When you play a villain on TV, sometimes you have to pay the price—just ask Angela Robinson. On The Haves and the Have Nots, the Broadway veteran stars as the manipulative Veronica Harrington, one of the rich and powerful “Haves” whose cruel past antics include trying to burn her husband alive and blackmailing her son because he’s gay. Since Robinson plays such a polarizing part, it’s no surprise that fans of the Oprah Winfrey Network show (Tuesdays, 9/8c) have strong opinions about her character—and sometimes those feelings spill over into reality, Robinson recently revealed when she stopped by InStyle’s New York offices to discuss season three of the Tyler Perry-helmed primetime soap opera.
“I once had a lady come up to me and hit me on the back, saying ‘You need to be nicer to that boy—he’s your only child,” said Robinson. “I was like, ‘I don’t have a child!’ But my character’s story has touched a nerve with a lot of people, and I think it’s making a difference.”
Despite Veronica’s cruel ways, Robinson still has faith in her character—through the good times and the bad. “She pulled herself out from the streets of South Side, Chicago, got a law degree, started a business, and became a millionaire—all on her own,” said Robinson. That drive is what makes Veronica seem invincible, even when things don’t go her way. “I think people like that always seem to rise again,” said Robinson. “Even when they’re at their lowest, they always seem to come back. So no matter what, I think she’ll be alright.”
Here are five things we learned about Robinson during our chat.
1. She knows that when Oprah gives you advice, you take it to heart.
“I met Oprah years ago when I did The Color Purple on Broadway. Then years later, when The Haves and the Have Nots came around, we met again. And then after I won a Gracie Award [for Outstanding Female Actor - One to Watch], she told me, ‘Just take these things for what they are, this is just a moment—enjoy it, but it’s not everything. Just continue to enjoy doing your work.’ That helped me to just stay sober even though I had just won the award. So I really appreciated that one little nugget.”
2. She’s totally cool with—and encourages—her character’s cougar ways.
“She’s involved with a younger man now, which has been really fun and steamy. Women of a certain age don’t often get to play those romantic, sexy parts, so I’m very grateful to be doing it. I’ve been married for 19 years, and my husband coaches one of the actors on set, so he was there during my escapades with [co-star] Tyler Lepley. Tyler is muscular and really ripped. So my husband joked that he needed to start doing more push-ups to keep up with that.”
3. She knows how to handle the show’s more passionate fans on Twitter.
“Tyler [Lepley] has so many young girls that love him and want to marry him, and so I get the worst tweets, like ‘Get your hands off my man!’ and ‘How dare you?’ It’s cute that these girls get so jealous over him. And really, Tyler is such a gentleman. He’s always asking, ‘Is this right,’ and, ‘Is it okay if I do this?’ He’s really fun to work with and so generous.”
4. When it comes to switching up her look, she’s a master of disguise.
“I started wearing wigs when I was younger and had a thyroid disease that made my hair fall out. It was devastating. I thought, I could either have an issue with this, or I could go to the store and buy a wig. And then I fell in love with wearing them, and I stuck with it even after my hair came back. It’s an art, and it’s a joy to have so many new looks—short, long, straight, curly, kinky. It’s how I get my creative juices going.”
5. She has high hair standards, both onscreen and off.
“We went back and forth about whether or not my character would wear a wig, and finally decided that she would. At first, my home collection was better than the show’s, but they ended up investing in some good ones. We finally got this great wig that was custom-made, and then Tyler [Perry] told me that we were going to take it off in one scene. I was like, ‘But we just got a good one!’ The first day, I felt a little naked—but now that my character and some of the other characters have taken their wigs off, it makes it feel more real.”
The next episode of The Haves and the Have Nots airs tonight at 9 p.m., EST on the Oprah Winfrey Network.