Already told she was over-exposed and tooold, Vernee Watson went on to be a television fixture for the next 45 years – and counting. In the 2019-2020 television season, she was a featured actress in CBS-TV’s Bob Loves Abishola. She will return tothe role of Gloria for season two in the fall,but first she’ll be seen in her Daytime Emmy winning role of Stella on General Hospital. HollywoodHI caught up with the straight talking actress to find out exactly what she’s up to.
OK, so Bob Abishola is funny, it’s a great show, but the title – wouldn’t it be nicer, easier, if it was
Bob Loves Vernee.
Vernee: When people ask me what the name of the show is and I go through my routine of
making a heart and then I say, Abishola they go, ‘Oh yeah, I saw that show. I know what you’re talking about’. So people know what it is. It’s different and the show itself is as different as this name is.
Well, that’s a nice point.
Your daytime soap credits are Days of Our Lives
and The Young and the Restless?
Vernee: I don’t even remember Days of Our Lives.
But on The Young and the Restless I played
a homeless woman who was alcoholic.
Oh, so you were in scenes with a legend on the
show, Jeanne Cooper?
Vernee: Yeah, she was, yeah, yeah, big time. It was
her trying to save me or something. And I
remember that was fun because I got to do
real character stuff.
You started acting in New York?
Vernee: I had done a film in New York. I did Cotton
Comes to Harlem and that’s where I got my
SAG card. I was an extra and they gave me a line with Godfrey Cambridge and
Raymond St. Jacques. And then I did
another film, Come Back Charleston Blue
with those same two guys. Yep.
And tons of commercials?
Vernee: I did over 200 commercials in New York,
and I did theatre. And then my agent told
me that I was overexposed in commercials.
So I came out to California.
And you had a friend in Los Angeles, the great
Vernee:Yes, in fact I was about to go to Mexico, but
my friend, Larry Jacobs, told me they were
looking for Vernajean, his girlfriend on Welcome Back, Kotter. Well, my agent, who
was in New York said I was ‘too old to play
a teenager’ but I got in and I was cast on
Welcome Back, Kotter – – and that was my
first television thing here in Los Angeles.
By the way, everybody was too old to be in high
school on Welcome Back Kotter.
Vernee: I know! I was in my late twenties – – we
were all in our late twenties, but we
looked like teenagers. Actually John
Travolta was the youngest of everybody.
Do you ever catch up with him anymore?
Vernee: I do run into him sometimes. I used to live
next door in the same complex as his
brother. And I’ve seen John, over the years at different places. And he’s a very, very
nice man. And I remember when we were
on, Welcome Back, Kotter. He was just so
goofy and silly and stuff, and he came up
to us, he said, ‘they’re going to make me a
star.’ I was like, ‘Yeah right, what kind of a
star?’ He was doing a musical at the time,
this is right before he did Saturday Night
Fever. So, that was pretty funny. We were
all like, ’yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, sure, sure,
sure’. And that’s what happened!
And when we’re all together, oh my God, I
don’t know how we got any work done on
You teach an ongoing class that you’ve had to
turn into a Zoom class?
Vernee: Yes, it’s a class that I’ve been teaching.
Right before the pandemic we did a show
called A Lesson in Blackness which was a
black history month show on the 29th day
of February. And some of the kids from Bob
Heart Abishola was in it, too. We filmed it.
The place was packed and it was a really
good show. The kids learned a lot about
black history. Then the pandemic
happened and we had to close down and
do our classes on Zoom, which consist of
children from the ages of seven to
eighteen years old. And I’ve also taught an
You’re keeping plenty busy?
Vernee: I also wrote a piece with the kids. It’s about
racism and the injustices and the
demonstrations and stuff that has been
going on. They belong to the Heartfelt
education in the arts. There’s a website,
You’ve enjoyed all the unexpected family time?
Vernee: And this is something new for us – – she
wanted chickens for her birthday, so we
have chickens in the backyard. And the
kids. So, yes, every once in a while I just
get in my car and I go…
Who wanted the chickens – – your granddaughter?
Vernee: No, my daughter. And she
designed a chicken coop and we had a guy
build it for us. It’s called Chick Chala or
Chick Filet or Chick Chalet or something
like that, it’s crazy.
Is there anything that you’ve discovered about
yourself in being quarantined?
Vernee: That’s what I asked my
kids in class! Oh goodness. I’ve learned
that I’m a survivor and I have a strong faith
and I’m not afraid of work or change.
Well, the rest of us has had nothing to do for five months. So you have been able to keep your
creativity and your mind busy for all this time. So
Vernee: Yes, yes, yes, yes. I’m grateful for that.
What kind of success
do you have to have before you would reluctantly
have to wonder how long you can continue the
Vernee: I’ve been teaching for thirty years. And I
think I’ll always be doing that.
So you must love it?
Vernee: Well, yes I do. It’s hard work. But the
satisfaction I get from a child who is
insecure and hardly speaking and stuff or
shy, and then they come out of themselves
and they grow and they’re able to perform
and feel good about themselves. That’s my
What kind of music do you like?
Vernee: I love Donny Hathaway.
Where is the love?
Vernee: Yes. Yes. Yes. Well I grew up in New York, so
I saw a lot of them at The Apollo – – Jackie
Wilson at the Apollo!
What celebrities would you invite to a dinner
party at your home?
Vernee: I’ve had cookouts for a lot of people, they
have been over here and they’re just in
here with the rest of the folks. I don’t
know. That’s a hard question for me.
All right. Well, I’ll tell Frank Sinatra and Elvis,
they’re not invited to dinner at your house.
Vernee: Oh, they can come! Just bring something,
bring a bottle. Yup. And I don’t ask people
to bring food. I usually cook and I mean,
it’s a feast all around.
Any encouraging words for your fans?
Vernee: Be patient and keep your faith strong. Trust. You can’t buy into the fear and the
hate, you know?
That’s a nice place to end this interview.
Vernee: And I’ve been reading the 1619 Project
which was published in the New York
Times. It’s about, 1619 was the year that
the slaves were first brought over to the
United States. And it talks about the
business of slavery and so I’m very
interested in that. And how generationally
we have been subject to so much
inhumanity and how we have had to be
stronger and more resilient than any other
race because of that. And people don’t want to talk about it. Well they’re talking
about it now. And it’s real, the prejudices
are just woven into the fabric of this nation
and now it’s time to shake it out and shine
a light on it.
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