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Elise Neal dreams of being Liam Neeson — and loves the Grizzlies

Plus she’s into Lena Horne and has a passion for fitness

Just one year ago, actress and dancer Elise Neal reached a milestone. She turned 50 — and took the internet by storm by posting bikini photos to her Instagram page. She attributes her toned body to a relentless fitness routine, and this year she’s sharing her secrets via her Elite Body Boot Camp that kicked off in Houston over the Super Bowl weekend.

A Memphis, Tennessee, native, Neal has a catalog of work that includes 2005’s Hustle & Flow, as well as TV One’s reality show Hollywood Divas. She recently starred in No Regrets, which premiered on Urban Movie Channel in February. Now she’s playing the role of Kathryn Munson in the latest Marvel movie, Logan — featuring, of course, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Her favorite throwback show is A Different World and her go-to things to read are scripts — something she’s written or something she’s studying.

What are you reading?

I’m so not a reader. I do not read anything other than a whole lot of scripts. In terms of my career, I’m writing now, so I’m rewriting and writing and reading a lot of my own projects. I am 100 percent clear and focused that I will create and produce something that everyone will see by the end of this year.

What are the go-to inspirational songs on your playlist?

I like a lot of hip-hop. I need a lot of beats and energy. Turn the music up. I do that to get ready. I like that energy. I need it to be loud. If it’s a lot of music and beats, honey, it’s going to push me out the door. It’s going to really give me the energy I need for the day.

My mission is to make sure that women of all ages feel better and look better, and be their best selves.

Is there something in your acting career that you haven’t done that you’d like to do?

Everything I see Liam Neeson do, anything in those Taken movies, if I could do the female version of that for myself, I would love that. That would be fun.

If you could play a famous person in a movie, dead or alive, who would that person be?

That’s a great question. Lena Horne. Someone who was glamorous and really made a change and really had to struggle.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

I’m excited about Logan and getting everyone to see that project. That’s going to be fun. Almost every day someone is asking me about fitness. I think a lot of women don’t understand that [fitness] is not simple but it is something that you can add into your life. My mission is to make sure that women of all ages feel better and look better, and be their best selves.

Where does your courage come from?

I think it comes from my mom and I think it comes from my older sister. My mom was a nurse and then decided to go back to school so that she could teach nursing. So I [grew] up seeing all that. My older sister decided to move away from Memphis and went [into] finance and I was able to see all that growth. I feel like we’re all strong women in my family and it got passed on to me.

What will you always be a champion of?

I’m always a champion of being yourself. I’m a champion of definitely being who you want to be.

What is your favorite social media hangout spot?

My Instagram page. I like it because I can give all the things I want to share. If I want to do workout videos, if I want to do any type of silly posts, if I want to show people what’s going on, I feel like I can give them all of that on my Instagram.

What’s your favorite throwback TV show?

I used to love A Different World. And I used to watch the show, because I was in musical theater and dancing, [and] I remember Debbie Allen used to be on there a lot. I liked to check her out. But I also liked the fact that it was just a little different, and it was about a college experience. A Different World was very cool.

How does it feel to be a triple threat in the industry?

It keeps me sane. It keeps me from being stagnant. I don’t like being put in a box. So it allows all of my creative juices to flow. I’m dancing, I’m singing, I’m acting, I’m silly. I like all of those things.

Anybody from the Memphis Grizzlies team, I’m down with.

Who is your favorite athlete?

Anybody from the Memphis Grizzlies team, I’m down with. I love them. They’re doing really good this season.

Which do you enjoy more: reality TV or scripted television?

I like both. I was just talking to somebody about this. My favorite reality show is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It’s just inspirational, let’s just keep it real. Those women are balling out. They have amazing homes, they have amazing careers, and they’re really kind of untouchable.

What can you tell me about your role in Logan?

I enjoyed it so much. When you’re doing something of this scale, just to be a part of it, is — when I got the call that I got the job. I mean I literally did cry. I’m from Memphis, my journey started as a musical theater girl and being a dancer. And to be able to go to set and work with Hugh Jackman, who is huge in the musical theater community, I literally tap-danced over to him when I met him for the first time. He got a chuckle out of that.

Liner Notes

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.