She is best known as Thelma from Good Times! But there’s much more to her than that. In the 70s, Bern Nadette Stanis was the personification of Black Beauty. As sophisticated and graceful as she was, she still became TV’s first Black “It” girl. Today Bern Nadette is still taking roles about women who possess strength and conviction. She shares tidbits of her life and her recent role in the film Between Love and a Hard Place.
Because of my background and how I was raised, coming to Hollywood was no different than any other place that may have some of the same things going on. My father always taught us that you may be in the ghetto (that’s where I was raised) but you don’t have to be a part of the ghetto. Ghetto meaning you don’t have to follow what others do because you are around them. If your choice is “NO” then it is “NO”, and that applies everywhere you go in this world; even Hollywood.
Candie A. Price – We are so pleased to be able to talk to you and are appreciative of the time you have spared to speak to our readers. First we’d like to know a little about your background. Where were you raised and what was your upbringing like?
Bern Nadette Stanis: I was raised in Brooklyn, New York – my upbringing was loving, supportive and respectful.
CAP: Many people will recognize you from your role as Thelma in Good Times – was that your breakout role in the business?
BS: Yes, it was my first professional job. Before that I was studying dancing and acting. After Good Times I attended The Julliard School of Music in New York City, it was the drama division. I graduated from there.
CAP: Many stars that have gained success from a particular role have found it very hard to find other work in the business because of being type casted, was this the case with you and what are your thoughts about these instances?
BS: That may be so for many, but for me being “Thelma” has only opened up so many doors to so many things. My success has only been a blessing in so many ways.
CAP – I never missed an episode of Good Times and still watch it to this day. Thelma was for many young girls a trendsetter and someone to look up to. We loved her hairstyles, her funky jeans and the fact that she loved music – although she didn’t have much, she was a role model. Did you ever think her appeal would gain as much popularity as it did?
BS: Thank you for still watching Good Times, I do appreciate that. I am so glad that girls liked my hairstyles because I would stand in the mirror for hours creating new styles and I loved wearing bows in my hair. I created the tight jeans back in the day by having wardrobe taper them to me. Thelma loved music because she was a dancer also. I wanted all to know that even if you are a young girl from the projects, you can still be a lady and be strong. You can be determined to become a doctor, or a writer or whatever you deserve to be. Most of all you can have respect while doing all that you want to do.
CAP: Tell us about your role in the film Between a Rock and a Hard Place. How did you hear about the role and what about the film made you want to become a part of it?
BS: Regina Mae got in touch with my manager. The reason I wanted to be a part of the film is because Regina told me how this film was given to her by God and she said that she knew the part of Beverly was for me. I felt very comfortable doing the role so I believed it was a role I had to play. Well, about my character Beverly – she is a very overprotective mother and her sons can do no wrong. Let’s just say she gives her daughters-in-law a hard time. I loved my role.
CAP: Describe your character for us, what are her strengths and weaknesses? How will other women identify with her?
BS: Beverly’s strengths are that she is strong, self-assured, a go-getter. Her weaknesses are that she is biased, she is cold to her daughters-in-law, and she controls her sons. Other women will identify with her because 1) she is a good mother, 2) she wants the best for her children, 3) she has a hard shell but underneath she is a beautiful, compassionate woman.
CAP: How have you handled being a Christian in Hollywood? What advice would you like to give to Christians seeking careers as actresses and actors?
BS: Because of my background and how I was raised, coming to Hollywood was no different than any other place that may have some of the same things going on. My father always taught us that you may be in the ghetto (that’s where I was raised) but you don’t have to be a part of the ghetto. Ghetto meaning you don’t have to follow what others do because you are around them. If your choice is “NO” then it is “NO”, and that applies everywhere you go in this world; even Hollywood.
CAP: What other projects can we look for in the horizon for Bern Nadette Stanis?
BS: Other projects I am working on are a few more books and poetry plus I am going to bring out my paintings this year. I paint in oils.
CAP: I always like to ask , who is your favorite biblical character and why?
BS: Esther is a favorite of mine because she was the one who was obedient and she saved her people. Because she knew what she had to do so she prepared herself for one year to be what she had to, to win her prize. She shows that we must prepare for whatever it is in life we have to do. Prepare for your goals. Be ready.
CAP: How do you want to be remembered?
BS: I want to be remembered as a person who made a difference in this world, that my contributions meant something in the movement to better mankind in some way.
CAP – Thank you so much for your time! May God continue to bless you and your career
BS: Thank you for interviewing me.
Featured in: WOW! Magazine Winter 2010