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In 2000, Vanessa Williams was cast as one of the leads in the Showtime series “Soul Food.”

“Soul Food” was a sequel series to the 1997 film of the same name, which told the story of Chicago’s Joseph family: matriarch Big Mama Joseph (Irma P. Hall), her three daughters Teri, Maxine, and Bird, and their husbands, boyfriends, and children. In the film, the family splinters after Big Mama’s death, and they only gradually learn to forgive one another and come back together. The series continued with this structure but earned praise from critics and audiences for using its wider scope to address political and social issues, including racial discrimination, HIV/AIDS, relationships between politicians and their constituents, and abuse.

Williams played Maxine, the middle sister of the three Josephs who’s married to Kenny (Rockmond Dunbar), the former boyfriend of her older sister Teri (Nicole Ari Parker). Over the course of the show, her relationships with Kenny and Teri have their ups and downs, as they all attempt to do what’s right by her son, Ahmad (Aaron Meeks). Maxine runs for office against an unresponsive alderman and eventually gets a job at a shelter for women fleeing domestic violence. In 2003, Williams won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for her work on “Soul Food.” She was nominated three other times for her work on the show. 

Fun fact: the other Vanessa Williams appeared in the film version of “Soul Food” as the character Teri, while Vivica A. Fox had the role of Maxine.

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