Telma Hopkins: Roots

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Telma Hopkins participated as a guest on my radio show “Topically Yours,� on, Rainbow Soul. 

We talked about her role on Roots: The Second Generation, an award
winning mini-series due to air Sunday, July 8th through Sunday, July
15th as part of TV One’s 30th Anniversary’s telecast of Alex Haley’s
popular book “Roots.� 

A marathon showing of the first six parts will run from noon to
midnight on Saturday, July 14th.  After it runs one night, the
same episode will air the following day at noon. Cast members such as
Leslie Uggams, LaVar Burton, Ben Vereen, Lou Gossett, Jr., Lynn Moody,
et al, will host segments and talk about how “Roots� impacted their

Roots followed the generations of a slave family from Africa in the
1700s through the Civil War up until Haley traced his roots back to
Africa.  The epic program which won an Emmy, Golden Globe, and
Peabody Award aired 30 years ago.  During that time, the saga had
a stunning impact and touched the conscious of America. 

“Roots was my first acting job,� stated Telma. “I was primarily a
singer.  My agent introduced me to black casting director, Rubin
Cannon, who was casting the film.  I had already seen the first
Roots.  Cannon asked me to read for the sequel Roots: The Second

"I had never auditioned before and was scared.   I got the
role,� remarked the comedic actress.  “People began tracing their
families. My sister attempted to do our family tree and traced my
grandmother’s side of the family but it became hard to trace both sides
of the family so we never completed it,� explained Telma who was born
in Louieville, Kentucky and later moved to Detroit as a child.

“Detroit had cars and music and lots of talent contests.  I
auditioned for Motown but was too young. My group was sent to Golden
World Studio.  The studio hired us that day and we started singing
background.  Tony Orlando wanted to put a singing group together
and heard about my group. He called me but I was working with Isaac
Hayes. At the time I wasn’t interested.  It took a lot for Tony to
get me to leave Isaac.  Tony was very persistent and finally he
convinced me to try it.  I told him if he took me and my best
friend, Joyce to Europe I would do it.  Our first tour was in
Europe and Joyce and I became Dawn.  We were billed as Tony
Orlando and Dawn,� reminisced the singer/actress.  Their song “Tie
A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,� became a hit.

“Yellow Ribbon was really about a guy in prison who wanted to know
whether his lady would take him back so he told her to tie a yellow
ribbon around an oak tree to give him a sign he could come home,�
explained Hopkins.  “The song became popular with soldiers. 
It took on a life of its own.  It became synonymous with bringing
the boys home during Viet Nam.  And now we are engaged in the Iraq
war. This is another war that is taking kids from their families. 
There is something wrong with that because these young people don’t
know if they will return.  Some are young parents.  What
happens to all those fatherless/motherless babies?  This war is an
endless quagmire with no end in sight. We just keep sending our kids
into this bottomless pit,� remarked the former star of “Bosom Buddy,�
“Gimme A Break� and “Family Matters.�

“Singing was great but I like the normalcy of acting,� claimed the
daredevil who actually rode a bike across a high wire.  “Singing
kept me on the road and I missed events in my son’s life.  That
was heartbreaking.  Acting is stable and I can come home every
night.  “I did the “Odd Couple� before I did “Bosom Buddies. 
Tom Hanks starred in that show.   “I had a sense of humor as
a child.  My grandmother would tell me stop being so silly and be
more serious.  After I got my first comedic role and made money,
grandmother bragged to everyone,� chuckled Telma, who played Aunt
Rachel and show mom to Bryton McClure who played her son on “Family
Matters.� “I’m proud of Bryton,� said Hopkins about her former TV son
who recently won an Emmy for his role on “The Young & The Restless�
soap opera.  “He is a good actor and singer who still calls me his
pretend Mommy,� said Telma proudly. 

Ms. Hopkins has appeared on “Chicken Soup for the Soul,� “ER, �
“Suddenly Susan,� “Any Day Now� and “Half and Half.�  A
humanitarian Telma brought awareness about arthritis through her
association with “Act On Arthritis,� an organization that informs the
public about the disease.  She works with AIDS babies and via her
association with the PTA, reminds parents to get involved in their
children’s education.  “There is so many ways to help. Sometimes
you think you can’t do enough. I mentored a young boy and I saw the
difference I made in his life,� remarked Telma who is presently working
on producing a spiritually based talk show hosted by women of color and
representing diverse women of all ages.  The talented actress does
voice over work and is looking forward to producing artistic projects.

“I advise viewers to check out or for information about the upcoming Roots series,�
suggested Telma. “Roots� and its sequel “Roots: The Next Generation� is
a piece of our history that will never get lost.  “Roots� should
make us proud, serve to motive us and reminds us to stand strong
because we are survivors.�

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