BLACK VOICES
01/06/2015 11:51 am ET

Alfre Woodard Opens Up About The 'Challenge' Of Playing A Black Female President On 'State Of Affairs'

In one of the latest signs of a cracking glass ceiling in Hollywood, actress Alfre Woodard plays the high-powered president of the United States on NBC’s budding political drama “State of Affairs.”

Woodard, who stars opposite Katherine Heigl, opened up about playing a black female president in an interview with HuffPost Live's Nancy Redd on Monday.

“If anybody says, ‘Would you like to be the president?’ you say, ‘Yes, I would!’” Woodard joked.

While she was immediately drawn to the role, she had the difficult task of developing her character to be both relatable and believable.

“With Constance Payton, I had the great challenge to figure out how we would have an African-American president following the first African-American president and have the first woman when we haven’t voted a woman into that office yet,” she said. “So I had to find a backstory, a real probability, a political reality, of how she got there.”

This isn’t the first time Woodard has taken a leap of faith with a character. In “Primal Fear,” she was offered a role that was originally written for a white man. Woodard said she was willing to take the role under one strict condition.

“I said, ‘If you don’t change a word [of the script], I’ll do it,’” she recounted. “Because … if they have the creative courage to cast against type, if it’s a woman, she starts saying sort of stock, weird, what-you-might-imagine-are-womanly things. Or if they are Latina, they start being spicy, or if they are African-American, they start wanting some chicken.”

Writing stereotypical language into the script just isn’t necessary, the actress added.

“If you don’t change a word, they will know that I am an African-American,” Woodard said. “They will know that I’m a woman. They’ll know I’m all that because they can see me. But the person is there. Let me play the person.”

Watch the full HuffPost Live interview with “State Of Affairs” actress Alfre Woodard here.

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