Phylicia Rashad Probes 'Dimensions Of Motherhood' The actress best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show has taken on two more complex mom roles. She's a preacher, mother and healer in the play every tongue confess; and mother to a daughter with a personality disorder in Frankie & Alice. Rashad says she learned "everything" from her own mom.
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Phylicia Rashad Probes 'Dimensions Of Motherhood'

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Phylicia Rashad Probes 'Dimensions Of Motherhood'

Phylicia Rashad Probes 'Dimensions Of Motherhood'

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AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

The production is called "every tongue confess," and in it Rashad plays a gifted healer and preacher.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "EVERY TONGUE CONFESS")

PHYLICIA RASHAD: (As character) I don't care if you think I'm holy. I got a hole in my head. Now I am water. I am a ripple in living water. I thank God for you. Thank you, Jesus. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

CORNISH: I have to say your voice is the first thing that struck me when I was sitting in the audience. Your voice is almost unrecognizable in a way. Who is that preacher?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: Where did they come from?

RASHAD: This is something that has begun to manifest in the work that I do on stage, accessing a character through their speech and through the sound of the voice, and it's something that unfolds quite naturally.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RASHAD: And I must say, that in the continued playing of a work, it's something that even startles and amazes me sometimes when I hear it.

CORNISH: Really?

RASHAD: Yeah.

CORNISH: You did look a little surprised when you heard that just now, that big bombast of...

RASHAD: Yeah.

CORNISH: We also have a clip of that, and in this scene, you were in a meeting with her doctor.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "FRANKIE & ALICE")

STELLAN SKARSGARD: (As Dr. Oz) Frankie has a very particular condition that's brought on by repressed trauma. I believe it has something to do with a man she knew. A Pete, a Mr. Pete. Do you know him?

RASHAD: (As Edna Murdoch) He died, Dr. Oz. Well, he died a long time ago. That was God's will. He was trying to live between two worlds. He wouldn't have fitted in neither one.

SKARSGARD: (As Dr. Oz) You're saying that he, he was white?

RASHAD: (As Edna Murdoch) It's over now, and now it's time for you to leave.

CORNISH: One sort of constant that I've seen in these roles is you are the mother often.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: You were the mother of all mothers. And I spoke to a film actress recently who said to me, I don't like to play the mother because sometimes it kicks off the life journey for someone else or the mother is always a catalyst for bad things, especially for male characters.

RASHAD: I don't think about it like - there are all kinds of mothers. Medea was a mother, all right? Queen Britannia in "Cymbeline" was a mother. Clair Huxtable was a mother. And it's wonderful to be able to explore the dimensions of motherhood and the vast expressions that proceed from that.

CORNISH: Has it changed how you think of yourself as a mother?

RASHAD: No.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RASHAD: No. It hasn't. Although my daughter says we have to be careful with the roles you play. And I ask why. She said because you're always putting a little bit of that home.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: Which in the case of "Medea" I think would be a little scary.

RASHAD: And she came running to me with a splinter her finger. And I'm...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RASHAD: I turned to her and I said, I can't deal with that right now. And I never talk to my daughter that way. And her eyes got so big and, like - I said, I'm sorry. I really have to go. And then I called someone else to come and assist her, and it was taken care of.

CORNISH: Oh.

RASHAD: But she said, I don't know if I like that lady.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: Can I ask what your mother was like?

RASHAD: Ooh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RASHAD: And in 4/4 time, the whole note is getting four beats. She proceeded to divide that Easter egg to 16 parts.

CORNISH: Oh, my gosh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RASHAD: It was my mother who taught us to tumble across the living room floor and to do Katherine Dunham dance combinations, because her cousins danced in Katherine Dunham's troupe. It was my mother who gave us a real appreciation for art. My mother gave us a lot. She gave us everything.

CORNISH: Do you find you bring her to these roles?

RASHAD: She says no matter who I'm pretending to be, I'm always being her.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: Phylicia Rashad, thank you so much.

RASHAD: Thank you.

CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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