Alumnus Erica Hubbard makes history with BET

By Shardae Smith

Before landing the starring role in BET’s first scripted television series, “Let’s Stay Together,” Erica Hubbard (’99) studied broadcast journalism at Columbia and earned her degree in three years. She had roles in movies such as “Save the Last Dance” and “Akeelah and the Bee,” as well as a leading role in ABC Family’s “Lincoln Heights,” in which she played 16-year-old Cassie Sutton.

Hubbard got her start in the industry as a model at the age of 9 with the help of her father, and eventually was cast in commercials for companies such as Neutrogena and McDonald’s. Additionally, The Erica Hubard Foundation, a nonprofit organization, was started by the actress to help motivate students in low-income neighborhoods.

She recently helped make history, since “Let’s Stay Together” is now ranked in the top five ad-supported sitcom premieres in cable TV, as well as the No. 2 series telecast in BET history, with a debut of 4.4 million viewers on Jan. 11.

What was your experience like on Lincoln Heights?

Erica Hubbard: I got to partake in a drama series and have a love interest for four years [laughs]. It was like one big family, it was the stepping stone for me to get where I’m at today. I think the more you do something, the better you become, and more people are likely to hire you. It was really a dream come true for me as

an actress.

The Chronicle: What was it like playing a younger character on “Lincoln Heights”?

EH: That’s a good question [laughs]. It was extremely hard being an adult playing a 16-year-old because I had to worry about my mannerisms, the cadence of my character, what a teenager would do and expressions. When you play a teenager and people see you for four years, when you go out in public, they treat you like a kid. So instead of, “Wait a minute, I’m a grown adult,” [they’re] looking at me like Cassie and not Erica. So me being cast in this new project, “Let’s Stay Together,” I’m happy I’m actually playing an adult and being an adult.

The Chronicle: How did your fans react to you playing your real age?

EH: The messages I get on Facebook and Twitter are like, “Those are not the same people.” But thanks to Columbia and the [former] theater chair, Sheldon Patinkin, they really taught me how to do theater development and how to hide your true self inside so you can portray another life.

The Chronicle: Is the role you play on “Let’s Stay Together” a mirror of you?

EH: Most definitely. Playing Kita, who is in my age range, I do have some of her traits, which is why it’s so easy for me to portray her. But the [traits] I don’t have in Kita, I’ve seen growing up because [images of] Kita’s are in my family as well. So when I get the script it’s like, “Oh, I relate to this,” but if I don’t, it’s like my sister or aunt went through this, and this is how they handled it.

The Chronicle: Tell me about the Erica Hubbard Foundation?

EH: Working with ABC Family on “Lincoln Heights,” they would send me out to different neighborhoods to motivate the kids to stay in