Brian White is best known for his film (Stomp The Yard, Good Deeds ) and TV (Men of a Certain Age, CSI: Miami) work, but he's definately more of a Renaissance man. This former model and NFL player lectures around the country, enpowering today's youth. In addition, he is the author of the book Black Carpenter and is co-founder of the dance company Phunk Phenomenon. White is currently starring in the DVD release of David E. Talbert's What Your Husband Doesn't Know and on the big screen in Tyler Perry's new film Good Deeds opposite Gabrielle Union and Thandie Newton.
BET.com spoke to the actor about his journey to Hollywood, what he learned from actor/comedian Bernie Mac and why he's enjoyed portraying the bad guy in Tyler Perry movies.
You started off as a professional athlete before you became an actor, can you talk a bit about that journey?
I went to Dartmouth College, graduated and had the opportunity to play two professional sports—I played for the New England Patriouts in the NFL and professional lacrosse for the Boston Blazers. I had an injury so I had to stop so I could heal. But when I was playing football I wasn't making a lot of money, I wasn't a superstar. I came out of my professional athlete career with a 450 credit score, no money in the bank to show for it but I had an Ivy League degree. So I put that Dartmouth degree to good use and got a job on Wall Street. I hated it but used the time to make connections and become financially literate.
So when did Hollywood come knocking?
I came back to LA in 2000 to try to get back in to professional sports. I was sitting in a club and a casting director walked up to me and said, "Hey I like your look, are you an actor?" It turns out he had a legitimate business card. I went to the audition the next day—it was for a guest starring role on Moesha as Shar Jackson's love interest. And the rest is history. I fell in love with the craft of acting, it's the 2nd biggest love of my life.
You're a star in the DVD release of David E. Talbert's What My Husband Doesn't Know, which was taped during a live performance. What's the funniest thing an audience member has yelled out to you?
The funniest parts are always the things that women would say at the idea of adultery. Like my character Paul would be at the back door trying to sneak in and the ladies in the audience would scream, "Let him in girl! Let him in! Your husband left you, he's gone. He's never gonna know!"
You've shared the big and small screen with Idris Elba, Bernie Mac, Tyler Perry and Andre Braugher. Who would you say you learned most from about the business?
The actor that taught me the most was Bernie Mac. I did my first big budget studio film with he and Angela Bassett, Mr. 3000 for Disney. Bernie taught me by example what creates success is humility and hard work. The first day on the set we sat around talking to him for three hours. At the end of one day of shooting we had 8,000 extras in a baseball stadium and Bernie stayed until every person got their hug, high five, autograph and their picture taken with him. He even argued with security and said, "This is why I'm here. I'll pay for it if we have to keep the lights on. Get out of my face and let me focus on who's important."
Which other actors serve as inspirations for you?
The trailblazers are my role models in this industry: Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, James Earl Jones, and Billy Dee Williams. I keep their pictures in my trailer and try to measure to their standards every time I act. Sidney didn't do race-based roles; he could play and do anything. And I love that fact that George Lucas just made Red Tails, because when you look at Star Wars—there's Billy Dee. I heard that when Lucas was shooting Red Tails he talked on set about finding the new generation of Lando Calrissians.
Tyler Perry's Good Deeds is your latest film and this time out you play a member of an affluent Black family. But prior to this role you admitted enjoying playing the bad boy characters in his movies. Why?
The characters I've played in Tyler's movies, I don't get a chance to explore anywhere else. The first two films I took the jobs because Tyler said I was nothing like those characters and he wanted to push me as an actor. Personally, I don't support players or the guys who cheat on their wives. Playing Randy, a pedophile in I Can Do Bad All By Myself couldn't be further from who I am, but I know Tyler is writing that character from a very real place. Same thing with my character Chris in Daddy's Little Girls. I played the wolf in sheep's clothing. I'm the cautionary tale who is set up for failure. I'm only in three scenes in Daddy's Little Girls but every time it comes on my Twitter blows up. People laugh and love that line, "Get away from my daddy, you tramp!" And when he gets beat up by his wife. And as yeah as he should, I hope every player meets that end.
David E. Talbert's What Your Husband Doesn't Know is on DVD now and
Good Deeds is in theatres February 24, 2012.
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