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Interview: Brian White Talks What My Husband Doesn't Know

February 2, 2012

By: Karen Benardellos

Read our exclusive interview with actor Brian White, who can currently be seen as Paul in the Blu-ray/DVD release of playwright-director David E. Talbert’s play ‘What My Husband Doesn’t Know.’ The play follows Paul, a handyman, who enters into an affair with Lena Summer, played by Michelle Williams, a married woman whose husband is often out of town on business trips. Lena contemplates whether she wants to keep her marriage in tact, or continue her relationship with Paul.

White can also be seen in the upcoming comedy-drama ‘Good Deeds,’ written and directed by Tyler Perry, and the horror-thriller ‘The Cabin in the Woods,’ co-written by Josh Wheddon. The actor discusses with us, among other things, what it was like working with both Talbert and Perry, and whether or not he prefers working in films, plays or television.

ShockYa (SY): In ‘What My Husband Doesn’t Know,’ you portray Paul, the handyman with whom Lena Summer, the lead character, has an affair with. What was it about the story and the character that convinced you to appear in the play?

Brian White (BW): Well, it wasn’t so much the character, it was I’ve never done a play before. So this is my first touring play. I wanted to challenge myself as an actor. I do mostly films, which is the opposite end of the business. On a film, you maybe only work 30 minutes out of each day. You’re on set for 12 hours, but you’re only working 30 minutes.

(On films), you’re flying first class with assistants, they pay for your cell phone, you’re in Four Seasons Hotels. On a play, you’re traveling on a bus with the whole cast. You’re changing locations everyday, no frills. You’re eating burgers, and then jumping up on stage and doing the work. There’s no second takes or do-overs. It’s raw and organic 24/7, and that’s what really drew me to it.

Then, also the script, David E. Talbert’s words. You don’t get to see many stories focused on the middle-class or upper-middle class brown folks in a positive way that works out in the end. I applaud that, and wanted to support it.

SY: How did you prepare for the role? Do you take a different preparation approach for theater than films?

BW: We didn’t get any choices (for ‘What My Husband Doesn’t Know’). (laughs) Every beat is scripted and directed by David. Every look, every movement, even down to how Paul dances. There are a lot of ideas, but this is David’s baby. He’s a very hands-on, collaborative director. So everything that ended up on stage, from the music to the lights to the set to the way lines are delivered to the volume we delivered them with were directed via David.

SY: Michelle Williams plays Lena in ?What My Husband Doesn?t Know.? What was your working relationship with her like?

BW: Fantastic. I was actually a dancer in her video ‘Bootylicious.’ So I’ve been on set with her before, but I didn’t actually met her that day, when I was just starting out. I had the opportunity to do lots of different things and work with her. I’ve always been a huge fan.

So it was a blessing to meet her and have her be even cooler and more talented and humble and even more of a lady in person. I’m proud to say that we’re real-life friends now, and we stay in touch and talk. She’s like a sister, and she’s fantastic. I love her.

SY: David is primarily known for his work in theater. How much knowledge did you have of David?s theater work before you accepted the role of Paul?

BW: Not much. We had never met before. I mean, I was aware of his brand, but had never seen any of his plays. But we actually have the same agent. I got a message that David wanted to meet over dinner. So we sat down and had a meal, and just started talking about lots of things. The play was one of them.

Here we are, and we’re still talking about other things. It’s been a great introduction. David’s an epic playwright. He writes plays that speak to all people. We had black people, white people, Latinos, Asians, Indians all come to the play. Everybody got it, and was able to enjoy it and embrace the characters and message. I think that speaks a lot to David’s abilities to connect to people as a playwright. So it drew me to him like a moth to a flame. We seem to draw everyone to it every time they air it on BET. My Twitter blows up, and people get into it.

At the end of it, they’re still talking about the substance of the play. Is that realistic, would that happen, would they stay together? Those are good things to be talking about, because **SPOILER ALERT** they did stay together. **END SPOILER ALERT** What makes that possible in life?

I think the whole message of the play is if you have a strong foundation, whether in your family or career, you can weather life’s storms. A strong wind isn’t going to make you collapse. An earthquake isn’t going to knock the walls in. Your structure’s going to survive, and if you still want to live there, you can. That’s what it’s about, and I love that kind of message, especially in a tough time that we’re having now.

SY: Besides directing the play, David also wrote ?What My Husband Doesn?t Know.? Did the fact that he worked on the script help in his directorial duties?

BW: I don’t believe David ever directs anything he doesn’t write, so I think that’s the only way he works, like Spike. Like I said, these are his words, they come from him. They don’t come from any other source material, so they’re very personal. The ideas, the concepts, the characters are all from his imagination and life experience.

So yeah, I think it gives him easy answers when actors challenge him, and ask him, why is the character doing this? What’s the motivation? David knows, because he created it, he lived it, he thought of it. So there was no hesitation or pauses. A lot of times, a director is hired to direct somebody else’s work, and so they have to come up with the answers before they can even try to discuss them with an actor.

That wasn’t the case, and is not the case, with David. He knows, because he spends a lot of time, and everything’s thought out. It’s like science, he’s like a scientist with the script. It’s been a joy to learn from him and work with him, and grow as an actor who has worked with him.

SY: Would you be interested in working with David again? Do you have anything lined up?

BW: Yes, we’re discussing several things, in the film genre and the TV genre. I’d welcome the opportunity, I’m a huge fan. He’s a good, good friend, we’re actually neighbors now. So yeah, look out for more stuff as the years go on.

SY: One director you have worked with on several occasions is Tyler Perry, as you?ve appeared in ?Daddy?s Little Girls? and ?I Can Do Bad All By Myself,? and you?re set to play Walter Deeds in the upcoming ?Good Deeds.? What is it about Tyler that leads you to continuously appear in his films?

BW
: I think Tyler’s a visionary. Just look at the amount of money he’s made. His voice connects with people, because he has a very genuine, authentic voice. The characters he creates are very real. People call them stereotypes, but if you walk down the street, or turn on ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta,’ those are the characters. They’re very real, and these are the people that are on the covers of magazines right now. These are the people who have 10 times as many Twitter followers and social media followers as the casts of Tyler’s movies.

So Tyler’s holding up a mirror to society, and is saying this exists. This is very real, and this is something we should discuss and explore. We’re going to laugh at our pain and our struggles, and we’re going to learn from them. We’re usually going that’s not me, I could do better, and that’s inspiring. That propels you to get as far away from those images as possible.

For example, Randy, my character from ‘I Can Do Bad All By Myself,? he was the worst of the worst kind of man, but he exists. I’ve fought guys like him away from my sisters all my life. That’s not a stereotype, that’s very realistic. I wanted to play a character like that because of that reason. People are like, in 2012, that doesn’t exist. Yes, it does. You’re going to see 50 of them at the club on Friday. But in real life, there’s usually consequences and repressions and a negative for negative actions.

I loved and applauded and helped add when Taraji (P. Henson’s character, April) almost electrocuted Randy in the movie, because that wasn’t necessarily in there to begin with. We embellished it, because we wanted people to know when you do bad things, bad things likely will happen to you. They make people laugh. He’s not the guy who should be celebrated, he should be the guy who’s laughed at.

I love that Tyler does things like that, that speaks to people like me, and people who are having a hard time, so they can think, maybe I can do bad all myself. I don’t need this, I can do better. If that works for even one person, if that message connects, Tyler’s a genius. He’s helping people’s lives, and creating jobs.

Now ‘Good Deeds,’ that’s like the pursuit of happiness. Every time I work with Tyler, he elevates the game. There’s no Madea in this movie, there’s no comedy. There’s dramady in this movie, but no broad comedy. Every time I work with him, he’s elevating his craft. So I applaud him and support him in every way.

SY: Like David, Tyler is also known for directing and writing both plays and films. Why do enjoy working with directors who have experience in both theater and movies?

BW: I’ve enjoyed my experiences with them, and I’ve enjoyed my experiences with other directors who haven’t done theater. My business partner is Sylvain White, who directed ‘Stomp the Yard.’ We’re producing a movie to be shot over in Europe, in London, next year. I connect with people on their ideas, on their vision, on their goals. David and I connected because I like what he’s about as a writer. I like what Tyler’s about as a businessman. I like what Sylvain’s like as a director.

So I support them, and as time goes on, we collaborate over and over again in various genres, because we have a vision of a story they want to tell. It doesn’t matter what the color is of the writer-director, it doesn’t matter what their race or background is. If we connect idealistically, artistically, creatively and share a vision, we seek each other out to work together. It’s been a blessing to even be sought out as talent for them, and be a pawn in creating their vision.

SY: You?re also set to play Alex Trumman in the upcoming horror movie ?The Cabin in the Woods.? What was it about the story that convinced you to take on the role of Alex?

BW: Again, the creators, and Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard are geniuses. It’s wicked, and I’m not a fan of the genre, well, I wasn’t a fan of the genre before this movie, and I am now. It’s only threw working with Drew and Joss. There’s no more care put into any Oscar film than is put into this film. Actually, I think this one requires more, because there’s horror-sci-fi-thriller-suspense, and mind-bending exploration. It turns the genre upside down, with the best actors I’ve ever worked with.

The first and last thing I needed to hear about that project to be interested in it was Joss Whedon wanted to see you. Drew Goddard wants to see you. I said, I’m there, that’s it. They’re the best of the best. They’re the best writers, best directors. They care, they have integrity and passion, and as an artist, it doesn’t get any better.

SY: Speaking of your co-stars, including Chris Hemsworth and Richard Jenkinsm what was the filming experience with them like?

BW: Every scene I have is with Richard, so I spent all of my days with him. He’s a legend, and he’s a legend for a reason. Every great actor, every legendary actor I’ve ever worked with, they’ve outworked every other actor I’ve ever worked with who wasn’t a legend 10-to-1. They’ve been more humble, more open, more down-to-earth, and that’s why they’re there. They’re the most humble, the most down-to-earth out of everyone I get to work with. It shows up in why they’re so successful, and why they work so much, in addition to their talent.

Richard’s a funny guy, we had a lot of fun, him and Bradley Whitford and I on set. Also, I’m friends with Jesse Williams now. Chris is great, I met him maybe three times on set. We hadn’t worked together a lot, but he actually got ‘Thor’ while we were shooting. We were all super happy for him, he’s super humble. It’s nice to see everything positive happen for him, because he’s a hard-working, talented guy, and good things happen when you keep it positive and moving.

SY: Besides film and theater, you have also appeared on such television shows as ?Men of a Certain Age,? ?Moonlight? and ?Ghost Whisperer.? Do you have a preference of one medium over the other?

BW: Sure, films are always the preference, because they’re the easiest. By easiest, I mean you work on a film, and you get to fully explore that character. You sign onto a film because you’re in love with the script. You have a beginning, middle and end, and you have a whole story. You know everything that happens to that character. As an artist, you can fill in all the pieces. You can make all your choices and decisions.

With a TV show, it’s on-going, so it’s not as new and exciting. There’s something about new that’s always more exciting than something that’s on-going. But you an dig a little bit deeper on TV, and also be on one location for a long time.

For theater, you’re really going to work hard. You’re going to work 10 times harder than any other genre, and you’re going to get paid less, and there are rewards for that.

If you’re going to do one, and it’s your job, everyone’s going to do film. It pays more, and there’s less work. But as far as the artistry, all of them are great. If you really love to act, it doesn’t matter.

Courtesy of shockya.com

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