Queen Latifah was not born to royalty but came into this world as Dana Elaine Owens from Newark, New Jersey. The rapper, singer, songwriter, actress and producer is a multiple showbiz threat — a versatile powerhouse in movies, TV and music. Nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar in 2002 (for her role as Matron “Mama” Morton in Chicago), she has since collected an Emmy, a Grammy, a Golden Globe and her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Latifah currently stars as beauty salon owner Carlotta Brown in Fox’s musical drama Star. I had the chance to speak with Latifah recently about her new show, crossover episodes with Empire and more.
Where did the crossover idea first come from?
That was in my brain from day one. I love the fact that we come from different worlds, and these shows can still remain autonomous yet cross over, because it does make sense. We both deal in the music industry. Many of our characters have checkered pasts or come from the streets in ways that we would possibly have met one another, come across each other back there. And had some history.
Are Cookie [of Empire] and Carlotta cut from the same cloth?
The main difference is that Cookie has success and money. And Carlotta really doesn’t. In terms of who they are as women, the strength that they have is equal. They’re both strong and powerful, who wear those scars but have overcome a lot. But Cookie has made it and knows what it’s like to really have money and have an empire. Carlotta’s empire is much, much smaller. It’s God’s Blessings Salon. It’s her bringing her family back together, if you will. Her family is this hodgepodge of people in this world that she’s in. So I think who they are at their core makes them the same in a lot of ways.
Do you ever miss the old days — when you were struggling and striving?
I’m usually moving forward so much, it’s hard to have a moment to be nostalgic. I don’t get a chance to think about it until I hang out with someone from back in the days and we get to talk about things, or someone introduces me for an honor and they go through this whole list of things that I’ve done. I’m almost exhausted before I start thinking about it. Actually, I need some more sleep.
Are those memories happy ones?
There were a lot of fun times in the beginning, when you don’t know so much and you are learning on the job, because you don’t know and you get burned. Then you watch people change and you watch your friends who grew up with you change. And because you became just a little bit notable, they start treating you different because they think you’re going to treat them different. So that was hard to watch. And then losing your anonymity, knowing you can’t just go where you want to go and do whatever you want to do because people now recognize you. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Sounds like a storyline from those TV shows.
Yes, it’s something [producer] Lee [Daniels] deals with as well in this. He really makes fame that drug that it can be. It can be very addictive to a lot of people, and they live and die by it, and you really have to manage it, manage your ego, manage so many things because there’s a lot to avoid.
Out of the Box is a semi-regular column by VCReporter staff and contributors about television and streaming content.