WNBA All-Star Lisa Leslie guest stars in ABC’s ‘Speechless’

This story originally appeared on espnW.com from Katie Barnes, a writer/reporter at espnW.

Basketball Hall of Famer and former WNBA superstar Lisa Leslie has a new gig. She’ll be gracing the small screen as a guest star on an episode of ABC’s “Speechless,” which is a sitcom about the fictional DiMeo family and the unique challenges each faces.

Leslie’s episode airs Friday, Dec. 14, at 8:30 p.m. EST. While the full details of her appearance on the show are not yet known, there promises to be a little bit of basketball.

espnW caught up with Leslie to talk about her love of acting and her thoughts on the future of the WNBA.

Q: What’s your role in “Speechless?”

Lisa Leslie: I am playing [Kenneth Clements’] (Cedric Yarbrough) sister along with Niecy Nash, [who is also guest-starring]. It’s Kenneth’s birthday, and he is coming home after thinking he would be having a surprise party at one of his favorite places. Come to find out, he comes home to his two sisters. We’re not his favorite people, let’s just say that. I get a chance to rehash some things that happened in our childhood in regards to basketball. The main thing about my character is that I’m not the brightest basketball player.

Q: I imagine that you’re a pretty smart basketball player in real life, so what was it like playing the opposite?

A: It was really fun! They told jokes that would go over my [character’s] head. And Niecy is my friend, so we got a chance to hang out. We had a slumber party.

Q: It seems like you’ve caught the acting bug.

A: Absolutely. I started acting in high school, took drama classes, and I did several plays. It’s a great outlet and allows me to do something that’s creative instead of being so focused on basketball. I had a chance to do a few movies. I did “Think Like a Man” in [2012] and a few other things where I had some cameos. But being in “Uncle Drew” was awesome since I got a chance to play Betty Lou. I’d never played that extent of a character. I had acting coaches along the way who have helped me improve my craft.

Q: Is acting something that you think you’ll pursue even further?

A: Yeah, I love it. It’s the closest feeling I’ve ever had to being on the court and playing basketball in terms of connecting with another person, and the fire that you feel. It’s just full of so many emotions. You never know where a scene is going to go.

Q: As a WNBA legend, what are your thoughts on what’s going on in the league right now?

A: When we started the league [nearly] 23 years ago, we had envisioned and hoped that the league could have staying power and would survive. And it really has. The level of play has exceeded most people’s expectations. The ladies continue to get better and better individually and collectively.

On the business side, we still want to continue to grow it and grow the fanbase. To get more women supporting the league would be great. We just want to keep it going in the right direction and give young girls a league to aspire to play in one day.

Q: Any thoughts on the ongoing CBA conversations?

A: I can’t speak for the players anymore, but on the outside looking in, they would like to have an increase in pay. When you see the [NBA] having money to pay the G League, parts of that are a slap in the face for [WNBA players]. Obviously, the [WNBA] players would like to see an increase in pay. I don’t think the league is against that. I just think the league has to figure out what makes sense.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I am covering the Orlando Magic, and I’m in-studio for that. I still work for CBS Sports Network co-hosting the talk show “We Need to Talk,” which I enjoy doing. Additionally, I did a cameo in Taraji P. Henson’s upcoming movie “What Men Want,” [which arrives in theaters in Feb. 2019]. And lastly, I’m in real estate. I work in the luxury division of Keller Williams Realty. As you can see, I’m an overachiever. I have to have five jobs to be as fulfilled as the one I had playing basketball. Life is about hustling and doing the best that you can.

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