A prolific actress beloved by fans for that down-to-earth, “sister girl” quality exuding through many roles over her 30-year career, Vivica Fox is, at 52, comfortable in her skin, opinionated and driven by her passions.
The film, television and stage actress, producer and businesswoman was in Chicago recently for the Black Women’s Expo.
“Whenever I do women’s expos, I’m so thrilled to see how full they are and to see our community sticking together,” Fox said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times after hosting a discussion on women in business.
“My main message is about networking. Let’s all stick together as a community, supporting and uplifting one another and helping our businesses grow, for Generation Next, especially here in Chicago, with so much crime and everything. We have to start setting better, positive examples for our children.”
Fox had a lot to say about the current political landscape, having gotten to know President Donald Trump as a 2015 contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” — before Trump was dumped by NBC over comments he made about Mexicans. She’s a Trump critic.
“I don’t think that he made America great again,” she says. “He did his best to try to make America white again. Donald Trump, our president, has to learn that the world is evolving, that good people are in all different nationalities, and we are all blending.”
Fox, who plays Cookie Lyon’s big sister on Fox’s hit TV show “Empire,” filmed in Chicago, is of Native American and African-American heritage and was raised in Indianapolis. Her mother was a pharmaceutical technician and her father a private school administrator. She left home for California at 17 to pursue acting.
“I caught the show-business bug right here in Chicago,” Fox says. “I had an aunty in Chicago who was the first lady to cut my hair at 13 years old and put me on a runway. She’s the reason I’m in show business today. To come back here more than I ever have now, to film one of the No. 1 shows on television . . . it’s just a dream come true to me.”
Fox got her big break through TV soap operas, first on “Days of Our Lives” in 1988, then on “Generations” from 1989 to 1991. Her TV credits range from character roles on dramas and sitcoms to ensemble roles like playing Loretta Black on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” producing and starring in Lifetime’s “1-800-Missing” series, doing a a turn in 2006 on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and creating, producing and starring in Lifetime’s new reality show “Vivica’s Black Magic.”
Break-out film roles came in 1996 as Will Smith’s girlfriend in the blockbuster sci-fi “Independence Day,” a role she reprised in the 2016 sequel, then playing opposite Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and Kimberly Elise in the cult classic “Set It Off.”
Fox is adding author to her credits, with a book deal.
In “Crossbreed,” a movie due out later this year, she will become the first African-American woman to play the president of the United States in a feature film.
“I’ll speak to the youth by saying, ‘Hey, it’s your girl, Vivica Fox,’ ” she says. “I left home one month after I graduated from high school 30 years ago. I made it. You can make it. But you have to surround yourself with positive people. I know it’s hard when there’s drugs, teenage pregnancy and violence that’s rampant. But you’ve gotta want it.
“Go to church. Listen to your parents. Keep it simple. And don’t be twerking on the dang-on Internet because you’re trying to get followers. Carry yourself as young men and young women. I know it’s a tough time right now, but you can do it. Your girl Vivica did it. You can, too.”