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ICYMI Ptosha Storey Interview

Growing up in the projects of Dallas, Texas, Ptosha Storey “was just trying to find my way,” as she puts it. “I tell people that my extracurricular activity was fighting and trying to survive.”

But in the 7th grade, a special teacher, Ms. Perry, forever altered the trajectory of her life. Recalls Storey, “Ms. Perry introduced me to mime — you know, the Marcel Marceau type of performance. And I looked at her, like, ‘What the hell is that?’ So that was my first exposure to the arts and I really enjoyed playing emotions through my body without saying a word. Then she took me to my first musical, Annie.… I was instantly hooked.”

With Ms. Perry’s encouragement, Storey auditioned for the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts — and she got in. “When you’re raised like I was, you learn to express yourself through fighting,” Storey says. “I remember having my first fight on the campus, and the teacher who broke it up said, ‘Young lady, we don’t do that here!’ ” She is forever grateful to the staff, who “took in this girl with no direction, exposed her to a better way of life … and I started channeling that fighting spirit into doing musicals and plays, which fed my soul.” The faculty also ensured that her education continued after high school. “College was never on my radar because we just couldn’t afford it, but every scholarship that came along, my counselor would tell me, ‘Apply for this one!’ ” she recounts. “Before I knew it, I had 15 college acceptances, more than anyone in my class. I had choices! I settled on Southern Methodist University because it was one of the top schools. They only accepted 10 acting students a year and I was also the only minority in that class. When I went to college, my high school teachers made sure I had towels, a bicycle and all the things I needed to be productive. I call them my angels and they’re still in my life today.”

After college, Storey intended to pursue a graduate degree, “but I fell in love, got married and became pregnant,” she explains. “I started working at Sprint, where I was for many years. I was in residential customer service and then handled business accounts. But on the side, I was acting in and even directing plays because Dallas has a very strong theater community.” Eventually, Storey realized that to further her career, she would have to leave Texas. “I was getting a divorce and I felt like I reached as far as I could go in Dallas, so I knew it was time to jump,” she shares. “I sold my house and all of my furniture. I had to give this dream a try.” She headed to Los Angeles, launching her acting career in earnest while also raising her young son, Jordan. “It was a little challenging,” she allows. “I was very committed to him, but trying to balance motherhood and a career was a little tough at times…. I couldn’t get my acting to the level I wanted because of the parent I needed to be.”

Though she did some episodic work on TV (STRONG MEDICINE and NUMB3RS) while supporting herself and her son with side jobs (including one as a substitute teacher), her career really kicked into high gear when Jordan graduated high school and went off to college at the University of Southern California. “I decided that since I was older, I would go to Atlanta and somehow get an audition with Tyler Perry,” Storey says. “I just felt like I needed to get in front of him.” She made her way to the Southern entertainment hub, “and a week before I was to leave, my agent called and said, ‘You have an audition for Tyler Perry.’ I was like, ‘What??!!’ It was the next day and I had to learn 10 pages. I stayed up all night and got as much of those lines in me as possible. There were a lot of women there trying out for the role and after my audition, I sat in my car for an hour, paralyzed. I was like, ‘If I messed up this opportunity….’ Here was something I was trying to get to and the universe brings it right to me!” She needn’t have worried. “The next day, my agent called to let me know I booked it.”

The role was Tilda on OWN’s IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG. Storey was slated to appear in two episodes. “I flew in to shoot and Tyler was directing. We did my scenes and after we were done, I went up to him and said, ‘Mr. Perry, I want to thank you so much for this opportunity,’ and he said, ‘Where are you going? I’m writing you more scenes.’ So he set me up in a beautiful apartment and I was in Atlanta for a month because of him. It was such a blessing.” Next, Perry cast her in the feature film Acrimony, where she played the older sister of her real-life pal Henson. “Taraji, who was already a part of the movie, said, ‘Definitely cast Ptosha, she’s my friend.’ ” Later, Henson helped her land an audition for EMPIRE, and she snagged the recurring role of Chyna. “I’m forever grateful for that. It was supposed to be only two episodes, but that turned into seven or eight.” Perry also continued to hire Storey, tapping her to play the series-regular role of Nancy on THE OVAL for BET (see Season’s Greeting sidebar).

In late 2020, she joined Y&R, a soap she had grown up watching (“Everybody in the house had to stop talking whenever my mom’s stories were on”). Playing Amanda’s biological mother has been “a gift,” one made even better by working with Mishael Morgan (Amanda). “She’s a phenomenal actress,” praises Storey. “I remember when we did the scene of Naya admitting she’s Amanda’s mother, and thinking, ‘Oh, this is going to be beautiful for as long as it goes.’ The writing was so good. Mishael is very present and so am I. We play off each other very well because we’re in the moment together and I think that’s the beauty of what we do as actors when we tell stories. It’s where the magic happens.”

Storey is grateful to be where she is today. “I didn’t have to be the product of my environment and let it dictate who I was going to be,” she reflects. “Because of people who saw me better than I saw myself, I found out there was something bigger, and here I am. My mom used to say that if you do what you love then you’ll never work a day in your life, and she’s right. I’m in heaven.”

Season’s Greetings

The sophomore year of THE OVAL is currently airing on BET. Storey, who plays Nancy, the wife of the White House’s head butler, Richard Hallson, reports that the third season is already in the can. “We shot 22 episodes, in two weeks, during Covid,” she reports. “Tyler Perry flew us all in on a private jet to make sure we didn’t have to be on com- mercial flights, then we were quarantined separately for two weeks while living in housing at his studios. It felt just like college again. Tyler basically works with doing scenes in one take and moving on to the next. There were times I would shoot 20 scenes in a day. So fast-forward to YOUNG AND RESTLESS and because I had two seasons of THE OVAL under my belt, I was ready for that fast pace. Now I happen to be on the two fastest shows in Hollywood [laughs]!”

Just The Facts

Birthday: January 4

Here To There: Born in Memphis, TN; raised in Dallas, TX

Getting Personal: Storey was previously married to actor Billy Eugene Jones, with whom she shares 28-year-old son Jordan L. Jones.

American Idol: In the TV movie THE ROAD TO GALVESTON, she got to work opposite her idol, Cecily Tyson.“Even when we rehearsed, she was all business and completely focused on the person she was breathing life into. It was the most impressive process I’ve ever seen. That made me want to be a better actor.”

Friends In High Places: Storey has been pals with Taraji P. Henson (ex-Cookie, EMPIRE) for years. “We did a Shakespearean play together when I first came to L.A., King Lear, with Charles Dutton. She and I played the same role, Goneril, on alternate dates.” She is also buddies with Y&R alum Shemar Moore (ex-Malcolm). “When I moved here, I met Shemar while we were acting in the same theater company.”

Sweet Treat: Storey hopes that Naya will one day cross paths with Victor Newman. “To work with Eric Braeden would be the icing on the cake for me.”

Did You Know?

• Storey graduated from Southern Methodist University with a double major in Acting and African American Studies and a minor in psychology.

• She went to high school with Erykah Badu. “She was one year behind me.”