Before the explosion of reality TV, Elise Neal was the star of a network TV hit series.
Neal played the wife of comic star D.L. Hughley in the comedy “The Hughleys” that aired on ABC and UPN in the late 1990s until 2002.
After “The Hughleys” ended, Neal appeared on hit shows such as “Law & Order,” “Private Practice,” “Scandal” and “The Real Husbands of “Hollywood” and was a series regular on “All Of Us.” But she has not had a starring role as she did on “The Hughleys.” Nearly 20 years later, Neal is back as one of the stars — this time on reality TV’s “Hollywood Divas” that airs on TV One.
For the accomplished actress, it took a while for her to adjust to the reality TV taping style.
“As an actor, I enjoyed being private, I enjoyed being someone you did not know that you just knew as this character that I played. It was very difficult in the beginning to let them (cameras) get to my house, show more about who I am. It was interesting at first, then I got used to it. I started to open up more,” explained the 48-year-old actress from Memphis, Tenn.
Since Neal is a Hollywood TV and movie actress, many questioned why she would do a reality TV show, which is considered a step down.
“I see a lot of people posting on my Instagram or twitter why are you doing it (reality TV)? When fans watch NeNe Leakes on the ‘Housewives of Atlanta,’ but also watch her on ‘Glee’ and her other show, or watch Lala Anthony do her acting part on ‘Think Like A Man’ and her other show. Why is it a big deal when it’s reversed? People who look at a NeNe and a LaLa have nothing to say about their worlds being combined and laying judgment on me for combining my worlds (acting and reality TV). If you like the fact that they’re combining their worlds, you should not hate on the fact that I’m combining mine,” she said.
But on the reverse side, Neal made a big deal when she learned that former reality TV star from Bravo TV “Real Housewives of Atlanta” Lisa Wu was part of a Hollywood project that was going to be produced by her cast mates and peers Golden Brooks, who co-starred in the hit TV show “Girlfriends,” Countess Vaughn of “Moesha” and Paula Jai Parker of “Hustle and Flow.”
“I just asked her what has she done,” said Neal. “We’re getting ready to produce a television show, all the other women you may not know them personally, but know their work, what is she (Lisa) known for in my world?”
Like most reality TV shows centered on women’s lives, “Hollywood Divas” has its share of ratchetness, shade-throwing, cattiness, mean girl behavior and personal, private problems become show story lines. The veteran actress gives her perspective on whether or not “Hollywood Divas” portray a positive image of Black women.
“What I represented in the show is all I can do. I’m well aware that there’s going to be a lot of editing and trust me there have been a lot of editing to make situations come a different way. What people don’t like, the editing that’s a TV One question ... bottom line is I didn’t throw a lot of shade.”
As to why Neal decided to foray into reality TV, she summed up this way:
“I am a fan of reality TV and I was curious about it. ‘Hollywood Divas’ is a show about five actresses who don’t know each other, doing a project that has not been seen before on television which is five of women of color getting together and not just, we don’t know you, let’s go have drinks and stuff like that; it’s more about getting into the meat and soul of each individual and creating something positive that was very appealing to me. “