EXCLUSIVE: Sasha Pieterse Talks 'PLL' Spinoff, Says She'd 'Love' to Have Her 'DWTS' Partner on the New Series

While Sasha Pieterse focuses on learning and rehearsing new routines for this season of Dancing With the Stars, the young actress is already getting ready for aPretty Little Liars spinoff.

Pieterse spoke with ET’s Cameron Mathison after Monday’s new DWTS, and the 21-year-old star opened up about the highly anticipated series, Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, which was announced on Monday, and how it feels to finally be able to talk about it.

“I’m doing a pilot in January,” Pieterse shared. “I’m so glad to announce it, actually I realized that I can announce it today, which I was kind of blindsided about.”

After seven seasons of playing Alison DiLaurentis on the Freeform teen mystery drama, Pieterse says that she can’t wait to get back into playing the character she’s grown so familiar with.

“I love that I get to play Allison still,” she said. “It’s a character that’s near to my heart for seven years and it’s a fun new world.”

WATCH: ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Spinoff Starring Sasha Pieterse and Janel Parrish is Happening!

Pieterse also gushed over the opportunity to once again work with Marlene King, who developed PLL and is an executive producer on the upcoming spin-off.

“Our producer is incredible, she’s just a genius,” she explained. “I can’t wait to be on this journey with her again.”

One burning question that remains now is whether or not Pieterse can find a role for her DWTS pro partner, Gleb Savchenko, with whom she’s been spending nearly every waking hour rehearsing for the show.

“I would love that,” she exclaimed.

“That would be awesome,” Savchenko chimed in. “We’ll talk about it.”

PHOTOS: The Complete List: ‘Dancing with the Stars’ Winners

On Monday’s Dancing With the Stars, Pieterse and Savchenko scored a formidable 23 out of 30 for their Viennese waltz set to Rose Royce’s “I’m Going Down,” tying for second place on the leaderboard with Frankie Muniz and his partner, Witney Carson. 

As for the hotly anticipated Perfectionists series — based on the young adult books written by PLL author Sara Shepard — Pieterse will be joining Janel Parrish, who is set to reprise her role as Mona.

WATCH: Sasha Pieterse on Bringing ‘PLL’ into the ‘DWTS’ Ballroom and Why She Joined the Show!

ET spoke with King shortly before the PLL finale in June, and the executive producer teased the spinoff, saying it “could be in the same universe or feel like a similar universe.”

For more on King’s past comments regarding The Perfectionists, check out the video below.

Pieterse and Savchenko will be returning to the DWTS stage on Tuesday. Tune in at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC to see how the stars handle their Latin Night performances. 

EXCLUSIVE: Nikki Bella Opens Up About Showing Her 'Elegant Side' on 'DWTS': 'I Enjoyed It a Lot'

Pro wrestler Nikki Bella showed fans a different, more gentle aspect of her personality on Monday’s Dancing With the Stars, even though she found it a little awkward at first.

The WWE Diva spoke with ET’s Cameron Mathison after the show, and opened up on what it was like to show a softer side of herself during her waltz with pro partner Artem Chigvintsev.

“I enjoyed it a lot. It was very different and very uncomfortable to start out with, but then I realized like, I really like that elegant side and I’d like to use that elegant side even more,” Bella shared. “I mean, I didn’t really know I had it in me that much. But I had a good coach.”

Chigvintsev, who joined Bella for the post-show interview, said that he thinks she definitely has both sides to her personality, and Bella hesitantly agreed.

“I do think I have both sides, but I’m just so used to showing my fierce side that when I show this elegant side, I immediately feel like I’m dropping my guard,” she admitted. “I don’t like doing that, so then I’m like, ‘Just stay fierce!'”

WATCH: Nikki Bella Dishes on Joining ‘DWTS’ and Wedding Planning! How Involved Is John Cena?

Before taking the stage with her partner on Monday’s show, Bella opened up about her inner elegance in a pre-taped package, where she also reflected on the influence her beloved grandmother has had on her life.

“[The waltz] reminds me so much of my Nana,” Bella said. “If I didn’t have her as a big influence in my life, I would be an even bigger tomboy than I already am. My nana is elegant, classy and the most amazing woman that has ever walked this earth.”

Taking inspiration from her grandmother, Bella said she found the fortitude to step out of her comfort zone.

“I’m not just muscles and headlocks,” Bella said during the show. “I need to prove to people that there is an elegant woman in here. So, tonight is for my Nana.”

PHOTOS: The Complete List: ‘Dancing with the Stars’ Winners

Bella explained to ET that she was “happy to showcase” her softer side, and the shimmering elegance of the dance allowed her to channel some of the biggest influences in her life, including her Nana and some classic Hollywood stars like “Marilyn Monroe and Vivianne Leigh.”

Bella said that her fiancé, WWE star John Cena, was also a big fan of her beautiful waltz from what he’s seen during rehearsals.

NEWS: ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Eliminates First Contestant of Season 25 — Find Out Who Got Sent Home!

“He loved it. I can’t wait to talk,” Bella said, sharing that Cena hopes to be in the audience next week cheering her on. “I can’t wait to talk to him after Latin Night tomorrow night, because that’s going to be a whole new ball game.”

Bella will be returning to the DWTS stage on Tuesday. Tune in at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC to see how she handles her Latin Night performance, where she and Chigvintsev will be dancing a samba to “Despacito.”

'Kevin Can Wait' Moves Forward After Erinn Hayes' Surprising Departure in Season 2 Premiere

Kevin Can Wait has made its highly-anticipated return following Erinn Hayes’ surprising exit.

The CBS sitcom parted ways with their female lead, who played Kevin’s wife, Donna, at the end of season one, citing creative and personal reasons and announcing their decision to kill the character off.

On Monday’s season two premiere, Donna’s sudden absence was felt immediately, as Kevin (Kevin James) struggled to pack lunch for his youngest kids, while elder daughter Kendra (Taylor Spreitler) tried to help her dad out. But things turned somber when the mail delivered a reminder of the family’s late matriarch, in the form of a “We miss you” postcard from Donna’s gym.

“Give me that, I will call them right now,” Kendra insisted. “It’s been over a year since she died, they shouldn’t still be sending this.”

The premiere culminates with Kendra’s wedding, and before the ceremony, she and Kevin share an emotional moment, remembering Donna, admitting, “I wish she was here too.”

“She’d be so proud of you,” her father replies.

EXCLUSIVE: Kevin James and Leah Remini Talk ‘King of Queens’ Reunion on ‘Kevin Can Wait’

News of Hayes’ exit came in June, when the network shared that Leah Remini would be promoted to a series regular in season two, and that Hayes would exit as a result.

“The goal was to give Kevin’s character a real drive and a real predicament [involving] how a family comes back together [after tragedy],” executive producer and showrunner Rob Long told TVLine in August. “Also, out of respect for the character of Donna — and certainly the way that Erinn Hayes portrayed her — it seemed like the only right and fair way to treat her character.”

Long added that season two would focus on Kevin’s journey as a single father, saying that they never considered letting Donna live in order to leave the door open for her to return in the future.

Later in the season two premiere, Remini’s character — Kevin’s old partner on the force, Vanessa Cellucci — sat down with Kendra for an impromptu “bachelorette party” as she talked out her wedding nerves.

“Thank you for being here,” Kendra tells her emotionally.

Remini took to Instagram earlier this week to share how much she was enjoying being reunited with her Kings of Queens husband.

NEWS: ‘Kevin Can Wait’ Boss: Decision to Kill Erinn Hayes’ Character Was Done ‘Out of Respect’

“I have been having the time of my life being reunited with my favorite funny man @officialkevinjames,” she captioned a promo pic of the pair on Monday. “Not often in life do you get to go back and add to already amazing memories. Thank you @cbstv and the cast and crew @kevincanwaitcbs for welcoming me! And to all of you who have been so incredibly supportive, we thank you! #blessings.”

 

See more on the show’s casting shake up in the video below.

Jane Fonda Has One Regret About Her Love Scene With Robert Redford in 'Our Souls at Night'

After all these years, Jane Fonda still gets giddy working with Robert Redford. 

The 79-year-old actress appears on Tuesday’s episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and talks about portraying Redford’s love interest once again in the Netflix movie, Our Souls at Night, and their scenes in bed together.

PHOTOS: Jane Fonda Cuddles Up to Co-Star Robert Redford at Venice Film Festival

Fonda quips that she did have one regret while filming the movie. “There is eventually a love scene,” she notes. “I’m happy with the love scene. I’m unhappy because it was so short!”

She adds of her years of co-starring alongside Redford, “I’ve been in bed with him a lot.”

The longtime co-stars recently appeared together at the 74th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, in promotion of their movie, and Fonda confessed to the press, “I live for sex scenes with [Redford].”

In addition to Our Souls at Night, Fonda has also been the 81-year-old actor’s love interest in The Chase (1966), Barefoot in the Park (1967) and The Electric Horseman (1979). The two also appeared in Tall Story in 1966, with Redford having an uncredited role.

MORE: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Norman Lear Won’t Let Age Define Them — Their Secrets to Staying Young

“The only problem with working with Bob is I kind of look into his eyes and I kind of fall into his eyes and forget my dialogue,” Fonda told DeGeneres in March. “I realize that I’ve grown up because in the three previous movies, I was always in love with him. I fell in love with him every time.”

Just recently, Fonda also had a 9 to 5 reunion with Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin — her Grace and Frankie co-star — at the 2017 Emmy Awards.

ET spoke exclusively with the actress about what she thought of the trio reprising their roles for a movie sequel. Here’s her response:

EXCLUSIVE: 'Princess Bride' Stars on the Iconic Film’s 30th Anniversary & Who They Still Keep In Touch With

The Princess Bride is officially 30!

As the Rob Reiner-directed classic celebrates three decades of sword fights, wine swaps and “Rodents of Unusual Size,” the iconic film’s stars opened up about the years since the movie charmed viewers all over the world.

“I forgot it was the 30th … I thought we made it yesterday,” Mandy Patinkin recently told ET’s Kevin Frazier. “Every time anybody mentions it, I just can’t get over that it’s had the life that it’s had because we just went to work 30 years ago, did our best and had a great time.”

“That it has become what it’s become for all these generations, I pinch myself,” added the actor, who played Inigo Montoya in the Oscar-nominated film.

EXCLUSIVE: Robin Wright Stuns on ‘Wonder Woman’ Red Carpet, Teases ‘House of Cards’ Season 5

The film’s titular princess, Robin Wright, agreed that it’s difficult to grasp how long it has been since the film — her feature breakout role — was released.

“It feels like we made it five, 10 years ago,” said the 51-year-old actress at the junket for her upcoming flick, Blade Runner 2049. “It never feels as long as it’s been, because we really bonded, all of us. And what a great piece to be a part of.”

As for her favorite memory from the blockbuster, Wright couldn’t choose just one.

WATCH: Robin Wright Brings Gorgeous Look-Alike Daughter, Dylan Penn, as Her Emmys 2017 Date

“All of them,” she said, before adding, “And we all stay in touch — Cary [Elwes] and I especially.”

See more on Wright in the video below.

'Dancing With the Stars': Drew Scott, Vanessa Lachey & Frankie Muniz Power Through Injuries in Week 2

Dancing With the Stars kicked off its second week on Monday, and there was already a score of injured stars trying to push through the pain to deliver on the dance floor.

Property Brothers star Drew Scott was the first to dance, alongside partner Emma Slater, with a quickstep set to Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing).” However, the day before the live show, Scott hurt himself during dress rehearsals.

As they practiced on stage, Scott was trying to work on some of the feedback judge Len Goodman had given during the premiere, and he ended up pulling his hamstring. However, the fast-paced routine ended up being the perfect dance for him.

After getting their mostly positive feedback from the judges, Scott and Slater joined co-host Erin Andrews backstage, and the HGTV star said he’s still feeling the pain, but it’s manageable.

“It’s a little sore, but if I’m not bending low [it’s okay],” Scott said. “This was the perfect dance for me, because I didn’t have to go deep into the squats. I felt really good and I just wanted to bring the energy.”

For their efforts, the pair earned a score of 20 out of 30, which is a marked improvement over their first performance, which earned them a 16.

Vanessa Lachey suffered one of the week’s most painful injuries during rehearsals when she managed to cut her toe and rip up her toenail with the heel of her boot.

Lachey showed off the gruesome injury in the pre-taped package before her performance, and she didn’t seem too excited to be stuffing her tender feet into tight dancing shoes.

However, the charismatic mother of three came out with partner Maks Chmerkovskiy and owned the dance floor in a dazzling golden gown as the pair performed a foxtrot set to Tami Tappan Damiano’s “Hit Me with a Hot Note.”

WATCH: Drew Scott and Vanessa Lachey Suffer First ‘DWTS’ Injuries of the Season: See the Painful Moments

Following their successful routine, Lachey couldn’t keep her tears back and she laughed and cried with joy, exclaiming to co-host Tom Bergeron, “I didn’t fall! I didn’t fall!”

Despite the pain, and the intense rehearsals, Lachey told Andrews that she and Chmerkovskiy are “having fun.”

“It’s a lot, but we’re having fun!” she reiterated.

The talented couple earned a 24 out of 30 for their foxtrot, putting them near the top of the leaderboard for the second week in a row.

NEWS: ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Season 25 Premiere: Best Lifts, Kicks, Tricks and Flips!

For Frankie Muniz, pain was expected. A few years ago, the Malcolm in the Middle star broke his back after crashing a race car, and the strain of dancing has been causing serious discomfort and pain.

However, like his fellow injured DWTS castmates, the 31-year-old actor didn’t let it keep him from delivering an incredible tango with partner Witney Carson, set to “Whatever It Takes” by Imagine Dragons. Decked out in a red tux, the talented star brought everything he had to the dance floor.

Speaking to Tom Bergeron after getting feedback from the judges, Muniz explained that he’s been “literally doing everything” possible to stay healthy enough to stay on the show.

“This is so much physical work that you wouldn’t expect, not being a dancer. It’s so hard but I love it, and I’m doing everything I can to be healthy,” he explained. “I did cryotherapy, physical therapy, I’m in the sauna, I’m icing, I’m doing yoga, I’m doing everything I can just to be here.”

For Muniz and Carson’s efforts, the pair earned a score of 23 out of 30, which is a five-point improvement over their score in last week’s premiere.

WATCH: Frankie Muniz Was ‘a Nervous Wreck’ Ahead of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Debut

One reason the show might have seen so many injuries this early is because the stars were expected to learn two full dances in one week, as DWTS returns on Tuesday for their second show of the week. Tune in at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC to see how the stars handle their Latin Night performances.

Last week, singer Debbie Gibson opened up to ET about her struggle with Lyme disease, and how her affliction has affected her rehearsals with partner Alan Bersten. Check out the video below to hear more. 

'Dancing With the Stars' Eliminates First Contestant of Season 25 — Find Out Who Got Sent Home!

*Caution: Spoilers Ahead!*

Dancing With the Stars season 25 has axed its first contestant!

Following the season’s second night of competition, Shark Tank star and businesswoman Barbara Corcoran was sent home.

The elimination comes after Corcoran, 68, and her pro partner, Keo Motsepe, found themselves at the bottom of the score board for the second week in a row.

WATCH: Barbara Corcoran Says She ‘Dreams’ About Her Hunky ‘DWTS’ Season 25 Partner Keo Motsepe

In the season premiere, Corcoran and Motsepe performed a salsa set to “Money Maker” by Ludacris, which earned them a score of 14 out of 30.

This week, the pair performed a tango set to “Whatever Lola Wants” as performed by Sarah Vaughn, and they actually improved, earning a 17. However, the votes had already been cast.

After they were cut, hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews spoke with Corcoran, who opened up about how she felt now that her DWTS journey alongside Motsepe had come to an end.

“How am I gonna live without him?” wondered Corcoran, who spent much of her time on the show flirting with the handsome dancer.

“It’s such an honor,” she added of her time on the show. “It was probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.”

PHOTOS: The Complete List: ‘Dancing with the Stars’ Winners

Before the elimination, Bergeron and Andrews revealed which stars were in jeopardy. Joining Corcoran at the bottom were Terrell Owens and his partner, Cheryl Burke.

However, those two squeaked by and will be performing with the remaining stars on Tuesday, in the week’s second episode, where another couple will face elimination.

Tune in at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC to see how the stars handle their Latin Night performances. 

MORE: ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Week 2 Preview: Who Are the Frontrunners? Who’s Going Home?!

ET recently caught up with Corcoran during rehearsals and she revealed that the rigorous training for DWTS made her cry for the first time in years.

“I spent today three hours in practice and learned exactly three little steps and there’s roughly 80 steps in a dance and I have two dances to turn out Saturday. So, needless to say, I had a cry down,” Corcoran confessed. “I didn’t know I had enough juice in my body to cry. I haven’t cried in like, 25 years and I was sobbing all over Keo’s lap.”

Check out the video below to hear more from the outspoken Shark Tank panelist.

Jordin Sparks Displays Bible Verse on Her Hand While Singing National Anthem During Monday Night Football

Emotions were running high during Jordin Sparks’ performance of the national anthem as part of Monday Night Football.

Ahead of her singing, the entire Dallas Cowboys team took a knee, while players of the Arizona Cardinals locked arms with members of the military.

More and more players have been kneeling in protest during the national anthem following President Donald Trump’s recent remarks that any athletes that take a knee during the song should be “fired.”

MORE: Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers Show Support for NFL Protests After Donald Trump ‘Son of a B*tch’ Comments

Jordin Sparks national anthem

While Sparks did not take a knee, she did have a more subtle response to the recent protests. On the back of her right hand, the 27-year-old singer had written Proverbs 31:8-9.

The Bible verses reads: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

WATCH: Demi Lovato Slays the National Anthem at Mayweather-McGregor Fight

Other performers of the national anthem during Sunday’s NFL games had more outward displays of protest. Rico LaVelle kneeled at the end of his performance in Detroit, as did Meghan Linsey after she sang the anthem in Nashville. 

In addition to numerous athletes taking issue with Trump, his name was also brought up during Stephen Colbert’s musical monologue at the 2017 Emmy Awards.

Take a look: 

Flashback: Patrick Stewart on Taking Over the Enterprise on ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’

In March 1988, the season one wrap party for Star Trek: The Next Generation was held at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, a landmark famous for its appearances in movies such as Rebel Without a Cause and, most recently, La La Land. Along with its stargazing capabilities, the observatory also provides one of the best vantage points of Hollywood and the greater Los Angeles area. While speaking with ET, the perspective on Star Trek franchise creator Gene Roddenberry’s mind that night was a more personal one.

“The first year of the first generation of Star Trek, I had been fired,” said Roddenberry, standing in front of a banner that read: “Congrats on the First 26 Voyages,” noting the original series’ first season’s grand total of 26 hours of television. “And the first review we had of the show was: ‘Last night we had one of the worst things that had ever happened on TV in living color.’” The stark contrast between the inaugural seasons wasn’t lost on the legendary writer, who was now enjoying the success and critical acceptance of TNG, which premiered 30 years ago on Sept. 26, 1987.

“The way Paramount interested me in this one: They said it’s impossible to do again, at which point my ears perked up,” Roddenberry had said from his office on the Paramount backlot the previous year, five months before the series would debut.

After a string of successful films with the original cast, amassing a now-legendary fan base, Roddenberry was attempting to defy all expectations by creating a spin-off Star Trek series. Among the skeptics was Leonard Nimoy, who told him that “it would be difficult to catch lightning in a bottle twice.” In order to pull off this endeavor, Roddenberry found someone whose artistic passion was also motivated by impossible odds. 

“Throughout my career, I had always been attracted, sometimes fatally, to the adventure that lies in a project,” Patrick Stewart said a few months before the show’s premiere. “And occasionally, I get into trouble. I hope not this time.”

While a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stewart had watched the original series by catching episodes after Saturday matinees of productions such as King Lear and Richard IV. Roddenberry had seemingly found the perfect actor in Stewart to portray Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who would need to withstand an onslaught of comparisons to William Shatner. Stewart’s introduction to American television had been preceded by decades of performing universally beloved works, often in theater companies with cherished histories and long-standing traditions. Being a professional new kid in town as well as a Star Trek fan, Stewart knew how to prepare audiences for an addition to the well-documented mythology.

MORE: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Cast Spill Secrets From Set

“I think they should look at this for the way it builds for what has gone before. All the foundations of Star Trek have been laid and they remain the same,” said Stewart.

“There are a lot of issues and challenges in the ’80s and ’90s at the end of the century that need talking about,” said Roddenberry, excited to continue doing what the original series had only been praised for in hindsight, using allegories to comment on social and cultural topics. He added, “And they need talking about in drama, because drama will move people, cause people to think much more than any straight show.” 

According to Roddenberry, he would ask his writers, “What bugs you? What bugs you most? The way prisons are run?” His follow-up was: “Well, if something bugs you that much, go invent a planet where it’s happening and write about that.”

With a two-hour premiere, the TNG pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint,” accomplished quite a bit. It managed to establish new characters, display a new range of special effects and assure fans this crew would go to the same lengths as their Enterprise ancestors to protect each other. They further paid tribute to the original series with a cameo from DeForest Kelley, reprising his role in a hundred years’ worth of old age makeup.

MORE: How ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Plans to Push the Envelope

The episode also introduced Q, a villain who became the show’s perennial antagonist over its seven seasons. Played by John de Lancie, the seemingly invincible entity criticizes humankind’s flaws and history of destruction. That diatribe allows Picard to speak of how far humanity has come in the centuries that follow the audience’s present day, re-establishing that the series would continue to act as a vision of the future we can aspire toward.

“I think, as corny as it sounds, that the show is popular because it has a positive vision of what life might be like in the 24th century,” Jonathan Frakes said in 1990, just as the series was filming its 80th episode, surpassing the original series’ run of 79 episodes. Commander Riker himself went on to direct several episodes of the show, and most recently helmed an installment of the TNG-inspired FOX series The Orville.

Star Trek TNG

“It’s nice to have a positive role model to show people who are not just in conflict and violence all the time — that there are other ways of solving problems and I think this show does that very well,” Gates McFadden said in 1990.

“I think that, basically, human beings have a desire to dream, and it’s through those dreams that we really learn about ourselves,” said Levar Burton, who was on his third groundbreaking TV show after Roots and Reading Rainbow. “And this dream that Gene Roddenberry has dreamed has really taken on significant meaning for a lot of people.”

MORE: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’s’ Michelle Yeoh Says Series Is ‘Empowering,’ ‘Racier’ Than Original

TNG’s representation of a progressive society eventually attracted guest stars such as Whoopi Goldberg, who knew firsthand the impact Star Trek’s trademark diversity has on society. “This is one of the few shows that take place in the future that I saw as kid where there were any black people. You know, Lieutenant Uhura was there,” Goldberg said on set in 1988, adding: “It’s very important that the future be hopeful, and that’s what this is.”

Part of TNG’s success can also be measured by the number of Star Trek franchises that followed (as well as the memes), all on account of Picard and company breaking new ground in Roddenberry’s beloved universe. Its impact has extended all the way to the recent premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, which continues the franchise’s tradition of reflecting our diverse society. 

“We’re doing our best to uphold the legacy that is Star Trek,” Discovery’s Sonequa Martin-Green said. Along with being the first black female lead of a Star Trek series, Martin-Green is proud of Discovery’s other diversity firsts, which include an Asian female captain and an openly gay character. “I think, if you wanna actualize anything, you have to be able to see it, so to show people what they really look like, to be an actual mirror to what our society looks like, is a really big deal.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation can be found on CBS All Access (along with Star Trek: Discovery and every Star Trek series) and on Hulu.

EXCLUSIVE: 'Vice Principals' Star Kimberly Hébert Gregory Reflects on Breakout Year

At the 69th Primetime Emmys, Sterling K. Brown took home his second consecutive Emmy, this time for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for This Is Us. It was another marker of success for the unofficial graduating class of actors — Brown, André Holland (The Knick and Moonlight), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta and This Is Us) and Kimberly Hébert Gregory — that starred in the 2009 Off-Broadway production of the Brothers/Sisters Plays by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won an Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Moonlight earlier this year. 

“Look at us now: an Oscar winner, two-time Emmy winner, and all of us working and winning at the same time,” Gregory tells ET. “I’m filled with joy, pride and humility. We came from a place of working in the theater and scraping just to get by. We all trained hard and studied at various schools, and I truly feel it’s a confluence of our ancestors that runs through us in this moment.”

For Gregory’s part, she’s enjoying a breakout year on TV thanks in large part to sharing the screen with Danny McBride and Walton Goggins as Dr. Belinda Brown on HBO’s Vice Principals, which recently returned for its second season. “What I love about Dr. Brown is she could care less! She knows who she is, and there are big parts of Kimberly that stand in that now,” Gregory says. “She has helped me to be confident in my life and my work.” Her confidence has also landed a series regular role on the upcoming ABC series Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, which caps off a year of TV work that’s seen her in multiple episodes of everything from Better Call Saul to The Guest Book on TBS.

“If IMDB says it, then it must be true,” she says matter-of-factly of the fact that she’s played no fewer than five characters on five different major networks in 2017. “To let my mother tell it: When I was a child, I told her that I was going to win an Oscar. However, as I grew in my craft, I started out confident that I was going to do theater. Theater was my thing, and I was very happy to be doing it. So to be here, at this moment, is rather odd because up until four years ago, I was very happy to do the hustle of theater.” That hustle included a 2012 Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.

“I loved my character, Lottie, for the simple fact that I think she is such a relatable actress. Lynn wrote an actress role for an actress. It was an actress of color, of a certain size, at a certain time in history. So I really loved jumping into Lottie and I do feel like that character and that piece opened doors for me on-camera, which I was shocked by,” she revealed to Backstage.

Gregory, much like her former Brothers/Sisters co-stars, is now all over the screen, but she looks back on their time at The Public Theater in New York City with pride, saying that, at that time, it was the biggest opportunity for any one of them. Yet, there was so much “black excellence” in that room. 

Vice Principals

Gregory’s humility through all the success is what continues to shine brightest as she acknowledges the importance of black female representation onscreen and the visibility needed within the industry for all types of characters. “I remember, four years ago, being told by someone that I was too large for the camera—not in terms of size, but in reference to theatrical presence. However, Hollywood thought different and I landed my first role on Private Practice, which I didn’t know at the time was a Shonda Rhimes show.”

For Gregory, this point was important, as over the past few years there’s been an expansion of black women both in front of and behind the lens, with the likes of Rhimes and Ava DuVernay creating and producing TV. When talking about this idea, the actress makes reference to Empire star Jussie Smollett, who recently referred to black women as “the origin.”

“Being a black woman in this moment, I feel it is a great time to remind ourselves and the world [of our] black femininity and black womanhood,” Gregory says. “We are the origin. If you can’t respect and get into [it], you’re the problem. Let’s take up more space. Let’s remind people and remind everyone there is origin here.”

MORE: Breakout Star Lakeith Stanfield Talks ‘Atlanta’ and ‘Crown Heights’

Taking up more space is something the actress is passionate about, as she hopes to expand her career behind the scenes. “Writing is something I’m ready to explore; creating content that tells stories and more storytelling of people who are similar,” she says. “I foresee myself transitioning to producing and directing; it’s just in my personality to do so. It might be nice to have agency in the work that I’m creating in the future.”

Gregory is energized by having the opportunity to stand proud in her blackness and her womanhood, letting the world know it will have to deal with it. “Dr. Brown is a fully realized character as a black woman,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard to see full black femininity. Let it love. Let it lose. Let it break but let it stand strong. Let it be hard but let it be soft.”