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EXCLUSIVE: Actress Alfre Woodard Talks Motherhood

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momlogic's Vivian: Actress Alfre Woodard has a list of accomplishments far longer than any slacker to-do lists. She's won four Emmys, three SAG awards and a Golden Globe, and also earned an Oscar nod. Oh -- and let's not forget the CableACE and Independent Spirit awards.

Alfre Woodard

She's also a mom of two and an activist. Artists for a New South Africa, a nonprofit she cofounded, is out to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and further democracy and human rights in South Africa and the United States. And did I mention she holds a seat on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities?

She'll soon portray Ruby Jean Reynolds, mother of Lafayette Reynolds, on HBO's "True Blood." (Yay!) Her new series on TNT, "Memphis Beat," finds her sparring with Jason Lee's Dwight Hendricks as Lt. Tanya Rice -- a no-nonsense mom of five who's not afraid to use all she's learned as a mom to manage her unruly male coworkers.

"I think people see Tanya as sort of a den mother, because the men in her precinct are so sophomoric," says Woodard. "One of the things that a lot of women try to take on [is] a testosterone-filled attitude, but women are much stronger than men -- both physically and emotionally. Motherhood really demonstrates ... what you are capable of. We can tolerate a lot happening to us and still function at a high level. As mothers, we cannot be afraid to take what we know into the business arena. People say it's a mistake to bring nurturing into the marketplace, but these skills aren't quite nurturing -- it's the ability to keep people at their best."

Alfre's own experience has helped her tremendously in business. "Being a mom has made me a more forgiving and tolerant person," she explains. "Creative people -- like actors, writers, directors -- we're the calmest. But when you get to a level of suits, there's a level of behavior that's seen as so powerful, because they hold your career in their hands. These are people you have to gear up to go in and talk to, because they shout! But as a mom, you know how to get what you need from this kind of person. You don't take it personally, or go there yourself when they spin out. No matter how corporate it gets, it's still the same valuable skill set: keeping order, keeping people organized, keeping people motivated. And stopping people from pulling each other's hair out!"

When it came to her own kids, Woodard says she kept them "fed, loved, and their hands out of the wall sockets." Most importantly, she "kept looking out for who they were and tried to help them become that." But her caring for children goes far beyond her own and her characters'. To raise money for Artists for a New South Africa, Woodard produced and directed the spoken word rendition of Nelson Mandela's "Favorite African Folktales," featuring the talents of Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Helen Mirren, Samuel L. Jackson, Blair Underwood and Alan Rickman. Rewarded with a 2010 Grammy nomination for Best Children's Spoken Word Album and a number-one spot on the Amazon audiobook chart, Woodard says the experience was "lovely all the way around."

Don't miss Alfre Woodard on "Memphis Beat," Tuesday nights at 10/9c!


next: What I Did on Summer Vacation
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