Taye Diggs Writes for Children in 'Chocolate Me'


Taye Diggs is all about the chocolate love.

And by that we mean his new children's book "Chocolate Me" (Feiwel & Friends, 2011), a book that the star of "Private Practice" hopes will help kids feel good about being unique.

We caught up with the star of movies such as "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" and "The Best Man" at his West Coast home -- which he shares with son Walker and wife Idina Menzel ("Glee," "Wicked") -- for a quick Q & A:

Question: The book, "Chocolate Me," is based on a poem you wrote back in college, right?

Answer: Yeah, you know when you're in college, that's the time when you tend to have periods where you are more reflective. One of my earliest memories of life was in this neighborhood (in Rochester, N.Y.) where I was the only black kid. There was another black kid named Reggie, two or three complexes away, but I was the only one in my complex. But it was a very limited time. We moved around a lot, so I got to experience a lot of neighborhoods. But I was 5 years old and this was the first time I had heard anyone's opinion about me a?" outside of my parents. It was the first time I accepted someone else view of myself.

Q: Did you have to change the poem much to turn it into a book?

A: It's very close to the original form. When we looked at it again and when we took it to the publishers, Feiwel and Friends, the thing that we all said was how much we love its simplicity.

Q: What made you think it would make a good children's book?

A: I owe it all to my good friend Shane Evans. It was actually his idea to make the poem into a children's book. I wish I could take the credit, but I can't. I had forgotten I had even written it. But he remembered it from when were both in college. I went on to become an actor and he went on to become an established children's book illustrator. But I went back and dug it up and I agreed with him that it might be a great message that could resonate with people of all races, anyone who's felt like they were different.

Q: You say this time back in Rochester when you were five was brief, but it obviously made an impact. Was it because it was so painful or because it was so new to you?

A: I didn't think the white kids were so much negative as curious. I remember this one kid trying to rub the black off. He realized that the front of my hand was the same color as his. He found what was the same about us and then he turned my hand over to see what was different. He wanted to rub it off and make me more like him. It was the first time I actually felt different.

Q: And now you must be thinking about your son Walker as he's growing up, right?

A: Exactly. Of course I began to wonder: how are you dealing with this with your own child? Walker is only 2, but....

Q: Do you think racism will always be with us?

A: Unfortunately yes. As far as we've come and will continue to go it will always be an issue I think. It seems to be part of being human beings....we're weak. Part of what makes us human is that we always have to put someone else on the outside to make ourselves feel better.

Q: You have T-shirts, don't you?

A: The T-shirts, yeah, we thought it would be great if we could start a movement. I didn't really want to get bogged down in chocolate being African-American. We wanted to do a bunch of different flavors...so you get to express yourself and that sweetness inside.

Q: What's next for "Chocolate Me?"

A: This has been such a positive experience that Shane and I want to take it further. We want to start a production company and focus on young people and issues that are difficult to deal with. We want to turn it into our version of Walt Disney.

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