Erika Rose Alexander (born November 19, 1969) is an American actress, writer, producer, entrepreneur and activist best known for her roles as Pam Tucker on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show (1990–1992), and Maxine Shaw on the FOX sitcom Living Single (1993–1998).[1] She has won numerous awards for her work on Living Single, including two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series.[2] Her film credits include The Long Walk Home (1990), 30 Years to Life (2001), Déjà Vu (2006), Get Out (2017), American Refugee (2021), Earth Mama (2023) and American Fiction (2023).

Erika Alexander
Alexander at Comic-Con in 2012
Born (1969-11-19) November 19, 1969 (age 53)
EducationPhiladelphia High School for Girls
Occupation(s)Actress, writer, producer, activist
Years active1986–present
Tony Puryear
(m. 1997; div. 2017)
Awards1996 – NAACP Image Award; Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series (Living Single)
1998 – NAACP Image Award; Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series (Living Single)

Early life Edit

Alexander was born in Winslow, Arizona and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona until the age of eleven, when she and her family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[3] She is one of six children born to Robert and Sammie Alexander, a school teacher and children's book author. Alexander graduated from Philadelphia High School for Girls.[4]

Acting career Edit

Alexander was discovered at 14, by independent film company Merchant Ivory while attending the fifth week of a six-week summer acting class at the New Freedom Theatre.[4] The role of Joan in 1986's My Little Girl, was Alexander's first major film.[4] In 1989, Alexander played Madri/Hidimbaa in Peter Brook's nine-hour epic play adaptation of The Mahabharata.[4] Later she starred opposite Whoopi Goldberg in the 1990 civil rights epic drama film The Long Walk Home.

Alexander was cast in Public Theater impresario Joseph Papp's last play he directed,The Forbidden City by Bill Gunn, starring Gloria Foster, Frankie Faison and Akili Prince.[5] Later, she was cast as Pam Tucker on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, starring on the vastly popular series from 1990 to the show's finale in 1992. Next, Alexander went to star in the ABC comedy-drama series Going to Extremes, which centered on a group of American students at a medical school on a fictitious Caribbean island named Jantique.[6] The series was canceled after one season in 1993.

In 1993, Alexander began starring as fan-favorite, super attorney Maxine Shaw in the Fox sitcom Living Single, a role she played for five years to 1998.[7] For this role, she won two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series in 1996 and 1998. 1996 also saw Alexander in Toni Braxton's video for the song "You're Makin' Me High".

In 1998, she starred along with Cicely Tyson as "Young Flora" in the CBS miniseries Mama Flora's Family with her former Living Single co-star Queen Latifah. based on novel by Alex Haley,[8] and well as appearing in the drama film 54. In 2001, she starred in the comedy film 30 Years to Life receiving a Black Reel Award for Best Independent Actress for her performance.[9]

In 2002, Alexander returned to drama series as probation officer Dee Mulhern in the Showtime drama series Street Time, which ran for two seasons. She had recurring roles in Judging Amy, In Plain Sight, Low Winter Sun and Let's Stay Together. Alexander also guest-starred on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Half and Half, ER, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Criminal Minds, House, Suits and Grey's Anatomy. From 2012 to 2015, she had a recurring role as Carol Larabee, Mike and Vanessa's neighbor, in the ABC comedy series Last Man Standing. Tisha Campbell-Martin replaced her in this role in the seventh season.[10]

Alexander appeared in a number of films during the 2000s and 2010s. In 2006 she played the role of Shanti, a technical science engineer in the science fiction action film Deja Vu opposite Denzel Washington. She starred opposite Benjamin Bratt and Jeremy Ray Valdez. in the 2009 drama film La Mission, and in 2014 had supporting role in the comedy-drama Elsa & Fred starring Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer. In 2017 she played Detective Latoya in the critically acclaimed horror film Get Out.[11]

From 2016 to 2017, Alexander starred as Constance Irving in the Amazon original drama, Bosch. She had a recurring roles in the Oprah Winfrey Network drama series Queen Sugar in 2016 and Freeform fantasy drama Beyond from 2017 to 2018. In 2018, she was cast in a recurring role as Perenna in the CW superhero series Black Lightning. In 2019, she received NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Performance in a Comedy or Drama Series.[12] Later in 2019, she began starring in the Hulu drama series, Wu-Tang: An American Saga.[13][14] In 2021, she began appearing in a recurring role in the Starz comedy series, Run the World.[15] The following year, she starred in The Roku Channel drama series, Swimming with Sharks.

Alexander appeared in the 2019 horror-thriller film I See You and played the lead in the Blumhouse horror-thriller American Refugee (2021).[16] She later appeared in the comedy-drama film, Wildflower, and the drama film Earth Mama.[17] In 2023, she starred opposite Jeffrey Wright in the drama film, American Fiction.[18]

Writing career Edit

In 2012, she co-created and co-wrote Concrete Park, a science-fiction graphic novel with then-husband Tony Puryear.[19][20][21] In 2018 she penned season eleven of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic Giles alongside Buffy creator Joss Whedon.[22] She created and co-wrote in 2023 the Dupont Columbia Award-winning Audible true crime series Finding Tamika.

Personal life Edit

In 1997, Alexander married artist/screenwriter Tony Puryear, but they divorced in 2017.[23] She actively campaigned for Hillary Clinton and toured college campuses with Chelsea Clinton, during the 2008 Democratic Party primary.[24] She is a co-founder (with Ben Arnon) of Color Farm Media, an entertainment, innovation, and social impact company.[25] In 2020, Color Farm Media released the critically acclaimed documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble,[26] focusing on civil rights leader John Lewis.

Filmography Edit

Film Edit

Year Title Role Notes
1986 My Little Girl Joan
1990 The Long Walk Home Selma Cotter
1991 He Said, She Said Rita
1992 Fathers & Sons Venell
1998 54 Ciel
2001 30 Years to Life Joy
2002 Love Liza Brenda
Full Frontal Lucy
2004 Tricks Laurel
2006 Déjà Vu Shanti
2009 La Mission Lena
2014 Elsa & Fred Laverne
Secrets of the Magic City Ms. Fletcher
2016 Undone Andrea Rose Short
Brave New Jersey Helen Holbrook
2017 Get Out Detective Latoya
2019 I See You Lieutenant Moriah Davis
2021 American Refugee Helen Taylor
2022 Wildflower Mary
2023 Earth Mama Miss Carmen
American Fiction Coraline

Television Edit

Year Title Role Notes
1986 ABC Afterschool Special - Episode: "Teen Father"
George Washington II: The Forging of a Nation Oney TV movie
1989 The Mahabharata Madri/Hidimbaa Main cast
1990 Common Ground Cassandra Twymon Episode: "Part I & II"
Law & Order Doris Carver Episode: "Poison Ivy"
The Last Best Year Amy TV movie
1990–92 The Cosby Show Pam Tucker Main cast (season 7–8)
1992–93 Going to Extremes Cheryl Carter Main cast
1993–98 Living Single Maxine "Max" Felice Shaw Main cast
1994 Override Shawana TV movie
1998 Mama Flora's Family Young Flora Episode: "Episode #1.1 & #1.2"
1999 KnitWits Revisited Amina TV movie
2001 The Zeta Project Agent Rush (voice) Recurring cast (season 1)
Judging Amy Fran Winston Recurring cast (season 2–3)
2002–03 Street Time Dee Mulhern Main cast
2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Kema Mabuda Episode: "Ritual"
LAX Allison Episode: "Thanksgiving"
2005 Half & Half Maxine Shaw Episode: "The Big Performance Anxiety Episode"
7th Heaven Lynn Miles Episode: "Leaps of Faith"
2006 In Justice Alyssa Hill Episode: "The Ten Percenter"
Heist Saundra Johnson Recurring cast
ER Vatima Abika Episode: "No Place to Hide"
Sixty Minute Man Jane TV movie
2007 Side Order of Life Colette Episode: "Pilot"
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation A.D.A. Kirkson Episode: "The Case of the Cross-Dressing Carp"
Numb3rs U.S. Marshal Tricia Yaegger Episode: "In Security"
CSI: Miami Tanya Thorpe Episode: "Guerillas in the Mist"
2009 Criminal Minds Det. Lynne Henderson Episode: "The Big Wheel"
2010 In Plain Sight Theresa Simmons Recurring cast (season 3)
2011 House Ms. Fields Episode: "Two Stories"
2012 Suburgatory Gloria Episode: "The Motherload"
Suits Sarah Leighton Episode: "Discovery"
2012–15 Last Man Standing Carol Larabee Recurring cast (season 2–5)
2013 Low Winter Sun Louise "LC" Cullen Recurring cast
2014 Let's Stay Together Blanche Recurring cast (season 4)
NCIS: New Orleans Navy Commander Louanne Bates Episode: "Carrier"
2015 Grey's Anatomy Johanna McKay Episode: "Crazy Love"
Faux Show Linda TV movie
2016 Recovery Road Trish's Mother Episode: "My Loose Thread"
Queen Sugar LeAnne Recurring cast (season 1)
2016–17 Bosch Connie Irving Recurring cast (season 2–3)
2017–18 Beyond Tess Shoemaker Recurring cast
2018 Insecure Yolanda Recurring cast (season 3)
2018–19 Black Lightning Perenna Recurring cast (season 2)
2019–23 Wu-Tang: An American Saga Linda Diggs Main cast (season 1), recurring cast (season 2–3)
2021–23 Run The World Barb Recurring cast
2022 Swimming with Sharks Meredith Main cast
Shining Girls Abby Recurring cast

Awards and nominations Edit

Year Awards Category Recipient Outcome
1996 NAACP Image Awards NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series Living Single Won
1997 Nominated
1998 Won
2002 Black Reel Awards Black Reel Award for Best Independent Actress 30 Years to Life Won
2017 Phoenix Film Festival Phoenix Film Festival Award for Best Ensemble Acting Brave New Jersey Won
2019 NAACP Image Awards NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Guest Performance in a Comedy or Drama Series Black Lightning Nominated
2022 NAACP Image Awards NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Guest Actor or Actress in a Television Series Run the World Nominated

References Edit

  1. ^ Shaw-King, Crystal (April 3, 2017). "Erika Alexander on 'Get Out' and Whether or Not a 'Living Single' Reunion Is Really Happening". EBONY. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
  2. ^ Means, Coleman R. R. African American Viewers and the Black Situation Comedy: Situating Racial Humor. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2014. p. 134.
  3. ^ Berry, Torriano, and Venise T. Berry, eds. Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema, 2015. p. 24.
  4. ^ a b c d Hughes, Mike (August 17, 1995). "'Living Single' Cast Faces New Shot". Gannett News Service. Courier-Post (Camden, New Jersey).
  5. ^ Gussow, Mel (April 7, 1989). "A Mother Only a Son Could Love". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Marin, Rick (September 1, 1992). "Going to Extremes".
  7. ^ McCann, Bob. Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co, 2010.
  8. ^ "Boca Raton News". – via Google News Archive Search.
  9. ^ "Erika Alexander". IMDb.
  10. ^ "Who plays the new Carol Larabee on Last Man Standing? Actress Tisha Campbell-Martin recurs as Chuck's wife". Monsters and Critics. January 17, 2020.
  11. ^ Shaw-King, Crystal (3 April 2017). "Erika Alexander on 'Get Out' and Whether or Not a 'Living Single' Reunion Is Really Happening".
  12. ^ Obenson, Tambay (March 31, 2019). "50th NAACP Image Awards: 'Black Panther,' 'black-ish' Dominate".
  13. ^ "'Wu-Tang: An American Saga': Erica Alexander shares "deep" challenges Wu-Tang faced during their early days – Music News".
  14. ^ "'Wu-Tang: An American Saga': Ashton Sanders, Shameik Moore And Erika Alexander Among 6 Cast In Scripted Hulu Drama".
  15. ^ Wills, Cortney (November 2, 2020). "Erika Alexander reuniting with Yvette Lee Bowser for 'Run the World'". TheGrio.
  16. ^ White, Peter (May 6, 2021). "Erika Alexander, Derek Luke & Sam Trammell To Star In Blumhouse's TV Movie 'American Refugee' For Epix".
  17. ^ "Earth Mama - Rotten Tomatoes". July 7, 2023.
  18. ^ Jackson, Angelique (December 2, 2022). "Tracee Ellis Ross, Erika Alexander, Sterling K. Brown, Issa Rae Join Jeffrey Wright in Cord Jefferson's Directorial Debut for MGM's Orion Pictures".
  19. ^ Brown, Stacia. Clutch Magazine. "Erika Alexander Co-Writes Graphic with Black Heroine"
  20. ^ "Tony Puryear And Erika Alexander's Concrete Park Returns With Hardcover And New Series!".
  21. ^ "Erika Alexander Develops Graphic Novel with Black Female Characters". Essence.
  22. ^ Commandeur, Jordan (January 9, 2018). "Joss Whedon & Erika Alexander Send Buffy's Giles Back to School". CBR.
  23. ^ "Erika Alexander Talks Being Single After 20 Years Of Marriage | MadameNoire". 23 April 2021.
  24. ^ Panzar, Javier. “Democrats Counting on Celebrities to Introduce Heavy Subject Matter.” Los Angeles Times, 27 July 2016. Accessed 30 July 2017.
  25. ^ "Color Farm Media". Color Farm Media.
  26. ^ John Lewis: Good Trouble at IMDb

External links Edit