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- JoMarie Payton-Noble enjoys success in `Family Matters' 1996
Talk City Presents: Actress and Singer JoMarie Payton, Interview from July 7, 1998
JoMarie Payton (Short biography 1992)

JoMarie Payton-Noble enjoys success in `Family Matters'
Abiola Sinclair, New York Amsterdam News, 1996

She was only 6 and already had definite ideas about herself and her life. She refused, for example, to play Little Red Riding Hood in her class presentation for Open School Day. "I didn't like the silly, red-hooded cape that went with the role," laughs JoMarie Payton-Noble. "I wanted to be one of the flowers in the forest because they got to wear beautiful pink tutus."

Payton-Noble, now in her eighth starring year as the effervescent mom of the Winslow household in ABC-TV's "Family Matters," was born in Albany, Ga., the second oldest of nine children and the oldest girl. She learned early to stand up for herself. "In that family, what other choice did I have?" she smiles.

The Harriette Winslow of "Family Matters" actually came into existence two years earlier with Payton-Noble as the tart-tongued elevator operator of the ABC-TV series "Perfect Strangers." Harriette became such a hit with viewers that the producers created "Family Matters" as a spin-off series to star her and cast Reginald Vel Johnson as her husband, Chicago police officer Carl Winslow.

Payton-Noble wasn't yet a year old when her family moved to Opa-Locka, Fla., a suburb of Miami, where most of her brothers and sisters were born. Her mother, a maid, and her father, a construction worker, separated when their eldest daughter was 11. "My mother was a tower of strength, " says Payton-Noble, "but when she was at work, all of the children looked to me to take care of things. I learned how from my mother. She was my mentor and biggest supporter. No matter how hard or long she had to work, she was in the audience for every performance I ever did from the time I was 6 until I left Florida for California."

Payton-Noble arrived in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s in the touring company of the musical comedy "Purlie," with Robert Guillaume, a tour which had begun months earlier at the Coconut Grove Theatre in Miami. Popular locally as an actress, variety performer and club singer, she had been working in an accounting office when she learned that they were casting for the "Purlie" road company. With no music, no resume, no head shot and not even a car, Payton-Noble talked her way on stage and auditioned a capella. "I just knew it was my time," she recalls.

Although "Purlie" was scheduled to begin an overseas tour to Paris, Payton-Noble opted to remain in Los Angeles. "I fell in love with the city, especially the mountains and hills which seemed to be in the background wherever I looked," she remembers.

But breaking into the business wasn't easy. She found a tiny apartment in the Wilshire area, worked as a temp and was given what she considered to be her best friend, a 20-year-old pink and white Chevy which she promptly named "Betsy." "I was always broke but I was learning about the business, about having photos and music charts and resumes. And I remembered all the things my mother had taught me -- about being self-reliant," she says. "I taught myself to change the oil and to tune `Betsy's' engine and to rotate her badly worn tires. And to this day, I still know where to get day-old bread and large economy size jars of peanut butter and jelly. They're still my favorite sandwiches."

When her agent told her the "Redd Foxx Variety Show" was looking for a "forties-style jazz singer," Payton-Noble assured him, "That's what I do best." She wound up doing more then a dozen of his shows, including seven as Foxx's wife in a recurring skit, "Alfonse and Victoria." She subsequently did series pilots for Paramount and ABC, but neither sold. "But I was finally able to pay off all my credit card bills, " she grins.

With all this, Payton-Noble still found it necessary to take a full time job at a travel agency, a job she held for over seven years and one she didn't give up until working on "Perfect Strangers" for three months. She and the agency took to each other. Her boss understood her need to go out on auditions and to take time off when a television or film role came up. She was trained, encouraged and eventually advanced to become the very well-paid sales administration manager of the business.

During the years Payton-Noble was with the travel agency, she was able to make guest-starring and recurring appearances on "Silver Spoons, " "Small Wonder" and the "New Odd Couple," and to film key roles in such motion pictures as "Body and Soul" with Leon Isaac Kennedy, " Deal of the Century" with Chevy Chase and Gregory Hines, "Colors" with Sean Penn and Robert Duvall, "Cross My Heart" with Paul Reiser and Martin Short, and "Troop Beverly Hills" with Shelley Long and Craig T. Nelson.

Talk City Presents: Actress and Singer JoMarie Payton, Interview from July 7, 1998

Actress JoMarie Payton just wrapped her ninth season as the effervescent mom of the Winslow household in CBS-TV's 'Family Matters.' She has guested on the ABC-TV series, 'Perfect Strangers,' toured with the company of the musical, 'Purlie,' and appeared on 'Silver Spoons,' 'Small Wonder' and 'The New Odd Couple.' Chat with JoMarie about her career and her new jazz CD, produced by pianist-arranger Billy Mitchek, featuring jazz great Gerald Albright.

Speaker: Talk City Presents(tm), in association with iXl Live(tm) welcomes you to a conversation with our special guest ** JoMarie Payton **

Questions: mericcc says: JoMarie welcome to Talk City! Tell us, how did you get to be one of the
most famous "Moms" on Television?

JoMariePayton: LOL I don't think of myself as one of the most famous Moms, but thank you anyway! I don't know - I guess it's the good people out there!

Questions: mac-zay says: has it been an enjoyment playing as Harriette on Family Matters?

JoMariePayton: Oh, I had ten and a half beautiful years playing Harriette on Family Matters. But there was nothing else I could do with that character. It was time for me to move on, and I feel like I made a good decision!

Questions: bellweather says: What is a typical day on the set like?

JoMariePayton: Well, since I'm the kind of person who wakes up in a great mood, a typical day was to get up, go in, read the script, and understand what we we're doing. When you've done a show for that many years, it's like leaving my house and going to another house almost!

Questions: fielderschoice says: Wasn't your show originally on ABC? when did you switch over to CBS? and is it in syndication yet?

JoMariePayton: Yes, the show was originally on ABC, and we switched over to CBS because the producers felt the show had more air in it, and CBS wanted to take advantage of it. Oh, the show's been in syndication for years! :-)

Questions: elevatorshews says: In 9 years on Television how has your role changed? Have you been allowed to grow the character in ways you wanted to?

JoMariePayton: Well, in 9 years the character basically stayed the same, not that that's a bad thing. She was a good, strong person. A loving wife, a good mother, a friend to everybody. Harriette was a good role model. I didn't feel I had to fight a lot to have the writers do things the way I wanted to have done, she was pretty much set. I would have liked her to have a little bit more fun, but she was set; she was foundational, and there was nothing much you could do with her - which is one of the reasons I got a little tired with her, and had to move on.

Questions: themrbon says: So, How do you like being a part of an Afro American Show that went on for so long? do you think it inspired some of the Afro-Americans in the Television industry?

JoMariePayton: Yes, I feel real good about it. I think we were really positive images for everyone, not just for African Americans. Something that people could be inspired by. The Family Matters team was
an all American family - we were all families. We were Mom, Dad, children, grandparents, next door neighbor and everything else. I think that's part of the reason we stayed on so long, because people related to us, and didn't feel intimidated.

Questions: slinky says: JoMarie did you have any idea your show would be such a hit during your first season?

JoMariePayton: Oh, absolutely! I believed and knew that Family Matters would go beyond any two or three seasons! I knew from day one that it would go. I had prayed and asked God for a project. I didn't know what it was going to be, or who was going to be in it, but it was Family Matters, and I knew it would have longevity to it, and it did.

Questions: whammo says: JoMarie where is home for you now? and who are your singing idols?

JoMariePayton: Home for me is Los Angeles, I live in the Los Angeles area. My singing idols are anyone I can understand - if they have emotion and they can touch me, then they're my singing idols. Lou Rawls, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Carmen MacRae... the list goes on and on and on.

Questions: jazzyeric says: What genre of jazz will we find on your CD, and when can we expect to see it in stores?

JoMariePayton: Well, I'm hoping that you'll be able to see it in stores by the end of summer. And it's smooth, romantic, sexy, easy-to- listen-to jazz. It has a nineties mood to it, but with a southern groove. How 'bout that? :-)

Questions: jazzerama says: How long have you been singing?

JoMariePayton: I've been singing since I was four or five years old. My dad would stand me up on his car, and have me sing all his favorite people - Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington - and I could do every little lick they could do. I sang in high school and after high school, and it was something I always liked to do!

Questions: kdaddy says: Where and when can i see you performing music from your new cd?

JoMariePayton: I've been performing around town in L.A., and on August 2 I'll be live in concert. The album is titled 'Southern Shadows', and it was titled by my husband, who also co-wrote the title track to the album. And it's named after his novel, Southern Shadows

Questions: jazzyeric says: Can you give us a couple of titles off the album?

JoMariePayton: Sure! "What a Difference A Day Makes," "My Funny Valentine," "This Masquerade" (made famous by George Benson), "Teach Me Tonight,"... Oh, it's full of goodies!

Questions: slyspectre says: How did you get started

JoMariePayton: I got started in acting in the first grade, when I was cast in the role of Little Red Riding Hood, and I didn't want that role. I wanted to be one of the ballerinas in the forest with their cute little tutus, and I was stuck in a red hood with a cape! Then I acted in plays and operettas, and did community theatre. It just kept going on and on. :-)

Questions: curry-us says: is anyone else in your family involved in show business?

JoMariePayton: No, not really. I have a brother who was an excellent drummer. He played on a couple of albums, but didn't do anything much with it. My Mom and Dad were great singers, but they weren't in show business. It's just crazy me, I guess. ;-) If I weren't in show business I'd be teaching school, probably junior high or elementary school.

Questions: moof says: JoMarie have you been recognized in any strange countries or places?

JoMariePayton: All over the world! Africa, Australia, Paris France, Europe... this is even before Family Matters came along, because Perfect Strangers and Silver Spoons were in those countries, and I had recurring roles on those shows. And it feels REAL good. :-)

Questions: purplepower says: You're African American and a Woman in Hollywood. Is that hard? Do you feel stereotyped? How has it impacted you most?

JoMariePayton: Yes, it is hard. It's very hard. I don't really feel stereotyped, because I haven't done
anything that I feel is stereotypical. In my 29 year career I've been fortunate not to have to do anything I've been ashamed of doing. The biggest impact for me personally was the opportunity to do things that people admired and liked, which gave me a voice because I was believed to be a good person. Which I am. :-) I think I'm admired a bit by my Afro-American peers, and that's a nice thing too, although it sounds egotistical, I'm still proud of the work that I've done. :-)

Questions: masterdman says: I bet Family Matters fought a lot of racism; did it?

JoMariePayton: I think it made people see black families in a different light. As an example of family life, Family Matters was just another example, and because it was a kinder, gentler show, with good morals, I think it changed people's attitudes about African Americans. And did it calm the waters a bit, as far as racism went. Sure, I think it did that.

Questions: kdaddy says: JoMarie, will i see you on the big screen anytime soon?

JoMariePayton: I certainly hope so! LOL From your mouth to God's ears. :-) I'm looking at a lot of different projects, and the big screen is definitely in the very near future. I'd like to play very dramatic roles in film. Dramatic, honest and real-life characters. I like the real stuff... to go back into the woods, find the unsung heros and present their life stores. That's the sort of thing I can do; I started out dramatically.

Questions: destinyheadquarters says: What are your future projects?

JoMariePayton: My future projects... I just finished the jazz CD. I also just finished a voice-over for a wonderful pilot (I can't tell you the name of it, but I think you're going to love her!). I've been in the business for 29 years, on stage, television, film, and recording. I'm just open for everything! :-)

Questions: juliaw says: did you have a mentor>

JoMariePayton: Yes, I did. My first mentors were my mother and my grandmother. Then Peggy O'Hara, my highschool drama teacher. She pushed me and encouraged me; told me that I was beautiful inside and out, and that I could do anything. My husband has given me a second wind too, which is why I'm feeling an extra surge of creativity. He's my mentor right now. He encourages me and pushes me, and tells me I can do these things.

Questions: nicknnora says: Have you pulled any experience from being raised in a large family into your role on Family Matters?

JoMariePayton: Oh, absolutely! In real life all those things go hand in hand. My childhood, and the way I was raised goes into everything I do. And it's a wonderful thing, because you're continuously learning.

Questions: deedle2x says: You make a great TV mom!!! Do you have any kids of your own and if you do, what advice have you given on the show that you think is most helpful in real parenting?

JoMariePayton: Well thank you very much, deedle! :-) That was a lovely comment! I have one daughter. She's fourteen, her name is Chantale. The advice that I've given on the show that I've given to my own daughter? I told my TV daughter a lesson on confidence: that she could be a wonderful and productive person with a dollar or a dime. You can, if you keep sight of God, and keep sight of self... you can do anything you want to do. It's for the good of not only you, but of everybody else.

Questions: jazzbakery says: Any memorable bloopers from the show you care to share? I bet there have been a few...

JoMariePayton: Gosh, there were so many! Oh goodness! I just went through nine years of bloopers!
None that stand out more so than others though... they were all great! :-) As a matter of fact, they would make a show in themselves!

Questions: dolittle says: JoMarie if you watch an old episode from the first season can you see how far you have grown as an actress?

JoMariePayton: I'd be a fool if I said no. The more you do a thing, the better you get at it. Your timing, expressions and understanding of the character get better. From the first episode right up until the last, sure I saw the growth, and I was very pleased with it. I believe you don't mess with anything that works.
Evidently we were doing something right, so I wouldn't go back and change a thing. :-)

Questions: masterdman says: who plays the instruments in the CD and live?

JoMariePayton: We have a slew of really beautiful musicians. Gerald Albright, a wonderful saxophonist. John Bolivar, Brian O'Rourke, a fabulous keyboard player, and Stanley Behrens, who plays just an exceptional harmonica. I'm very proud of the CD! And of course Billy Mitchell, who produced and arranged the songs, also plays keyboards. He's a multi-talented individual, whom I love dearly. :-)

Questions: singersdotcom says: Earlier you mentioned a "southern groove..." how do you define that? :-)

JoMariePayton: A southern groove is something that's very smooth and easy going. It's very honest, and makes you feel like you're right at home. That's how I'd describe it. :-)

Questions: mericcc says: Whoops! Our time is nearly up! JoMarie, thank you so much for your time today. We hope you come back to see us again soon! Before we close are there any comments you'd like to make? Perhaps something we didn't get a chance to cover?

JoMariePayton: I'd just like to say thank you all so very much.
Love and God's blessings to everybody!

As the spotlight dims, tonight's show comes to an end. We thank you, our great audience, and a
very special Thank You to our guest ......... JoMarie Payton ............ We look forward to seeing you again soon. Talk City Presents is produced in conjunction with iXl Live(tm) & Talk City(tm), a production of LiveWorld Productions Inc. Copyright 1998

JoMarie Payton (Short biography 1992)

JoMarie Payton portrays "the mom," Harriette Winslow, on "Family Matters." Since beginning her career as a performer entertaining family and friends, JoMarie is "a natural." Following her early at-home shows, she attended Carol City High School in Miami, where she performed in many of the school's variety shows.

As Mama in a high school production of "A Raisin In The Sun," JoMarie got excellent reviews, and a spot in one of the area's most respected local theater groups. While in the group, JoMarie met Peggy O'Hara, who became her mentor in those early years. With Peggy's encouragement, JoMarie attended a local college. Peggy then helped arrange a partial scholarship to the University of Miami, where JoMarie studied drama. Throughout her college career, JoMarie continued to appear in various local performances and gained quite a following. This garnered her a spot in the show "Purlie."

When the play ended its run in Los Angeles, JoMarie decided to remain there, despite the fact that she had no family or friends in the area. She stuck it out in the new city and decided to make a serious go of an acting career. She began landing roles almost immediately on such programs as "The Redd Foxx Variety Show," "The New Odd Couple," "Small Wonder," "227" and "Frank's Place." She has also appeared in plays and musical revues as a vocalist.

JoMarie, who now lives in Inglewood, California, enjoys swimming, sewing and music.

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