Brooks Arrives, In A `Huff'

Entertainment

April 03, 2005|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,SUN STAFF

She lost out to Kim Fields for a lead role on Living Single.

She was a finalist to play Raven Symone's mom on Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, yet ended up being turned away.

And after Baltimore resident Kimberly Brooks auditioned for a part on The Young and the Restless, she was told she wasn't pretty enough.

Those are the more vivid memories of Hollywood setbacks for an actress who recently made good on a lifelong dream - a regular role on a television series - after years of guest appearances, recurring parts and rejections.

Brooks is Paula Dellahouse in the Showtime series Huff.

She plays a devoutly religious yet strikingly impudent - and sometimes foul-mouthed - office manager who is in her early 30s. Her boss is a psychiatrist (played by Hank Azaria) who is suffering a midlife crisis.

"When you're 4 years old, and you blow out the candles on the cake every year [since then] saying you want to be on TV, this is a dream come true," says Brooks, a Villa Julie College graduate and former Arena Players member who has been known for guest appearances and recurring roles on such shows as Judging Amy, The Parkers, The Jamie Foxx Show and NYPD Blue.

Brooks is the kind of actress you see over again on television who leaves you saying, "Oh, I remember her in ... "

Huff gives Brooks the chance to further establish an on-screen identity, but the tireless worker isn't resting on her laurels.

Brooks still auditions up to four times a week, offering her services for commercials, voiceovers, movies and print ads.

She says, in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, that although she's been able to make ends meet as an actress, occasionally she works for a temporary-employment agency, selling everything from insurance to oxygen.

Brooks auditioned for Huff during her lunch break at a temp job, and the office skills she learned are now paying off in her role as office manager.

And she adds: "Coming from Baltimore is such an advantage being out here. You can see it with [former Baltimore residents] Jada Smith and Mo'Nique. We have a realness that stands out."

Her acting career began at age 9, when Brooks landed the lead role in The Bad Seed while working with the Arena Players.

"She was marvelous in that play," says Verna Day-Jones, 80, who acted as Brooks' mother. "I'm not surprised she's gone on to acting."

After graduating from college, Brooks moved to Los Angeles and toured the country in off-Broadway shows before attempting a run at television.

Often she auditions for a part for months - occasionally alongside the same actresses she's competed against in the past.

"When you get down to the wire, and it's so close, that's when I have to take a trip home to Baltimore," says Brooks, who credits her family's support for keeping her in the business.

She adds that fortunes are looking up for African-American actors in Hollywood, due in part to the Oscars that Foxx and Morgan Freeman received for best actor and best supporting actor, respectively, this year.

"Then you have Diary of a Mad Black Woman [opening] as the top movie in the country," she adds about the Tyler Perry film. "It will open more doors for actors and writers."

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