It’s all about family with ‘Good Girls’ star Retta

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Retta –– whose real name is Marietta Sirleaf –– doesn’t have to be a mom to know how parents would act when pushed into impossible situations. It just so happens that the actions her character takes on the NBC series “Good Girls” tend to be criminal. 

The series follows three women –– played by Christina Hendricks, Mae Whitman and Retta –– who go down a path of illegal activities that started in the first season. The second season, airing on Sundays, picked up with plans to get rid of the gang pushing their evil ways falling apart when Beth (Hendricks) returns home to find her husband beaten and being threatened at gunpoint.

Ruby, played by Retta, has her own problems created by her decision to go along with the criminal acts as a way to help pay for her daughter’s hefty medical bills. It’s very easy for the New Jersey native to understand how common sense can be trumped by family.

“I’m not a mother, but I’m now an auntie of five nephews, and I don’t know how parents don’t live in a constant state of panic because I have anxiety about my nephews constantly. I’m always like texting, ‘Is someone home so I can FaceTime?’ I always want to see them,” Retta said. “When they’re sick, I get sick. I have a sickness in me when I know one of them is sick.

“So I get what Ruby is like: ‘This is what it is. It’s what it is. I have to do it. It doesn’t matter.’ Even when I read the script, I cried when I read the pilot, just knowing that she felt helpless when it came to her child. So I experienced just a portion of it, being an aunt. So it’s not hard to play it, at all. I’m like, ‘Just got to do it’.”

The rest of playing the role comes down to acting experience. Although best known for playing Donna Meagle on NBC’s comedy “Parks and Recreation,” Retta has appeared in “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Freddie,” “Comics Unleashed,” “Premium Blend” and “Comedy Central Presents … Retta.” In film, she had roles in “First Sunday” and “Fracture.”

Acting wasn’t her original plan as Retta graduated with a pre-med degree in sociology from Duke University. Before she could start that career, Retta moved to Los Angeles where she worked as a stand-up comic, hoping it would land her a television sitcom. She’s yet to have her own series but has already been a part of a huge comedy hit with “Parks and Recreation” and her work on “Good Girls.”

Picking roles has been simple –– she looks for good writing and great actors.

“For me, it’s the script. When I read the pilot (for “Good Girls”), I knew exactly who she was. But I will say, once I started working on it when my kids come on set, I fall in parental mode,” Retta said. “So it was the script originally, but then Reno (Wilson). … I didn’t meet Reno until the table read, so I didn’t know him. I didn’t know how I felt about him playing my husband.

“When we sat down at the table read, he was so warm, and he’s like that with everyone, and he calls everybody ‘baby.’ He’s just so loving that I knew exactly what that relationship was going to be on screen. So, for me, it was the script, and then the people that played my family.”

“Good Girls” tests Retta’s comedy and dramatic skills. Some of the scenes in the first season were emotionally draining but Retta saw that as cathartic. The one thing Retta knew she would be able to bring to the big emotional scenes was tears because she’s never had a problem crying. It’s nothing for a Hallmark commercial to send her searching for a tissue.

Being able to cry on cue was important because of the highs and lows of the series. Retta kept telling the director and producers they had nothing to fear. The first day didn’t support Retta’s claims as she just could not muster any tears.

“I don’t know if it’s anxiety or what. And I realized I hadn’t drank any water. So that’s how I prep for my crying scenes. I drink a lot of water because I literally was dry to the bone. And I drank some water, and I was, like, ‘Oh, I got this? This is my lane.’ So, for me, the first step is to drink water,” Retta said. “And then usually when I read the script, I get triggered by it, by what is happening. And like I said, I’ll cry when I read it. So when I go to shoot it, the dialogue triggers me.”

 

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