Springfield native - 'Olivia' from Sesame Street - in breast cancer documentary


When Alaina Reed Hall joined the cast of “Sesame Street” in 1976, her role as professional photographer Olivia was meant to provide girls with a role model.

More than 30 years later, TV producer Gina Holland hopes Hall will be a role model for women just by being herself.

The two Springfield natives — Hall is a 1964 South High grad; Holland is a 1978 North High grad — recently reunited to talk about Hall’s ongoing fight with breast cancer for a new documentary, “Breast Cancer Examined: An African-American Perspective.”

The one-hour film, created by Holland’s Ruby Red production company, premieres on the digital cable network TV One at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11. TV One airs on channel 217 in the digital tier for local Time Warner subscribers.

“Alaina Reed Hall used to change my diapers,” Holland said. “I’ve known her all my life.”

So when Holland heard from her mother that Hall was fighting breast cancer, she sought to include a slice of her hometown in the new film, airing as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It was an emotional reunion.

“We started the whole interview crying before a word was even spoken,” Holland said. “I left that interview and I was very drained.”

Hall, also remembered fondly for her role as Rose Holloway on the sitcom “227,” joins an all-star cast of breast cancer fighters and survivors.

One surprising celebrity survivor in the film? Richard Roundtree, of “Shaft” fame.

“You think of this as a woman’s disease,” said Holland, a former vice president of production at BET. “It’s not. It’s a human disease.

“You can’t find a manlier man than Richard Roundtree. Those are the stories you’ll find throughout this documentary.”

Holland hopes the film will be a learning experience — it was for her. During production, her cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I almost felt like I was supposed to go through this journey,” she said. “I didn’t know all the answers, but I knew who she needed to talk to.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0352 or amcginn@coxohio.com.


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