"I like to reinvent myself. I don't like to do what I did 20 years ago. I like playing against what people think of me."
About This Interview
In her two-hour interview, Leslie Uggams describes her childhood growing up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan and how she began performing at the Apollo Theater at the age of nine. She talks about her appearances on early television shows including Beulah, The Milton Berle Show, and The Paul Whiteman TV Teen Club throughout her childhood and teenage years, and being discovered by Mitch Miller on Name That Tune. She goes into detail about working with Mitch Miller on his show Sing Along with Mitch, including the pushback Miller got about having an African American performer on the show and how Miller stood behind her. For Sing Along with Mitch, Uggams also describes the filming process, including the fact that the cast lip-synced their songs. She describes television appearances through the 1960s and tells stories of The Leslie Uggams Show, which made her the first African American woman to headline her own variety series. She shares recollections of the performers she worked with from Frank Sinatra to Jimmy Durante. Uggams describes how she was cast as "Kizzy Reynolds" on Roots, and shares stories of the filming of the show, meeting Alex Haley, working with her castmates, and the on-going impact of the groundbreaking miniseries. She touches on later television appearances of the 80s and 90s before describing more recent acting gigs on The Good Wife, Nurse Jackie, Empire and in the 2016 film "Deadpool." She concludes by describing career highlights and regrets and giving advice to aspiring actresses. Adrienne Faillace conducted the interview on June 3, 2016 in New York, NY.