victoria rowell interview Y&R
Credit: Image: Jennifer Cooper

Talk to the actress for even a minute and you know — you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

The world may be a little off kilter at the moment — or OK, a lot off kilter — but Victoria Rowell has rarely been busier. For almost 20 years, she played one of soapdom’s most beloved characters, The Young and the Restless’ Drucilla Barber, a runaway-turned-runaway-success who fell hard for Neil Winters (the late Kristoff St. John) and could’ve been the inspiration for the Brash and Sassy line. Since leaving the show, the actress has parlayed her decades in daytime into two books (Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva and The Young and the Ruthless) that have been turned into a podcast and a spoofy BET soap, The Rich and the Ruthless (which she not only acts in but executive-produces).

And now she’s got so much more going on, including a new three-part home-improvement series for UMC TV, Trash vs. Treasure, and a short film about mental health, Everything Is Fine, which she directed for BET Her. That’s enough for any one human’s resumé, but Rowell sees it all as just a start: She’s devoted her time working in TV and film not just to securing great roles for herself but to finding places behind the scenes and in front of the camera for fellow Black performers and crew. And guess what? She’s got a lot to say about all of it. Let’s begin with Trash vs. Treasure, which as we understand it is the first Black-owned and -produced DIY interior-design series. Have you always been handy?

Victoria Rowell: I grew up on a 60-acre farm where you do everything. You fix the tractor, you bale the hay, you fix the artesian well, you’re self-sufficient. I learned early to repurpose things and decorate with an eye on recycling and repurposing — it’s just what people do, and did. This whole recycling mentality is so timely right now. This is a teachable-moment show. Trash vs. Treasure really encourages and empowers people to take that broken chair, that ironing board, and flip it to make a large table. I’m a practical thinker because I was raised by practical people. That show and your short film aren’t your first efforts behind the camera. Why is it important for you to not only keep acting but create content?

Rowell: I’ve always been advocating for economic inclusion as an African-American content provider/writer/director. I have been directing my own independent content as a documentarian since the 1990s. I’ve been producing since the 1990s. We’ve got to get the economic inclusion of African-Americans in our country. It’s part of my brand to not only act on shows and host the Thanksgiving Day Parade and participate in high-end blue-chip shows but be behind the scenes with content. With the new Viacom/CBS CEO George Cheeks and his sweeping changes, I am very encouraged that I may get a call again from Viacom/CBS. I see opportunity happening. I hope this opportunity won’t be just a media moment; I hope that it will be sustainable in its systemic change, and I look forward to more calls from CBS.

More: Victoria Rowell’s miniseries now on DVD Speaking of which — do you think that with the discussion about more diversity at CBS and showbiz in general that one of those calls might be to ask you to play Drucilla again? Would you even be interested in raising her from the grave?

Rowell: She never died. The character[‘s fate] was left nebulous and open-ended. There was an attempt to replace the character in a variety of ways, to the outrage of the audience. It’s largely [senior executive vice-president, programming, Sony Pictures Television] Steven Kent’s call, because Sony owns 51 percent of the show. And he doesn’t see it as a creative direction he wants to go in, as he’s said. Do you know why?

Rowell: Quite frankly, the answer is very simple: I have consistently fought for diversity on Young and Restless, I have consistently brought union-qualified African-American card-carrying professionals to the forefront of Young and Restless executives. I am proud that when I was invited to CBS to participate in Kristoff’s memorial that personnel that I’ve never met who are Black approached me to tell me I made a difference in their employment or hiring. So, I rest my case. Why would I be called to participate in the [honoring] of the death of my dear friend Kristoff St. John on the Young and Restless set at CBS but not be invited in? It doesn’t make sense. Audiences are suffering… housebound, but you would not give this overall audience the pleasure of seeing who they’ve been asking for over a and the ruthless victoria rowell Y&R

More: Victoria Rowell celebrates diversity news at CBS Overall there is a long-standing issue with a lack of diversity on soaps, which is now getting a re-airing.

Rowell: I loop back to Viacom/CBS CEO George Cheeks, the board of directors and the NAACP, which just papered a multi-year deal with Viacom/CBS — I hope they will include daytime soap operas in the conversation. We’re looking at an aggregate of 80 years — 47 years of Young and Restless and 33 years of The Bold and the Beautiful, with zero Black ownership of soap operas, zero Black executives on those soap operas. I am proud to have the rich history I have with Viacom/CBS, but it’s not enough to have one or two Black writers in 80 years. It’s an abomination. You have Victoria Rowell who loves the show, loves the network, dedicated my career to it, and yet no one wants to have the substantive conversation about one of the oldest forms of entertainment, still enduring, on our broadcast networks.

You can learn more about what Victoria Rowell is up to by following her on Twitter and check out The Rich and the Ruthless on Amazon Prime Video.

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