Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

8 Quick Questions for CCH Pounder

Actress shares extensive private art collection

spinner image CCH Pounder smiling and wearing a red dress against a dark green background
Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images

CCH Pounder, 70, is passionate about art. The avid collector, along with her late husband, Boubacar Koné, founded the Musée Boribana, the first privately owned contemporary museum in Dakar, Senegal, which they gifted to the nation in 2014. Works from Pounder’s private collection are on display in an exhibit called “Diaspora Stories” at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center in Chicago. The ER, NCIS: New Orleans and Avatar actress shares tips for novice art collectors, movies that inspired her and how she celebrated her 70th.


spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership

Join AARP for $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal. Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine

Join Now

You don’t just collect art, you also paint portraits. How did you choose to focus on acting over making art as your career?

I had a wonderful mentor. I had always been fighting as to whether to be an artist or an actor, and she said, “Well, you can be an artist all your life, but acting is for the young people.” I said, OK, so I’ll do acting first, and then I’ll switch and I’ll become an artist. Well, it doesn’t quite work out like that, does it really? But I’ve always stayed with it. It’s always been secondary. And I think there is a switch coming along, except that I’m not doing it as an artist, I’m doing it as an art appreciator.


spinner image fireflies on the water, 2014, portrait by robert pruitt of a woman sitting on a chair with a mask in her thick hair
Works from Pounder's private art collection, including "Fireflies on the Water, 2014" by Robert Pruitt, are currently on display at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center in Chicago.
Ashley Lorraine

Do you have a favorite museum?

There are museums that influenced me when we were building our [Musée Boribana] museum. And knowing that I couldn’t possibly afford a certain type of museum, size of museum and the expense of that museum — I fell in love with the Musée Dapper, a French museum specializing in African art. It was spectacular — the works in there, the presentation. [The museum closed in 2017.] That was what told me, “Yes, you can do it.”


What advice would you give to someone who would like to begin collecting art but isn’t sure how to start?

Most people start off with what they like, and they start off really simply, like “Oh, I’ve got a bright green surface. That painting would look really good over there.” Some of it starts really simply as that — not barely knowing anything about the artist, but just like, “I love that color in the house,” and that’s how it begins. I used to collect — in the very beginning — functional art, because I didn’t have the kind of funds to just buy a painting. So I’d buy really fantastic-looking teapots. They had to be beautiful to look at, and functional. As your interest grows and your visits to galleries, to museums, you decide, “Wow, I would love to have something like that.”


spinner image cch pounder wearing scrubs as dr. loretta wade in ncis: new orleans
Pounder plays coroner Dr. Loretta Wade on the hit CBS show "NCIS: New Orleans."
CBS via Getty Images

Back to acting — your résumé is deep. Is there one role that stands out to you?

Always Bagdad Cafe, Percy Adlon’s [1987] piece with Marianne Sägebrecht. I loved that film, because most films, people say, “Oh my God, I saw you in this film, you were fabulous in that,” and with Bagdad Cafe, it’s  always been, “Oh my God, when I saw that film I decided to do…” A film that inspires you to actually shift is still the most powerful. For me, it just happened to come to me very young. I think it was one of the first five films I did. … I’ve done pretty amazing things, certainly the Avatars have been extraordinary; definitely the most influential to others. I appreciate being able to have that.


Was there a movie or play you saw as a child that stuck with you?

First theater piece [was] The Teahouse of the August Moon [performed] Kabuki-style, done in Guyana — [a] shockingly wonderful magical moment. And then other films along the way … Sidney Poitier in To Sir, With Love. Blade Runner was a spectacular film for me, a film where the imagination can really roar. The first Avatar — not for me, but I had an extraordinary moment where I was sitting at the end of my row [in the theater] and looking down at all of my nieces and nephews, and the wonderment on their faces was so spectacular. I could barely take my eyes off them, because just to see the power of what storytelling can do — just fantastic.


You turned 70 last year. Did you have a big celebration?
Fantastic, oh my God. I always say, “I’ve got three husbands [as close friends].” One’s a chef, one’s an artist and one’s … an events planner. And they plotted to give me the 70th birthday of a lifetime, including a [New Orleans-style] second line [parade]. Just a fantastic meal and friends from my childhood all the way to present. They came in from every which way and invaded New Orleans. It was really, really terrific.

spinner image Member Benefits Logo

More Members Only Access 

Watch documentaries and tutorials, take quizzes, read interviews and much more exclusively for members

View More


How does 70 feel?

No one ever tells you what the behavior is supposed to be or what’s going to happen — it’s not predictable. Maybe every now and then, I walk by a mirror and go, OK, so there you have it. But … I have no idea what 70 is, and I don’t know what 70 is in our times. We’re eating and living better, still feeling energetic. But things hurt now, things do kind of go, geez, ouch.  And I would prefer to sit than stand. You’ve got to make yourself do things that were once so natural.


If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be and why?

[Artist] Romare Bearden when he was at [the New York–based art collective] Spiral. I was 17, and walking in the front door while he was walking out the back door. … Actor-wise, I would have loved to have a conversation with Meryl Streep — who is living, of course — beyond our very brief professional conversations we had while working together. I’d like to recapture that moment with Meryl Streep in a deeper way. One of the great landscape architects, Ricardo Legorreta, who did the Ricardo Montalbán house in Los Angeles. I wrote to his company when we first decided to have a museum, and I asked him if he had ever made any plans for public housing. … That would be a real treat — to sit down with someone who is enthusiastic about the public good.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?