“You have to have something that you hold on to that you hold sacred”

 For the first time in her career, celebrated actress LisaRaye takes on the big screens as Elsie, a parole officer, in Black Hollywood’s latest biopic “The Royal.” After catching the attention of film lovers in her iconic, break-out role as Diana ‘Diamond’ Armstrong in “Player’s Club,” McCoy has since co-started in hit sitcoms ‘All of Us,” ‘Single Ladies,” T.D. Jakes produced thriller “Greed.”

Based on the autobiography “Safe at Home,” McCoy’s latest film project “The Royal,” tells the story of legendary baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays Aikens whose career as a major leaguer was de-railed in 1994 when he was arrested for selling fifty grams of cocaine to an undercover cop. Aikens was consequently sentenced to twenty years and eight months in federal prison. While playing for the Kansas City “Royals,” he was the first player in major league history to hit two home runs in two different games of the World Series.

It’s a sentence that McCoy describes as heavy, unheard of, and very unfair. She tells Sheen, “The amount of time that he had gotten was such a shock because there are other crimes that you can commit and you don’t even get that much time for. And not to put any lightweight on it because definitely you know if you’re doing something illegal and it’s to yourself then to me it feels like it should be a lesser crime because you haven’t gone out there and murdered anybody. You weren’t out there selling drugs to anyone so to have a sentence that was so heavy – it was unheard of and very unfair to me.”

For him to be locked away for so long and miss his chance at his career and his family, I think it was awful. He did serve his time and when he got out, I was so very glad to hear that he was able to be the mouthpiece with such an understandable way of telling his story and reforming people that are still inside the prison walls. He gives them hope and a belief in second chances,” she added.

Highlighting the disparity of crack cocaine laws, the film sheds light on prison reform while emphasizing its impact on the family structure. President Barak Obama would lead the nation and sign into federal law The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity between the amount of crack cocaine and powder cocaine needed to set in motion certain federal criminal penalties. Among other provisions, the Act also eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine.

McCoy would later be crowned as the first lady of Turks and Caicos Islands in 2006, shattering glass ceiling and proving that Black women belong in castles. Her heart smiles at the thought of Black’s being associated with titles like crowned prince and princess, president and first lady of the U.S., as well as becoming legends -making some of the greatest contributions to American society.

Even after her astonishing career that spans nearly twenty-five years, McCoy admits that adding “The Royal” to her distinguished resume of TV and Film credits was one of the most defining moments of her decades-long career. “I’ve never played such a subdued character as a parole officer at all. A character that’s in uniform, if you will, or a government official. So I thought it would be different for me to be able to just switch lanes a little bit,” McCoy tells Sheen.

 I also would like to be a part of history and this is a historical piece as well, so you know it’s just a different character for me,” she added.

McCoy sat down with Sheen to discuss her new role as Elsie (parole officer to Aikens), her thoughts on prison reform, and how she’s been able to overcome Hollywood’s biggest temptations.

When did you come to first love baseball?

I remember when I was young and I saw Reggie Jackson, that was the end all and tell all for me. I’m from the south side of Chicago and I’d get a hot dog to eat while watching the game. In my mind’s ear, I can still hear the sounds of us eating peanuts as we watched Jackson play on television, and when I got older, I would sip on a can of beer (she laughs).

This is a story of second chances, a story of a baseball legend whose life was impacted by mandatory minimum sentences that largely impacted Black and Hispanic communities. What are your thoughts on prison reform?

I think there is a lot of reformation that needs to take place. No just in our world but definitely in the criminal and judicial systems. I’m an advocate of second chances and third chances, if you will. Rehabilitation, to me, does not necessarily mean that you need to be locked away out of civilization to be reformed. Sometimes it takes someone from the outside – a person who has been there and done that, someone who has experienced those kinds of ordeals to be able to tell us what and how we can move and shouldn’t move. So, you need an advocate, you need a humanitarian, you need a philanthropist. You need a head person – a leader to be able to bring that story to the forefront. And I think Mr. Aikens does a very good job at it.

As a Hollywood actress, you’re faced with some of the same temptations like drugs and drama. How have you been able to stay grounded after two decades in show business?

There are so many people that forget about the business side of show business and I see it all the time. Either you make it, or you don’t make it. It will either spit you up or spit you out. You know what’s for sure is what goes up must come down, so you have to have something that you hold on to that you hold sacred. If it’s your values, your morals, your family – It’s something you have to have yourself accountable for. Sometimes when you have disappointment and people are out there giving you the temptation, you have to be about what you came here for and walk in your purpose. And the only purpose that you have is a God purpose. You have to be obedient to that. And with me being a Christian woman I totally believe in that all the way.

For more information on LisaRaye McCoy, Follow her on IG @thereallraye1