The cast of the ‘90s hit sitcom Moesha reunited on The Real on Friday (Nov. 3). The series, which ran on UPN from 1996 to 2001, followed the story of the Mitchell family living in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The series was told from the perspective of high-school student Moesha, played by Brandy Norwood.
Castmembers in attendance were Norwood, William Allen Young, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Countess Vaughn, Marcus T. Paulk, Shar Jackson and Ray J. The series also starred Lamont Bentley, who died in 2005, and Yvette Wilson, who died in 2012. The reunion took place on a set designed to mimic the Mitchell family’s kitchen from the show. Many of the castmembers were in tears as they embraced each other during the opening of the segment.
“This is such a great moment, this is beautiful, this is God, this is love, this is everything,” said Norwood. “Thank you guys so much for this moment.”
Vaughn, who starred as one of Moesha’s best friends Kim Parker, described the reunion as feeling effortless. “It’s wonderful, it’s natural, it’s love,” she said.
“It feels like money,” added Norwood’s real-life brother Ray J, who played Moesha’s brother Dorian Long. “I feel it. I see it!”
Norwood, who had a successful singing career prior to the series, reflected on how she was cast in the titular role. “It came from the music. They saw my personality in my music and they offered me the part,” she said. “I wasn’t an actress at all. This cast really held me up because I never wanted to be an actress, so I knew that this was destiny.”
Jackson, who played Niecy, discussed her unique casting experience on the series. “It was really cool the way it happened. They were already working,” she explained. “They had someone else in the role, so obviously that didn’t work out.” One day Jackson received a call asking if she was interested in sitting in on a scene to play a character named Gayle. “When they got picked up, I just got a call to come on back and I did that the first whole season.”
“It was magical for me,” Young said of meeting his onscreen daughter Brandy for the first time. “We were on the lot at CBS Radford that had the show at that time and I drive up, park and I come up to the soundstage and it’s dark,” he recalled. “I see a group of people at the end of the soundstage and all of a sudden an image starts running toward me and I have no idea who it is and finally she comes into the light and it’s a young Brandy and she jumped up into my arms and the first word I heard from her was ‘Daddy.’”
Ralph, who played Moesha’s stepmother Dee on the series, knew the show would be a hit after reading the pilot. “When I read that pilot, [co-creator] Ralph Farquhar called me up and he said, ‘Sheryl, I got a script here and you’re gonna want to be on this show. It’s gonna last a very long time.’”
Paulk was only 10 years old when he was cast as Moesha’s youngest brother Myles. “It was an amazing experience,” he said. The actor added that he never had older brothers and sisters, so the cast acted as role models for him. “I have the biggest group of older siblings.”
When it came to Ray J and Brandy playing onscreen siblings, some parts were easier than others. “The difference was that Brandy and I … our relationship is super, super solid,” Ray J said. “Dorian’s relationship was cool with everybody in the family, but he was moving around. He was trying to find his way,” he explained. “In that case it’s different from my life, but in other cases it was similar.”
During the time in which the series aired, there was a lack of positively represented African-American fathers on television. “I carry that responsibility whether I’m on the show or not,” said Young. “Certainly it’s magnified when you look at the power that images on TV have for people around the world, so if you’re conscious of it in your regular life it’s just magnified.”
Young revealed that during the series run, he received many letters from fans stating that they wished his character was their father. “When I got letters like that, it didn’t change me because that was my music anyway, but it certainly just reaffirmed to me that everybody who is on television has to take it seriously that somebody’s watching you,” he said.
When the cast was asked if they are interested in rebooting Moesha, everyone on the stage shouted, “Yes!”
“We need to have a conclusion for the show because we ended, like, on a cliff,” said Norwood. “Miles was kidnapped, we don’t know who was pregnant.”