Actress Kim Fields has entertained television viewers for more than 40 years with memorable and iconic characters, from the young, bubbly Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey on 1980s sitcom The Facts of Life to the sexy and funny Regina “Regine” Hunter on Living Single in the 1990s. Her latest starring role is in streaming service Britbox TV’s comedy Living the Dream, premiering Tuesday, May 14.
At the Multicultural TV Summit on April 30 in New York (see Freeze Frame), Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable honored Fields with the Multicultural Voice Award for playing positive and uplifting characters of color throughout her career. After accepting the award, Fields spoke with MCN about her future aspirations and the increasing opportunities for the distribution of multicultural TV programming. An edited version of the discussion appears below.
MCN: What’s next for you in your career?
Kim Fields: I’m always a fan of going into uncharted waters. In 2016, when I was blessed to celebrate my 40th year in the industry [by doing shows like Dancing With the Stars and Real Housewives of Atlanta], those were areas and genres that I had not yet been in. I don’t want to do something that I’ve already done. That said, it’s not that I’ll never do another comedy … I just want to have a different voice. That’s why the new British comedy [Living the Dream] was a great experience and opportunity. I’m also developing a graphic novel series and with the characters that I’m creating from a sci-fi perspective, if I wanted to go into a much darker sci-fi delve I can do that. In that sense I can be the storyteller, the narrator and character without having to fight the ghosts of my characters past.
MCN: Has the increase in distribution platforms provided more opportunities for you and other creators of color to get their projects to viewers?
KF: Very much so. The whole game has shifted. The gatekeepers and the good old boys club have died down. They’re not gone completely, but [increased distribution outlets] have provided a lot more opportunities. The additional playgrounds, as I like to call them, are fantastic because now I’m able to be in the driver’s seat a lot more. We’re developing a streaming service for inspirational content and I’m the gatekeeper for that, so [for audiences] we’re able to provide another playground.
MCN: Are we in a golden age for multicultural content, or is this a trend like we’ve seen in the past in which there’s a temporary plethora of content, only for it to eventually disappear?
KF: Unfortunately, history repeats itself and unfortunately there are a number of things that are just cyclical. To me one of the ways to break the cycle is that fact that we now have other playgrounds to take our content to. Let’s take Living Single. That show first came on the airways on Fox when the network was all black people — Sinbad and Steve Harvey had a show, there was Martin — and these shows were building a lot of momentum. Then of course soon after it was “thank you, bye bye” to all of those shows. Let’s say Netflix or Hulu was in the 1990s — we could say to [Fox], “You could have your funky trend on building your business on the backs of others and then cutting them off after you’re successful, but we could go over here and continue [our] momentum and be successful.” I feel that’s one way the cycle can be broken.
MCN: There’s been talk about a Living Single reboot. Would you be interested in reviving your character Regine in the series, and overall how do you view the reboot series trend?
KF: First, I’m thrilled how everyone has responded to a potential reboot. The thing about it is when you have a hit, it feels like you’ve caught lightning in a bottle. So you have to be mindful of that if you’re trying to do that again. Is that lightning going to strike again? Is everyone on board going to be able to move the bottle the way they did before? There’s a lot of moving parts to it. At the end of the day, if you don’t do it right, they’ll remember what you messed up of their beloved show even more than the beloved show itself. So you almost don’t want to mess with it.