Sheryl Lee Ralph talks new Nat Geo doc on Red Tails, defends celebs who get political: ‘Use your platform’

Sheryl Lee Ralph is defying critics who decry Hollywood actors getting political, encouraging other artists to speak out.

“If you have a platform, use your platform and use it for good,” the “Abbott Elementary” star told ITK in a recent interview when asked about celebrities who have been criticized for weighing in on politics.

“How dare people try to tell artists, painters, dancers, filmography documentarians, authors — how dare you tell people overall that they should just stick to what they do?” Ralph asked.

“I wish people would stop with this ignorant conversation that actors should just act, writers should just write,” the “Dreamgirls” performer continued. “I’m an American just like every other American, every other voting American in this country.”

Now Ralph is using her voice to bring attention to National Geographic’s “The Real Red Tails,” streaming beginning this week on Disney+ and Hulu. The one-hour special she narrates details a mystery that unfolded after last year’s discovery of the wreckage of a World War II-era plane flown by Frank Moody, one of the country’s Black military pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen and “Red Tails.”

“People always think that our armed services were always what they are now: A diverse group of people. That’s not the case. There was a time when Black people, the enslaved people, were not able to fight for the country,” Ralph, 67, said.

“When they were given the chance, it was only to do what they knew could not be done: places and battles that could not be won, allowed to fight not with proper clothing, not even with shoes, at times.”

“But then you get World War II and you get the Red Tail fighters, who against all challenges, take to the skies and fly higher than anybody ever expected, fighting for the freedom of our country. And then you get Frank, who goes down on the test mission, and now you want to act like he doesn’t matter as well,” Ralph said.

“It is important that these stories are told. It is important that people understand the true sacrifice made by many, many people of color, especially Black, and what it took to fight even for those, your own, who would fight against you.”

The National Geographic special, Ralph said, comes at a time when “there’s so many people that want to put a color on American history, as if there haven’t been other people in America, especially other immigrants, other people who were forcefully made to come to America — as if their contributions don’t matter based upon the color of their skin especially or their culture. And I think about how some stories refuse to not be told and Frank’s story, the Red Tails story, refuses not to be told, heard and learned in the totality and the inclusion of American history.”

The Emmy Award winner told ITK that she’s “always loved politics,” noting her family’s strong political connection, including an uncle who served as the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Jamaica and her godfather, PJ Patterson, who was Jamaica’s prime minister.

“I love politics so much I sleep with it,” Ralph quipped of her husband, Pennsylvania state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D).

Ralph appeared alongside Vice President Harris at a Biden campaign event last month to advocate for reproductive rights.

“I will always do my best to campaign for what I believe is the best for America,” she said.

But would she ever consider running for office herself?

“Oh, hell no. Oh my god. No, no, no, no, no, no,” Ralph exclaimed.

“I will run for nothing,” she said. “I will use my platform the best I can to do what I do the way I do it.”

“People who run for office, they either have great passion, or great ego, or a combination of those two things, because when you choose to serve people, people will usually never tell you, ‘Thank you.'”

“They will usually never understand the sacrifice of your life for them. They will never know what it is you will do to truly serve them.”

Plus, Ralph said, politicians “don’t get paid a whole lot of money.”

“People always talk about politicians and all this money. Well, that’s something else. Those public servants who are really doing the work, they’re not getting paid a lot of money.”

She added with a laugh, “I look at those bank accounts and I think to myself, ‘My God, I need lipstick. I need shoes. I need these things.’ And they can’t buy them.”

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