Jurnee Smollett revealed that her iconic Full House role as Denise Frazer was actually written for a white girl to play.
Smollett told The Hollywood Reporter for its upcoming August magazine issue that she thought about not auditioning because the casting call specified a white child actress. But her mother Janet told her to try out for the role anyway.
“I remember the feeling of performing in front of a live audience, and being able to feed off of them,” she aid. “There [was] that action-reaction cycle that happens when you are in front of a live audience, and ‘Oh, if I do this, this makes them laugh.’ It was such great training for me because it really gave me confidence and freedom.”
Of her first scene, she said, “The audience applauded as I walked in front of them and I gave them a peace sign. In my head, that was my inner Janet Jackson moment.”
She said she’s “appreciative and grateful” that she followed her mother’s advice because of the positive impact it’s had on Black girls who watched the show growing up.
“There’s a generation of young girls, women of color, who have repeatedly expressed to me [that they] didn’t see many young brown girls, young Black girls on TV during that time,” she said. “Growing up with an image of a girl whose hair was curly, you know, it had an impact on them. I’m appreciative of and grateful for that.”
Smollett has been a huge part of Black girls’ lives in the ’90s and ’00s, starring in both television and film roles such as Eve’s Bayou, Selma Lord Selma, The Great Debaters, and others. Smollett’s most recent project, Lovecraft Country, has earned 18 Emmy nominations in light of its season one cancellation.