When the teasers for the Netflix limited series When They See Us began circulating, people were understandably overwhelmed. The dynamic drama follows the painful real-life circumstances of the Central Park Five, a group of five young black men (Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson) who were unfairly accused and imprisoned for the sexual assault of a woman in New York City's Central Park in 1989.
Created, co-written, and directed by filmmaker Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle in Time), When They See Us has gained critical acclaim for its powerfully raw retelling of the events of that fateful day and the turmoil that the Central Park Five and their families faced in the years that followed. The four-part Netflix offering will likely take center stage at this weekend's 71st Primetime Emmys, as the miniseries was nominated in seven different categories—including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. Claws actress Niecy Nash, up for the award for her stunning portrayal of Korey Wise's mother Delores, will face off against Amy Adams, Patricia Arquette, Joey King, and When They See Us co-star Aunjanue Ellis.
This isn't Nash's first rodeo by any means—she's been a working actress in television and in film since 1995, already has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and has even won several Emmys throughout her career—but it's totally possible that she hasn't been on your radar until recently. Ahead, some important facts to know about one of the small screen's greatest and most underrated gifts, Ms. Niecy Nash.
She's been in the acting game for almost 25 years.
As stated earlier, Nash isn't new to this—she's true to this. Her first acting gig was as an extra without lines in a gem of a film called Boys on the Side starring Drew Barrymore, Whoopi Goldberg and Mary-Louise Parker (Matthew McConaughey was also in it??), but it was only up from there. Over the years, Nash has starred in numerous projects, big and small, with notable roles in works such as Reno 911!, The Soul Man, Getting On, Scream Queens, and Selma. She was also the host of home makeover and interior design television show Clean House, and she's currently leading the ensemble cast of TNT's crime dramedy, Claws. Next up for the actress is a recurring role in the upcoming FX limited series Mrs. America, starring Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba, and Sarah Paulson. Talk about star power!
Weaving between the genres of comedy and drama hasn't always been easy for the acting veteran, but it's something that she's proud to have finally gotten the opportunity to do. "I spent a lot of time in my career being told that I could only do one thing,” Nash told Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode” podcast. “You do broad comedy, that’s your lane. And I’m like, no, I can do something else. When I finally got the opportunity, this was the first time to step into those waters.”
She slid into Ava DuVernay's DMs to audition for When They See Us.
When she first heard the news that DuVernay was planning to bring the story of the Central Park Five to the screen, Nash was desperate to be part of the project. In addition to having vested interested in bringing justice to communities of color (her mother founded the organization Mothers Against Violence In Schools, and Nash is currently its spokesperson), starring in the miniseries would be an opportunity for her to "reintroduce" herself in the industry. "I don't want to be a sassy, black anything," Nash iterated during The Hollywood Reporter's Drama Actress Roundtable. "I don't want to be a sassy, black mama. I don't want to be a sassy, black neighbor. I don't want to be a sassy, black friend. There's so many more notes to be played."
So Nash did what she had to do to land a part, any part, in DuVernay's series: "I slid in her DMs, I texted her, I called her, I sent a carrier pigeon. I put two cans together with a string. I said, 'Girl, listen, I don’t care if I’m a fly on the wall. I have to be a part of this story. I will play anyone.'" Long story short, Nash booked the role, and now she's nominated for an Emmy.
She's a mother of three.
Nash may be a decorated actress, but before anything, she's the proud mama of three beautiful children: Dominic, Donielle, and Dia (who is Nash's actual doppelgänger). Her kids are grown now, but Nash has a special trick to making sure that she can still hover around her babies like the unabashed helicopter mom that she is: "dating" her kids.
"I just recently implemented [a rule for my kids to] come over to see mommy once a week, and I cook something,” she told The Huffington Post in 2015. “It’s harder when everybody is moving out of the house and your career is going so fast.”
She's friends with literally everyone in Hollywood.
The actress isn't just talented; she's also widely beloved by her peers in the industry. Nash is friends with almost everybody in Hollywood. From Claws co-star Karruche Tran to Ava DuVernay to R&B songstress Monica to comic royalty George Lopez, Nash draws people in with her bubbly personality and overall good vibes.
One such Hollywood BFF is Chrissy Metz. Nash's instant connection with the This Is Us star was sparked by the actress' shared admiration for one another. "I met her on a red carpet and I knew that was my friend,” Nash told People of their meet-cute in 2017. “I just walked up to her and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I’m obsessed,’ and she was like, ‘No, I’m obsessed.’ " Now, the duo is obsessively texting and cheering each other on.
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