It’s a role she’s proud to embrace because, as she told, EUR/Electronic Urban Report her character is “a woman of a certain age, and not that I ever had to play really younger, but it’s just nice that we’re finally — slowly but surely — having more roles for my age group that are savvy, sexy and prominent — at the top of her game.”
Pettiford joins Chiké Okonkwo and Ashton Holmes as recurring characters on the series this season, which finds her dashing Mary Jane’s dreams of becoming a national lead anchor. In addition to being a fan of the series, Valarie and “Being Mary Jane” star Gabrielle Union are longtime friends.
“I gotta support my girl,” she said. “The great thing about it, I got a chance to watch the marathon this past couple of days, so that was pretty awesome, catching up on some stuff that I missed.”
Check out the rest of our Q&A with Valarie below.
READ RELATED STORY: Raven Goodwin Talks ‘Being Mary Jane’ Season 4 Return [EUR Exclusive]
What was it about this role that really intrigued you to be a part of this show?
Valarie: Playing an anchor. I’ve never played a reporter or an anchor before, and I learned a lot by studying different people to get into the character more, and learn about their day-to-day as much as one can, and their process of interviewing and such. So it was also that, the type of job this woman has because I never played that kind of character before.
How easy is it to come in and work with a cast that’s already really clicking?
Valarie: Well, with any show, cause I’ve done that — all actors we have to do that, that’s the nature of our business. So you take a deep breath and you hope that you’re walking in to a set filled with love and camaraderie and has open arms to the new people on set. I have been very blessed, every show I’ve ever worked on has been just awesome. Like The Blacklist, True Blood…any show I’ve done and come on as a guest star, it’s been amazing. I’ve been really-really lucky with that. But that being said, not only do you have to kinda fit in with their dynamic, you gotta worry about the fans too because they’re used to the greatness that’s Being Mary Jane for the last three seasons. I don’t want to disappoint. It can be a lot of pressure coming in.
We learn in the premiere episode last week that Mary Jane’s dreams of becoming a national lead anchor are dashed by Ronda, who keeps it real with MJ about lowering her expectations. Without spoiling anything about what’s to come, what can viewers expect to see unfold between this dynamic?
Valarie: Well…it’s just a natural progression. Anytime you come into a new job, especially when you think you got it all together, and when we’re young we all think we know what we’re doing, now you’re playing in the big leaves and you realize, ‘Oh, I’ve got more work to do.’ It’s not always as easy as one thinks. She’s learning and I’m learning, so there’s going to be growth and just the relationship will grow — and that’s all I’m gonna say.
You mentioned earlier how you’re embracing older roles. Some actresses fear playing older is a career ender.
Valarie: Yeah, but the thing about it is you can’t run away from it. Unfortunately, that’s life. I don’t care how much you try, there’s always going to be somebody younger and it’s just the nature of the beast. That being said.. Yes! It’s still slow. It’s not there yet by no means, especially not only as women, a woman of a certain age, but then you add a woman of a certain age and color. So it’s still tough out there, but boy there’s more roles. Think of Jessica Lagne in American Horror Story, how incredible was she. They made her sexy and fabulous, that’s why you watched the show, is because of her. She was not playing younger, she was playing her age. Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates — women of a certain age, they’re over 40 playing these kickass roles, and that’s just on one show!
Lynn Whitfield on Greenleaf, Tina on Queensugar, Thandie Newton, Gabrielle… these women in their 40’s are getting chances to play these incredible roles so, yeah.. the doors are definitely opening. I know that for a fact because when my manager calls me like, ‘Valarie, they’d like to audition you for this par.’ They’re more parts now. Not only are there auditions but they are auditions for my age, cause you know, black don’t crack. I can play a little bit younger, not much, but I can play a little bit younger. It’s nice to not have play a little younger. It’s nice to play who I am.
Many of us know you from your roles in some of the best dramatic TV series, what appeals to you the most about the drama genre as an actress?
Valarie: Being able to create a character with real life and real feelings and going deeper. Comedy is not easy at all, it’s all about timing and it also comes from a real place, but dramatic roles came a little bit easier for me, especially in the early days of my career — just being blessed to be able to get a chance to play them and discover and rework and grow.
Do fans recognize you from these amazing TV shows you’ve been on, and do you enjoy the fan response?
Valarie: I love the fan response. I just get a big kick out of it. It just makes me so happy. And what makes me even more happy is a lot of people, because I look so different, a lot of people don’t recognize me — they’ll go, ‘Oh, she looks familiar.’ But when I open my mouth, they hear me talk, they’re like, ‘Oh my god, that’s her!,’ and it just makes me thrilled. I dig it. You can’t do it without the fans. They’re the ones that keep you working and keep you viable and what I love about my fans, they’re so respectful. They’re so loving. They’re just treasures. It’s really a pleasure to meet people on the street, or at the store, and everybody has been really respectful. So I dig it.
Tune in to “Being Mary Jane” on Tues. at 9/8c on BET.