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Armelia McQueen

Actress Armelia McQueen was born on January 6, 1952 in Southern Pines, North Carolina to James and Kathleen McQueen. McQueen's parents divorced, and her mother married Robert Brown in New York. As a child, McQueen was raised in Brooklyn, New York where she performed in church plays. She attended P.S. 44 and P.S. 258 and graduated from New York City’s Central Commercial High School in 1969. Afterwards, McQueen briefly enrolled at the Fashion Industry School, where she majored in fashion design. In 1972, she attended the Herbert Berghoff Drama School.

McQueen’s acting career began when she was hired for a role in the production of, Hot & Cold Heroes. She was then hired in 1976 for the role of Tune Ann in the cult classic film Sparkle. Then, in 1978, she made her Broadway debut in the original production of, Ain’t Misbehavin’ ,appearing alongside Irene Cara, Ken Page and Nell Carter. She went on to win a Theatre World Award for Best Debut Performance and appeared in several Broadway productions, including Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Dance and Harrigan and Hart. She also appeared with the national touring companies of the following shows: South Pacific, Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair. During the 1980s, McQueen made several appearances in various films, made-for-television movies and sitcoms including Mr. Belvedere, Frank’s Place, Action Jackson and No Holds Barred.

Later in 1990, she was featured as Whoopi Goldberg’s on screen sister when she starred in the film Ghost. McQueen continued her work throughout the 1990s by appearing in episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin and Living Single. She was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Cable Ace Award for her role as Red Queen on the Disney Channel series, Adventures in Wonderland. Her other credits include Bulworth, All About the Andersons, JAG and That’s So Raven. McQueen currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Armelia McQueen was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 3, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.072

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/3/2008

Last Name

McQueen

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Central Commercial High School

P.S. 44 Marcus Garvey Elementary School

Nathaniel Macon Junior High School 258

Fashion Institute of Technology

Brooklyn Conservatory of Music

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Armelia

Birth City, State, Country

Southern Pines

HM ID

MCQ02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Maui, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

1/6/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Macaroni, Cheese

Short Description

Actress Armelia McQueen (1952 - ) performed in Broadway musicals like 'Ain't Misbehavin,' 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' and 'Hair.' Her film and television credits included 'Sparkle,' 'Ghost,' and 'Living Single.'

Employment

Paramount Pictures, Inc.

Walt Disney Television

Nichol Moon Films

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Armelia McQueen's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen describes her mother's family background and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen describes her stepfather's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen talks about her maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen remembers her family's move to Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen lists her siblings and relatives

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Armelia McQueen describes her upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Armelia McQueen describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Armelia McQueen recalls her neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Armelia McQueen remembers her early education

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Armelia McQueen remembers segregation in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Armelia McQueen describes her friends from childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Armelia McQueen remembers her dreams and aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen describes her early interest in singing

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen describes her introduction to acting

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen remembers the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen recalls the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen remembers the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen remembers her mother's death

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Armelia McQueen describes her teacher, Earle Hyman

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Armelia McQueen remembers her early professional acting roles

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Armelia McQueen remembers touring with 'The Who's Tommy,' pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen remembers touring with 'The Who's Tommy,' pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen talks about the attitudes toward plus sized actresses

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen remembers her acting roles in the early 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen talks about supporting her family

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen recalls travelling to Africa with the company of 'Hair'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen remembers her experiences in Africa

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Armelia McQueen reflects upon her travels in Africa

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Armelia McQueen describes the reviews of 'Hair' in Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Armelia McQueen describes her experiences as an actor in Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen remembers her return trip to the United States

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen remembers auditioning for 'Sparkle'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen recalls her introduction to the Hollywood entertainment industry

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen remembers filming 'Sparkle'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen describes her career after 'Sparkle'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen remembers the cast of 'Guys and Dolls'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Armelia McQueen remembers auditioning for 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Armelia McQueen remembers the cast of 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Armelia McQueen talks about 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen describes the stars of 'Ain't Misbehavin',' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen remembers the production of 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen describes the characters in 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen recalls the reunion of the original cast of 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen recalls mounting 'Ain't Misbehavin'' in Paris, France

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen recalls the black community's response to 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Armelia McQueen describes her hopes for the black theater community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Armelia McQueen recalls moving to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Armelia McQueen describes the televised version of 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen talks about the changes in the entertainment industry

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen describes her advice to aspiring entertainers, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen describes her advice to aspiring entertainers, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen describes her hopes for African American artists

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

6$1

DATitle
Armelia McQueen describes her career after 'Sparkle'
Armelia McQueen talks about 'Ain't Misbehavin''
Transcript
So the film, when you, when you were done shooting it wa- did you stay or did you return back to New York [New York]?$$No, I went back home after that. 'Cause we were getting ready for it to open and there was supposed to be a lot of publicity and fanfare and whatnot. And I was a supporting role so it wasn't any evidence if I would be the one going on the road. But then 'All the President's Men' came out and all the--and that they got our publicity money. So the publicity for 'Sparkle' was very small, you know, it got, got pushed, you know.$$You came back home after shooting the movie, now what did you do while you were waiting for this to be released?$$Well, I just tried to settle in and see what else I could get into, you know. That was just such a high, you know, shooting a film. And then I g- I went back to theater and, and then I went to do--is that '74 [1974], '75 [1975] the film came out. Just, you know, doing theater, you know.$$Anything of note that you'd like to mention during that time period after 'Sparkle'?$$No, 'cause I didn't do--I did 'On Toby Time' [Harley Hackett], which was gonna be pre-Broadway. That was '75 [1975], yeah. And I played female lead in that, which was great with Maurice Hines [HistoryMaker Maurice Hines, Jr.], we're still friends, we're, we're good friends. Amii Stewart who--she did 'Knock-' 'Knock on Wood,' she, she did a repeat of that song and she moved to London [England]. Do you remember that song? Obba Babatunde, Hinton Battle. Hinton Battle is a wonderful choreographer, wonderful dancer. He was in 'Dreamgirls.' I don't know if you know him. George Hillman, the Hillman brothers [George Hillman and Christopher Hillman] from way back in the day. And I say way back in the day, they were like the Nicholas brothers [HistoryMaker Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas], the older men, and he was my partner. And we were like Desi Smith [ph.], you know, kind of era. I learned to tap through him you know for this particular role and whatnot. And, and so we were, like I said, pre-Broadway bound, but it never took off because of money, a lot of money situations got into that. And then I went to do 'Guys and Dolls,' and that's when I met Ri- Richard Roundtree.$$Now the movie comes out--$$Um-hm.$$--what is that like for you in New York now?$$Wonderful because in the neighborhoods, all of the neighborhoods, people recognized me. So people would just call my name out, Tune Ann, you know, driving the cars, "Oh aren't you Tune Ann, aren't you that girl in the film?" you know. And I was like, "Yes," you know. You know, and my brothers [Robert Brown, Jr. and David Brown (ph.)] and my brothers were like (gesture), and my dad [Robert Brown, Sr.] was the same way, you know. Very excited about it. And you know, it's different from being in theater, you get recognized more with film. Many thousands of people see it as opposed to theater, you know, and so it was a lot of recognition with that.$Ms. McQueen [HistoryMaker Armelia McQueen], 'Ain't Misbehavin'' [Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr.], what's the storyline behind that particular musical?$$The storyline was about Fats Waller, famous pianist, comedian, singer. And they decided that they wanted to honor him and do a musical about Fats Waller, who was not well known in, in our community during that time, in the '70s [1970s]. Back in the '30s [1930s] and '40s [1940s] he was known. So they wanted to bring some of his music to light. People know the music like, "Sit Down and Write Myself a Letter" ["I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter"], "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie." But they didn't know who did it, who wrote it. And so they decided that they wanted to do this musical about him. And Luther Henderson who is a great, who has now passed, great musician was our conductor and arranger. Murray Horwitz, it was his idea. Richard Maltby [Richard Maltby, Jr.] was the director and Arthur Faria was the choreographer.$$And what was your role?$$My role was of Aremlia McQueen is a role that I established. And it was a woman with a chameleon, many characters. I played many characters. And it's a woman that would be in that day and what she'd do and, and--each of the women, the "Squeeze Me" girl was, you know, a, a sweet candy little woman that men would, you know, love to bite and squeeze, you know, so I, I came up with her. You know, because of the song, the song dictated it, you know, what 'cause it's "oh daddy squeeze me and squeeze me again." So you, you, you form your characters from the, the music. And "That Ain't Right" lady was that lady who we'd talked about playing cards and cursing and you know, eating chicken, but yet she was a lady, but she got down low, yeah.$$So you actually formulated these characters outside of the music, the characters been totally written or did you kind of go into the song themselves and decide?$$The characters were never written. All the characters that we formed that we did, we did ourselves, so.$$Oh, could you--could you sing a piece from a, from a, from just a small portion of one of those songs, just anything?$$Oh my god.$$How about the daddy squeeze me?$$Okay, okay, wait a minute. You put me on the spot. (Singing) "Oh daddy squeeze me and squeeze me again. Oh papa don't stop 'til I tell you when. Oh daddy squeeze me and kiss me some more just like we did before. Your papa cupid is standing close by. Oh daddy don't let your sweet baby cry, just pick me up on your knee I just get so, you know, oh when you squeeze me."$$Bravo (claps hands), that's beautiful (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Oh god, I haven't done that for years. And you never forget it though, you know, never forget it.$$It's good. So, so those characters, so everybody developed their own character?$$Yes.$$So they gave you the freedom to do that?$$Yes, yes.$$And what did they say when they saw the character development, wha- what did the writers--'cause you know they have their idea?$$Well, the, the director and the choreographer, they were just happy for you to come up with that, you know. Then they could, they could then mold, you know. The character of Fats Waller was really kind of established because of my dear friend [HistoryMaker] Ken Page who looks like him, you know. And of course who is a wonderful comedian, actor, so he captured him, you know. Because this man was alive, he was real and so he captured him. The other characters, we were like people from that era, you know. And Nell [Nell Carter] was like, oh I don't know the character's name, but Luther Henderson called her name, you know, it reminded him of those women.