Written by | Ray Cornelius 

I had the distinct pleasure Thursday night of having dinner with Emmy winning actress, TV icon and Broadway star—Jackée Harry. She was in Atlanta promoting her new role on “Tyler Perry’s The Paynes,” which airs on Friday evenings at 9 p.m. on OWN.

In “The Paynes,” Cassi Davis and LaVan Davis reprise their roles as Ella and Curtis Payne, from the hit series “House of Payne.” The two are enjoying their retirement when a family death takes them on the road to Florida. It is during this trip that Curtis is roped into a real estate deal by his cousin JoAnn (played by Jackée) that will tumble their lives like clothes in a dryer. The show also features Stephanie Charles, Markice Moore, JD McCrary, Sanai Victoria and Anthony O. Dalton.

This is Jackée’s first project with Perry and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

“Tyler Perry had written the part for me and I had no idea. When I got there he said, ‘I got you’ and it’s been rich. This is the first time I’ve worked for an African-American man and woman [Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey] at the same time. They are billionaires, so it feels great!”

Jackée is also excited to be back on primetime. She burst on to the scene in the early 80s as a soap opera star on NBC’s “Another World” before landing the role of a lifetime as the sassy, sexy vamp Sandra Clark on “227.” She would later star opposite Tim Reid and the Mowry twins—Tia and Tamera—in the hit series “Sister, Sister” in the 90s. She credits her sharp wit and impeccable comedic timing (that we’ve all grown to love) as the secret to her longevity.

“Everybody ain’t Viola Davis you know. I wanted to be the greatest actress around but there’s not enough parts and comedy keeps me busy. I would love to retire and do jobs here and there but it ain’t happenin and we ain’t got that many. So since you all seem to still be enthralled I continue to go on and do it. I just don’t want to get bored,” said the veteran actress.

In addition to the new show, Jackée also has a new love in her life—her grandson Kyydyn. He is the child of her son—Frank—and has already captured her heart beyond her wildest dreams.

“His name is Kydyn and I’m in love. He’s just a fat chunk of joy you know. Just a little package and you don’t even know that you’re gonna feel that way. It was instant,” she said with stars in her eyes and that wide 1000 watt smile. “It’s made me come to another level of love I never knew I had. I’ve never been in love with a little baby. (LOL) I see little babies I like but they can go right on home. However, this one is coming with me.”

In addition to questions about her career, Jackée also chatted about adapting to social media, the current #MeToo Movement, Mo’Nique and more. Check out the full interview in next week’s edition of my radio show, UPFRONT Inside Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry.

“The Paynes” starring Jackée Harry airs TONIGHT at 9 p.m. on OWN

Photo Credits: Ray Cornelius