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Niecy Nash of 'Getting On' is living her childhood dream

Niecy Nash of 'Getting On' is living her childhood dream
Actress Niecy Nash (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Actress Niecy Nash guides her career using three words: "No matter what." Fresh off an Emmy nomination for her role in HBO's "Getting On," which is back for a third season, while starring in two other series, she's found the mantra has served her well.

"There are a lot of things that can preempt the vision from happening," she said about seeing herself from a young age as a working, successful actor. "But if you stay in that space, whatever it is — for me it was acting — long enough, even though there are heartaches and hard times, the blessings are sure to come."

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For Nash, those blessings have included a Daytime Emmy win in 2010 for "Clean House," six seasons of "Reno 911!" (plus a movie), competing in "Dancing With the Stars" and a self-help relationship book titled "It's Hard to Fight Naked." Her humble, "straight outta Compton" beginnings wouldn't have predicted such a successful life, but she felt she knew the right path for her when at age 5 she watched Lola Falana, "the most gorgeous black woman that I had ever seen on television," she said.

"She was the first person that I saw whose job it was to be black, fabulous and on TV, and I wanted to be just like her," Nash, 45, said, sitting in a gazebo outside her West Hills home. "In that moment, my destiny was stamped on the canvas of my imagination."

From an early age, Nash knew she had a knack for comedy, though the many consequences she'd face told her otherwise.

"I had always been funny, but it wasn't a gift," she said, revealing she'd often be pinched in church or punished in class for talking too much.

Her mother, Margaret, would often call her "just the silliest thing God has ever blown breath into."

Audiences have come to know the actress for her larger-than-life persona, complete with butterfly eyelashes, perfectly coiffed hair (with a signature flower from her "Clean House" days) and outrageous comedy, including scene-stealing roles as a self-proclaimed super-sleuth cop in Fox's "Scream Queens" or the wife of an R&B singer turned pastor in TV Land's "The Soul Man."

"Getting On" is HBO's adaptation of the darkly comic British series of the same name, created and written by Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer. It follows the professional lives of three female healthcare providers in the extended care unit of a Long Beach hospital. It's a sharp break from what Nash has done before, even in terms of appearance — no makeup, no hair weaves, no Spanx.

"We knew our job was going to be to strip away that thing where she thought she needed to put more on," said Scheffer. "I don't think she has ever had the chance to exercise those muscles. But where other actors get uncomfortable, she wants to learn."

Olsen believes this role allows her to say to Hollywood: "I have a deeper and broader range and deeper soul than you thought I did."

Nash said the role of Denise "Didi" Ortley has done just that, allowing her to "reintroduce myself to an industry who thought they knew me," she said.

"I got things like, 'She's a revelation' and 'We've never seen her like this before,' " said Nash referring to reviews. "I interpret that as, 'This is a girl who was always acting up, and now we just found out she can really act.' So I went from acting up to really being able to act. But that was always the goal, to act."

"Getting On," has already helped Nash book other gigs. After watching the show, Nash said, director Ava DuVernay enlisted her to play Richie Jean Jackson in the Martin Luther King Jr. civil rights drama "Selma."

Nash says this is just the start. She has even bigger ambitions for herself in Hollywood and in life.

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"Eventually I'm going to eat everything on my plate," she said. "No matter what."

Twitter: @TrevellAnderson

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'Scream Queens'

Where: Fox

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday

Rating: TV-14-DLSV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language, sex and violence)

'Getting On'

Where: HBO

When: 10 p.m. Sunday

Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)

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