NeNe Leakes’ fight with Star Jones landed her Glee, The New Normal acting jobs

The Real Housewives star NeNe Leakes has transitioned into acting, with a regular role on NBC’s fall sitcom The New Normal. Having previously guest starred on Glee, NeNe plays an assistant to one of two men (Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha) who are having a baby together.

The show is produced by Glee creator Ryan Murphy, who told TV critics yesterday that the reason he cast her in the first place was her behavior on The Celebrity Apprentice and The Real Housewives, which he watches. Specifically, it was her fight with Star Jones. Here’s what he said happened:

“We were in the writers’ room of Glee, to be quite honest, and we were writing a nemesis for Jane Lynch, and I said, ‘You know what we need? We need somebody like this.’ And I had seen NeNe on Housewives, and I had also seen her take down Star Jones on Celebrity Apprentice. So we had watched that scene, and I said, ‘Wow. I don’t even know if NeNe wants to act, but we should talk to her and offer her this part,’ which was Roz, that she did so well. And we just offered it to her, and she very graciously accepted. And you know, the thing about NeNe is I think that had always been a dream of hers to act, and she had acted, and she showed up on Glee for her first take with a very long Ian Brennan monologue and got a round of applause from Jane Lynch and the crew right off the bat. So I knew, wow, she was really good.

So when Ali and I were coming up with this show, we talked about wanting to include NeNe, because I think she’s just hilarious, and I actually just shot a segment of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, which was a dream come true. Me talking about NeNe, about her acting dreams and things like that, and we met at a restaurant, and I was eating, and she said, ‘You shouldn’t be eating on camera. Don’t do that.’ And she was right. Yeah. I love her, and I think she’s very talented.”

Here’s the trailer for the new NBC show, which is already being protested by One Million Moms, an organization that predictably freaks out about anything that’s actually normal. Hilariously, Ellen Barkin plays one of the gay characters’ conservative, bigoted mother, and Ryan Murphy plans to make her character a member of the organization that’s protesting his show.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.