Perhaps known best for a charming smile, chiseled abs, and a filmography that includes breakthrough roles in ‘The Game Plan,’ ‘Stomp the Yard’ and recently ‘Fighting’. Former football star and Wall Street professional Brian White proves there is more to him than what meets the eye in this exclusive interview.
Talking just prior to the release of Tyler Perry’s ‘I Can Do Bad All By Myself,’ where he takes on one of his most challenging roles to date as Randy, White let’s you in on his secret to staying fit; why he likes to be hands on with everything he does; and even shares a hilarious tale about his first time meeting Mary J. Blige.
Looking forward to a breakthrough 2010 at the box office and beyond, White also proves that he has not, and will not forget about our youth and their future â something this talented actor deems vital in making sure this generation has a fair shot at reaching their full potential.
Singersroom: First off, you made quite the transition from football to lacrosse and from Wall Street to Hollywood. What has been the most exciting part of your journey thus far?
Brian White: Each individual day is exciting for me. As an athlete you’re taught not to make one thing more exciting than the other. You’re not to make the Super Bowl any more exciting for yourself than a normal game, otherwise you start to alter how you play and you start to change things that got you to the Super Bowl. So, having an NBA All Star father (JoJo White, Boston Celtics) to major league baseball cousins I’ve learned a lot about consistency and knowing that the results are all about what you put in and not getting ahead of yourself. Each scene I’m shooting; each event I’m speaking at; and each interview, like today, I take one step at a time. But, you know everything has been exciting.
Brian White: Genetics I guess (laughter). Playing professional sports all my life I’ve learned, almost by nature, to eat right and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I play in the NBA Entertainment League, which is a celebrity basketball league and I’m a hypothetical sports junkie. I hike; I ride, I bike; and I’m learning how to surf (I’m a little afraid of sharks though). My metabolism has stayed with me since I’ve been in L.A. so I’m able to eat whatever I want, as long as I stay active.
Singersroom: You’re lucky â¦ So there’s no secret diet or regimen that includes shakes, push-ups and gym/workout secrets ?
Brian White: Let’s say the movie ‘Stomp the Yard,’ most of the guys went out and trained everyday for the ‘shirts off scene’. My method of staying in shape was to babysit!
Some of the other actors had children. I had them come over to my apartment and bake cookies and cakes. (Sugar speeds up my metabolism) As long as I was taking in the calories, sugar and running around with the kids the weight was coming off. While the other guys were required to go to the gym, I was required to stay out of the gym. If I work out I’ll get fat and back up to football size, which is around 230-235 pounds and that is way too big for me to look like a normal person opposite most of the people I work with. I try to stay lean and if a role does require that I put on some weight like ‘Fighting,’ I jump in the gym for three to four weeks.
Singersroom: I’ve been told that you did most, if not all, of the stunts in ‘Fighting’ â¦
Brian White: There is not one thing in that film that is a stuntman. That was all Channing (Tatum) and myself.
I’ve been studying martial arts, off and on, for various roles. I did a movie called ‘D.O.A.’ in China with Cory Yuen. I then began Taekwondo and when I got back to L.A. I started training for boxing and Jiu-Jitsu.
I wrestled when I was younger and have the professional football background (Patriots) so I’m used to being intertwined with other people and controlling my body for space. Channing and I trained about six weeks for this movie (‘Fighting’).
Singersroom: Wow that is something people might not have been aware of. Are you more comfortable being hands on with each project?
Brian White: Definitely, I think that by having the athletic pedigree that I have I almost feel compelled, if not required, to do my own stunts because most of the stuntmen are not able to do all of the elements at the level that I can do them. Let’s say they’re a black belt but, are unable to run and jump the way that I can jump. Therefore, I work on my kicks and my flexibility to try and match their technique. I may not be able to beat them in a fight but, a lot of times you use the stuntmen because the actors cannot do the things that they have to do. When I look at the big dogs like the Brad Pitt’s, Tom Cruises’ and Jackie Chan’s (and even Matt Damon), they’re all doing 99% of the stunts themselves.
I really enjoy it, as a moviegoer, because I can see that it was ‘him’ in the fight. I can see that it was him in the car. I aspire to be like those guys because those are people that I admire. I figure, if they can do this and they’re getting $20 million for this movie, then I should start now so I can put myself in position to win those roles or those chances when the opportunity presents itself. It’s something within my skill set, just like being cast as a Wall Street Broker, you’re going to present yourself as clean cut in an intellectual way. I would have never gotten cast in ‘Fighting’ if I couldn’t fight. I would have not have been cast in ’12 Rounds’ if I couldn’t drive a car the way I did.
Singersroom: The roles you take on are very diverse. Is that something you strive for when looking at scripts and forthcoming projects?
Brian White: Yes. I did not want to be pigeonholed. I’m a very goal oriented person. Each year I sit down and I try to project out a year or two or five years to determine where I want to be. I sit back and try to see what things I can do to achieve those goals.
Starting out as an actor, I sat down with my mentors (two of my mentors are Forest Whitaker and Don Cheadle) and asked them questions. You know, “How do you make it in this industry?”.. “How do you find longevity?”â¦ “How do you not become a flash in the pan?” and “How not to get pigeonholed”. One term I kept hearing over and over again was ‘character’. Pointing out examples like Johnny Depp, Don Cheadle, Sean Penn, Forrest Whitaker, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman â people that are not known for one character, they’re just always known for putting out quality work. They’re not known for one genre. They can do comedy. They can do drama. They can do action. They can do horror. They knock it out the park and that is what I aspire to be.
The same way I was an athlete, as a student of the game, when I started acting I became a student of the craft. I got in comedy classes. I got in technique classes. I got in Shakespeare classes. I took dance classes. I took writing classes. I just wanted to understand (“What is an actor?”). I wanted to know what it required to become an actor; what the differences were between a TV, film and stage actor were; and those kind of things. Once I started working, I wanted to make sure that my roles were different from the ‘real’ Brian. (For example) Roles like ‘The Family Stone,’ ‘Brick’ and ‘I Can Do Bad All By Myself’ and intermingle those with roles that are closer to the real me like ‘Stomp the Yard.’
Singersroom: Speaking of Tyler Perry’s ‘I Can Do Bad All By Myself’. What was the most challenging part of portraying Randy ?
Brian White: I think Randy, at his core, is the most disparate character and most diverging character from my personal politics; personal world view and personal view of women. He went as far away from my character as I’ve been able to get or have the opportunity to portray. That is what drew him to me. Tyler is a friend and I actually asked for this role twofold — one, because of the role itself but, more so than that, to have the opportunity to work with Taraji (P. Henson). I actually had a screen test opposite her, from a different project, that didn’t end up working out but, my agents were definitely trying to create the opportunity we have with ‘I Can Do Bad All By Myself’. I actually ended up going directly to Tyler and said “Hey. I read your script. It’s incredible. I’d like a shot at this role.”
April (Henson) and Randy(White) are symbiotic. They’re holding each other down. They both have their individual lives and nothing has necessarily worked out the way they wanted. They’re together out of circumstance and they derive nothing. They’re both like parasites. I’m paying all her bills and I’m not really sure what we’re getting from each other, other than some kind of comfort at the onset of the movie. Obviously there’s an intimacy that were getting and it’s truly sexual because you can see there is no friendship between the two. Trying to live and embody that character is fascinating and interesting to me. I couldn’t think of a better actress in the world to take that ride with me. Taraji is the most talented actress I’ve had a chance to work with to date. It’s such a blessing to take this ride with her. Her character is an alcoholic jazz singer. My character is a father of four. We are just at the worst spot in our lives and everything has turned totally black and totally bleak but, a ray of light opens for her. It’s a cautionary tale to all of that we don’t know when opportunity is going to come knocking and when it does it is our responsibility to recognize it whether big or small. That’s what I love about Tyler’s movies. As dark as they may be at one point, they always find a hopeful resolution.
Singersroom: How was it working alongside Mary J Blige?
Brian White: Oh man. Tyler is incredible for creating angles for people that suit them. I think that is what he has done with Mary.
Her scenes are fantastic. She is relevant and crucial to the storyline and then there’s the music. There are four live songs in “I Can Do Bad All By Myself”.
There is a lot of synergy between the stage play and this film, more so than thought, because of the musical element. You’ve got Gladys Knight, Pastor Winans, Taraji (who also sings) and you’ve got Mary J.
I was like a kid in the candy store the first day on set with Mary because I was such a huge fan of her music. I went to her concert with Jay-Z last year and I was standing there screaming like a groupie all night (laughter). Of course, I had no voice afterward. So, I was having flashbacks when I got the opportunity to shake her hand. She was just humble, grounded, spiritual and extremely talented.
She was dedicated. She came ready to play. As an actress, she’s new in this game and she took it that way by taking direction from Tyler and working closely with Taraji. I really thought she brought her ‘A-Game’ and was fantastic. I would say Mary J. Blige is a legitimate actress now. She really puts it down in the film and I think people are going to love her performance. If they don’t love her performance they’ll be blown away by the music.
Singersroom: From lacrosse to football and modeling to actingâ¦. Is there anything you have not done that you’d like to do in the next few years?
Brian White: I aspire to put in more character lead work in movies like “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” so that I can set myself up to be the lead in movies and create vehicles like Will Smithâ¦ like Matt Damon. I’m hoping 2010 and beyond is full of leading roles whether it be action films, drama films, period pieces, romantic comedies or graphic novels. I’ve tried to put in the work over the past nine years so that I’m ready and have the tape to show, no matter what the genre (is), I’m here.
I want to expand my foundation, supporting kids, as a role model to them, through a national organization, from a currently regional organization located in the Northeast and the South. The foundation is called W.A.R.M (We’re All Role Models To Kids â WARM 2 Kids). That website is warmfoundation.org. It basically connects socially conscious celebrities with corporations and youth organizations with teens and young adults to make sure youth reach their full potential. Our new initiative is to put computer learning centers in schools.
For more on Brian J. White visit his official website and be sure to check out his latest initiative with Keisha Whitaker, a regional essay contest titled Words Matter (for youth ages 12-22). Visit wordsmatternow.org for more information.
Brian White is also putting together a major charity event to benefit the foundations he is involved with. More information is available at HelpingHandsCelebrityWeekend.org
—— By: Njai Joszor