"I could have easily never worked again after Precious," Gabourey Sidibe tells me over breakfast in Los Angeles. "I could be back at my receptionist job and no one would be surprised, but I'm having a very crazy little career that no one thought would happen. Although that was never the plan. "
It's not clear whose plan Sidibe is referring to (hers, God's, Hollywood's), but it's plain to see nothing in the NY native's career has happened by accident. Although, as she's the first to admit, no one on her team is working off a calculated, step-by-step, career plan. Thankfully the fates led her from Precious to The Big C, which ends its phenomenal four-year run with hereafter, a 4-part limited run series, featuring Sidibe as Andrea, the wayward high schooler Laura Linney's character took under her wing back in season one.
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Like Andrea, Sidibe has flourished in that time, comparing her off-screen relationship to the on-screen one she and Linney share. "I have learned so much from Laura and the rest of this amazing cast over the years. But more than acting tips, I have learned grace from her. I have learned how to treat co-workers, and I have learned how to conduct myself in this business," Sidibe says, citing Linney's ability to keep her private life private, which she believes makes it easier for audiences to believe an actor in any imaginable role.
Next up is a still-mysterious (even to her) arc on season three of American Horror Story, subtitled Coven. "I've been sort of obsessed with Ryan Murphy since Popular, so getting to work with him is sort of like Christmas! I was also super into Nip/Tuck -- even when it got crazy. But whenever I'd be confused about what was going on, they'd show someone’s butt and all would be OK with the world," she laughs. "I trust that [the role is] going to be fun because I have fun watching his shows. Ryan, David E. Kelly and Shonda Rhimes are the three writers I'm invested in, career-wise."
And while all actors are wise to keep an eye on the busiest showrunners in town, Sidibe also plans to start writing, so perhaps her interest in those three extends beyond potential employers (although Sidibe would like Rhimes to know, "I would die to be on Scandal").
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The irony there is Sidibe never actually intended to work in television after securing an Oscar nomination for her debut performance. "This was sooooo not my plan," she giggles. "I usually have an idea of what I want to do. I sort of prefer the idea of doing movies to television, but there are so many shows that I love and need to talk about constantly that it kind of makes sense. But, I'm much more comfortable doing a short-run cable series. I'm either too much or too little to be on, like, NBC at 8 p.m. every Thursday. I don’t know why that is, but I like it."
Whether or not Sidibe continues to jump between critically-acclaimed cable shows after AHS: Coven works its magic on America remains to be seen. But, no matter the medium, Sidibe has a very clear directive when it comes to picking parts. "One of my personal plights in this business is about playing 'The Sassy Black Girl,'" she says. "I mean, in the beginning of my career, that was OK, but it's four years later and I'm very against it because, if that's what they want, they might as well just hire someone who is not an actress."
"That's been a particular source of pride for me with Andrea. Yes she's sassy, but she's not just the trouble-making, black, sassy, 'Oh no you di'int' student. She's someone who has come into this home and is a part of this family now. At some point, it was no longer about color and became about friendship and familyhood. That's just one reason I'm so proud to have been a part of this show."
Another source of pride since the pilot for Sidibe has been the audience's reaction to The Big C. "I've never lost someone to cancer, but people approach me all the time saying our show reminds them of their mother or their sister or their friend," she recalls. "That's why our writers are so smart. They're not just considering the family they're writing, they're considering all the viewers and all the families when telling this story, and I think the way hereafter concludes is just beautiful and so perfect for this specific family. I'm really glad for the way it ends because, as a fan of the show, I know everyone else will love it too."
The Big C: hereafter airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.