Sheryl Lee Ralph shares how it feels to finally get an Emmy nomination after acting in Hollywood for over 50 years

Sheryl Lee Ralph is finally getting the flowers she deserves after more than 50 years in Hollywood. The acting vet earned an Emmy nomination for her role as Barbara Howard. a badass kindergarten teacher on the hit ABC series Abbott Elementary.

“I put in the time, I did the work,” she told the LA Times. “And I didn’t just do the work for myself, I did the work for others.”

Sheryl Lee Ralph poses in front of the billboard for ABC’s Abbot Elementary series. @thesherylleeralph/Instagram

The 65-year-old said “it means everything” to receive flowers and messages of support from “young artists” including notable actresses and filmmakers Lena Waithe, Cynthia Erivo and Natasha Rothwell. In the midst of embracing her milestone, she said she previously wondered why her Emmy invites often got lost in the mail.

“I thought about things like, ‘How can I be in this industry for so long and never get an invite to the Emmys? Why don’t you invite me? Why can’t I present anything?’” she wondered. “I didn’t think, ‘How come I wasn’t nominated?’ It’s more like, ‘Can you invite me to the party?’”

Ralph’s breakthrough came in 1982 with her role in the Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical Dreamgirls. Back in the Habit, The Flintstones and voiceover work in the children’s animated film Oliver & Company. Her recent work includes Claws, A Black Lady Sketch Show, Ray Donovan and Motherland: Fort Salem.

But most remember her “Moesha” role as Dee Mitchell, the stepmother of rebellious teens Moesha and Myles and their father Frank Mitchell’s wife. Dee tried to keep a respectable, tidy household on this show, but Barbara Howard’s classroom is perhaps Ralph’s most challenging setting yet.

Abbot Elementary co-star Quinta Brunsonwho plays second year Janine Teague, said Howard plays “a lot of different levels” on the show and “can be insecure”.

“But even though she’s insecure, she’ll still be running the situation, still the smartest person in the room,” she continued. “Sheryl is one of those people who can’t help but sit up a little when she’s around and make sure they’re using the right words, addressing her and everyone around her right. She’s the kind of person who secretly demands something better from everyone around her.”

Brunson added, “And she’s not trying. It’s just something that pulls her out of people. And that’s the way it is Barbara.”

Howard’s character earned Ralph her first-ever Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy. She broke the big news during a phone call with family in Jamaica last month.

Brunson told the outlet, “Sheryl as an actress knows this about Barbara and then plays all levels without ever losing that center of respect. That was the most important thing: this character will always be respected.”

Just in time for the back-to-school season, Abbot Elementary returns for Season 2 on September 21 at 9 p.m. on ABC. Sheryl Lee Ralph shares how it feels to finally get an Emmy nomination after acting in Hollywood for over 50 years

James Brien

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