Updated: Nov 7, 2019
“Freedom is to be and do whatever you want. To be your authentic self – and I believe that you can’t get any freer than that.” Said Vanessa Bell Calloway, asked to define freedom.
Mrs. Bell Calloway is Hollywood's royalty and is living in the light that encompasses all that has made her iconic. Her movie and television credits are superb; she is the definition of superstardom, a ten-year breast cancer survivor, the mother of Alexandra Calloway and Ashley Calloway and the wife of Dr. Tony Calloway, an anesthesiologist.
The Coming to America Icon enjoys the business that she is in. As she puts it, “The beauty of my business is that I might be busy for several months and then things will slow down for a short while, but I have a good team that brings it all together and makes it works for me. Hey, I love life and I appreciate all that the business has afforded me.”
Calloway plays Harriet Tubman's mother, Ritt Ross in the first-ever made biological drama film, Harriet, about the life of the late Harriet Tubman. Having seen the film two times, her performance in this film is spine-tingling and award-worthy.
Harvest Magazine (HM): Take us through your Journey to playing Ritt Ross, the Mother of Harriet Tubman in the film Harriet?
Vanessa Bell Calloway (VBC): I’ve known about the story of Harriet almost all my life. Growing up, that was one of the historical figures that I connected to. So when I read the script, I was very excited about it. First, I was happy that they were finally doing a movie about Harriet Tubman, and most importantly I’ve known Debra Martin Chase and Kasi Lemmons, one of the producers and director of the film respectively for years and we've always said that we wanted to do things together – and when I read the script, I really loved the part of Harriet’s mother Ritt. She for me displayed the pain and the peace growing up throughout the Civil rights era as a black woman. So, I went to do my audition like everybody else and I got the part.
Harvest Magazine: Tell me about one of your most challenging times while filming Harriet?
VBC: You know what, to be honest, I never encountered any major challenge while filming Harriet, and that's when you know that this is just something that was meant to be. I believe that everything is already intended in our lives and written, so we just show up. This opportunity was made for me and it just fit like a glove.
HM: From what you’ve learned about the life of Harriet, do you see any similarities between the on-screen Harriet (Cynthia Erivo) and the real Harriet Tubman?
VBC: Yes, I mean, Cynthia is a real powerhouse like Harriet was. She has visions, she is a dreamer and she is a fighter just like Harriet was. So definitely I see similarities.
HM: Why should we watch Harriett?
VBC: I mean, why should you not? Harriet Tubman is a part of our history and she is very important. There's never been a story done about her, ever and this is a beautifully told story, one of strife and victory. Yes, it is a slave narrative in a sense, because Harriet was a slave before she became free and we know her tremendous work of the Underground Railroad, but she has remarkably changed the history with her braveness, tenacity and her foresight and people need to be reminded of this. I believe that if we don’t remind or youth and the adults about stories like hers so that in years to come, people will not think that her contribution to black history was a myth. Her life must be celebrated and I promise you that you will leave the theatre feeling victorious and inspired. Go watch!
HM: What inspired your web series “In the Company of Friends – All things healthy”?
VBC: Well, I am a producer and I direct as well and I like to have my content. I reestablished “In the Company of Friends – All things” years ago to create awareness. ” You know, I am a 10-year breast cancer survivor and I did this in conjunction with Susan G. Komen and the Ad Council Campaign. This series is something that I like to do to encourage, inform and educate the community about cancer. The series not only highlights my journey but some of my friends and family members of friends who are going through and that went through. It also features doctors and researchers and I am very proud of it. You can also see it on Company Friends TV.