Actors Cedric the Entertainer & Niecy Nash

The husband-and-wife duo of TV Land’s The Soul Man discusses how the show’s plot parallels real life, whether they will push the envelope and their views on faith and religion.

Popular comedian-actor Cedric the Entertainer has enjoyed success on TV, in feature films and doing stand-up, which jump-started his acting career. He was one of the original "Kings of Comedy," co-starred on The Steve Harvey Show and went on to make his mark on the big screen with credits that include Barbershop and the voice of Maurice the Lemur in the hit Madagascar franchise. The multi-talented funnyman has also appeared on Broadway and produces features through his own production company, including Johnson Family Vacation.

At age 5, Niecy Nash decided she wanted to be a performer, and she's realized her dream in a big way. She's done stand-up, enjoyed a film career and had numerous roles on the small screen, including six years on the Comedy Central hit Reno 911! and her own Fox series, Do Not Disturb. She hosted and produced the Style Network's #1 home makeover show and has multiple voiceover credits on TV and in animated features. In addition to acting, Nash is developing various projects through her own production company.

Cedric and Nash topline TV Land's new series, The Soul Man, a spin-off of the net's hit series Hot in Cleveland.

TRANSCRIPT

Tavis: Pleased to welcome Cedric the Entertainer and Niecy Nash to this program. The two have teamed up on a new series on TV Land called “The Soul Man.” The show airs Wednesday nights at 10:00 p.m., and so here now a scene from “The Soul Man.”

[Clip]

Tavis: What kind of preacher man is this, Cedric? (Laughter)

Cedric the Entertainer: Well, you know, I’m a husband first.

Niecy Nash: Yes. That’s his first ministry.

Cedric: Right, yeah. Yeah, before you (unintelligible) up I got to get you down.

Tavis: First of all, congratulations to both of you.

Cedric: Oh, thank you, man.

Nash: Thank you.

Tavis: I was telling Cedric earlier, Niecy, that if this show does not work it will not be for lack of promotion on TV Land’s part.

Nash: Oh, well, yes.

Cedric: Yeah.

Tavis: This thing is everywhere.

Cedric: Yeah, they already got the “Soul Man” lunch boxes out. It’s (unintelligible). (Laughter) Crazy. They going hard with it, like the old “Six Million Dollar Man” days.

Tavis: So how’s it feel so far, Niecy?

Nash: We’re having such a good time.

Tavis: Right.

Nash: Speaking of promotion, they put a building-size likeness up of Cedric and myself up on Sunset.

Tavis: I saw it.

Cedric: Yeah.

Nash: So I didn’t see it until when I went to go see it, I was trying to take a picture of it and then the Hollywood tour bus or van pulled up.

Cedric: Came by.

Nash: Then they were like, hey, what – hey. I was like, “Whoops.” Like, “Is this corny? I’m out here trying to get this picture.” But it’s so surreal, yeah.

Tavis: How did this – you first introduced this character on “Hot in Cleveland.”

Cedric: On “Hot in Cleveland,” yeah.

It really came from a development of the deal. Once I went into business with TV Land and we were trying to develop a show, met with Suzanne Martin, who created “Hot in Cleveland.” She wanted to do a religious-based show; I had the idea of doing this from a character who was already flawed, so that he had these songs that were kind of sexually charged, and now he becomes a minister.

So we introduced the character on “Hot in Cleveland” and then developed the pilot from there. It was just a fun process overall.

Tavis: Were you ever hesitant about doing this character, in part because that territory, Black preachers, has been mined over and over and over again, and my hope was, when I read you were doing this, was that he would find a new way to present this.

Cedric: Right.

Tavis: Because sometimes, with that material – you’re an expert comedian, you’re a star here. With that kind of material, sometimes you can see the joke coming a mile away, because we know these Black preacher jokes. So were you ever hesitant about doing the character?

Cedric: Yeah, no, it was mainly, for me, I thought I was going to, I was telling the story more of the family and the journey. So the preacher just ends up being the job that he was doing, and I thought that was great in the sense that it was a place that was communal, in that you could have a number of stories come out of this environment, because it’s not about just Sunday.

The church is open all week, and he counsels, there’s weddings, there’s funerals. There’s so many reasons for storylines to come out. So I needed that kind of workplace environment. Then the journey this guy would go on, from being a person who was known and famous for something else.

So I thought it wasn’t going to be so much about us in the pulpit and telling preacher jokes and church jokes. It was going to be about this person and what he’s going through.

Tavis: But Niecy, he may be doing pastors a favor by showing how flawed they really are.

Cedric: Right.

Nash: Well, speaking as a former first lady myself -

Cedric: Okay.

Nash: No, I used to be married to a pastor, and I had a church for two years. Pastors are just – they’re men, too, with a different job description than others. We’re all called to bear one another’s burdens. We’re all called to pray for the sick.

They do it on a larger scale, but they’re just a man. A lot of women don’t think that. Trust me. I know. (Laughter)

Cedric: Right.

Nash: They don’t.

Tavis: So how did this, in the casting process, how did this actually happen?

Nash: This perfection right here?

Tavis: Yeah, yeah.

Cedric: Yes, huh.

Nash: Huh? The best TV wife for him ever, what?

Cedric: Yes.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah. How did this happen?

Cedric: Oh, man, this was – in the process of casting, of course a lot of names came up, a lot of great actresses who were out there doing things. When Niecy’s name came up it was like automatic. It was one of the things I thought about, like you know you wanted someone who was going to be funny, professional, be able to hold their own, and then beautiful and be able to control the scenes so it’s not always about you, right?

Then she was fresh, like in this particular role. We know her from her reality shows and “Reno 911″ and other things at the same time, and this particular energy, as a sitcom wife, you hadn’t seen her. So this would really appear fresh, and at the same time she’s somebody I know.

So I just thought, oh, that’s great. So we met, took her out to a real classy dinner and lunch, (laughter) real (unintelligible).

Tavis: Which means you went to where?

Cedric: Cheesecake Factory.

Tavis: Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Cedric: You know what I’m saying? You know what I’m saying? (Laughter) But I went all out. Start with raspberry lemonade, you can do that. (Laughter) You don’t have to get regular lemonade. No, please, let her – go, go.

Nash: You see what I got to deal with?

Tavis: But when the call comes, Niecy, for you to do this, and to your story, true story, you had been a first lady, that’s like – you’re talking about synergy.

Nash: Well, it was almost the role that wasn’t, because I actually passed on it almost three times because I had another job. Then finally stopped (unintelligible).

Tavis: Wait, wait, you passed on Cedric the Entertainer?

Cedric: Yeah.

Nash: Yeah.

Cedric: Yeah. Yes, she did.

Nash: Yeah.

Tavis: Cedric the Entertainer?

Cedric: Yeah, don’t even rub it in, Tavis. (Laughter)

Nash: Well, no, no, no, it wasn’t personal.

Cedric: Thanks for the bump.

Tavis: Yeah. (Laughter)

Nash: It’s called show business, not show friends, and you stop it.

Cedric: Yes it is.

Nash: Listen, no, I had another project, but then, but then who could turn down Ceddiebear? Listen, eventually it all came -

Cedric: And my dimple.

Nash: Lookit there. Lookit there.

Cedric: I do that to make it come out. (Laughter)

Tavis: Yeah, yeah.

Nash: Are you finished? Can I finish saying what I’m saying?

Cedric: Yeah, I’m sorry. Yeah, you had a point.

Nash: Thank you.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Nash: So anyway, when I found out that this woman was married to an R&B singer who left the stage to become a pastor, I was like, “I was married to an R&B singer who left the stage to become a pastor. This character was from St. Louis; my whole family is from St. Louis.

So many things started lining up, and once I sat down with him and my raspberry lemonade, I just was like, “Yes. It feels right.”

Tavis: That sounds like divine intervention.

Cedric: It was. I would have to say I was shocked that so much of this story paralleled her real life. When she was telling me that, I couldn’t believe it. I know she was thinking you stole my story. I’m like, “No, we’re making this up the whole time.” (Laughter) It was too, like, on the point, but it was also perfect.

It was a perfect storm in the sense that energy-wise, again, and even at the table, she’s just like that. She’s just really funny, creative, unique. So it feels special, and then you can feel that vibe that happens.

We were kind of talking about this backstage. The chemistry is something you don’t expect when you cast. You cast people for their professionalism and what it is their skill set, but then the chemistry happened and it was just something that makes coming to work fun.

Tavis: But to your point, though, if that doesn’t work, everything else about the process could be right, but if the chemistry don’t work between – the whole thing is dead.

Nash: Oh, it was going to work. I’m going to tell you that. It was going to work. (Laughter) But here’s the thing I love about it, because we talked about this early on. I said, “What kind of husband and wife do you have planned in this thing?” Because you know in traditional sitcoms, a lot of times the husband and wife are the butt of each other’s jokes, she says something snappy and he walks out the door.

I was like, listen, I am all things love right now. I’m a lover, not a fighter. I was like, can’t we show Black love on TV? So that’s what’s interesting to me. That’s what I want my children to see a picture of, and he was like, “Yes,” and I was like, “I’m in.”

Cedric: Yes.

Tavis: To your mind, has that been too rare, the notion of Black love on television?

Nash: Oh, yeah.

Tavis: Yeah?

Nash: Yeah. If you think about it right now, where do you see it?

Tavis: Not now, you’re right. Comedy back in the day (unintelligible).

Nash: Right, but I’m saying a lot of our kids are watching reality. That’s not love. You know what I mean? That’s arguing and fighting and being slapped around. But where do you see that example of a married couple, I don’t care if the show got wife or married in it, if you don’t see the man and the woman co-laboring, then I just -

Tavis: News flash. All that stuff you just mentioned works for ratings.

Nash: No, I get it, but I -

Tavis: Slapping around, cussing out, walking out the house, neck rolling. It works for ratings.

Nash: Let me tell you what. I’m not mad at nobody and you could watch whatever you want. I just want to give you an option on the dial. Have at it, but just in case you don’t feel like seeing somebody get their wig snatched out that day, hey, watch “The Soul Man.” (Laughter)

Cedric: Right.

Nash: Right here.

Tavis: Niecy, I don’t know how you – how do y’all get through a scene with all this? It must be -

Cedric: (Unintelligible) you see how it is. I’m sitting back and just, you know.

Nash: Really?

Cedric: I just jump in.

Nash: (Unintelligible) really? (Laughter)

Cedric: No, no, she’s good. But it’s good.

Nash: He’s the original king of comedy. (Crosstalk)

Tavis: Y’all must waste a lot of tape over there, though.

Cedric: No, we have -

Tavis: The outtakes, man.

Cedric: The outtakes are fun.

Tavis: I’m sure they are.

Cedric: We have a great time on this show, man.

Tavis: Niecy mentioned St. Louis, Cedric. You, of course, are from St. Louis and they love you in St. Louis. My guy Danny here, got an intern here this summer who’s from St. Louis, and it’s amazing how a TV show, just the opening scene, you’ve got the arch and all of downtown St. Louis, it’s amazing what that does for a town when they are featured in a TV series.

Cedric: Yeah, definitely.

Tavis: So I assume you’re hearing from folk in St. Louis who must be loving the fact that you’ve decided to write this and base it in St. Louis.

Cedric: Oh, yeah.

Nash: We both are.

Cedric: Right, yeah, yeah, right away people were very excited about it. We both still have family there, and then to represent the city like that, it’s something that ever since I’ve been doing standup, whenever I walk out, years later, it’s like from St. Louis, Ced the Entertainer.

So when an opportunity to say, because we introduced the show on “Hot in Cleveland,” the question was asked do you want to base this show in Cleveland, I was like, “Oh, no.” (Laughter) I was like -

Tavis: Nothing against Cleveland, though.

Cedric: No, I’m just saying I had to say like, well, maybe as far as the episode, I was stopping through there, but let’s take it to my hometown. Again, you do, you get the tweaks, you get the kind of pride, of course. We started naming streets and locations and stuff like that, (laughter) and it’s just really special.

You know that there’s going to be some little kid out there that hears me say (unintelligible) avenue one day, they’re going to go, “Whoop, he said (unintelligible). I live on (unintelligible).”

It’s like, and that means a lot, and I mean of course just to have the opportunity to do it is important, and I think from the producer side is to be able to show it so that even though we shoot the show in Los Angeles, it feels real to people that this represents their world, and that’s great.

Tavis: I sense not, but I’ll ask anyway, Niecy, ever any hesitation or intimidation about playing a sitcom wife?

Nash: No, not if I want to eat. No. (Laughter) You got to work around this town.

Tavis: But you had a job already. You could have eaten doing something else, though.

Nash: Yes, I could have, but no, I – you know what, because I just recently got, I’m on my second marriage, and being married again for the second time, I’m just in a place where I’m so in love with love, so I love that I get to have it in my real life, I get to have it and display it when I go to work. So no, it’s all good. I haven’t had a doubt about it at all.

Cedric: No.

Nash: Yeah.

Tavis: With Cedric, you never know what the answer to this question’s going to be, so I’m going to ask anyway, but where is the material coming from? What are you mining for this kind of material?

Cedric: It’s a combination of things. Like one, I think really we love to just start with that premise of this guy’s flawed and he’s trying to be better, so we can go anywhere with our storyline.

So they have a great writing staff, and so we asked, we’ll just kind of pick out anything. We’re doing stories about an ex-girlfriend of mine show up from when I was hot.

Nash: Careful, careful. (Laughter)

Cedric: See? Now I’m supposed to counsel her, but she all in love with the pastor.

Tavis: Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.

Cedric: The only way we stopped – we did an episode on alcoholism, and then, but from me being a person that’s in the clubs, how do you stop somebody from drinking and these kind of things.

So we play with these areas where we run up to the lines and figure out, and we know that in that Christian community some of the stuff that we talk about could be controversial – Niecy’s dress style and these things come up as issues often.

But we want to show that that’s what the Christian plight is really about, is changing, getting better. It take a little time, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Stop judging.

Tavis: Are these sisters going to warm up to you over time at the church and in the town?

Nash: In the series, yes. People at home? I hope so.

Tavis: Yeah. (Laughs)

Nash: Because a lot of times there is a lot of judgment, especially from the church community. I’m sorry, we should be the ones who embrace the most and have the most acceptance, but sometimes we’re the most critical. Where my character making the transition, she’s very Las Vegas, you know what I mean?

Big hair, tight dresses, 45 pair of eyelashes. Yes. Now she’s back in St. Louis being a pastor’s wife, and it’s all brand new. So yeah, we’re making the transition together, though.

Cedric: Yeah.

Tavis: I talked about hearing from the fans in St. Louis, who obviously would love a series based in St. Louis. But to your point, Niecy, what are we hearing from the tweeters in the Black church?

Nash: Matter of fact, you know what? We ran into Bishop TD Jakes, who gave us all sorts of accolades. Bishop Ulmer from Faithful Central text messaged me and told me to tell you great job.

Cedric: Yeah.

Nash: That he was supporting us. So I think that so far, so good.

Cedric: Yeah. I think that there’s been some – the most thing is, like, what she wears at the church. We introduce some language into the show time to time. It’s that kind of thing of what people want to – you gave a great answer to this, but we want to show more what it’s really like.

I always say it’s like the movie “Barbershop.” You got an idea what it is, but in that movie we went inside it and can show you. It’s controversial and it’s not all everybody says the thing that’s right for the next person.

Inside of church is like that. It’s not like everybody’s walking around holier than thou. People cuss each other out in church. (Laughter) For real.

Nash: Yeah.

Tavis: I’m glad you went there. Speaking of controversy, so you will famously recall the controversy that erupted from a particular line that you uttered in “Barbershop” which I’m not going to utter here again.

Cedric: Yeah, don’t do it.

Tavis: But you said it. People loved it or they hated it; mostly they laughed at it, and obviously, “Barbershop” made a whole bunch of money, and your character was hilarious. But you got, you pushed the envelope in that with some of the lines.

Cedric: Right.

Tavis: So might you push the envelope a little bit in a series like this that might cause some of that controversy? You know controversy is good for ratings.

Cedric: Yeah (unintelligible) definitely. I’m one of those kind of – as a comedian, in general I really want people to have a good time, but I pride myself in saying things that have an origin of truth in them, that’s like whether you like that or not, it’s truthful.

That usually is going to give you the most genuine laugh or a reason to march.

Tavis: (Laughter) Or the biggest controversy.

Cedric: Yeah, exactly. So march. But like I say, and to a certain degree, controversy in its proper context, if I say it’s built on an origin of truth, then I can handle the controversy. Like that situation, I was able to kind of live in my truth and deal with it, even though people was mad at me and Ced, we going to boycott you. Entertainer, my – you know.

Tavis: You just leave those parts alone.

Cedric: Yeah, I did. (Laughter)

Tavis: We were talking, Cedric and I were talking before you got here, Niecy, before we came on the stage here. It’s a rare thing to see African Americans in this business do that. We don’t have enough time in this show for me to start naming the names of people who we saw on one show, and it might have even been a huge, successful show.

Cedric: Right.

Tavis: But that’s the only thing that we recall that they ever did.

Cedric: Right.

Tavis: You’ve had sitcom after sitcom, movie after movie, and you’ve done your thing, Niecy, but it’s a rare thing, but it’s a beautiful thing, to see people who keep finding ways to reinvent themselves and keep getting opportunities to do that. What do you say about that?

Nash: I say I’m grateful.

Tavis: Yeah.

Nash: I say God is kind. So many people out there want to do what we do for a living, and so he didn’t have to choose us. So I don’t take all the credit, but I do know that I love what I do, and I see it as a gift. So in that respect, color me crazy, but I expect the door to be open.

I expect the answer to be yes, and I believe it to be so because I know it’s the call on my life. So if something happened tomorrow and we didn’t have this job, I would be like, well, what am I going to go do now? I wouldn’t be fearful, because I just know it’s a part of my journey.

Tavis: Have you always been this – I think it’s the right word – this spiritual a being? One could look at your work, if they didn’t see you in an interview setting like this, where you get a chance to talk about who you really are, they could look at your work and not necessarily know that you were this spiritual a person.

But I hear it loud and clear when I get a chance to talk to you person-to-person. Have you always been this way?

Nash: Always. I joined church by myself in a borrowed suit at 13. I had my neighbor’s bible. So my walk and my faith have always been very real. That’s why I say, like even with this show, when we have gone out to promote it and people say, “Ooh, your character dresses too sexy and why are your dresses like this,” I say, “Go to any church on any given Sunday, and you will see women that look exactly the way I do. It don’t mean you don’t know the man, you understand what I’m saying?” (Laughter) Deliverance is a process.

Tavis: Yes. (Laughter)

Nash: Some people take a little longer than others. I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve, but I definitely do walk with it every day in my heart.

Tavis: Cedric, how do you justify the fact that you have been given so many – and I say so, because there are a bunch of folk who don’t look like us who could count many more opportunity than you and Niecy have had.

Nash: You have had a lot of opportunities.

Tavis: Yeah, but you’ve got a few of them, though, man.

Nash: You really have.

Tavis: You’ve had a few of them.

Cedric: Yeah, a couple of shots at the basket.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah.

Cedric: I do, I attribute it to the same thing. I’ve definitely tried to operate in a positive light. I live in the type of energy that gives and it receives. I definitely – I’ve always been that way. I kind of like my lane, I have a good time with it, I try to enjoy life. I make sure I treat others with respect and people, and I think that in turn, God blesses that.

It comes back, and it comes back threefold. So to what Niecy said, a lot of times I don’t really worry about it. I feel blessed that I get to do what I do as a career, and though there is ups and downs of any career, in those down cycles I’ve never really gotten to the point where I was stressing and thinking, like, oh, I’m never going to do this again. It’s like I’ve just -

Tavis: “I could have been a contender.” (Laughter)

Cedric: Yeah, I just enjoy the moments that’s usually going on, and enjoy those rides and have a good time with it. It’s been charmed. It’s been a blessed life so far.

So I try to encourage people to really love what they do, like when it’s about being a part of this business, love what you do because it’s not going to always be defined by who you are. It’s going to be a lot of times, I always tell people this, your good name walks in the door before you do.

So a lot of times, if somebody’s in a studio, networks, talking about who they want, they say my name and it brings them a smile -

Tavis: Or your not-so-good name.

Cedric: Yeah, or not-so-good name. (Laughter) One of the two. So those things count, so -

Nash: You know what, I would say that my counter to that is I – and we were talking about this this weekend, and I told him I feel like it’s better to see a sermon lived than it is to hear one preached.

Tavis: To hear so, absolutely. Absolutely.

Nash: Yeah, and if you just live your life in such a way, people will be drawn into that energy and good things will manifest from it.

Cedric: You’ve got it, Tavis.

Tavis: No, I’m -

Cedric: You got it.

Tavis: – I’m trying to hold it down. The PD Green movie, was that – “Talk to Me.” This is a funny show and I’m glad you’re doing it. I thought, there was a part of me that thought that you, because you played that role so well in “Talk to Me,” I thought that there may have been a dramatic turn that you were going to take at some point.

Cedric: Well, I’d still love the opportunity to, but I did, that was a great opportunity. Casey Lemons, who directed that movie, see, I like when she was able to see that part of me and my comedy, and even though that character does say some funny things, she knew that it was just a great dramatic role and people hadn’t seen me like that.

So I just loved the opportunity of that. So you look for those kind of roles, but you can’t beg for them, mainly because when you do stuff as a comedian, Hollywood sees you as a comedian and so most of the calls I get are for a funny movie or something like that.

Nash: People who can make you laugh can make you cry.

Tavis: Yeah.

Cedric: This is true.

Tavis: That’s a good point.

Cedric: So the opportunity will come, and I just keep looking for the right thing.

Tavis: My time is up, Niecy, but I just have to ask – I know that’s not costume jewelry on your -

Nash: That is not.

Cedric: (Unintelligible) ring.

Nash: That’s from my new husband.

Tavis: That’s a nice ring.

Nash: Thank you.

Tavis: I don’t know who he is, but homey is handling his business.

Cedric: Yeah.

Nash: Oh, thank you.

Tavis: Show that one more time, Jonathan. Show that ring one more time.

Nash: You know what, stop embarrassing me. (Laughs)

Tavis: Yeah, turn that thing around. Good Lord. God is good, ain’t he?

Nash: All the time. (Laughter)

Tavis: Cedric, good to see you.

Cedric: All right, brother, always.

Tavis: Niecy, good to see you.

Nash: Thank you.

Tavis: “The Soul Man” on TV Land. It’s a hit, and I think it’s going to be around for a while. That’s our show for tonight. Until next time, thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith.

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  • Leevonne

    I would like to know why soul man was not on a station where everyone could enjoy the show. It looks like a show I would enjoy seeing, But I can’t because I don’t have the channel. I know others feel the same.

  • Denise

    I love this interveiw! SoulMan is one of my new favorite shows! The cast is spot on an I am so glad Cedric and Niecy getting their chance to shine. Glad for the indepth interveiw!

  • Cherie

    “Color me crazy but I expect the door to be open. I expect the answer to be YES. I believe it to be so because it is the call upon my life!” – Niecy Nash Great interview!

Last modified: July 23, 2012 at 7:44 pm