You can take the girl out of Georgia and ship her off to the University of the Arts, but you can’t take away her Southern accent, phrases like “darlin’,” or a Julia Roberts-esque explosive laugh. The 32-year-old actress, best known for her role in the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off Private Practice, hits theaters this month in Tyler Perry’s new comedy-drama The Family That Preys. Strickland owes more to this town than her degree — she was discovered waiting tables at Marathon Grill by some Indian dude making a movie about dead people.
What was life like growing up on a tobacco farm in Georgia? Well, we worked on the farm. We lived in the big city where the actual traffic light was, and one gas station and one hair salon. Life was good. I had a vivid imagination. When you’re driving the tractor because you’re too young to do anything else — and yes, that is at the age of eight — you’re in your own mind a lot.
Were you in a state of shock when you moved to Philly? My parents were more in a state of shock. It felt like a big small town, and I think that’s the real charm of Philadelphia. The arts community is tremendous. The food culture there is beautiful, and I’m a big ol’ Southern girl, so I love to eat. [Apparently in L.A., anyone above a size zero is considered a “big” girl.]
So the story about Night Shyamalan discovering you at Marathon Grill — is that an urban legend? That’s completely true. I happened to be picking up a shift that day at the one on the Square, the fancier-pants one. Here’s an Indian gentleman, a Japanese gentleman, a Latin gentleman and this white guy, talking about locations. I said, “Are you in film or somethin’?” They all just looked at me. I don’t know if Night was just doing a favor for a lil’ kid who was putting herself through art school, or if he liked the audition that much.
Do you realize his biggest film was the only one with KaDee Strickland in it? I think he needs to put me in another one [laughs].
You’ve said the idea that you’re a beautiful woman is still foreign to you. Is that actress-talk? Southern modesty? Did you get a face transplant before getting into acting? [Laughs] Well, bless you. As silly as it seems … well, you can see, I can’t even talk … I was a tomboy. It wasn’t until I was over 30 that people were interested in me in this way.
Weren’t you a cheerleader, and the homecoming queen? Yes, but I was the girl that set her friends up with the guys. Maggie Allen, Tia Garcia — those were the girls all the boys went after.
Is Tia Garcia one of the Pussycat Dolls? She was my classmate and so beautiful, and she didn’t look like anyone because she had Latin roots. I thought, this is the most exotic woman I’ll ever meet.
Tell me about this Tyler Perry movie. It was an opportunity to work from home. I never thought I’d go back to Georgia to make a movie. If you’ll give me just one moment, I’m going to kiss my husband goodbye real quick because I’m about to travel with you. [Exit Interview feels slightly third-wheelish.] Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodard, these are two of the greatest actresses of our time. I’m just going to let you know, my car is about to make noise. It’s so bad I’m doing an interview while I’m driving, but this is L.A.
Then there’s the new season of Private Practice. How relieved are you that they don’t do the annoying Grey’s Anatomy inner-monologue voice-over on your show? Well, I, I, I would roll with it if they did. Honey, we are havin’ so much fun! I love my job so much. But to fully bring it back to your question, I would roll with it. If I had some inner monologue going, it would be a laugh riot.
I can’t let this be the first interview that doesn’t discuss your Southern accent. I’m surprised it’s still so strong. It’s conscious, to a degree. Actors lose so much of themselves because when you’re young, you’re told, “I want you to be this, I want you to be that.” I’m glad I didn’t let those things change me in order to get a job. By the way, not everyone buys it. Some people think I have a horrible Southern accent. I’ve been told that and crack up.
Well, KaDee, thanks for your time and best of luck. Oh darlin’, thank you. And you realize if you write that I was driving during this interview, my mother will beat me like a redheaded stepchild.
[Laughs] You’re on the hands-free, right? Of course! And only for five minutes, so she should be all right with that.
We’ll make it clear you had both hands on the wheel. Yes. Not up my nose [laughs].