Vivica A. Fox booking
Actress. Fox’s film career began with a part in Born on the Fourth of July, 1989; she has also appeared in Independence Day, 1996, Booty Call, 1997, and Set It Off, 1997. Has also appeared regularly on the on the television shows Beverly Hills 90210, Out All Night, The Young and the Restless, Living Single, and Arsenio. Vivica A. Fox, Essence magazine asserted in 1997, was “the Hollywood homegirl of the moment” for the verve she lent to several major releases of the past year. After Independence Day hit theaters in the summer of 1996, fans literally stopped Fox on the street to compliment her performance. Arsenio Hall tapped her as his co-star in an unfortunately short-lived 1997 sitcom bearing his name.
In Set It Off, she played a female bank robber opposite several other well-known African American actresses. And as “Ms. B. Haven,” hench-bunny to the evil Mr. Freeze in the 1997 Batman movie, Fox would flex her action- hero talents opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger. Fox was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1964, the youngest of four children. Her parents–Fox’s father is an administrator at a private school, and her mother a pharmaceutical technician–divorced when she was just four. Fox’s teenage years were active ones; she worked at a fast-food restaurant while also playing school sports and singing in the choir, but confessed to being starstruck from an early age. “I always knew I was going to perform. As soon as I finished my homework, I would dig into a magazine and read about show business,” she recalled in People. After graduation, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue that performing career, but wisely enrolled in school part-time at Golden West College in Huntington Beach as well.
She also worked in a restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, and one day a customer–who turned out to be a film producer–recommended that she give his agent- friend a call. Fox called the woman, and was soon auditioning for and winning small roles on television shows such as ABC’s Matlock, Days of Our Lives, and Generations, another 1989 NBC daytime soap, but aimed at an African American audience. She also won a small part in Born on the Fourth of July, the 1989 Tom Cruise movie about a Vietnam veteran; Fox played a hooker in her big-screen debut. She also played a bad date in one 1991 episode of NBC’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a young woman whom the show’s title character, played by Will Smith, fixes up with his cousin; that role led to a recurring one on Out All Night, also on NBC, in which she played Patti LaBelle’s fashion-stylist daughter; however, unlike the popular Fresh Prince, Out All Night failed to reach an audience and was cancelled. Nevertheless, the occasional parts and the uncertainty of sitcom work left Fox in worrisome financial straits.
She considered moving back to the Midwest, but her parents loaned her money at one point to keep her in California, “thank God, because they believed in me,” Fox told writer Deborah Gregory in the Essence interview. For guidance, her mother suggested prayer, and Fox began attending church. After being out of work for a year, in 1994 she took a recurring part as Dr. Stephanie Simmons on another daytime soap, The Young and the Restless. The show proved to be the break she needed: Fox was noticed by a fan of the CBS show who was also married to a film producer. That viewer told her husband about the actress, and Fox was called in for an audition for a supporting role in the action thriller Independence Day; she would play lead actor Will Smith’s love interest. “When I heard I got the part, I ran about the house screaming!” Fox told People magazine. Yet as she confessed to Essence’s Gregory, she did have reservations about the role–as go-go dancer Jasmine DuBrow, Fox would wear little but a G-string in some scenes. “I’m not gonna lie. I was scared to death to play a stripper,” she told Gregory. “There were many days when I left that set crying. I was like, ‘What if people think I’m a slut?’ You know we’re never allowed to be sexy on-screen.” Yet in the end, Fox’s character wins Smith’s heart and remains a good mom to her son, even while aliens are invading the planet; Smith’s character helps save the world. Independence Day was one of the box-office smashes of the year.
“That success,” Fox told People, “changed my life. I don’t have auditions anymore. I have meetings.” With her newfound good fortune, Fox allowed herself a few well-earned luxuries after years of struggling, including a white Mercedes. Her next screen role came in Set It Off, released later in 1996. Fox played a fired bank teller who joins three other women in a series of daring bank robberies; her co-stars were Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett, and Kimberly Elise. For this action film that showcased its characters’ smarts as well as looks, there had been no shortage of African American professionals auditioning for the coveted roles. Fox had been cast against the role of Frankie, and for that she was pleased.
“I was so grateful for the chance to shed my ‘nice-girl’ Hollywood image,” Fox told Essence shortly before its premiere. Until that point, she added, she “couldn’t get an audition for anything other than cute Buppies!” Shortly after Independence Day hit the screens, no less than former late-night host Arsenio Hall came calling for Fox after seeing her performance. To entice her to join the cast of his scheduled new sitcom, Hall set up a meeting with Fox that happened to fall on her birthday, brought her a cake, and sang “Happy Birthday.” Fox accepted the role of Vivian, the lead character’s sharp wife, and the show debuted in March of 1997. It was another coveted role, since Fox played a smart, newlywed attorney. “I’m so proud of our project,” Fox told Essence’s Gregory around the time of its debut. “We get to act like a real Black couple.” Unfortunately, critics found it lacking, and it was cancelled after only a few weeks. Fortunately, Fox had won meaty parts in several other projects that would debut in 1997.
Fox’s next role brought a bit of controversy, but her role and performance were not the problem. Booty Call, released in early 1997, was called a “safe-sex” comedy by its makers, but many objected to a marketing campaign seen by some as degrading to women. In the film, Fox played Lysterine, a banker with a healthy appetite for life and love. Later in 1997 Fox appeared as Ms. B. Haven, clad as a twenty-first century snow bunny. She would also tackle a more serious role in Soul Food, which starred both Vanessa Williams and Nia Long as well; the threesome play sisters on-screen. The newly-hectic pace of her career has seemed to put a damper on an active social life for Fox–which may be a mixed blessing. Her date for the Academy Awards in 1997 was none other than Chicago Bulls basketball player and fellow actor Dennis Rodman, echoing what she had once admitted to People–”I like bad boys, but they break your heart.
I don’t want to casually date anymore. The next guy I date will probably be my husband.” She also displayed wisdom about the entertainment industry. “In Hollywood when your time is up, they spit you out like chewing gum,” she told Gregory in the Essence interview. She was observing and learning as much as she could, so that someday she might “step behind the camera and write, direct or produce so that I can help make someone else’s dreams come true.”
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