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Denise Boutté

By Yong Lee,

Denise Boutté is a small-town-girl-turned-actor that stars on the hit TBS series Meet the Browns, along with recurring roles in several shows such as Boston Legal, Everybody Hates Chris, Girlfriends, Notes from the Underbelly, Cuts, Noah’s Arc and the unforgettable recurring character, Danielle Calder, on Days of Our Lives.

I had the opportunity to speak with this beautiful and charming actress to discuss her current work.

TCC: I'm noticing the Southern accent right now!

DB: I KNOW! I'm from a small town in Louisiana, which is where I am now and it comes back to me whenever I come home.

TCC: So you went to LSU with the intent of being a doctor, but then switched to mass communications. Why the switch?

DB: Being from a small town, I wasn't sure what to do career-wise. I was kind of a braniac in school, and I wanted to make my parents proud, so the traditional choices of being a doctor or lawyer were there, and I decided to go the doctor route. But that changed real quick after I started classes!

I was talking to one of the girls in my dorm about their majors, and one of them told me about mass communications. I started as a journalism major and I did an internship that took me to Dallas from Louisiana, and I started in advertising when I got there.

TCC: You were a braniac in high school? Were you kind of nerdy?

DB: Well, you can call me a cool nerd: I was Valedectorian, class president...I love to talk, I love people, and I guess you could say there were signs growing up that pointed to entertainment, but I never would have seen it. Our school was beyond small, only 88 graduating students and it was the 7th-12th grades. We didn't have a drama club, I never pursued theater, so I didn't really have an acting background in school.

TCC: You majored in mass communications...what do you think about the way people are communicating now online? Do you Facebook or Twitter?

41st NAACP Image Awards Nominees Pre-Show Gala Reception

DB: You know, it's all overwhelming! It took me forever to get a MySpace account, and when I did, all the people that told me to do that are now saying, "Oh no, you have to get on Facebook."

I try to respond to each fan, but the responses just keep flooding back! Every time I clean out my inbox, it's like I get hit with another wave. But, it's a necessity. That's how it is now, people communicate via the Web, it's about instant gratification. You need to have rapport with your fans, and I'm working on a Web site and Facebook page. I love texting, and someone told me that Twitter is just like texting to a lot of people at the same time, so I think I'll give it a try.

I think there is a need for privacy, though, so I think it's important to watch how it is you use those mechanisms. Be yourself, but be responsible about it.

TCC: Tell me about your character on Meet the Browns.

DB: Sasha...she is so close to who I am in real life. Now I LOVE playing the bad girl (like when I played Tina Simpson on "N-Secure"); it's fun to play roles that you aren't, to switch on that alter-ego. It's like living out a fantasy through your character.

But Sasha is so close to me. I describe her as a cross between Kerry Bradshaw and Grace from Will and Grace. She's someone who's struggling to find that balance between life and work, and the comedy happens when she's trying to find that perfect harmony.

The cast on the show is like family; my daughter on the show (played by Logan Browning) and I have become so close.

TCC: Just from the few minutes we've been talking, I can tell that you're a really hard-working, energetic, smart, down-to-earth person. If you and Sasha are as similar as you say, it's easy to picture the family on the show revolving around her as the anchor.

DB: Thanks! And yes, I feel very happy to play a character that represents so many strong, different women.

I'd call the show more of a dramedy...I've actually spoken with some fans of the show that say they use it to start conversations with their kids...the show takes on a lot of serious topics, and I've had parents tell me that while they're watching together with their kids, it's a great opportunity to start a dialogue. In one episode, Sasha and Brianna are talking about pregnancy, and I had a mother tell me it allowed her to bring the subject up in front of her daughter.

So it's good to know we're making an impact...Sasha is close to my heart.

TCC: Have you found that work/life balance yourself?

DB: I think so. My husband and I will be married seven years this Monday, and we've talked about kids. We definitely want kids, and it's a question of when, not if. But the timing has to be right, and I'm good for now.

TCC: Do you consider yourself a workaholic?

DB: Not really. I pursue other things. My passion is cooking. I LOVE cooking for other people, I think I need to. I made something for myself the other day and ate by myself and was like, 'This is pathetic!'

TCC: You live in Atlanta and commute to Los Angeles. How tough is that?

DB: Not bad, I do it about once a month. My husband is from Louisiana, too, and we sometimes meet up there as a halfway point (not that it's really halfway, he's got the better deal). But it's an easy flight.

TCC: Are you a Hollywood kind of girl, into the party scene?

DB: Well, I do go out, and I enjoy dressing up. But most of the time, I'm a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl. And BOOTS! I LOVE my boots, even in Louisiana! Would I love getting dolled up on the regular? No, I'm kind of tomboyish. But sometimes it's really fun.

When you're talking about 'Hollywood people,' you'd be surprised at how many of them are real people. But the glamor is not something I seek.

TCC: Did you ever have an 'I've arrived!' moment?

DB: There was a moment while we were taping the Monique show where I had to pinch myself. What I had planned for my life before I got into acting and what I'm doing now are like night and day. If it had gone the other way, I would not be as happy! I remember watching some of the same celebrities on TV that I'm working with now, and I had no dreams of even meeting them! The other day, Tatyana Ali told me she loved my show, and I was like 'What??' It's a bit surreal.

But at the same time, I don't want to be too OMG about it. I believe that you should take that opportunity and own it, but appreciate it at the same time.

TCC: What are some of the projects you're working on right now?

DB: Well I'm working on a romantic comedy right now that I can't say too much about...I can tell you it's being filmed in Miami, and I love it down there!

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received was to create your own opportunities. When I'm not in acting class, I'm working on my own projects. With so much unemployment, I realize being in the entertainment business is a blessing, but it's a game of chance and coincidence.

My cousin, Frank, is a cop in Houston, and after hearing him talk about some of his experiences, I got really interested in what was going on there. I'm working on a project now that is based on that police unit; it's a cop drama with a twist.

Writing it is a huge challenge; it's one thing to read scripts, but when you realize the work that goes into writing it, you have a new appreciation for it. My parents threatened me, though, that I'd better use my degree!

TCC: Are you reading any books right now?

DB: I am, let me grab it real quick...it's called The Shack by William P. Young, and it's about restoring faith. It was recommended by a friend, and I've been reading it during my flights. I like it so far, I hope it turns out to be good!

TCC: If you were going out to the movies tonight, what would you go see?

DB: That new one with Common, Just Wright.

TCC: What do you think of the Tyler Perry empire?

DB: I think it's a huge shift...kind of like a 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' approach. Some of the things we do, like shooting an entire episode in a day, people are stepping back and really looking at it. I think lots of people have stopped criticizing him, and are now trying to figure out how he does it. Instead of critiquing, they realize he's not going away and are trying to learn from it. In a way, he's making history, and I'm honored to be a part of it.

 

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