(KGET) — It’s been almost two decades since Emmy Award nominated and 11-time NAACP Image Award-winning actress Victoria Rowell has slipped on a white medical coat to play a role. She spent most of the ‘90s wearing one while playing Dr. Amanda Bentley on the CBS drama “Diagnosis Murder.”
Rowell was happy to slip back into the coat for one of her latest projects. She plays a doctor in two short films – “Like, Comment, Subscribe” and “A Long Look in the Mirror” – airing on the basic cable channel BET Her under the banner of “The Waiting Room.” Both original short films are scheduled to debut at 9 p.m. Oct. 17.
This is the third project with BET Her for the Maine native as she previously directed the film short “Everything is Fine” for the network that is a spinoff of BET.
“I was honored to be asked by Viacom/CBS and BET to participate as a director and an actress,” Rowell says. “I donned a medical jacket for the first time since I was doing ‘Diagnosis Murder.’ So it was like running 100 miles and ending up at my front door.”
BET Her focuses on general entertainment targeting African-American women. The short films on which Rowell has been working on have focused on issues from mental health to breast cancer awareness.
“Like Comment, Subscribe” follows a wedding vlogger and bride-to-be as she chronicles her journey after being diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. “A Long Look in the Mirror” tells the story of a broken mother-daughter relationship that is tested to the limits after the youth-obsessed mother receives a cancer diagnosis. Rowell plays the doctor in both short films.
The other important aspect of the BET HER original films is that they are being written and directed by African-American women. Rowell was guided through “Like, Comment, Subscribe” by Sheryl Lee Ralph and Vanessa Bell Calloway was behind the camera for “A Long Look in the Mirror.”
Rowell’s extremely happy that the network is finally giving people who have been in Hollywood as long as she has (or longer) the chance to work behind the camera.
“They had attempted numerous times to grow with the industry as producers, directors and writers. They were finally being given a shot. And that felt absolutely timely given the times that we are in,” Rowell says. “It was a personal celebration for myself and my colleagues. We would talk about how overdo this moment was.”
Rowell is hopeful Hollywood is changing but admits she’s been hopeful from her time with the American Ballet Theater through years and years of acting. Her philosophy is to hold on to hope but keep pushing for change.
She’s developed that philosophy through years of performing. After starting her career as a ballet dancer and model, Rowell switched to acting with the 1987 comedy film “Leonard Part 6.”
Since then she has appeared on daytime television as Drucilla Winters in “The Young and the Restless” and on primetime series such as “Single Ladies,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “The Rich & the Ruthless.” Her film credits include “The Distinguished Gentleman,” “Dumb and Dumber,” “Barb Wire” and “Eve’s Bayou.”
Rowell is one of the actors who has been pushing to work behind the camera. Along with the BET Her short film she helmed, she has directed every episode of the web series she created, “The Rich & the Ruthless.” She also directed the feature film, “Birdie,” that has not been released.
This doesn’t mean she will be giving up future opportunities to wear a lab coat on screen.
“I love doing both,” Rowell says of acting and directing. “I stay active in the performance dimension. Directing and writing and producing have been a big part of my life. If the industry was not going to give me an opportunity to write, direct and produce as I saw my white colleagues being offered – with even less experience than I had in the industry.
“I was going to create a way out of no way. I started producing, writing and directing live shows for charitable events. You never know when it is going to matter. Just do it because you love to do it and you know you have an ability to do it.”