional route then use social media. If you want to be a talk show host and you cant get a show on one of the major networks or cable, then create your own. If you create it, people will come. Find that open window if you cant kick down and go through the door. Also be prepared for what you want to do. Study and do your homework. Because if you go in the room with me, I know what I’m doing. Do you? ’cause I’m gonna book that role! So be prepared and when that opportunity presents itself you can be ready for it and take it.
Favorite quote or affirmation?
If it was all about stability, you wouldn’t need faith.
What are some of the other endeavors that you have outside of the show?
Right now I’m producing a one-man show for the comedian, Scruncho. He’s a former drug dealer who went to prison and is now a successful comic. He was literally sitting in Folsom prison when his movie, “How High” came out. So the story is about his journey and redemption from that to being a successful comedian and actor. It’s such a powerful performance that Scruncho gives and I encourage everyone to check it out if it comes to your city. Plus this is my first time being a theatrical producer and I’m absolutely loving it. I’m also working on a book about going through hardships and how you can come up for air and be able to smile again. Aside from that just raising my child and getting back on stage to do my stand-up.
Catch Sherri in NBC’s “Trial & Error” which airs on Tuesdays at 8pm cst after “The Voice”. For more information on Sherri and her various endeavors, please visit www.sherrishepherd.com