Before landing it big time with the hit sitcom Amen, Roz Ryan had dreams of being a singer. She performed all around Detroit, Michigan as a teenager. During one major showcase, the grandprize was a recording contract with Motown Records, the hottest record label in America at the time. But Ryan says one of Motown’s biggest stars advised her not to take the contract.
“When I was 16, my cousins Tony and Zeta Robinson, and I we entered the WCHB Talent Show at the Fox Theater and we won,” she told Atlanta Black Star in a recent interview. “And it was $500 and a contract with Motown. So, at 16 years old — I was still in high school — we turned the contract down at the advice of David Ruffin, who told me that I would get lost in the shuffle because Motown was just blowing up and they had picked all of their top people.”
She took his advice and used it to her advantage. “I took the money [from the contest] and I started singing in nightclubs and makin’ more money than I ever thought I could make in my whole life...at that time,” she said. Luckily, she still had the support of fellow Motown artists who took her under her wing and helped mold her career. “It was good education. I met so many wonderful people. I mean, I was a little girl of 17 years old when I met Sarah Vaughn. So, yeah, I mean, I was privy to a lot of entertainers like The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Spinners. Those are all like my uncles and papas.”
She soon learned about auditions for the Broadway musical Ain’t Misbehavin. 10 days later, she was on the stage as part of the show. The show began her career as a Broadway staple. She also had a stint as Effie White in Dreamgirls. When Dreamgirls ended, she got the call that would change the trajectory of her career.
“About a week later, I got a call to fly to California to audition for the network and for Ed Weinberger and I went to the audition and I got the show [Amen],” she said. “I don’t even know how. I called my mom...and my mom said they must have seen something in you that you don’t know. And the rest was history.”
Since starring in Amen, she lent her talents to voiceover roles, including as Thalia in Hercules. Now, Ryan is working hard to get back to work in a COVID-19 world.