I had planned to post my review of the film “Surrendered – The Story of Jay Harding” today, but as any journalist knows, breaking news happens! I was given the opportunity to interview actor, director and producer Kim Fields (aka Tootie from “Facts of Life” for my ’70s babies or Regine from “Living Single” for my ’80s babies) about her television Christmas special “Holiday Love.” She, along with her husband, Christopher Morgan, executive produced and directed the Christmas special.
The two-hour program originally aired on TV One last December but will be broadcast again on Sunday (Christmas) at 7 a.m. EST. (Please check your local listings for encore presentations.) Invited celebrity guests are: gospel sensation Marvin Sapp, comedian Ricky Smiley, chart-topping gospel artist Brian Courtney Wilson, Dove and Stellar winner Tye Tribbett, Grammy Award-winning gospel artist Yolanda Adams, jazz saxophonist Gerald Albright, nationally-known spoken word artist Karen Briggs, R&B sensation Kenny Lattimore, gospel workout guru Donna Richardson Joyner, Grammy Award-winning gospel artist Smokie Norful and others!
Set in a cozy, luxurious traditional home, the special will feature visits from today’s hottest stars in hilarious vignettes, heart-warming songs and glorious holiday fun. Kim Fields, an entertainment industry veteran who is a now a producer and lead director of Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne,” has an impressive roster of celebrity friends who can’t wait to stop by the Holiday House to spread a little holiday cheer – singing songs, cooking, playing games, laughing and of course loving the way only family can. The show is reminiscent of “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Flip Wilson,” and “Laugh-In!” And she is hoping “Holiday Love” becomes a Christmas classic!
See my Q&A with Kim Fields below!!!
1. How did you get the idea for “Holiday Love?”
Well, last year, I had wanted to do a Christmas special, and I think it just kind of was literally dropped in my spirit. I was working with such wonderful crew out here in Atlanta, and being out here where you have 24-hour gospel, you have access to great music, and we just have so many friends in the industry. And it just started snowballing from there. The people that said yes immediately. Not wanting to do just a concert or a string of performances, but something that the artists would have fun doing and that audiences would enjoy seeing their favorite artists not in their regular light. Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, I remember all the great Christmas specials – like Carol Burnett or Bob Hope, Sonny& Cher and wanting to do something like that.
2. What is your favorite segment in “Holiday Love” and why?
Oh my goodness. There are so many quite honestly. I think, from a worship standpoint, I really love the Christmas carol segment between Yolanda Adams, Wess Morgan, Bryan Courtney Wilson and Kenny Lattimore. Every time I’ve seen the special, hundreds of times in editing and then just watching the special, that brings me to tears in absolute worship. And that’s something, while it’s great to have all of these other elements, the laughter, great music and even messages of love and all sorts of things, you have to worship in this season and heighten that worship in this season. I believe you should worship all of the time, but in this season for us, it is heightened. I was thrilled and grateful that God allowed us to have those moments as well. And by the time Kenny gets to the end of “O Come Let Us Adore Him,” I’m always in tears.
My other favorite moment was working with my sister (Alexis Fields) via Skype in the piano store as she and I are stalking Smokie Norful. I’m in the piano store to rent a piano for the Christmas party. I see him in there, and I recognize him, and I call my sister who is in California. She doesn’t believe me so I get my computer, and I Skype her so that we can look for Smokie Norful in the piano store. And He ends up sneaking up on me. It’s really my tribute to all of the great Lucy and Ethel moments of “I Love Lucy” and all of the great “Laverne & Shirley” moments.
There is something for every one – for every kind of music lover from jazz to ballads, to R&B, to gospel. There is certainly lots of funny stuff with Ricky Smiley and myself. There is a wonderful tap number from a Broadway star. Tye Tribbett does a great rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” with my son Sebastian and two other little boys that’s a lot of fun. The idea of families being together on Christmas morning watching this, it makes my spirit leap!
3. Obviously, “Holiday Love” demonstrates your faith in Jesus Christ. How, when & why did you become a Christian? And was it hard to be a Christian in Hollywood? What keeps you a Christian today?
I was 14, and I was visiting a church with my mother. My mother had written a play, and this church was supporting the show. We went to certain churches to tell people about the show. I was always brought up to be a very good kid. I didn’t grow up in the church, but I had home training. And when I was in the service, I felt, I guess the best way to explain it is that I felt this wave of love. I had always felt loved, but it was such a new level and that led me to God.
It was not hard for me to be a Christian in Hollywood because I was a child. And at 14, I hadn’t yet had to deal with some of the things that young people or young adults deal with that would come later. And because I had God, I was able, I think, to not do battle with those things that young people and teenagers have to deal with. But again, I had home training and a strong mother who never forgot that she was a parent even in the face of having a celebrity or a working actor for a child. So there were some things that just would not be tolerated in my house.
What keeps me a Christian today? Oh His goodness, His mercy. His power that helped me keep my mind when I should have lost my mind a long time ago just based on life. Of course, people know how child actors fall by the wayside or former child stars. I mean actors today, just people in the industry, and even if you’re not in the industry, life can be, you know, very difficult. And if you don’t have that rock and that grace over you…uh uh, I couldn’t even, I wouldn’t even know how to act without God. That is what keeps me a Christian. And you when you try to strike out on your own and do stuff on your own and make decisions on your own and you’re like, ummm, okay, yeah, I see why I need God.
4. I loved you as “Tootie” in “Facts of Life” and as Regine as “Living Single.” When you played “Tootie,” were you aware that you inspired little black girls across the nation because they were so few little black girls on television? And what did you like the most about playing Regine?
Not at all. I was aware of the love that I felt from the black community, but I was so young that you don’t equate it to oh, I’m the only one. You just say oh they like the show, thank you. And because I never set out to be famous or be a celebrity or rich or anything like that, I was just doing what I liked doing. So to me, that is was it was about.
And about Regine? That she was so absolutely different from me. It was a challenge. To me, any actor worth their salt, the desire or the goal is to keep stretching out. You as a reporter or as a journalist, if you kept writing the same stories over and over again and the same types of things, after a while, you would want to be challenged and feel like you were stretching out or covering new ground. And so for me, Regine was definitely that. And she was just so much fun to play!
5. Do you prefer acting, director or producing and why? And what is it like to work with Tyler Perry?
I love it all very much. I’m still as passionate, if not more passionate, about acting and being a contributor to the entertainment industry. I’m more excited and more passionate as I was the day that I started. You certainly grow older and wiser, hopefully, prayerfully, and with wisdom, not letting any experiences turn you bitter but make you better. And so for me, I love it all.
Sometimes, my choices are made based on my schedule. For example, there are days when it’s nice just to be worried about what I’m doing as an actor because I don’t have to worry about the big picture. I don’t have to worry about the budget. I don’t have to worry about other departments. I can just go in, do my lines and go home. And then you have times where it’s great to contribute to the entire project and really have a voice on all fronts – the writing, the vision, the costumes, the music, the location, the casting, all of that. It’s all great.
First of all, it’s a blessing to work with Tyler Perry, but I don’t really work with him. Because when I’m directing, he’s not. He’s doing other things which is why they brought my mother (Chip Fields) and me in to direct to free up Tyler to be able to do other things and know that somebody was minding the store and taking care of his babies, so to speak, the way that he would because those projects, the characters that he created are a part of his heart and soul. So it’s more so working for him I guess. And with that, it’s a blessing. He’s incredibly creative, extremely generous and very funny, and very, very smart. I mean extremely smart about the team that he puts around him, the fact that he knows his audience so incredibly well. It’s inspiring as well.
6. What is your favorite Bible scripture and why?
Girl, it depends on what’s going on in my life. I think for where I am in my life right now, I’m almost at a bit of a crossroads in terms of expanding what I’m doing as a director and as a producer, reinventing myself as an actor, reinventing myself as a wife, growing as a mother, making stronger commitments to myself as a woman and as a human being, I think with all of that, right now, the scripture that is most applicable would be in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths, lean not to your own understanding. There’s also a proverb that says in all of your understanding, get wisdom. The whole idea of wisdom and understanding. I’m desperate for wisdom. I’m desperate for knowledge.
And learning from my, as my pastor calls it, my “missed takes.” You know, we can be so down on ourselves when we make mistakes, and Pastor Marlon said once look at it as a missed take, and when you have a missed take, you take it again, you take it from the top or you pick up from where you left off. Take 2, Take 3, Take 4. That helps me not be so hard on myself because I can get really hard on myself when I have to go back and examine mistakes and missteps. I think those scriptures pertaining to not leaning on my own understanding or not following all of just my own instincts and praying and diligently seeking wisdom.
7. Tell me something about you that most people, particularly since you grew up and still are in the public eye, would be surprised to know?
I think people would be surprised to know that I have great discretion (laughing). I’m very discrete. But people would be surprised to know that I’m very shy, and I’m also very sensitive.
And Kim has many other projects in the works as well! She will be back in front of the camera in a new GMC (formerly Gospel Music Channel) TV special, “A Cross to Bear,” due out for release in February 2012 and the Jennifer Lopez film, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” based on the best-selling book. The film is scheduled to be released in Spring 2012!