“Dying matriarch” might not sound like a dream role for an actress in her 50s, but Whoopi Goldberg’s not complaining.
“The View” co-host stars in Lifetime’s adaptation of Terry McMillan’s “A Day Late and a Dollar Short,” in which she’s playing Viola Price, who, on learning that her next asthma attack will probably be her last, decides it’s time to straighten out her muddled family, which includes a straying husband (Ving Rhames) and their four grown children.
“Matriarchs, age-wise, have shifted so much,” said Goldberg, 58, in a recent phone interview.
“People are parents in their 20s, people are parents in their 50s,” she said. “I mean, it’s crazy. So, the idea that your child, or the person who’s playing your child, had to be so much younger than you – well, if you got married at 18, your kids are grown.”
And the dying part’s OK, too.
“I’ve died before. I died in another Terry McMillan (project). I died in ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back.’
“They’re always killing me off,” she said, laughing.
The actress, who has one daughter, three grandchildren and became a great-grandmother last month, has different ideas about how she’d handle a prognosis like Viola’s.
“If I got a diagnosis like that – my family knows this – my plan is to head to Greece, because that’s where I want to go to die,” she said.
They won’t need her to stay home to straighten them out?
“I say, ‘I’m going to Greece,’ they all pack and come. There’s no going off on a mountaintop. The entire brood is going to be there.”
Outspoken as she is herself, Goldberg said that she feels “bad for folks like Viola, who realize at that point that she needs to get them in order, who’s not kind of been as present as she could be.”
Viola let things slide “because she didn’t want to know. She didn’t want to hear it. She didn’t want to get in the way. But she did want to get in the way,” said the actress, who admitted that she finds the character “annoying.”
“If your kids are going through that kind of thing, and then you decide to get in the middle of it, and then you don’t tell them what’s going on, oh – ouch,” she said, sounding exasperated.
“I’d dig her up,” she said. “I’d dig her up and scream at her and then rebury her. That would be how I would do it.
“But I think it’s, in a funny way, a cautionary tale. You see stuff that needs to be done, you better do your maintenance, because you don’t know what is going to happen in the future. You never know.”
Goldberg, who’s also an executive producer on “A Day Late,” insists, “I don’t get a lot of offers at all. I go looking for stuff that I’m interested in.”
And with a daily platform on ABC’s “The View,” she doesn’t keep her interests to herself.
“It’s like this,” she said of her work ethic, “if you don’t marry well, you have to keep working. And I never married well. I married often (three times), but I never married well.”
Plus, staying home would “drive me crazy.”