The familiar face has a formula for success.
In more than 50 years of acting, Vernée Watson has heard one line so often, she decided to use it in the title of a documentary about her life: You Look Familiar: Vernée Watson. Folks who watch the CBS hit comedy Bob Hearts Abishola know her as Gloria, the no-nonsense nurse who speaks her mind. “Gloria says what she wants to say, and that’s kind of how I am,” Watson says. “The older I get, the less I filter my thoughts.”
General Hospital fans will know the New York City native as Stella Henry. “Stella’s in everybody’s business, but it’s a soap opera, so there has to be drama.” Watson, who also teaches acting, has won two Daytime Emmys for her portrayal, “which kind of validated the work that I put in. I try to instill that in my students: You can’t just have followers on Instagram; it’s about the work. There’s no shortcut.”
She calls working on a soap opera “acting aerobics, because you have to be off script, you don’t have much time to rehearse, but you have to bring it. It’s a good workout.”
You also may have seen Watson, now in her early 70s, in Welcome Back, Kotter, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and The Big Bang Theory, to name just a few.
When she’s not acting, Watson loves to dance. “At parties, I’m the first one on the dance floor.” She adds she was never a professional dancer. “No one would pay to see me dance, but I know the benefits of dancing.”
She takes ballet classes, “which is great for your posture,” and enjoys cardio classes at the gym and daily walks.
“The older you get, the body stiffens up, and it’s so easy to give in to that. But I fight against it. You’ve got to keep it moving, honey! We’ve all got wrinkles, and gravity is pulling us down, but we can try to hold it up.”
Give Thanks and Give Back
Her spiritual well-being merits a daily practice as well. “I go to my knees in prayer, I read the Bible every day, and I make sure to give thanks.
“A lot of times we pray for things, and when they come, we forget to thank God—we just worry about the next thing that we want. So when I start complaining or whining, I try to think about all the goodness that I have in my life and stay grateful.” She joins her sisters at church every Saturday evening.
Whenever she’s feeling stressed, she says, “I remind myself, ‘OK, take a deep breath, hold it for eight counts, and then let it out.’ And it calms you down. You’re centering yourself.”
Watson also volunteers at Heartfelt Education through the Arts, writing and putting on shows for children.
“I try to give of myself, to be of service. It’s not easy. But when I see a child’s confidence increase and they’re able to express themselves, it does my heart good.” You Look Familiar: Vernée Watson is currently streaming on Peacock.
This article was originally published in the winter 2022 issue of Clover Living magazine.
Published on 2/10/23
Photo credit: Mariana Tosca/Blue Jasper Productions, Michael Yarish/ 2021-22 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.