Wendy Raquel Robinson is one of L.A.s hidden jewels, who you could catch sweeping the grounds on a Friday afternoon in front of her passion child, Amazing Grace Conservatory(AGC). The multi-talented actress is in the midst of celebratingas AGC turns 20 years-old on November 5. The Sentinel sat downwith Robinson, who spokeabout her career, life for the Black actress in Hollywoodand AGCs20thAnniversary.
A Los Angeles native, Robinson attendedmany schools, which includedLa Salle Avenue Elementary School, Hughes Junior High School, ByrdJunior High School and Horace Mann Junior High School. She also attended Hollywood High School but eventually graduated fromWashington High School. Robinson is a graduate of Howard University, cum laude with a bachelor of fine arts in drama. Before the acting bug bit her, Robinson pursued another passion.
I initially started as a dancer, said Robinson. I started as a dancer when I was seven-years-old.
Small parts in minor productions and acting things out in her backyard would open her interest in acting. It wasnt until high school that Robinson began thinking about what she wanted to do with her lifeand acting was the ticket. Her first job would be a Crest toothpaste commercial, of which she remembers vividly.
Oh, God, I still remember it, six months ago, my dentist said, you have a serious tartar problem long story short, yes, yes it was a Crest commercial, she said laughingly.
Robinson would go on to star ina theater productionwhere she played the character Agnes inAgnes of God at Howard University. She describes that role as a break for her as it began to mature her as an actress. Robinsons debut in televisionwould come as a guest starroleon The New WKRP in Cincinnati. She credits actorMykeltiWilliamsonfor taking her under his wings and mentoredherin the world of show business.
Her career would begin to gain momentumwithguest starring roles on Martin, Thea and The Sinbad Show.
That was the days of every Black sitcoms on, said Robinson. I did my run of the mill and had a really good time with it.
It was the iconic and memorable role as principal Regina Piggy Grier ontelevision seriesThe Steve Harvey Show that many were formerly introduced to the versatile actress. As Regina, Robinson combined stage presence with comedic dramato create a hilarious, endearingand slightly neurotic characterthat fans grew to love.She wouldalsomake guest appearances on other television shows such asMinor Adjustments,The Parkersand Cedric the Entertainer Presents.
Robinsons laterrole as the sassy and in-your-face Tasha Mack onthe popular television seriesThe Game stands as a polarbut equally iconic opposite to Regina Grier. As Tasha, Robinson was able to play a character, whichshe describes asa more ghetto and forward version of herself. As to which of the two were her favorite, Regina or Tasha, Robinson said they both hold a special place in her heart.
You know Regina, the principal on Steve Harvey, that was one of the best because of the ensemble I was working with, said Robinson. I had so much funit wasnt like going to work.
Robinson continued, Tasha Mack, because I was able to do [her] for so long, just walk in her shoes and see how she evolved, all of the flaws, layers and stuff, she was fun for different reasons.
Television couldnt contain Robinson for long as she jumped to the big screen in films suchas Miss Congeniality, Two Can Play That Game and Rebound to name a few.
Robinson also took time to speak about what life for a Black actress in Hollywood looks like nowadays. She feels that the landscape is far more accepting and embracing for the Black actress now than ever.
There are so many roles that have opened up between Viola [Davis], How To Get Away With Murder and then you have Empireits too much content out there, it is so much content, said Robinson.I feel like were in the middle of a renaissance.
Robinson added that while both racism and ageism have played a part in blockingBlack actresses in Hollywood, the winds are changing.
You haveYoutube, Netflix, HBOtheres just so many different platforms that there is so much content to go into these platforms. I think right now is the best time to be an actress especially a woman of color.
Robinson adds that knowing your craft plays a vital role to staying relevant in Hollywood. She noted that many personalities are becoming sensations overnight thanks to social media but the well-prepared stay the day.
I look at those actresses that I loveeveryone has a training, they have strong training, a background [like] theater, said Robinson. To not just come into this business and just think its fly-by-night.
Study, train, develop your craft but do not be afraid to step outside of your box and out of your safe zoneand write, write, write, write and create your own content.
In addition to now being a good time for Black actresses, its a doublegood time for Robinsonbecause AGC will be celebrating 20 years come November 5.
In the early 90s,Robinson was asked by a good friend,Tracy Lamar Coley, tocome and work with him at Marla Gibbs Performing Arts School inLeimertPark. When the school closed, they both had built such a clientele of youth that AGC was born.
Established in1997 originally as All Gods Children, AGCis a nonprofit, 501(c) 3founded by Robinson, Coley and a third partner as an answer for inner-city youth to explore the arts. Eventually the third partner left the project with Robinson and Coleycontinuing forward.Two decades later, AGC hasgrown with initially 75 students to serving over300 students annually and thousands since its inception.Coley would unfortunately pass away in 2004 but Robinson happily continues the dream today.
We change lives, we really do, said Robinson about AGC. I feel like its a ministry.
The NAACP award-winning program teaches acting, voice, dance, spoken word, media arts and yoga to help youth realize their potential.AGC engages students in socially relevant material, which helps them find their voice. Robinsons says that AGC is mostly about healing through the arts.
Our young people are going through so much from abuse to bullying, ostracized, criticized, belittled to a point where we build self-esteem through self-expression, said Robinson. I wish I could take the credit but I have a beast of a team where we all work together.
Some of the alumni of AGC have gone on to achieve success in Hollywood includingIssaRae(Insecure, Awkward Black Girl),AldisHodge(Underground, Leverage) andAshton Sanders(Moonlight) andGrammy-winner singer,songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Elle Varner to name a few.AGC alumni have also gone on to be producers, lawyers and in politics. Now, going on 20 years, Robinson spoke on what 20 years means to her.
When you look back over everything that has happened, all the thousands of lives that have come through, its pretty mind-blowing, said Robinson.
To know that were still here, still as passionate, still committed to the purpose and to the mission, it looks like 20 years wasnt enough.
When shesnotbusy withher AGC kids, Robinson ison the set of ABCs newest hit,The Mayor starringBrandonMichealHall,Yvette Nicole BrownandLea Michele. Robinson plays Krystal, a friend to Browns character, Dina Rose, which both work at the post office on the show.
Krystals very grounded, said Robinson. Shes out loud but shed kind of ditzy, insecure, single, got two dogs and really trying to find herself.
Im the best friendIm the ultimate best friend.
The Amazing Grace Conservatory existsfor youth to find and realize their dreams. Robinson encourages the community to find out more about the school and to visit. The schoolhas a nominal tuition but there are scholarships available as well.
We are here, come by, support our programs and support the productions, said Robinson.
Amazing Grace Conservatoryis located at2401 W. Washington Blvd in Los Angeles, CA 90018. For more information, please call (323)732-4283or send inquiries firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit the website athttp://amazinggraceconservatory.org/.