A 35-year long acting career has molded Crystal Fox into one of the most seasoned actresses in the industry. Since the age of 16, she’s earned roles in some of the most iconic works of the century, including the For Colored Girls stage play, the 1980s crime series “In the Heat of the Night,” and the 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy. Additionally, she’s absorbed lessons from Hollywood heavy-hitters, working side-by-side with the likes of Cicely Tyson and Carroll O’Connor.
Her ability to breathe life into any character she portrays is evident every Tuesday on Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and the Have Nots,” a wildly popular soap opera following the complex relationship between an upper-class family and a working-class family. She plays Hanna Young, the passionate and protective mother of Candace Young (Tika Sumpter) and Benny Young (Tyler Lepley), who heads the “have nots” family. The show is the OWN network’s number one series, but with its Sept. 22 explosive season finale, the series may reach new record-breaking numbers.
Amid season 3 wrapping up, Fox sat down with rolling out to spill secrets on what’s next for Hanna Young, what it’s like working with Perry and OWN CEO Oprah Winfrey, and why being a Black actress is so tough.
How do you feel about the success of “The Haves and the Have Nots”? Did you expect it?
We reach 3.1 million [viewers] every week. So far, we have been number one for nine weeks. Tyler Perry always knew it would be successful. I wanted it to be, because I love the character, I love playing her. I thought [there was] potential, but I have not been ready for what it has become. I’m loving every minute of it, though.
What’s the best thing about playing Hanna Young?
Representing someone I haven’t seen in television in a long time — a blue color, working woman of color — and I don’t fit everyone’s description of what is popular right now. I don’t think people depict our women as sexy if they’re working, if they’re a mom, if they’re grandmoms, if they’re aunts. And I’m trying to show that we come in all forms and all colors, and our hearts are big and our issues are worthy of being shown on television.
Was Hanna Young always the character you wanted to play the most?
Hands down. When I scrolled on my computer and saw that I had been given an opportunity to audition for Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey’s new one hour drama, I had the opportunity to audition for two characters. One was Veronica Harrington, and the other was Hanna Young. And hands down, I wanted to play Hanna. Women like her are not celebrated — not before our eyes. And so to be able to play her is important — the strength and the pride and the responsibility to portray her in ways that we haven’t honored before.
Why do you think a character like that is so seldom shown on television?
I think people are uncomfortable with what they’re not familiar with, and what’s frustrating for me is feeling like “why aren’t people out there wanting to know about our lives, the real parts of us that haven’t been shown?” And I’m just happy that I get this opportunity now. I’m amazed at how many men of varying ages, backgrounds, cultures now are … I’ve had 70-something-year-old men and a 10-year-old boy come up and hug me or hold my hand or grab me. They’re so excited about this character on television.
Is there anything coming up for Hanna Young in the future that you can tell us?
Tyler Perry, my boss whom I love, he said she has got to have some love in her life. He’s said that before, but I tell you, fans have been very funny and fickle about that. I had these two love interests, and I had this kissing scene with one. One person wrote me, they were like, “I love Hanna. I like the regular faith-filled Hannah, I don’t know about this fornicated Hanna” [laughs]. But what’s funny is the sides people have taken. What I do love is that Tyler listens, but he writes what the characters tell him they want said. What I would like is for her to be well-rounded. And that is somebody who dates and goes through the fear of it — the good, the bad, the ugly of it. So, I think that’s going to be in the future at some point. And I’m hoping that you see more of the joy, because she is a woman of faith.
How did you finally meet Oprah?
I had driven across country to work in Oregon. I had to drive back to start work. When you realize you left town and you get home and you go to set and there’s Tyler Perry introducing you to Oprah Winfrey, you’re just standing there like ‘oh my God, oh my God.’ And all I could think of was ‘please don’t hug her too long, you will seem like a stalker. So she hugged me, and she’s talking to me, and then I was like ‘let her go, let her go.’ She was still hugging, and I was like ‘no, I don’t wanna let her go first!’ [Laughs].
She’s warm and gracious. She told us how our show helped save the network. The responsibility is unimaginable but [is a] humbling gift.
Have you had issues with being offered roles that you felt were beneath you?
I have a hard time getting any offers. I still would like answers as to why it’s so hard for some of us to work. I have been in this business for 35 years, and I still don’t understand what my “look” needs to be for Hollywood to write things for me. It doesn’t even have to be me, but just somebody who looks like me. So it’s sad to say, I haven’t got a lot of options. I don’t know if things that I didn’t respect just didn’t come to me or if they were just dormant because that’s not the energy I gave out, but so far, [the answer is] no. But some people think that means you won’t do nude scenes or whatever, [but] I’m not that actor. I want to tell the truth about somebody’s life for them and for the public.
I have been fortunate that I haven’t gotten many roles that I’ve been ashamed of, but I haven’t gotten any options. I will promise you this — everything I do, I will do it with integrity.
Don’t miss the shocking season finale of “The Haves and the Have Nots” Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. EST on OWN.