Whoopi: Playing dead, living fully

"A Day Late and a Dollar Short" co-stars (from left): Tichina Arnold, Ashanti Bromfield and Kimberly Elise.
"A Day Late and a Dollar Short" co-stars (from left): Tichina Arnold, Ashanti Bromfield and Kimberly Elise.
Posted: April 17, 2014

* A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT. 8 p.m. Saturday, Lifetime.

"DYING matriarch" might not sound like a dream role for an actress in her 50s, but Whoopi Goldberg's not complaining.

"The View" co-host stars in Lifetime's adaptation of Terry McMillan's A Day Late and a Dollar Short, in which she's playing Viola Price, who, on learning that her next asthma attack will probably be her last, decides that it's time to straighten out her muddled family, which includes a straying husband (Ving Rhames) and their four grown children.

"Matriarchs agewise have shifted so much," said Goldberg, 58, in a recent phone interview.

"People are parents in their 20s, people are parents in their 50s," she said. "I mean, it's crazy. So, the idea that your child, or the person who's playing your child, had to be so much younger than you - well, if you got married at 18, your kids are grown."

And the dying part's OK, too.

"I've died before. I died in another Terry McMillan [project]. I died in 'How Stella Got Her Groove Back.'

"They're always killing me off," she said, laughing.

The actress, who has one daughter, three grandchildren and became a great-grandmother last month, has different ideas about how she'd handle a prognosis like Viola's.

"If I got a diagnosis like that - my family knows this - my plan is to head to Greece, because that's where I want to go to die," she said.

They won't need her to stay home to straighten them out?

"I say, 'I'm going to Greece,' they all pack and come. There's no going off on a mountaintop. The entire brood is going to be there."

Outspoken as she is herself, Goldberg said that she feels "bad for folks like Viola, who realize at that point that she needs to get them in order, who's not kind of been as present as she could be."

Viola let things slide "because she didn't want to know. She didn't want to hear it. She didn't want to get in the way. But she did want to get in the way," said the actress, who admitted that she finds the character "annoying."

"If your kids are going through that kind of thing and then you decide to get in the middle of it and then you don't tell them what's going on, oh - ouch," she said, sounding exasperated.

"I'd dig her up," she said. "I'd dig her up and scream at her and then rebury her. That would be how I would do it.

"But I think it's in a funny way a cautionary tale. You see stuff that needs to be done, you better do your maintenance, because you don't know what is going to happen in the future. You never know."

Though she's part of the EGOT club, having won two daytime Emmys and a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony, Goldberg, who's also an executive producer on "A Day Late," insists, "I don't get a lot of offers at all. I go looking for stuff that I'm interested in."

And with a daily platform on ABC's "The View," she doesn't keep her interests to herself.

So, when I asked her, picking randomly from her recent resume, how she came to be the voice of Mrs. Rabbit on ABC's "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland," she replied, "Well, everyone knows I'm a fairy tale and gnome and, you know, unicorn [fan]. I believe in all of that.

"If you're ABC, you know that I'm watching 'Once Upon a Time.' Because I love it. I think it's great. They know that they should have had me in 'Once Upon a Time,' but they didn't," so when the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland-themed spin-off came along, they asked, " 'Who should we get as John Lithgow's wife? Whoopi. Because you know she wants to do stuff like this.' "

She's also a sucker for the Muppets, working with them on several occasions and playing herself in the 2011 film "The Muppets."

"I'll do voices sometimes for my friend Seth Green [of "Robot Chicken"], or I'll do something for some Russian animation that's happening, because they know I'm obsessed. I love it. I love puppets. It's all the things I grew up with. So if they're making a Muppet movie and I'm free, I'm bogarting myself in there."

For "Muppets Most Wanted" she wasn't free, alas. "But I'm in the 'Ninja Turtle' movie," she said, adding, "I'm not a turtle."

"It's like this," she said of her work ethic, "if you don't marry well, you have to keep working. And I never married well. I married often [three times], but I never married well."

Plus, staying home would "drive me crazy."

She's even decided to say yes to fans of her work as the bartender Guinan on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," with plans to appear at Philadelphia's Wizard World Comic Con, in June.

"This is my first. It will probably be my last, but this is the first," she said of the comics convention, which she agreed to do because, she said, she was told, " 'You're the only one we haven't seen. Come to it at least one time.'

"So, yeah, I'm coming. The only thing I'm hoping is that they won't wear a lot of cologne and perfume, because it's the thing that closes my throat up [and] I'm going to take pictures with a lot of people."


Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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