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"Real Housewife"-Turned-Real Actress: NeNe Leakes's Sucess Story

It's not very often that a reality star can make the jump from playing themselves to making it as a full-on actress. But not only has NeNe Leakes, who was first introduced to America as a Real Housewife of Atlanta, made the transition, she's now an in-demand actress appearing in two prime time shows. This season, she reprises her role as the trouble making Coach Roz on Glee and comes on board for NBC's new series, The New Normal.  We chatted with the hilarious TV star on how she's successfully dominating popular television.

DivineCaroline: When we first met NeNe Leaks you were (and still are) one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta. You then went on to do The Apprentice and give Jane Lynch’s TV persona Sue Sylvester a hard time on Glee. Tell me how you made the transition from reality TV to the big leagues.
NeNe Leakes: I am proud to say I am on season of RHOA and Glee. Ryan Murphy who penned Glee and The New Normal loved me on The Housewives and The Apprentice, which is how I got these great opportunities. When Ryan got the green light for this program he asked me to on board. In terms making a transition, it was easy because Ryan was always at the helm.

DC: Congratulations on your new series, The New Normal.
NL: Thank you. I am very excited to be a part of it.

DC: On this show you are sharing the screen with Ellen Barkin. How cool is that?
NL: It is very cool. I love Ellen. She is like one of my girlfriends I like to have a good time with.

DC: You play Rocky. Tell me a bit about her.
NL: Rocky is an outspoken, vivacious and fabulous secretary.

DC: Outspoken and vivacious? So she is nothing like NeNe?
NL: (laughs) I know right? Rocky is so much a part of me which is why I love bringing her to life.

DC: What will we learn about Rocky’s back story?
NL: You are going to meet her brother and then later on other family members that help make Rocky who she is.
DC: What’s NeNe’s definition of normal?
NL: In terms of the show, normal would be for a male and female to have a baby. On this particular series you are going to see a same sex couple trying to have a baby and looking for a surrogate to help them get there.

DC: With a few laughs along the way?
NL: The overall theme of this show is not about being gay but rather the importance of family, the importance of coming together and loving your family no matter what.

DC: You’re also continuing your role on Glee, this season. There are a lot of changes coming up for that show.
NL: There are. We shoot over at Paramount right near where I shoot The New Normal so they are both nearby to one another. Some of our characters have moved to New York while the ones still at school are bracing for some changes of their own.

DC: Coach Roz and Rocky seem to be a little rough yet they are also different personalities too.
NL: Yes. I keep flip flopping between the two. I really love both characters. I love the trouble Roz stirs up and I love the craziness Rocky brings too.

DC: How do you juggle three different jobs at the same time?
NL: It is not easy. I am on a lot of red eyes. Although I am super tired I just keep going because I know I have to.

DC: Earlier you made reference to family. Yours has just increased by one because you are a new grandma.
NL: No I am a GLAM-ma. I always had an image that grandmothers were older. As for me, I feel young and fabulous so I wanted a title that reaffirmed that. I love my little GLAM-baby.

DC: How much fun is it to spoil her and then give her back?
NL: So much fun you have no idea. I have two boys and always wanted a daughter so this has been a slice of heaven.

DC: Are you going overboard on pink?
NL: I am going crazy with pink and white, yes.

DC: Aside from your on-screen work you are also an advocate against domestic abuse which is a cause that is very personal to you. 
NL: It is. I love helping other women in violent situations because when I was younger I too was in a very violent situation that was very abusive.

DC: Did the relationship last for a long time?
NL: Yes I was in this relationship for a long time.

DC: So you are using your celebrity to pay it forward?
NL: I now have an amazing platform and have made it my duty to help other woman get to a safe place. I hope I can be a voice to support and assist those in need of help.

The New Normal airs Tuesday at 9:30pm (eastern) 

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Ilyssa Panitz

Ilyssa Panitz specializes in bringing the glitz and glamor of Hollywood right into the homes of her millions of readers. Ilyssa's primary focus is conducting one-on-one interviews with the famous faces of Tinseltown by digging into their lives and asking them the questions inquiring minds want to know. In addition to sitting down with the stars, Ilyssa has also covered many red carpet premieres and award shows.

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