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Jackee Harry

Actress Jackée Harry was born Jacqueline Yvonee Harry on August 14, 1956 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but was raised in Harlem, New York, by her mother Flossie Harry. At the age of fourteen, Harry landed the lead role of the “King” in her school’s production of The King and I. After graduating from New York City’s High School of Music and Art, Harry attended the University of Long Island in Brooklyn, New York, where she earned her B.A. degree in education.

Harry began her career as a history teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School. After two years of teaching, she departed from her profession and pursued a career in acting. Harry received acting lessons at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side in New York City and made her acting debut in 1973, with a small part in a play written by Richard Wesley. She then starred in A Broadway Musical as a chorus girl. In 1983, Harry made her television debut by acting opposite the then-unknown Morgan Freeman in the daytime soap opera, Another World.

In 1985, Harry found her signature role, starring as “Sandra Clark” on the NBC sitcom 227. As the breakout star of the show, she became the first African American to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Her performance on 227 inspired NBC producers to create at television pilot for her entitled Jackée. After leaving the cast of 227 in 1989, Harry starred opposite Oprah Winfrey in the adaptation of Gloria Naylor’s novel, The Women of Brewster Place. In 1991, Harry was a part of an all-star cast that included Redd Foxx and Della Reese when she played the role of “Ruth ‘CoCo’ Royal” in The Royal Family. From 1994 to 1999, Harry starred as the adoptive mother of Tia and Tamera Mowry’s characters in the ABC sitcom, Sister, Sister and won NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for two consecutive years in 1999 and 2000.

In 1994, Harry made her return to the theater by starring as “Billie Holiday” in the play Lady Day at Emersons Bar and Grill. Following that stage production, she fulfilled the role of “madam who runs a bordello” in the Broadway Musical The Boys From Syracuse, a play based on William Shakespeare’s classic The Comedy of Errors. Harry appeared on the second season of VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club in 2005, where she lost a total of thirty-nine pounds over 100 days. Her achievement marked one of the top weight losses in the history of the show. Harry’s other television credits include guest appearances on Amen, Designing Women, Dave’s World, Hollywood Squares, 7th Heaven, That’s So Raven and Everybody Hates Chris.

Accession Number

A2007.323

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/6/2007

Last Name

Harry

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

P.S. 197 John B. Russwurm School

Riverdale Country School

Junior High School 136

Long Island University

First Name

Jackee

Birth City, State, Country

Winston-Salem

HM ID

HAR28

Favorite Season

Fall

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Show You Better Than I Can Tell You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/14/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chinese Food

Short Description

Actress Jackee Harry (1956 - ) was best known for her role as Sandra Clark on the sitcom, "227," for which she became the first African American woman to win an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Harry's other television credits included "The Women of Brewster Place," "Amen," and "Sister, Sister."

Employment

HARYOU-ACT

Brooklyn Technical High School

'The Wiz'

Favorite Color

Rust Orange, Teal

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jackee Harry's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jackee Harry lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jackee Harry describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jackee Harry describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jackee Harry describes her grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jackee Harry describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jackee Harry recalls her early life in Barnwell, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jackee Harry describes the Harlem neighborhood of New York City

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

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Jackee Harry describes her early education

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Jackee Harry describes her relationship with her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Jackee Harry remembers the Riverdale Girls School in the Bronx, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Jackee Harry describes her experiences of religion

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Jackee Harry remembers Junior High School 136 in New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Jackee Harry remembers her introduction to acting

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jackee Harry remembers her friendship with Norvalla Nelson

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jackee Harry recalls her admission to the High School of Performing Arts in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jackee Harry describes her start at the High School of Performing Arts

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jackee Harry remembers the assassinations of the 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jackee Harry remembers her first boyfriend

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jackee Harry recalls her peers at the High School of Performing Arts

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jackee Harry remembers the Henry Street Settlement in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jackee Harry describes her early acting career

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Jackee Harry remembers Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jackee Harry remembers teaching at Brooklyn Technical High School in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jackee Harry recalls working as a dresser on Broadway, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jackee Harry recalls working as a dresser on Broadway, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jackee Harry remembers the national tour of 'The Wiz'

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jackee Harry remembers her principal role in 'A Broadway Musical'

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jackee Harry talks about 'Eubie!'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jackee Harry describes her marriage to Jerry Jemmott

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jackee Harry describes the rehearsals for 'New Orleans'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jackee Harry describes her role on 'Another World'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jackee Harry remembers her divorce from Jerry Jemmott

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jackee Harry remembers her audition for '227'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jackee Harry describes the filming of '227'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jackee Harry remembers starring in 'The Women of Brewster Place'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jackee Harry reflects upon her divorce

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Jackee Harry describes her television career in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jackee Harry remembers the death of Redd Foxx

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jackee Harry talks about her mentors

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jackee Harry recalls starring in 'Sister, Sister'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jackee Harry talks about her roles on 'That's So Raven' and 'Celebrity Fit Club'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jackee Harry describes her work on 'Everybody Hates Christ' and 'Damn Yankees'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jackee Harry reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jackee Harry describes her advice for aspiring actors

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Jackee Harry describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Jackee Harry reflects upon her life and values

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Jackee Harry reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Jackee Harry talks about the importance of history

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

2$5

DATitle
Jackee Harry recalls her admission to the High School of Performing Arts in New York City
Jackee Harry describes the filming of '227'
Transcript
So you were hanging out with the Nelsons, getting trained, having, having a functional family life (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Hanging out with white folks all the time. You know, my whole life was different from what I was living at home. I'd just go home to sleep and I'd be gone.$$So you, so you do 'The King and I' [Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II] and you get a standing ovation--$$And I loved it.$$--screams, so the bug catches at that point.$$Bad.$$(Laughter).$$And it was the last day of school [at Junior High School 136, Harriet Beecher Stowe Junior High School, New York, New York]. You know, the end of school year so was going on. And I--this a powerful thing that happened to me, a turning point. We took a test for a performance arts school--me, Valjean Dean [ph.], my then best friend, Norvalla [Norvalla Nelson], quite a few other people--for the High School of Music and Art [Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, New York, New York]. There was the Performing Arts [High School of Performing Arts; Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, New York, New York], there was Juilliard [The Juilliard School, New York, New York], there was the Music and Art. There were quite a few schools, but you had to take a test--academic and performance-wise. So I took the one for Music and Art, the High School of Music and Art. And me--all of us--and we came back to school and we were sitting in the class and they were talking about who got in and, and they were congratulating my best friend, Norvalla, and Valjean. And, you know, they went on. And I was very disappointed that I didn't make it. And then they all left and my teacher came up to me. She says, "Congratulations." I said, "What?" She said, "You made it, too." I said, "Nobody told me." She said, "We always knew you would--that's why." And I'll never forget it 'cause even today I carry that with me. Even as we speak--'Damn Yankees,' I've never been had--nobody has to tell me that I'm good anymore 'cause they assume you're going to be. You know, I don't need a pat on the back.$$So now they, they didn't, they--it was just so that--it was assumed they--that you were going in. That's why (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) That's what she said--$$--there was nothing--there was no reason--$$I mean she said it with such a natural face. She said, "We always knew you would." And I, I'm going, "Somebody could have told me. I could have celebrated." 'Cause I was in class--I'm happy for them but I was like how come I didn't get it, you know, inside. And when she told me, I couldn't celebrate with them. She said--she told me--she said, "Never push it," she said, "'cause you're always gonna shine," she said. "Always pull back." And, you know, I, I've tried--we know I didn't succeed (laughter).$$Do you recall her name who told you about the school announcement?$$I'm gonna get it--Ms. Klemperer, K-L-E-M-P-E-R-E-R, Nancy Klemperer.$$So she told you--so basically she was teaching you a lesson just to relax (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And modesty.$$--at that point. She--$$Yeah, 'cause I was bit--I told you I was conceited. And she could see that.$So now developing this character. How did this get started for you to, to develop the character we all know and love?$$On the set [of '227'] on the stoop the very first scene when I come up it just--she said, "Sandra [Sandra Clark], how come you not a work?" I said, "I'm sick." The director came up. He said, "Why you doing that line like that?" He said, "Just do it normal." And, you know, we had done it in the f- "I men- I'm sick. I'm taking off." But, you know, he said, "Why you doing that?" And so I start to say, okay. She said, "Sandra, you going to work?" I said, "Oh, yeah, I'm sick, you know, I'm taking off" so-and-so. Brandon Tartikoff called down to the set, rings it, "What's going on down there? She was funny for the--what you all doing?" And he told the director. The director said, "Uh, go back to what you were doing." And--$$He's up in the booth listening and watching.$$He's on his monitor in his office. And they said--and he told me, the director, then, he said, "Jackee [HistoryMaker Jackee Harry], you can't upstage the star." And I didn't know that. I was just being funny like I always--. Had I known then what he's telling me, I would not have done--I'll tell you the truth 'cause I did not know that. I was just being funny. And she said, "No, more, more, more." And they kept going more, more, more. Well, honey, once they said that I just turned loose.$$The horse was out the barn at that point.$$And they came back that day and gave me a new contract for a regular on the show, so--$$So the writers got busy.$$Now, tell us about Ms. Gibbs and you and her, your association on the set with her, especially after you've done this now.$$We're, well, I'll just start by saying this, life can come full circle. And I, I tell this to everybody. Me and [HistoryMaker] Marla Gibbs and like this now (gesture). We weren't then. I adore her. She's good people. And she told me, she said people were just putting stuff in her ear and she was listening to it--that she's stealing the show. She's doing this, she's doing--I was being funny because that's way I naturally am even today. But, I hear what they're saying now. I was pushing that envelope and you don't do that. You know, I recognize it now. But, I had been other shows and I, I thought, well, if they're so funny why don't you spin 'em off. They're so funny, spin 'em off and have two. That's the way I thought, you know. And--but it was, it was stressful and a strain. It really was 'cause I had no idea. The day I got my Emmy [Emmy Award]--I won the Emmy. I came back to work. Nobody congratulated me--not a single soul. But it goes back to what my teacher told me, "We just knew you would." So--and it still happens to me today. I don't get, "Oh, that's great! I was so happy for you!" I always get, "Oh, we knew," you know.$$So, so things are kind of strained on the set--as, as we hear many shows are because what we see as an audience is not, you know--oh, and actually (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Absolutely.$$--any kind of--any kind of production of anything--$$Any kind.$$You never know from, from six o'clock news.$$You don't know who's gonna be the breakout.$$Right. So you stay there for--how long was '227'? How many years?$$Five years.$$Five years, a five-year run.$$And they tried to spin me off. It didn't make it for different reasons--$$Right.$$--which I know about, so--but it was very successful--$$What was the name of the spinoff show?$$'Jackee.'$$Yeah, that's right.$$It didn't work. But I didn't have stuff in place. You gotta have your stuff in place to--you know, I didn't know that meant. What I know now, even if I knew it then, wouldn't have made any difference--TV, the politics.