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Obscure Black C-Listers: Vernee Watson-Johnson

20 June 2008 8 Comments

Vernee Watson-Johnson is one of entertainment’s most recognizable faces but one of its least recognizable names. She’s been in over 200 commercials, including a current ad for V-8. She has over 100 film and television credits to her name and has been on practically every sitcom that I can think of at least once playing bit parts from a secretary to a judge. But of course, she’s most recognizable as Will’s mother on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, forming one leg of the super-cute black sisterhood quadrant along with Janet Hubert-Whitten (the REAL Aunt Viv), Jenifer Lewis, and the grossly underrated Charlayne Woodard. Maybe it’s because I have family from her hometown of Trenton, New Jersey, or maybe it’s because of her self-satisfied smirk, but whenever she pops up I just wanna talk to the screen and go “hey girl,” as if I already know her and we’re about to talk some trash together. After finishing a stint on Days of Our Lives, a venue completely inappropriate for her experience if you ask me, she continues to work steadily. She also teaches acting in LA, which is how she ended up testifying on Michael Jackson’s behalf during that messy little molestation trial (she coached the accuser and claimed that his mother was clearly after that paper). As much as I’d love to see her in a starring role I know she will certainly continue to be around.


  • Malcolm said:

    Vernee has definitely proved to have staying power. Outside of John Travolta, she’s probably the “Welcome Back, Kotter” alum who has worked the steadiest.

    I also remember her from the 1977-79 sitcom Carter Country. She played Kene Holiday’s girlfriend (and later wife). If the DVD gods ever see fit to release this show on DVD, I might consider biting.

    By the way, good call on Vernee’s smirk Thembi.

  • jazzfan360 said:

    Ha! The smirk. Very deserved entry. That woman is EVERYWHERE. She has gotta be one of (if not THE) hardest working commercial actors in Hollywood. Had to be just a year or so ago she did that battery commercial where she was the mother of the basketball player who dropped in the middle of a game, and that was on a million times a day.

    The Smith sisters are my favorite ever.

  • blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said:

    @ Malcolm

    She was also on a tv sitcom before Kotter….it was a show about a high school…I wish I knew the name….

    It is amazing that no one knows her name but EVERYONE remembers her face….she is an example of an actress that loved the CRAFT and was not interested in celebrity….

    God bless her for her values.

    Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

  • Thembi said:


    I think you’re thinking of Denise Nicholas on Room 222…they look a lot alike. More recently she played Sinclair’s mom on Living Single but since then not much. But you’re right, Vernee is in it for the CRAFT, not the recognition (otherwise she woulda quit by now), which is what makes her dope.

  • Malcolm said:

    Black Women Blow the Trumpet: I checked Vernee’s listing on imdb.com and didn’t see any any other high school sitcom listed besides Kotter. Like Thembi said, you might be thinking of Denise Nicholas (I never realized their resemblance until now). It’s possible that Vernee guest-starred on Room 222, but it’s not listed on imdb.com.

  • Anonymous said:

    HI, ive never seen this website before today. My name is Thembi and I just wondered how did you come about naming the site WWTD?

  • Thembi said:



    My name is Thembi too. There are certain times in life where people who know me ask themselves “Hmm, what would Thembi do?” Usually these times involve jumping out of one’s comfort zone. For some reason I rarelly get embarrassed and I think that most things in life should be handled like experiments. So yeah, thats why this site is called wwtd…I know it sounds fuzzy but if you hang around for a while it’ll all be clearer.

  • Julius Turner said:

    I know I’m late but I just read the blog. I remember when Ms. Watson was on Carter Country and I was just in love with her. I thought she would be a great actress. At 12 years old I guess I was right.

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