Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway has built an outstanding career with appearances in cult classics such as What’s Love Got to Do With It and Coming to America. Currently, she plays the evil Lady Ella in Bounce TV’s “Saints & Sinners.”
This fall, she will portray Harriet Tubman’s mother, Rit, opposite Cynthia Erivo in the film Harriet. As season four of “Saints & Sinners” comes to an end, she spoke with rolling out about the show and her upcoming projects, which include fulfilling her purpose as a breast cancer survivor.
On “Saints & Sinners,” Calloway’s Lady Ella is a conniving killer, who also happens to be the mayor of the fictional town of Cypress, Georgia. She plays her character so well that viewers love to hate her. With a formidable cast that includes heavyweights like Clifton Powell, who she describes as her “boy toy,” the hit drama has a faithful following.
“We’ve been No. 1 in our time slot for the 18 to 45 demographic, and our time slot has varied from year to year, and it hasn’t always been the same consistent time slot. It says a lot that every time we come on we beat out a lot of other networks for the Black audiences.”
Fortunately, the breast cancer survivor is thriving as she focuses on helping others live their best lives. She is now a spokesperson for Susan G. Komen’s Know Your Girls Campaign. “We know the girls in our lives. We know our moms, our daughters, our sisters, our friends, our sorors. We should know the girls we carry around every day,” Calloway said. “Do you have a group of girlfriends that call each other up and ask, ‘Did you get your mammogram?’ As women, we need those who will hold us accountable for our health.”
The lifelong dancer’s work with Know Your Girls is part of the rebranding and launch of her web series, “In the Company of Friends.”
“I’m doing interviews, talk-show style, that you’ll be able to see on Instagram or on my website, inthecompanyoffriends.tv, and YouTube. We talk about all things healthy. We hope it will enlighten people and inspire them to go to the doctor on a regular basis.”
While exuding stunning beauty — at the age of 62 — she shared how she remains relevant. “Give ’em what they need. Don’t overdo it, or you’ll burn out,” she advised. “I stay current, I direct, and I team up with young people. [Doing things like] working out, eating healthy, not smoking or drinking too much alcohol. If you do it when you’re younger, it shows up when you’re older.”
After another season of sinful behavior, we wonder what’s next for Mayor Ella Johnson. “Ella just might be getting her just due,” Calloway concluded. “She’s got a lot of haters. But you won’t know unless you watch the finale and come back for season five.”
“Saints & Sinners” season finale airs Sunday, Aug. 25, at 9 p.m. EST, on Bounce TV.