(LOS ANGELES) — Tika Sumpter returns to the small screen to play Candace on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s new scripted drama The Haves and the Have Nots, which premieres May 28. After portraying mini-mogul Raina Thorpe on Gossip Girl and recovering alcoholic Jenna on The Game, Sumpter says this role is more “feisty” than previous ones.
“Candace is an ambitious, smart, young woman who makes choices that you may not always agree with,” the 32-year-old New York native tells ABC News Radio. “She’s definitely a feisty, ambitious, sometimes vulnerable, but she’s all about climbing the ladder at this point.”
The ladder that Sumpter is referring to is the social ladder, which is central to The Haves and the Have Nots, created by Tyler Perry. The series, set in Savannah, Georgia, follows the complex Cryer family and their hired help, who cook and clean for them inside their mansion. Sumpter’s Candace is the estranged daughter of maid Hanna Young, but she’s also the paid mistress of the Cryer patriarch, Jim Cryer.
The One Life to Live alum didn’t have to audition for the part. After working with Perry in his upcoming Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas, out Dec. 13, the director/producer offered her the part.
“We started talking about it on set there and I was like, ‘Oh, ok. Well, yeah, send me the scripts or whatever.’ And he did and I couldn’t stop reading it,” she explains. “And they offered me the role and then long story short, I took it.”
One person was glad she did: Oprah Winfrey, who created OWN, and who personally tapped Perry to bring his scripted sitcoms to the network. He’s also premiering a comedy, Love Thy Neighbor on May 29.
“[Winfrey] was there for my scene. I was at…the beginning of the day, and all I could hear was [squeals.] You know what I mean? And I heard Tyler go, ‘Shhhh!'” Sumpter recalls to ABC News Radio. “We finished the scene and we were doing another take and she goes, ‘Oh my God, Tika.’ She was just like, ‘Do you understand how amazing and delicious your character is? Like, you are playing this role!'”
Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots, which also stars John Schneider, Renée Lawless and Crystal Fox, premieres on OWN Tuesday, May 28 at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Chandrika Narayan, CNN
Kait Richmond, CNN
Lisa Respers France and Brian Stelter, CNN
Jackie Wattles, CNN