Camille Winbush, the actress who played Bernie Mac’s niece on his Fox television series for five seasons, says his TV family is still trying to cope with the sudden loss of their patriarch.
“The entire cast and I are still somewhat in shock about the whole thing,” she said. “It hasn’t quite set in for me that he’s not with us anymore. But his spirit lives on through us, through the show and all of his work.”
The 18-year-old actress said she was at home in Los Angeles with her family when she learned of his passing on Aug. 9 from pneumonia. The call came the night before an official announcement was made to the media.
“I was speechless, at the time, and I still sort of am,” she said. “It hasn’t hit me completely.”
Bernie Mac & Camille Winbush
Winbush, who was just 11-years-old when she was cast in “The Bernie Mac Show,” remembers her late co-star as having one of the biggest hearts around.
“He was so down to earth, considering who he is, and who he’s worked with, and the amount of work he’s done,” said Winbush. “You’d think he’d be the typical Hollywood star, but he wasn’t. He’d have lunch with you, would call on birthdays and remember all that kind of stuff. I appreciated that about him – that I could talk to him about anything and felt comfortable around him. He was like another uncle to me.”
Mac, who suffered from the inflammatory lung disease sarcoidosis, had been sick for a while during the five-year run of his television show, but had made a recovery. His condition reportedly went into remission in 2005.
Winbush said she last saw him about a month-and-a-half ago on the set of his upcoming sitcom that was tentatively-titled “Starting Under.” As previously reported, Mac starred as a large, opinionated guy who winds up divorced and living with (and working for) his introverted twenty-something son.
“He invited me down to check it out,” said Winbush of the budding Fox comedy. “I’m not sure what happened with it, but that was the last time I saw him.”
A public memorial will be held for Bernie Mac this weekend at House of Hope in Chicago. A private funeral has been scheduled for Friday, Aug. 15, at an undisclosed location. Winbush said the cast of “The Bernie Mac Show” will attend both services.
Winbush, currently starring in the new ABC Family drama “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” asks fans to continue praying for Mac’s family.
“My heart goes out to them, and friends of him, everyone that knew him,” she said. “He will be missed.”