Retta has delivered unapologetic humor as Donna Meagle in “Parks and Recreation,” and been the voice of reason as Lisa Edelstein’s BFF on “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.” Now, after more than 20 years in the industry, she finally takes top billing in “Good Girls,” an NBC dramedy about three suburban moms driven to crime in order to protect their families. Here, the actress, 47, talks about the female-focused show and her love for Chicago food.
Your character in “Good Girls” has a sick daughter. How did you channel your maternal side? I’m an aunt and I’m obsessed with my four nephews. People say when they become parents, something changes — [but] I gotta say, becoming an aunt, something changes, too.
How has it been working on a show with three strong female leads in the midst of the #TimesUp movement? It’s empowering. … I don’t have to suppress any feelings. Our show runner is a woman who [made it clear] this is not going to be a show where women don’t have a voice. It’s a show about women taking their power back — [so] we can’t have actors feeling like they don’t have their power.
Your “Parks” co-star Amy Poehler has said you can cry on cue. What’s your trick? I’m the kind of person who cries during car commercials. I think it’s because I’m older [and] things are closer to the surface. If the material lends itself — [for example], you have a child you don’t know how you’re going to keep safe — it’s easy for the tears to come.
Your book, So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know, comes out in May. What’s behind the title? I’ve always felt I’m going to have success in this industry. The anxiety [comes from] not knowing when. Anytime a new [project comes along], I’m like, “I’m so close to being the sh*t, like I said I was going to be.” [In the book] I talk about pretty much everything: working on “Parks,” growing up in the projects [and] my first big audition.
You’ve spent a lot of time in Chicago doing stand-up — what are some of your favorite places to hit while you’re here? Chicago has really great food and [friend and fellow actress] Sophia Bush hipped me to that. Monteverde [Restaurant & Pastifico, 1020 W. Madison] is phenomenal. I just like eating in Chicago.