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Victoria has been starring as "Drucilla Winters" on CBS's soap opera "The Young And The Restless" since 2002. Victoria is truely an amazing person, as her life story will speak for itself. Breathtaking beauty, elegance, determination and mind-boggling talent all in one package can only mean one thing - Victoria Rowell is back! Rowell reprised her role as the seductive Drucilla Winters on The Young and the Restless in July 2002. Born in Portland, Maine, the Emmy-nominated actress was raised in foster care for 18 years. At the age of eight, Rowell received the Ford Foundation scholarship to the Cambridge School of Ballet under the auspices of the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. After eight years of training, she flourished as a dancer, garnering scholarships to both the School of American Ballet and the American Ballet Theater by the age of 16. After dancing professionally with various companies - that is, the American Ballet Theater II Company, Ballet Hispanico of New York, Contemporary Ballet, Twyla Tharp Workshop and the Julliard School of Music Dance Extension Program with Anthony Tudor - Rowell accepted guest-artist teaching posts in New England. While teaching, the opportunity presented itself for her to pursue a career in modeling. Soon, she began gracing the pages of various magazines, including Seventeen and Mademoiselle before auditioning for her first television role. Victoria was born on May 10, 1960.
Rowell's Big Break
Rowell auditioned and landed a role on the highly-rated The Cosby Show. In fact, Bill Cosby was so impressed by the young actress's poise and talent that he cast her as his daughter in the feature film Leonard 6. He also gave her a recurring role on The Cosby Show as the character of Paula, the biological mother of Olivia Kendall, portrayed by Raven-Simone.
Once the acting bug bit her, she decided to pack up and move to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of acting. Like lightening, she took the entertainment world by storm, making guest appearances on numerous episodics. Rowell also starred in the NBC television movie, Secret Sins of the Father, starring Lloyd and Beau Bridges as well as Showtime's The Pack, opposite Mario Van Peebles.
Finally, fate lent a helping hand and Rowell landed the role of Drucilla Winters on The Young and the Restless in 1990. During her 13-year run on the daytime drama, she has been honored with a Soap Opera Digest Award for "Outstanding Scene Stealer" plus other nominations from Soap Opera Digest, including "Outstanding Female Newcomer" in Daytime and "Hottest Female Star" as well as winning nine NAACP Image Awards for "Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series."
Primetime and the Big Screen Calls
Rowell burst onto the silver screen, appearing in feature films such as The Distinguished Gentleman with Eddie Murphy, Dumb and Dumber with Jim Carrey and Eve's Bayou, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Diahann Carroll.
Recently, Rowell portrayed matriarch Josette Metoyer, opposite Forest Whitaker in Showtime's acclaimed mini-series, Feast of All Saints. The series is based on the novel by author Anne Rice. Directed by the incomparable Peter Medak, Feast of All Saints featured an all-star cast and allowed Rowell to explore the depths of her acting ability as an elderly Haitian plantation owner.
In her role as pathologist and county medical examiner Dr. Amanda Bentley on the Viacom/CBS series Diagnosis Murder, Rowell co-starred with the legendary Dick Van Dyke for eight seasons while simultaneously continuing her role on The Young and the Restless. She was also invited to write for the series, and was recognized by the Los Angeles Times for her literary contribution to the show. Also, while on Diagnosis Murder, Rowell opened the doors for Los Angeles foster youth to be employed by Viacom as production assistants.
Having spent eighteen years in foster care, Rowell became a passionate voice for children like herself. In 1990, she founded the Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan, which enriches foster children through artistic and athletic expression. In addition to facilitating job opportunities with Viacom television productions, she assisted youths in getting jobs with other companies, including BMG and Oxygen. For more information about her charity, log on to www.rowellfosterchildren.org.
Rowell is an active contributor and or supporter of Americans for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, American Ballet Theater, School of American Ballet, the Urban League, the NAACP, the Administration of Children's Services, NYC, New Yorkers for Children, the Alliance for Children's Rights, the Children's Defense Fund, Hope WorldWide and the Department of Children and Family Services in various states.
For the past three years, Rowell has been the national spokesperson for Casey Family Services -- an arm of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In part, United Parcel Service visionary, Jim Casey, founded the foundation.
To complement her numerous commendations and community service awards, Rowell received the first National Arts Award from the National Association of Counties. Over the years, she has hosted CBS's flagship parades, Tournament of Roses and New York's, Thanksgiving Day Parade. Very few actors embody the talent, determination and perseverance it takes to flourish in the entertainment world while understanding the importance of sharing it with the world. Victoria Rowell is that special persona.
Victoria Rowell back to Y&R
Ever since her departure in 2000, fans couldn't wait to see Drucilla Winters come home to Genoa City. And now she's back...with all the spunk and attitude fans love! CBS.com caught up with her portrayer, VICTORIA ROWELL, on her first week back on the Y&R set. Find out what Victoria's been up to and why she returned to Y&R.
CBS.com: What's it like to be back?
VICTORIA ROWELL: It's great being back.
CBS.com: Did you ever think you would return to Y&R?
VICTORIA ROWELL: Absolutely. I never burned this bridge. Whenever fans of the show would see me at an airport, at functions, wherever I traveled, even when I was in France last summer, or when I was in Africa, people asked me if I was going back to the show. My response was typically, "Well, we'll see." [Smiles] That was it. The insanity was people on occasion following me into the bathroom, [and] the women talking to me through the door stall. Then I said, "You know what? I've got to cut it right there. I want to talk to you about whether I'm going to come back or not, but let me come out of the stall first." [Laughs] But it feels really good to get back. I have a sense of family here. Going upstairs to see [Y&R Creator and Sr. Executive Producer] Bill Bell - he really is responsible, not only for me getting a start in Los Angeles, but he also provided me the opportunity to work with Dick Van Dyke and Diagnosis Murder. If Bill said, "You can't do the other show while your doing my show," then it would have been moot. But he did work with the producers at Viacom and that was extraordinary. People thought there was no way that could have been done and Bill made it happen. Bill also made a way for me to do feature films while I was doing the show. He has also supported my charity, the Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan, which is in its twelfth year. The Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan provides scholarships for inner-city foster children in fine arts, reunification camps, sport camps, and job opportunities. Presently, we have a small job bank. We're in our third year with Viacom. They hire emancipated foster youth, that's eighteen and older, as production assistants. Our last girl was on the Paramount Studio as a receptionist on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. So, Bill encompasses much more than just a gig for me.
CBS.com: Knowing your character as you do, was it easy to snap back into it? Was it like coming home?
VICTORIA ROWELL: I feel confident enough today to say that a lot of Dru is in me, and a lot of me is in Dru. I was ready to come back to work. I took a year off after doing about ten years of double-duty. I requested the year off from my management and re-grouped and really looked at my life. I have prioritized my life - myself, my children. When I say myself, I have to acknowledge that I have to take care of my instrument. Taking care of my instrument means not running looking for another job, in addition to what I already have. I know that is a direct result of growing up in foster care. I do have to look at my history and why I did what I did. But today I feel very confident in having one job and I don't desire to do anything else at this time in my life.
CBS.com: Being as driven as you were, it must have been difficult to have to tell yourself to stop and re-examine your life.
VICTORIA ROWELL: Certainly, I twisted myself into a pretzel before I listened to reason. I listened to my body and, most importantly, I listened to my children. I am very happy about what took place in the year. I went to Africa. I went to Russia. I fulfilled a childhood dream, which was to go to the Bolshoi and Kirov [Ballet Theaters]. I got to sit at Maya Plisetskaya's dressing table. She is a favorite ballerina of mine. She really inspired me to go all the way with dance when I saw her do this ballet called Spring Waters. [Editor's Note: Victoria danced professionally before becoming a model and actress.] I was at The Wang Center in Boston, of course that was when it was called The Music Hall, and she just flew across the stage. And I thought, "Oh my God!" She was just absolutely magical. Anyway, I got to do things in the year off that were very centering for me.
CBS.com: What is it about Drucilla that keeps you so interested in portraying her?
VICTORIA ROWELL: What keeps me interested is that it's very cathartic for me to play that character.
CBS.com: Because of the familiarity?
VICTORIA ROWELL: Yes. I'd have to say that twelve years ago I wouldn't reveal that, but today I can say that acting, in and of itself, is very cathartic, as is dancing, for me. Playing the character, she's gritty, and she's also Emily Post. And that's me. So, I love using my experiences that I [had] growing up and that meant [the] good, bad and the ugly.
CBS.com: In looking back at yourself, you seem so empowered. Do you think it brings a clarity to your work?
VICTORIA ROWELL: Yes. I don't do well working in an environment that I don't want to be in. That means being a waitress, selling light fixtures. It means whatever the job is that I'm not comfortable at, I don't do as well. I don't excel. It's very important to me that I put myself in a healthy environment and that I'm doing what I want to do. That applies to all people. If you're not doing what you really want to do, if your not exploring what your true calling is, then the expectation of happiness is pretty slim, I believe. In my year [off] I did [one] project with Family Law that I absolutely wanted to do. It was about a mother getting her children out of foster care and I just had to do it. I had the privilege of doing that project. With that being said, I am asked to audition for primetime and film. I just don't have that desire at this time.
CBS.com: It's great that you can say, "No, this is what I want to do."
VICTORIA ROWELL: I have that freedom because I have experience. I'm not obsessed with [saying], "I've got to do primetime! I have to do feature film!" Even theatre, by way of ballet, I've experienced. Although, I would love to do off, off, off, off-Broadway, where no one would see me. I do have that desire, but I'm not haunted by things not realized. You have to be careful what you ask for, because when you get it, are you ready? So, I got it, I fulfilled it, and now I know what I want to do right in my life.
CBS.com: Had you kept in touch with anyone from Y&R?
VICTORIA ROWELL: Oh, yes! Brenda Epperson, who was the Ashley prior to Eileen [Davidson's] second visit. And Michelle Stafford [Phyllis] once in awhile. Kristoff [St. John, Neil] and I would have a chat here and there. Those people stand out in my mind as people I remained in touch with.
CBS.com: Did you call any of them to tell them that you were coming back?
VICTORIA ROWELL: No. I got a call from Kristoff St. John. That was really nice. I didn't tell or call anyone in the cast. I figured it would just come. I told my immediate family and family of friends and they were so happy. Because in the final analysis, I discovered that I'm not a lady of leisure. I'm a worker. I don't consider myself a workaholic today, but I'm not a lady of leisure and I have to do something creative.
CBS.com: Why is Drucilla back in Genoa City?
VICTORIA ROWELL: Well, her daughter is becoming unruly, and she can't handle it. Why? Because she's so busy in this career in fashion that one wonders, how much longer? [Laughs] But she is in town so that Neil can help parent this unruly child. She is being told that her husband suffers from alcoholism. I don't know how Dru is going to react to him.
CBS.com: Are you excited to be portraying a mother to a teenaged daughter with a whole new set of problems?
VICTORIA ROWELL: Well, my daughter in real life just turned thirteen on July 6. So, there's art imitating life. I am enthused about playing that part. I have practice and I get to practice with Christel [Khalil, Lily], who's a fabulous actress.
CBS.com: Y&R holds such high standards, that the fans wouldn't expect anything less from them. Is that something that attracts you to the show?
VICTORIA ROWELL: Oh, yeah. Well, historically it has been wonderful pursuing different aspects of storyline, such as the classical ballet, and fine arts in minorities. Exercising that point through Drucilla loving classical ballet, but living right off the streets, but having this love of fine art. Yes, it is a very attractive component of why I have always loved acting here.
CBS.com: Are you still involved in dance? And are your children involved in the arts?
VICTORIA ROWELL: My children dance because their hearts may be joyous, but they are not taking formal dance. Jasper plays an instrument. Maya plays an instrument. Maya is more interested in horses and the water park. Jasper is a big lover of trains and right now he's dabbling with the piano and the trumpet. His dad is Wynton Marsalis, so you can understand why that influence would be there. Maya is now thirteen and Jasper is six. And the dancing...the dancing is in my heart and in my soul. I have a big kitchen and I do a couple of chaîné turns and a little leap here and there and on occasion I still take class. I live vicariously through the children that I sponsor in foster care studying ballet. In addition, my experience with American Ballet Theatre in New York was that I received a full scholarship, joined their second company and today, as an adult, I've become a friend of the American Ballet Theatre. They were just here. I went to a benefit. I also flew back to New York to see Susan Jaffe, who's friend of mine. We started at A.B.T. [American Ballet Theatre] together when we were teenagers. I'm still very much a lover of the ballet. I'm just not getting up there and doing a thirty-two fouettés anymore. [Laughs]
CBS.com: How does it feel to be in a position now that enables you to do so much for foster kids?
VICTORIA ROWELL: It feels good. It feels really right, is what I mean to say. I feel that God has given me an abundance, not for me to hoard, but to share.