(NEW YORK) — In the opening credits of Kym Whitley’s hit docu-series, Raising Whitley, the actress details how she came to adopt her now 3-year-old son, Joshua. After receiving an unexpected call from a local hospital asking her if she wanted to adopt the newborn child of the woman she was mentoring, Whitley decided to take the plunge with the help of her friends, whom she calls “villagers.”
“I’ve always wanted a family,” the 52-year-old actress tells ABC News Radio. “It just wasn’t at the top of my list and time just kept ticking. I never thought about it. I was like, ‘Oh, I have plenty of time.’ [And] I come from a traditional family and it’s always you get the husband first and then the children.”
Still, the single mother says she’s happy that she chose to adopt Joshua, especially after focusing on her career for decades and being a self-described “career-driven, party girl.” Whitley has appeared in films including Next Friday, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, Fun with Dick and Jane, and Along Came Polly, along with TV shows such as 2 Broke Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
“And now I’m a mother. And I’m really a mother,” Kym says. “[Joshua] comes first in every decision. He has made me a better person because now I date differently. I choose differently. …I choose jobs differently. Am I still going to play the prostitute role? Hmmm, maybe not. You know, it’s just different.”
Whitley co-parents her toddler with her best friend of “maybe 20 years,” Rodney Van Johnson. After Whitley made the unexpected decision to adopt, Van Johnson offered to be Joshua’s father, raising him alongside his two sons from a previous relationship. Co-parenting with a friend, however, can prove hard.
“He has his way of raising a child and I have mine,” Whitley explains. “He thinks he’s the expert because he has two boys. I think I’m the expert because I have nieces and nephews and I’m the momma. So, we butt heads a lot. But what I love is that he is very caring and loving to Joshua. Joshua just loves him to pieces and he is good.”
Viewers of Kym’s OWN docu-series see the sexual tension between Whitley and Van Johnson again and again. In fact, when Whitley hosted one of her suitors at her house in a previous episode, Van Johnson got incredibly jealous. Viewers think the two want to be more than friends, but Whitley denies this, saying the two have never dated. And although they seem close on camera, Whitley says she and Rodney need help becoming better friends.
“I wish it was simple. I wish I could say, ‘Yes! I could love Rodney and Rodney could love me.’ But there’s baggage. There’s history,” Kym explains to ABC News Radio. “There’s things that I’ve said to him that he doesn’t forgiven me for, truly. And things that he’s said to me that I’ve forgiven him, but I haven’t forgotten. So there’s a lot of history that we would have to remove and probably go into therapy and really become friends again. We have to start at the basic [level]. We have to learn how to be friends first.”
Raising Whitley airs Saturday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.
Ivana Kottasova, CNN
Chloe Melas, CNN
Nikki Siegel, Idaho Falls Magazine