By Janice Malone
America first fell in love with the talents of actress Tempestt Bledsoe when she starred as cute and adorable “Vanessa Huxtable” on the mega-hit sitcom The Cosby Show. Of course Ms. Bledsoe is now all grown up and has made a successful transition from being a famous child star to being a consistently working adult actress. Tempestt is currently one of the co-stars of the new NBC sitcom GUYS WITH KIDS (Wednesdays 8:30pm NBC). Emmy Award-winning Jimmy Fallon is the executive producer of the show, which is about three thirty-something dads who try to hold on to their youth as they face the responsibilities of being dads. Bledsoe has enjoyed success in the entertainment business since the age of four. She began her career singing jingles for radio and television commercials in her hometown of Chicago. Over the years she’s been an exemplary role model for young people. As a student, she was chosen as a finalist in the National Achievement Scholarship Program for Outstanding Negro Students. Bledsoe later enrolled at NYU’s prestigious Stern School of Business, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance.
Upon finishing her off-Broadway stage debut in “From the Mississippi Delta,” she became the host of her own nationally syndicated talk show “Tempestt.” Some of her most recent television work includes the original movie “Wishing Well,” Steven Bochco’s “Raising the Bar,” Oxygen’s “Husband for Hire,” and the voice of Abbey on “The Replacements.” Most recently, Bledsoe is voicing the lead character of Sheriff Hooper in the new animated feature film “ParaNorman,” which premiered last month. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband. The Tribune spoke to Tempestt recently about her role on a new NBC sitcom and her transition from being child star to a successful to a diverse successful actress.
TRIBUNE: Tell us about your character “Marny” on the new show GUYS WITH KIDS.
T.BLEDSOE: “Marny is all about survival (she laughs). She’s married to Gary, played by Anthony Anderson, and they have four sons all under the age of six. Now you understand when I say she’s all about survival. Marny’s trying to make sure everybody’s got all their hands, legs, and feet at the end of the day and in the bed safely. Marny and Gary have a very loving, strong marriage. They’ve decided that Marny will be the breadwinner in the family, while Gary is a stay-at-home dad caring for the boys. I think this is an arrangement the public hasn’t really seen that much on network TV. But it’s a good representation that a lot of families are making for economic reasons. It’s a non-traditional choice that’s a good choice. And Anthony Anderson is hilarious in how he handles these boys as a dad.”
TRIBUNE: Do you have any friends or family members who have a similar family arrangement as Marny and Gary?
T.BLEDSOE: “As an actor you always try to find something you can relate your character to. But I’m naturally a mothering kind of person. I’m the one who wants to take care of everybody. I like making sure people get enough to eat; asking if people are sick, need any vitamin C? So the role of a mother is a natural part of my personality. I have friends who have children and watching them see how they try to balance it all. I really think this show will be able to relate to, and also people who don’t have kids will see their friends and family who are parents within some of these episodes. Jimmy Fallon is the executive producer and he really nailed it with the comedy. My agent told me about a new show that Jimmy Fallon was executive producing and I immediately said, ‘Count me in. Say no more!”
TRIBUNE: What is it like working with your co-star Anthony Anderson?
T.BLEDSOE: “Anthony is a very talented actor. He has the talent to do both comedy and dramatic roles. He’s hilarious on Guys with Kids. We have a really great chemistry together. It’s been a challenge sometimes because Anthony is just so good until it makes you have to always bring you’re A-game to work each day.”
TRIBUNE: In addition to Guys With Kids, you’re also doing a character voice in the new animated movie PARANORMAN. What was that like for you as a voiceover actress?
T.BLEDSOE: “I’ve done voiceover work since I was about 4 years old. I did an animated series for the Disney Channel two years ago but this is my first full animated film as a voice over actor, and I’m very excited about it. Paranorman is an exceptional film. It took over four year to make. It’s a rather dark genre film, that’s about rather dark and scary themes. And I love working in this kind of genre. I have a rather dark and twisted taste for certain things. My character (Sheriff Hooper) is really funny. She’s the sheriff in the town where zombies are coming to take over the town but my character isn’t that concerned about that. She just wants to make sure there’s no speeding going on. I just love this film. It’s pure magic! Pre-teens will love it.”
TRIBUNE: You’ve made a smooth transition from being a successful child star to now being even more successful as an adult actress. Most child actors don’t usually succeed like this. What’s been your secret?
T. BLEDSOE: “When most kids enter entertainment it’s of course usually because of your parents or some adult. But after a while some kids wake up and realize they don’t want to work in this industry anymore. In my case my mother was a teacher and she had an affinity on how to recognize whatever a child’s skill sets and passions were. She made it clear that any time I was no longer having fun or enjoying working in entertainment, then I didn’t have to do it anymore. There was never any pressure to make me stay in it. I think that was one of the major reasons as to why I was able to make the transition so smoothly. Plus, I was working on the set with Dr. Bill Cosby too. He was an amazing example for all of us. The show was an ideal set for any kid to work on.”