Catching Up With: Anna Maria Horsford

She played the innocent, yet preacher-chasing daughter of a Philadelphia deacon in the hit 80s sitcom “Amen.” She constantly kept Shawn and Marlon in check as Dee the security guard on their popular 90s series “The Wayans Brothers.” She even stayed on Ice Cube a.k.a. Craig’s toes in the classic film “Friday.” There’s no way that you don’t know who Anna Maria Horsford is. The beloved actress sat down with JET to talk about how she uses her familiarity to get things done, and how she plans to make a difference in the lives of  incarcerated youth.

JET: It’s always fascinating to find out what entertainers did before they started their careers. What odd jobs did you have before you made your way onto the main screen?

Anna Maria Horsford: My first job was an acting job. The Shakespeare festival in Harlem, and it happened a month after I graduated from high school. And our director of drama told us that it takes 20 years to be an actor and I got that job. I said, “Oh my God! Dr. Dike you’re wrong.” I got the job and saved my money to go to Sweden to meet Ingmar Bergman because I was into foreign films at the time and then when I came back, I landed a job very quickly at Channel 13 in production. So as strange as this sounds, I’ve always been in the business. I went to performing arts and then I decided to go to college for one year in Puerto Rico, and then I decided to go to Stockholm, Sweden to live.

JET: What a blessing. Did you always want to be an actress?

Anna Maria Horsford: Yeah. Kind of. I was kind of loud. I was probably an unruly child and my mother put me in this daycare at Mt. Olive Baptist Church. And I remember the first time my teacher gave me a little poem to memorize and it was so interesting because my heart soared when I got on stage and started talking and that kind of lit something up inside of me because I do believe that we’re all born with a purpose. Not to say that I ever thought it was going to be a career, but I just knew how I felt when I came home and memorized [that poem]. Life was calm for me after that. It still works. I was the only one from my junior high school that got accepted into performing arts. You want some of your friends to go to high school with you, but just being in that environment opened up my heart, my brain, my world and I was fine after that. I just loved the way I felt sitting in a theater.

JET: From playing Thelma Frye on Amen to Craig’s mom on Friday, you’ve been a part of some classic productions. How does it feel to be a household name?

Anna Maria Horsford: Well I will tell you, it always surprises me how many people know me. And I forget that going into somebody’s house that everybody knows you. I’m a three-generation artist. Young kids say “I grew up with you. This woman raised me.” People older than me know me. But what they remember is not just them watching, but the joy that their parents and grandparents shared. It’s a wonderful feeling I tell you. Every single day of my life, at least two to three people tell me “Oh my God. Do you know how much I love you?” You go and you do your thing like, “Oh I got a job.” Then you realize that somebody’s looking! Friday, I don’t think ANYBODY realized that it was going to have the impact that it did. When your’e doing it, you’re doing a 100 movies and you don’t know which ones the public’s going to like. You have no clue which ones will make it and which ones won’t. So it’s a wonderful feeling.

JET: Speaking of Friday, recently Ice Cube announced that a final movie may be in the works. Will you be a part of it?

Anna Maria Horsford: Who knows? (laughs). Come on. I mean…you find out in 24 hours when it comes to show business. I hope to, but you don’t know because every time I go through the airport somebody says, “Oh is it gonna be a Last Friday?” I tell them to ask Ice Cube. And I always run into other actors [from the film] Tiny Lister, Chris Tucker, John Witherspoon and I are still very good friends and I say, “Have you heard?” and they say “Un Un.” There’s so much that happens before you get to the actor. You can’t say you know. I hope we do it before anybody in the original cast dies (laughs). I mean that happens in life. You just go on and on and on and you say “Aw shucks!” It’s a strange kind of life, showbiz, because you’re always on the move.

JET: Where can we find you now? Any special projects in the works?

Anna Maria Horsford: I just did Soul Man with Cedric the Entertainer and this last job I know I got because they were fans of Friday. You know the guys from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? You know those boys? I just did one of their episodes. I am finding a way to use visibility you get from being on TV for more than 40 years to do some good because [if not], what’s the point of people knowing you? You got to use the visibility. A lot of my time now is spent dealing with kids and incarceration and people tend to pay attention to you because they think they know you. I’m everybody’s auntie, so I get a lot of bookings from all over because [of that]. I’m working on a project that has nothing to do with show business, but it has to do with the visibility I got in show business to make a change. I was in Ferguson, Missouri during [the time of unrest] and had to talk on TV about it. And I said “Wait a minute, how did I get into this?” And the woman on the news announced me as actress-turned-activist. I said to myself, “Nobody sent me the memo!” Sometimes, God picks you without sending you the memo and hopefully you’re well-read and you have an opinion and am not trying to convince anybody of anything except the way you feel about it. I try very hard to be authentic. I’m from Harlem and my father was a Garveyite so I was aware of a certain kind of consciousness. Not just in your personal life, but in your profession too. And we have so many stories to tell. So many things that don’t necessarily make the big screen, but they make you who you are. I think we have a responsibility when people look at us and believe us to put as much truth with integrity in your performance. Every actor has a ministry, now what you sell that’s on you.

Want to keep up with Anna Maria? Check her out on Facebook!