The truth shall set you free — and it can also shock the crap out of you. Tyler Perry's guilty-pleasure sudser The Haves and the Have Notsends its first season Tuesday, Sept. 3 (OWN, 9/8c) with revelations galore: Jeffery tells his mom and dad that he's gay, Amanda learns her parents have been keeping her inheritance from her, and Hanna, the God-fearing housekeeper played by Crystal Fox, finally reveals to her son, Benny, that Tony is his dad. TV Guide Magazine had a chat with the fabulous Fox, the show's surprise breakout star, to find out what else we don't know about our Hanna.
TV Guide Magazine: We've been following your career since the TV series In the Heat of the Night in the late '80s and it's so good to see you finally become the main attraction. You have paid your dues!
[Laughs] Yes I have, and now I feel like I've been let loose in Disneyland! This is the best gig ever, ever, ever! Thank you, Tyler Perry!
TV Guide Magazine: For a salt-of-the-earth church lady and the moral center of the show, Hanna sure has a hell of a lot of secrets.
She sure does. She doesn't mean to reveal that Tony is Benny's father but she inadvertently lets it out and really puts her foot in her mouth. Hanna just can't help withholding the truth. She only just [last week] revealed to Katheryn that Candace is her daughter. Even though my character tries to do the right thing, she's still committing the sin of omission!
TV Guide Magazine: What else is she hiding, besides how she gets her hands on all those doobies?
Isn't that hilarious, her and Katheryn doing the marijuana? [Laughs] Oh, my character has her share of dirt — and it may get dirtier. As we move into Season 2, I have a feeling our boss man, Mr. Perry, may reveal that Hanna went through quite a bad journey before she became the good woman she is today.
TV Guide Magazine: Why are there so few good women — or men, for that matter — on TV anymore? They used to be a dramatic staple.
Isn't that something? We don't see them portrayed, even though there are people who live their lives like that all over the country. A lot of them! Maybe it's because there's no controversy. Maybe writers don't find good people interesting enough. Maybe the viewers don't want to see that sort of character because it raises issues of their own morality and hits too close to home. Another thing you don't see is really strong friendship between mature women, like the one that has developed between Hanna and Katheryn. We're really missing that human touch.
TV Guide Magazine: You and Renee Lawless are awesome together. In fact, you're the supercouple of the show!
We're becoming so desensitized in our society to so much that it's actually refreshing to see two friends relating heart-to-heart. The bond between them is based on decency and integrity. We used to have that on TV all the time! Where'd it go?
TV Guide Magazine: Love how Hanna wears that wig to work!
: It's so true-to-life. Hair issues are such a big thing with African-American women. [Laughs] Can't you just imagine Katheryn's face if she ever saw Hanna's real hair? They need to go have a makeover day together and let it all hang out!
TV Guide Magazine: You're one of the rare actors who've managed to carve out a long career on stage and screen without ever moving to New York or L.A. That can't have been easy.
It is the best irony of all that I've had two series — The Haves and the Have Nots and In the Heat of the Night — without leaving my home in Atlanta, Georgia. I've been repeatedly told that I need to go to one coast or the other if I want a real career but, for one reason or another, that's never worked out. After the first season of Heat, Iwent out to L.A. for some general auditions. I'll never forget it. I went to one meeting where the casting director wouldn't even glance up from her papers. I read my scene and she finally looked up and said, "Hmm...that was pretty good." She asked where I was from and, when I told her, she said, "Oh, they have actors in Atlanta?" [Laughs] It's just never seemed right for me. I was all prepared to move to L.A. in 2007 but then the writers went on strike and the housing market crashed. After that, I just stopped worrying about it.
TV Guide Magazine: How did you get in good with Tyler Perry?
His casting agent and producer came to see a play I was doing in Atlanta last fall called What I Learned in Paris. They called me in for The Haves and the Have Nots and I immediately knew Hanna was a great part and so perfect for me, but I already had a job. Just then I was getting ready to go off to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for a year. In fact, I was heading there in my car and was four hours outside Oregon on New Year's Day — it was my birthday — when I got a callback for the series. I never like breaking my word and I've never broken a contract but the people at the Festival all said, "Go! You have to do this!" and gave me their blessing. So I took the chance and said goodbye to a year of employment on a gamble. It was so frightening because I could have ended up with nothing, but it all worked out.
TV Guide Magazine: And now you're working for Oprah Winfrey. What's that like?
Magical but a little scary. She came to the set on our third day of shooting. Mr. Perry introduced her to everyone and we all got hugs. You just can't believe it because it's just too surreal. It's Oprah! I'm hugging Oprah! All I could think was, "Don't hold her too long!" [Laughs] But, then, you don't want to be the one to let go first! It's just so big. You want to tell her how much she means to you — how much she represents to the world — but you know there's no way you can express it. So you just sort of stand there, shut up and implode!