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Brian White is considered a modern-day renaissance man. Coming out of college he played for both the NFL and the NLL, and later transitioned his athletic career into acting.
Speaking with TheCelebrityCafe.com's Joe Bland, Brian talked about his work on the new show Men of a Certain Age, his upcoming horror movie Cabin in the Woods, his film production company and who he thinks will win the Super Bowl.
JOE BLAND: You have five younger sisters. What was that like growing up? Did it make you more competitive?
BRIAN WHITE: It was really loud growing up. Competitive? It was really the opposite. When you're growing up in a house full of women you don't really compete. Women are more oratory and have to discuss things; they have different ways of approaching situations. Overall I'd say I benefited from their social graces. I count myself lucky.
JB: When you graduated from college you were drafted by both the NFL and NLL. How were you able to divide your time between the two?
BW: If you've always done something it's not that jarring to keep doing it. I didn't have time to mess up. If I didn't organize my time just right, I would miss out and that'd be it. When I got out of school, half the year I'd play football and the other half I'd play lacrosse. I think if you try to do a lot of things, you have to be very organized in order to accomplish your goals. Staying organized is something I've done since I was a kid.
JB: Was it difficult to transition into acting after having an athletic career?
BW: Most of the things in my life have chosen me. What I was taught as a kid was to figure out what I want to do that makes me happy. I was never told to just choose one hobby, so I kept my eyes and ears open to what I wanted to do. When I was playing football, I had an injury and transitioned into being a stock broker, but I didn't love it. I knew I needed to pay attention and learn Wall Street to make money, but I was trying to keep my eyes and ears open to other things I wanted to do.
I was out one day and got an opportunity. A model agent came up to me on the street and asked me if I ever modeled; she liked my look. Another time I was in L.A. and I was trying to get back into football and casting director Kim Hardon approached me and liked my look and asked me if I wanted to audition for the TV series Moesha. One audition and I got the job, and it was a recurring role. I took that as a sign and thought 'this is something that I should at least try.' I took a look and applied myself.
JB: Did acting come as second nature to you?
BW: As an athlete, there's a synergy between athletics and entertainment. You can't live in your past, you have to live in the present as an athlete and that's the paramount principle as an actor. I set out to replicate the same process I followed as a student of sport. With acting I thought, 'What do I need to know? How does Meryl Streep prepare for roles?' But it's the best job I've ever had. It's the most fulfilling and what I can do the longest. I have no fear of my body running out like in sports, and I can speak to higher causes and interesting people
JB: What was it like working with Tyler Perry on I Can Do Bad All By Myself?
BW: He's amazing. He's a good friend and we had a great time working together. He's an icon and one of the people who inspires me most. The only thing that's bigger than his work ethics is his humility; he's humble. He's an inspiration because he listens to people and is affected by people. I feel blessed to have been able to work with him.
JB: What is it like working on Men of a Certain Age with seasoned actors like Ray Romano?
BW: Ray's incredible. Everybody Loves Raymond is one of the most successful sitcoms and he's really at the top, and the people I've met on the top are often most humble. These guys are at the top of their field and they haven't changed since they've won awards. They're still humble, hungry and human. Ray is thoughtful, smart, effortless and funny and he's hand-selected a cast that's second to none as far as I can tell. Andre [Braugher] is one of best actors to ever do it and working with actors that are more seasoned brings the best out of me. I know for sure that after working with Ray, Scott [Bakula] and Andre, I'll be challenged every day and forced to bring my A game.
I'm excited we've got a second season to tell more stories. I love the show and I'm very proud of it. I think it's amazing that Men of a Certain Age is considered a mainstream show because a majority of the cast is black and minority. One of the things I find most exciting is that it replicates what the world actually looks like to me and hats off to Ray Romano for creating that kind of reality.
There's been a lot of quality TV over the years but shows like Friends, the characters only had like two black friends over ten years. If we walked outside you'd see a melting pot on the street, you turn on TV and see Obama; it's a different world when we turn on TV and radio.
Men of a Certain Age is one of those shows that when you turn it on, it looks very current and real and I think that it's inspirational. TV should represent the way the world actually is and we've got to put these messages out there. This show is worthwhile television that the whole family can sit around and discuss and bring morals and values together.
JB: Is the show trying to appeal to a certain demographic?
BW: The show appeals to everybody who watches it. There's something for everybody because it's so real and not demographically specific. Anyone who watches the show or gives it a shot will find something that reaches out to them. The characters connect in such a deep way, that everybody who watches the show will say, 'Oh, I know that guy.' It lets the world know what it's like to be a man of a certain age and I'm not there yet, but it's illuminating for me to see what my father and uncle are like. Obama's in this age range too, so we're getting inside the heads and hearts of men running our country. It's funny and very well done TV.
JB: Can you tell me anything about the horror movie you've been working on, Cabin in the Woods?
BW: I can't tell you too much but what I can say is it was a blast. Just like everything else, I try to be selective with what I work on. I've never done a horror/sci fi film but I always try to work with the best people and Joss [Whedon] and Drew [Goddard] were great. Joss is the coolest producer I've worked with, he's such a down-to-earth guy. Drew was literally onset, covered in fake blood and showing people the proper etiquette of being disgusting. They love it and breathe it.
JB: How was working with Richard Jenkins?
BW: Who's a better actor than Richard Jenkins? Richard is incredible. Joss and Drew started out with amazing ideas and needed amazing talent, and their cast was professional, funny and approachable. I just had a blast working with them. It was no different than working on a movie like Family Stone. Both films had large ensemble casts with big award winning names and no egos and everybody got along well and came to do their best work and bring the best out of each other. These guys came to work every day and brought their A game and it's going to be gory, scary, funny and a wild ride with great performances. It's a new spin on the cabin idea and we haven't seen anything like this, so hats off to Joss and Drew for this. I'm very excited.
JB: Did you watch a lot of other horror movies to prepare for your role?
BW: No, not really. Joss and Drew are mostly about story and Joss writes from the heart, which is one of the reasons I wanted to work with him. A lot of horror and sci fi can feel fake. The day I arrived in their world, I was lost. Being on set with these monsters, two feet away, it doesn't feel fake. Their eyeballs look real, you can touch it, smell it, the blood stank like blood. Drew knows what he wants. All we had to do was come to play and come to listen. This is very much their movie and from what I've seen it looks amazing
JB: What kind of films are you looking to release with Media3 Films?
BW: We want to make multicultural genre films and put more brown people on screen. I've been in this business for years and when I first started out there were so few brown people behind the cameras. We just wanted to make the stories that were being pumped out of Hollywood seem more real. We didn't see enough of high quality inspirational-type roles being offered by studios.
JB: What upcoming projects is the company working on?
BW: We have a couple projects in development. We have a Shakespearean drama called The Trunk, a Usual Suspects-type thriller called Hustle and a movie about a true story of an ex-heroin addict who's now making a difference in the world called Slipping into Darkness. We want to release true stories that usually fall through the cracks. People can find more information at our Media3 web site.
JB: What kind of things have you done with the Phunk Phenomenon urban dance group?
BW: We wanted to use arts as a platform to inspire young people about culturally relevant issues. When I was a kid, they'd have dance groups come to our school and give performances on current issues and we'd break into groups and talk about what we saw. Since it wasn't about our real lives, Reia Briggs and I wanted to reintroduce what we coined as 'educainment.' We put together a dance ensemble that would go to community centers and schools and then we started our own school. We have 300 students, including my younger sister Jamie and we've worked with the Celtics and done commercials and paid shows.
JB: Is there anything else you're working on, or anyone else you'd like to work with?
BW: We're shooting a couple movies this year but I can't announce them yet. There are so many talented people I'd want to work with. Some actresses I'd like to work with: Zoe Saldana, Penelope Cruz, Rachel McAdams. For guys, Forrest Whitaker, Chiwitel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Matt Damon and for directors, Jason Reitmann and Lee Daniels.
JB: Any Super Bowl predictions?
BW: If I was a betting man, I'd choose New Orleans. I'm a Patriots fan for life but if I had to guess, I'd say Saints.
Photo by Andrea Reed