Daphne Maxwell Reid and Tim Reid exude confidence and accomplishment. They’ve worked hard to achieve recognition and success, and they wear it well. Warm and engaging, they offered insights into their lives during an interview at The Valentine museum in their current hometown of Richmond, Virginia.
You may recognize the Reids from their on-screen television fame of the 1980s and 90s. Tim Reid played Venus Flytrap on the hit series WKRP in Cincinnati, and Daphne Maxwell Reid played Aunt Vivian in the hit series Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Tim also appeared in Simon & Simon; Sister, Sister; and That ‘70s Show, while Daphne, appeared in Simon & Simon, Crossing Jordan, The Cosby Show and Hill Street Blues, among many other shows.
Humble Beginnings Lay Solid Foundations
Despite their fame, their beginnings were humble. Tim grew up in a rough neighborhood in Norfolk, Virginia. He credits his experiences there with influencing who he became and the successes he has had. “I grew up in a segregated black neighborhood and was raised by my grandmother and influenced greatly by the community and the realities of the times,” he said. “It helped me learn to interact and relate to all different types of people and how to survive no matter the circumstances, which ended up being a great training ground for acting. My family life wasn’t traditional, and the folks in the neighborhood helped raise me and influenced my character. It made me understand how important your community – your support group – is to you.”
In college, Tim described himself as “not the best student,” but he credits education with turning his life around. “Norfolk State University really changed me,” he said. “They helped me learn skills I’d use later in life and realize the potential I had.”
After he graduated, Tim was hired by DuPont and was their first African-American hired from an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in management training. “I’ll never forget going to a welcome meeting for all new DuPont management employees at their headquarters in Delaware,” Tim said.
“After the meeting, we were invited to the country club to mingle with senior management. I noticed an elderly black waiter eyeballing me. He continued watching me and even followed me around the room. I was thinking, ‘What is this guy doing? Why is he watching me?’ As the gathering broke up, I went up to the man and asked him, ‘Why have you been watching me?’ He crooked his finger to motion me close and said, ’Don’t you mess up!’ He wanted to make it clear I was representing my community, not just myself.”
Daphne grew up in the projects of New York City. “It was a mixed neighborhood – race, religion, work – the thing we all had in common was that we were all poor,” she said. “I had a wonderful family. My mother was a great example for me. She taught me to care for my community and was very active in supporting causes, whether civil rights or the women’s movement. She was the most nonjudgmental person I’ve ever known, and she taught me to be a vocal advocate for those who needed care.”
Daphne was a strong student and went to Northwestern University on scholarship. She was elected the first African-American homecoming queen at the university and was the first African-American model on the cover of Glamour magazine. After she graduated, she continued a successful modeling and acting career.
Both learned they represented more than just themselves.
Foundation of Values
The Reids’ experiences growing up and their early work set the stage for success in their acting careers and beyond. Much of what they have accomplished they credit to a set of values built early in their lives and cultivated over the years. They continue to live by those values today.
“Throughout our careers, holding on to our values has been so important,” Tim explained. “We faced a lot of challenging situations, and I believe self-confidence was a key aspect of what made us successful. Some might call it ego, but you’ve got to believe in yourself and stand up for what you think is right.”
“Yes, that is true,” Daphne agreed. “In fact, I describe Tim as stalwart. He’s there for what and who he believes in. Along with that, integrity is part of who we are. We’re willing to sacrifice for what we feel is right and, more times than not, that has helped us succeed. And even when we weren’t successful, we feel we made the right decisions and maintained our integrity.”
With all their recognition and celebrity, they also know how to stay balanced. “I’ve always believed balance was important,” Daphne said. “In fact, Tim gave me a piece of advice I share with others: ‘Don’t let the successes go to your head nor the failures go to your heart.’”
Speaking of balance, when you meet this striking couple, even a brief conversation demonstrates how they complement each other. They have similar drive and excitement about their projects, explanations of different but equivalent strengths of each other, and a real enjoyment of each other’s company and experiences – both shared and individual. As they share thoughts and stories each jumps in to finish the other’s thought and regularly share a laugh with a warmth and enjoyment that almost makes you feel you’re eavesdropping on their own intimate conversation. It seems an important part of the Reid’s balance is one another.
Not only did their values lead to acting accomplishments, but a variety of other creative achievements as well. Tim is a writer, producer and director as well as an actor. He received two Emmy nominations for Best Actor in a Comedy and Best Producer of a Comedy Series for the CBS series Frank’s Place. In 1994, he produced and directed the award-winning film Once Upon a Time … When We Were Colored. In 1997, the Reids built New Millennium Studios in Petersburg, Virginia, where Tim directed and produced the feature film Asunder and the Showtime series Linc’s, as well as other projects.
In addition to her acting, Daphne continued a zest for fashion that started early in her life. Her mother was a seamstress and taught Daphne sewing as a child. She went on to create patterns and a sewing video for McCall’s magazine and now creates her own apparel – Daphne Style. In fact, some of her line is featured in The Valentine museum’s exhibition “Pretty Powerful: Fashion and Virginia Women” (TheValentine.org). She also is a professional photographer with four books featuring doors from around the world, along with a collection of digital prints. Most recently, Daphne published a cookbook and mini-memoir, Grace, Soul & Motherwit. You can see her fashion, photography and cookbook at DaphneMaxwellReid.com.
Caring for Those Who Need Care
As the Reids learned early in their lives, giving back to community and those who need care is important. Tim has supported his alma mater in a variety of ways, including through his own Tim Reid Scholarship Foundation. “Young people need education so they can develop their skills and find their paths – just like Daphne and I did,” he said.
They are also involved in a variety of causes in and around their home in Richmond, including arts, educational and humanities nonprofits, support for cancer survivors and efforts to help young veterans find new careers once they’ve left the military. “There are so many capable, passionate people out there,” Tim said. “We see these young vets who have managed hugely complex tasks and acquired exceptional technical skills – yet they can’t find a job? We know they have lots to give to our community.”
When asked what plans they have for the future, both plan to keep doing what they have been doing – or maybe something completely different! “We just want to be happy and keep creating,” Daphne said. “We’re enjoying our lives and our community here in Richmond.” Tim nodded in agreement and said, “Yes, and I’ve got to go do some editing right now!” At that moment, he stopped to kiss his wife goodbye and took off texting as he went … still creating.