On the new Netflix comedy series Family Reunion, Tia Mowry-Hardrict plays a modern Seattle woman who has to relocate her brood to rural Georgia to live closer to her in-laws, played by the incomparable Loretta Devine and Richard Roundtree. The down-home hilarity ensues before bags have even been unpacked.
“When you see Loretta and Richard, you feel intimidated,” says Mowry-Hardrict, who, with her twin sister, Tamera, have basically lived in the public eye since their WB hit Sister, Sister aired in the late ’90s. “They’re just so freaking unbelievable. [Loretta’s] an amazing, incredible human being and I just feel so blessed to be working with her.”
But if we’re being honest, Mowry-Hardrict’s career has been nothing short of a triumph itself. Where many fresh faces have faded after an initial sitcom run, Mowry-Hardrict hasn’t missed a beat, hopping from an adult dramedy (BET’s The Game) to holiday fare (Lifetime’s My Christmas Inn) to a kitchen show (The Cooking Channel’s Tia Mowry at Home) with ease.
We recently caught up with the 41-year-old actress, wife and mother of two to learn the secrets to her acting longevity, find out the best places to eat in Los Angeles and to get the scoop on the Caribbean island she sneaks off to for a bit of sun and seclusion.
You and your sister have been in the limelight for much of your lives. What has been the best part of this 20-plus-year journey?
I would have to say the best part is getting to evolve and grow into who I am today, and not allow myself to falter in any kind of way. What I mean by that is change my personality because it’s what’s in at the moment, it’s what’s hot at the moment. I’ve always stayed true and authentic to who I am.
Growing up, I was never seen as the “hot girl,” the girls that were always on the cover of the magazines. Remember Hype, Vibe and Honey magazines? I was never the girl that they wanted on the cover. I’m just so happy that I never changed to try to be that person to get that sort of attention.
Now that I’m older and I’ve evolved, I see how I have so much longevity with my career. I’m the funny girl.
There was a beautiful girl who told me today, “I am so grateful that you are my black Barbie doll.” I was like, “Wow, I’ve never heard anyone say that.”
I stayed true to being a mom, a wife and I love all things family. That’s a part of my brand and who I am. It’s nice to have a brand and it be authentic because that’s where longevity is.
Speaking of your brand, how exactly does your new Netflix show fit into it?
It was definitely a show about family. I love being a part of projects that bring families together. Also, I loved the idea around the show because it was very much like how I am in real life. I’m very nontraditional when it comes to parenting styles, where my parents, especially my mom, were very traditional.
It’s old-age-meets-new-age [on the show], and that’s what I’m going through as a parent. I always like to pick projects that I’m passionate about and can apply my personal experience to the character. From there, you get authenticity and this raw perspective of your character.
The chemistry among the cast looks really genuine.
What made it so magical on set is that we had two legends [Devine and Roundtree] that are the most humble people that I’ve met in my entire life.
To be working with such an icon like Loretta [is incredible]. I know this sounds very weird, but if you were to taste her, she would taste like candy. She is so sweet. She is just so humble. I’m obsessed with her. I always want to be around her.
With your cooking and Tamera’s recent wine venture, Housley’s Century Oak Winery, is it safe to say that the kitchen played a big role with you two growing up?
It was very evident and in the forefront. Growing up, our family didn’t have a lot of money. My mom and dad would always cook. Our lunches were always made. They would always cook breakfast, lunch and dinner. We didn’t have the luxury of always going out, fine dining and all of that. It was something my mom and dad had to do.
The cool thing is that they loved doing it. My mom is an incredible cook. My dad is an incredible cook. We were always around food. I was in the kitchen, helping my mom cook and helping my dad cook. It’s just embedded in us.
When you don’t want to be in the kitchen, what are a few L.A. restaurants that you enjoy?
One of my favorites is Ago. That’s an incredible Italian restaurant. What I love about it is the authenticity of the meals there. A lot of times you can say you want Italian food, but it’s not the real Italian food. I studied in Italy for two months, so I was definitely around authentic Italian foods.
I love Ago’s atmosphere. Even though it’s in Beverly Hills, it doesn’t feel pretentious. The waiters and everybody there treat you like family. It has that family vibe you love about the Italian culture.
And the food is just incredible. They have this artichoke salad…When you think about artichokes, you’re like, “Hmm, okay.” But this artichoke salad — Oh my God! It is so incredibly good. And they have the best calamari.
The other one, Black Market, which is in [San Fernando] Valley, is one of my favorite restaurants. This is just an incredible restaurant that has a variety of things that you can eat, from fried cauliflower to a smoked trout sandwich that’s open-faced and served with sweet pickles. They have spicy hot wings. They’re open for brunch as well. They have chicken and waffles, but what’s so amazing is that they fry the whole Cornish hen.
But what I love is their dessert. They have this Fluffernutter. It’s basically peanut butter with bananas and marshmallows. It’s a sandwich — and it’s deep fried.
And since L.A. is all about sushi, if you want a great spot, there’s Shu. And if you want to run into a celebrity, [you can there]. Again, I don’t like to go to very pretentious places. You’ll see celebrities just chillin’ there. They don’t have on any makeup there. They can be themselves.
Along those same lines, when it’s time to vacation, where can you go and not have to sign autographs and take selfies?
I would say Anguilla. It’s a great place. It’s in the Caribbean, and folks there aren’t excited about seeing a celebrity. Their star is the ocean. They know they have it made living where they live. [But] they’re very appreciative of people visiting the island because that’s where a lot of the money comes in.
I love it because it’s just a great place to chill and relax. You have great food and amazing beaches.