The legendary Sheryl Lee Ralph has spent decades turning in consistent performances in TV, film, and theater. It’s her versatility and sheer talent that has given generations of viewers memorable characters, from Moesha’s stepmom Dee in the 90s sitcom Moesha to playing Lauryn Hill’s mother Florence Watson in Sister Act 2 and Ginger St. James on It’s A Living. No matter the age, everyone has their favorite Sheryl Lee Ralph moment, and now, everyone is collectively rediscovering the actress in the hit ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary.
In Abbott, Ralph plays a poised old-school teacher Barbara Howard. She’s the teacher whose long tenure has earned her the respect of her colleagues, and still, Barbara has moments of unexpected vulnerability. In the same breath, the character delivers one hell of a pep talk to younger teachers Gregory (Tyler James Williams) and Janine (Quinta Brunson). It feels like the role of a lifetime for Sheryl Lee Ralph, and you can tell she’s having the time of her life on the show.
The last eight months or so feel like a new chapter for the actress, one where she finally gets her due, and as a viewer, it’s a thrill to see her win. Sheryl Lee Ralph is now an Emmy winner, earning an Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series award; even her speech became a sensational viral moment. She then went on to sing at the Super Bowl, gave a TED Talk, and just a few weeks ago gave a commencement speech at Rutgers University about finding strength.
In our interview, she credits her strength to her mother, using her voice as a guide. Ralph said of this particular moment she’s experiencing, “My mother was always one of those people to say if you don’t make it at 30, you can make it at 40. If you can’t make it at 40, you can make it at 50. Don’t make it at 50? You can make it at 60.”
“I’m so happy I had that voice to tell me to keep moving forward. Keep trying. Keep doing you. Keep bringing your best to your life. Keep raising your own bar of excellence,” said Ralph. “What I’m experiencing right now is very unusual. I’m very aware that it’s an unbelievable gift.”
Check out our full conversation below: