Mowry-Hardrict, co-founder of supplement line Anser and author of the cookbook The Quick Fix Kitchen, stopped by :BLACKPRINT to talk about her work on the show and some of her renowned castmates who've not only left their mark on the acting world, but also in Mowry-Hardrict's life.
"Richard Roundtree and Loretta Devine are definitely legends," the Sister, Sister actress, 43, told Adrienne Farr, the editorial lead for the Black Employee Affinity Group at Meredith Corporation. "Working with them has been such an incredible experience. I learn from them by just being in their presence every single day."
According to Mowry-Hardrict, the light-hearted, authentic way Roundtree, 79, and Devine, 72, carry themselves serves as endless inspiration.
"They've been in this business for such a long time," she said. "And they're very confident in who they are, and just their talent [is amazing]."
"I feel like when you're young, and especially if you're new in the game, to have some sort of sense of focus is really important, but it's all about finding that balance," she added. "And I've learned a lot from them to just not take things too seriously. Just be your best, do your best and have fun."
In terms of checking in with her mentors from the cast, the actress keeps it pretty simple by catching up over the phone, mainly with Devine, whom she describes as "oh, so divine" in her eyes.
"I text her on the regular and I'm always like, 'I'm not bothering you, am I?' Because I am obsessed with her," she noted. "She's so giving on and off-camera and I feel truly blessed to be working with both of them."
Family Reunion follows the life of Mowry-Hardrict's character Cocoa and her family of six, including her husband Moz McKellan, played by Anthony Alabi, and their four children, played by Talia Jackson, Isaiah Russell-Bailey, Cameron J. Wright and Jordyn Raya James, as they move from Seattle, Washington to Columbus, Georgia, where Moz's extended family lives. Devine plays M'Dear and Roundtree portrays Grandpa, Moz's mom and dad.
Mowry-Hardrict describes the cast as a whole as being friends on and off-camera. And she takes her relationships with her young costars to heart for the most personal reason.
"I am constantly in communication with Talia, who plays my daughter Jade on the show, mainly because I empathize with her being a young, Black woman in this entertainment field and growing up in the industry," she said. "I just feel very much like a mother hen to her; I'm always wanting to protect her and see what she's thinking and how she's feeling, how she's navigating fame in this journey."
The NAACP award-winning show, which premiered part four on Aug. 26, taped much of its latest installment during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Mowry-Hardrict found the experience to have its pros and cons, the time on set did allow space to take a mental breather away from thoughts of the virus and quarantining at home. "When you went to set, your mind was taken away from that, which was a nice break," she said. "But you were quickly reminded that you are working through a pandemic. So, there were lots of tests."
In addition to getting tested three times a week and wearing masks until the director called action, the actors all worked through new challenges to connect with one another once the cameras started rolling. "We didn't really see each other's faces and expressions until shoot day," Mowry-Hardrict noted. "Not that the rehearsals weren't needed, but it changed the game once all of the masks came off and it was like, 'Oh, okay. You're saying the line that way. Well, let me change it up this way.'"
When guest stars made their appearances on set, it took even more of an adjustment to get used to engaging without the masks, but it got better over time.
You're like, 'Let me get through the shock first. And then, can we just take a moment before we say action?'" she recalled. "It was an interesting experience."
Follow :BLACKPRINT on Instagram.