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‘Take a Vacation, He’ll Pay You’: Sheryl Lee Ralph Shares Shocking Story of When a Director Hit Her On Set, Claims Union Told Her to Take a Vacation

Sheryl Lee Ralph made her Broadway debut in 1981 after landing the role of Deena Jones in Michael Bennett’s “Dreamgirls”. However, her experience behind the scenes wasn’t all that she’d hoped it would be. 

Ralph was the latest guest on TV One’s docuseries “Uncensored,” where she relayed an anecdote about the incident that took place while working on the beloved project. 

Sheryl Lee Ralph
Sheryl Lee Ralph talks about the toxic environment on the set of ‘Dreamgirls’ (Photo: @thesherylleeralph/Instagram)

At the 20-minute mark, the 66-year-old described a time when Bennett, the “Dreamgirls” director and choreographer, struck her during rehearsal over a minor accident.

“Michael Bennett for some reason was in his feelings on something,” Ralph recounted about the late director, who died in 1987, “and he said, ‘Don’t let the feather boa touch the ground.’”

To Bennett’s dismay, Ralph’s boa hit the ground.

“It wasn’t my fault, I didn’t do it on purpose. And he hit me,” she said while imitating his strike on her shoulder. “My father doesn’t even hit me, he hit me.” 

Bennet’s blow caused Ralph to march off the set and to a payphone, where she reported his violation to her union.

“I dropped that feather boa, I walked up to my dressing room, got out of my costume walked out that stage door,” she said, “I called my union I said ‘He hit me.’” 

But she was not met with concern nor care, instead, Ralph said she was “nonchalantly” advised to go on vacation while also being informed that she was not “the first” actor to experience Bennett’s toxic rage. 

“So you gonna tell me this man has been going around hitting people,” the Emmy Award winner said, “or verbally abusing people and you all just say ‘take a vacation, he’ll pay you?’ That’s how we’re going to get treated?” 

After recalling this event, Ralph noted how proud she is to see Broadway make significant changes over the years. 

“I’m really glad that things have changed. And I love the fact that I am able to see change,” she shared. 

While she’s been in the industry for over four decades, Ralph has gained newfound recognition after playing Barbara Howard in the ABC sitcom “Abbott Elementary,” set in Philadelphia.

It appears that with her latest success, the seasoned actress is using her platform to bring awareness to the darker side of her career in Hollywood when she was young and green and attempting to pave her own way.

A few weeks ago, Ralph opened up to Shondaland about a moment of rejection that was a “blessing in disguise.” 

During the conversation, she revealed being removed from a “Sanford and Son” spinoff due to not being “Black enough.”

The statement made by the show’s producer caused Ralph to shift how she viewed herself “as a human being, as an artist, and as a person.”

According to Ralph, she has since received an apology from the producer and ultimately considered this story an “incredible” one to tell. 

After years of being in the industry, it’s great that Ralph is finally receiving her well-deserved flowers.

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