Halle Berry: ‘It Took Me Years To Build Respect’

Halle Berry has been in the entertainment business for more than two decades. She won an Oscar for her dramatic portrayal opposite Billy Bob Thornton in Monster’s Ball. She’s currently a producer on the series Extant, in which she also stars.

But Berry told a Hollywood Reporter round table that respect didn’t come easily. The 48-year-old had to overcome stereotypes not only about her gender and race, but also her background as a beauty queen.

“[When I started it] was quite different than it is today for women of color. I also came from a modeling and beauty pageant background. And that didn’t help at all with my credibility. I had to somehow find ways to shed that persona and to let the industry know that I was to be taken seriously.”

Berry was not just a model-turned-actor. She had studied the craft and didn’t see Hollywood as just another side gig. But it still took time and effort before her talent and ambition were recognized and rewarded.

“It took me years to build that respect within the community.”

Her beauty pageant career included crowns for Miss Teen All-American (1985) and Miss Ohio USA (1986). She was the runner-up Miss USA in 1986 and came in sixth in Miss World (1986). It would be more than a decade before she won the 2001 Best Actress Oscar for Monster’s Ball, becoming the first African-American woman to do so.

Despite her professionalism, Berry is not above poking fun at herself. Parade notes that she was on-hand to accept in person a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress. The dubious honor was for her role in 2005’s Catwoman.

In Extant she plays an astronaut who, in the first season, returned pregnant from a 13-month space mission. Her co-star, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, recently told People that Berry had a meltdown on the set.

“She had a huge temper tantrum on set. Like, massive. Like, meltdown of meltdowns. I wasn’t even there, but my phone was ringing like… ‘Lord, have mercy. You better get down to set right now.’ [She was] screaming at everyone and until the first [assistant director] started having tears coming out of her eyes.”

But Berry soon revealed it was just an April Fool’s joke. Berry told People she was going to continue with the gag, but realized she should stop when the assistant director started crying.

Season 2 of Extant currently airs Wednesdays on CBS.

[Photo by Jason Merritt / Getty Images Entertainment]