Five Great Juanita Jennings Guest Appearances
Today, we look at five great guest appearances by Juanita Jennings
This is “Following a Star,” a new feature where I spotlight five great guest spots by an actor who frequently did/does guest spots on TV series in their careers. It doesn’t mean that they’ve NEVER been regulars on shows, but obviously I’m not looking to spotlight people who are best known for their regular TV roles (like no Jason Alexander or Florence Henderson, for instance).
Since this is Black History Month, I’ll specifically spotlight Black character actors this month.
Like a number of actors I’ve featured so far this month, Juanita Jennings is an actor whose stage work has been outstanding, as she has been involved in theater for decades (along with her husband, Brent Jennings, who played Lyons in one of the earliest version of August Wilson’s iconic play, Fences, in the early 1980s), but translating that into TV work is always difficult. Jennings has actually had a good deal of success much later in her career, with her regular role on the Tyler Perry sitcom, Meet the Browns, and her recurring role on the Fox series, Star. It’s great when the rest of pop culture catches up on talented actors.
A Different World (Desk Sergrant)
In A Different World Season 3’s “A Campfire Story,” I want to spotlight this one because it shows the importance of making the best of a small role. The other guest spots I’m mentioning are showier roles, but what I really like about Jennings in this spot is that it was relatively early in her TV career and yet she STOOOD the heck out in her minor role, as a desk sergeant interacting with Sinbad’s Walter Oates and Kadeem Hardison’s Dwayne Wayne. This is really the epitome of the old saying about how there are no small parts, as Jennings does a wonderful job here.
Picket Fences (Attorney)
If you know anything about Picket Fences, you’ll know that it tended to have very showy lawyer roles (heck, the same could be said for any David E. Kelley TV shows), and in Season 4’s The Z-Files,” Jennings got one of the juicier stories as a plaintiff’s attorney representing a teacher whose face had been edited into a short pornographic video file by a student in computer class. Heady stuff for the 1990s, and Jennings really wrung all of the righteous indignation that she could out of the plight of the poor teacher.
The Practice (Claire Stevens)
Earlier this month, I featured the great Beah Richards in this feature and her Emmy Award-winning episode of The Practice Season 4, “Till Death Do Us Part,” and now I want to spotlight another actor from that episode (I’ll eventually spotlight a THIRD actor in the future), as Jennings’ role as the daughter of Richards’ character is the opposite of her Picket Fences‘ role, in that it isn’t showy at all, but it is DEEP with emotion. Here you have a woman who feels that her mother is being taken advantage of, so she sues to get her mother’s new marriage annulled, and then in the process, discovers that her mother murdered her father? All while feeling the guilt of being too busy to really see her mother that often? It’s like emotion on top of emotion, and since Richards gets the big showy parts, Jennings has to playit all reserved and it’s very impressive.
Felicity (Pastor Cathy)
In Felicity Season 3’s “And to All a Good Night,” Jennings has some fun with a pretty simple role of a Pastor who counsels Tracy and Elena over their premarital sex, and about whether they are really in the same mind space about their relationship and their religious beliefs. It’s a nice, nuanced performance.
The Chi (Opal Perry)
Less nuanced, but very powerful is Jennings’ appearance on The Chi in the third season episode “Woo Woo Woo” as the mother of Otis Perry, the businessman/gangster who was running for the Mayor of Chicago. Opal goes right after her own son and supports his opponent. She’s ultimately paid off to stop talking to the media, and takes the money, while saying she still supports his opponent. DANG! Otis, though, cleverly spins it as a mental health thing.
If you folks have any other actors you’d like to suggest for this feature, drop me a line at email@example.com! I have my 28 for this month, but A. feel free to suggest people for the future and B. maybe you’ll suggest someone for this month that I like better than the 17 remaining actors I’ve already chosen.