Phylicia Rashad Exudes Grace and Power in ‘Good Deeds’8 Aug, 2012 By: Ashley Ratcliff
One of the actresses I’ve always admired is Phylicia Rashad, who became my “TV mom” when she starred as the feisty, clever matriarch Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.” The way she commands an audience and brings such truth to the characters she portrays makes her stand out, to me, as one of the greats.
These qualities are displayed yet again as she stars in Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds, currently out on disc from Lionsgate. If memory serves, this is Rashad’s second time starring in a Perry film (see 2010’s For Colored Girls).
In the dramedy, Rashad plays Wilimena Deeds, the widowed mother of Wesley Deeds (Perry), the poised but predictable heir of the family business, and his hot-headed younger brother, Walter (played convincingly by Brian White).
I saw the film in theaters earlier this year but recently revisited the film on DVD and was blown away once more by the depth that Rashad brings to her character. While Rashad’s role is supporting, she is very memorable as the strong backbone of the family who has it all together — at least from the outside looking in. When the threads begin to unravel, Wilimena doesn’t hesitate to tell her sons how she really feels in a way that makes you simultaneously empathize with and detest her.
In Good Deeds, we find Wesley trying to keep the family business afloat while enduring jealousy from Walter and pressures from his mother to marry Natalie (Gabrielle Union), his fiancée with an equally impressive pedigree. Wesley’s penchant for prioritizing others’ wishes for his life is tossed aside once he haphazardly befriends Lindsey Wakefield (played by the ever-beautiful Thandie Newton), the downtrodden janitor of Deeds’ building. She and her daughter are newly homeless. Lindsey’s husband died while fighting in Iraq, leaving her to fend for herself.
Lindsey’s brutal honesty is refreshing to Wesley, and their relationship leads the prim-and-proper businessman to live dangerously for once. When Wilimena learns of their new boundary-pushing friendship, she is quick to put the two of them in their place. You get the sense that Wilimena wanting the best for Wesley stems from a difficult past from which she and her husband worked tirelessly to rise above.
I’m glad the filmmakers opted to dig a little deeper into Rashad’s character in the “Motherly Love” featurette included in the DVD special features. Co-star Newton, who plays dogged single mother Lindsey, summed it up perfectly: Rashad is the epitome of grace and power.
The scenes involving Rashad, Perry and White prove the most compelling as you begin to discern that there are so many things left unsaid and so many pieces to a murky backstory that are untold. Perry reveals in the featurette that the three actors played their roles as if there was a family secret buried under the surface, which raises the level of intensity of that family dynamic and makes Good Deeds all the more interesting.