Eight seasons, over 194 episodes and millions of fans later, Tyler Perry’s hit series, “The Haves and the Have Nots” has finally come to an end. Tika Sumpter’s character was a pivotal force in the show and took Sumpter’s career to new heights. According to OWN, the show was the most-watched scripted cable series with African American women 18 and over and much of that was due to Sumpter’s riveting portrayal of the ruthless and conniving Candace Young. Sumpter, however, received much more from the show than a consistent paycheck and a trending hashtag; the former reality TV host met and became engaged to her current fiancé Nick James while paying the mercurial vixen.
What has the audience response been like with a character as manipulative as Candace?
If you watch the show then you know Candace is always going to get a response. I always joke that I’m worried when people come up to me and tell me how much they love Candace. I usually want to ask what they love about her. But it’s been such an amazing opportunity to play a character like this for eight seasons. There were times I looked at the script and I’m like, “this girl will never learn!” There were times I wished she would’ve learned from her mistakes and changed her ways, but that wouldn’t have been true to Candace.
What will you miss the most about playing Candace Young?
Playing Candace was a lot of fun but the truth is it’s the entire cast that made this show special. I love every single one of these people and I hate the idea of never getting together again to do this show. It will be weird not getting together once a year with everyone.
You shot hundreds of episodes but is there a memorable scene that stands out to you?
There is a scene where I’m apologizing to my mother, [who is] played by Crystal Fox. It’s one of those scenes that we know the audience has been waiting for years to see and we’re both crying and it was just one of those unforgettable moments.
Although the show is ending, a part of the show is going with you. You met your fiancé while filming. How did you two connect?
I remember seeing him and thinking, “OK, he’s cute.” We saw each other a few more times and I realized, OK, it’s more than just cute, I kinda like him. I tried flirting and giving him signals but he just didn’t get it. So some time goes by and we end up going to a party celebrating my TV brother Tyler Leply. So I’m smiling at him and trying to make conversation, but he still didn’t get it. Finally one of his friends had to tell him — “Yo, she likes you!” He was clueless and to be honest I was running out of ways to show him.
There are a lot of people who try to separate their romantic life from the workplace. Were you open with the relationship at first or did you keep it between the two of you?
Oh, we tried to hide it at first at least until we knew what it was. We’d steal kisses between scenes and sneak into each other’s dressing rooms, etc. The funny thing is it was Tyler who outed us. Nick had just left my dressing room and he had my makeup on his nose. So [Tyler] called him out. He said, “Yeah, that’s not your makeup on your face, who have you been kissing?” It was obvious because my makeup is brown and his is not. So after that we pretty much were public.
This show has been consistently No. 1 for so many seasons and was Tyler Perry’s introduction to OWN. What stands out to you the most about this experience?
Besides the amazing people that make up the cast, it’s the fans. “The Haves and the Have Nots” hands down has the most amazing fans, they’ve stuck beside us and they’ve been so supportive of all of us. It’s not often you get to be a part of something that’s received this way. Also, the opportunity to work with Tyler Perry and, of course, Oprah Winfrey [was amazing]. I feel incredibly blessed to have been a part of this production. I don’t think I’ll ever have another experience quite like it.
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network will air a two-part “The Haves and the Have Nots” cast reunion special on Tuesday, July 27 and Tuesday, Aug. 3 at 8 p.m. EDT.
Photographs provided by OWN