Brian White Reveals How He Launched A 20 Year Career With An Extra Role In “The Best Man”
OWN’s new primetime soap opera “Ambitions” launched last week and the show’s shenanigans already have the streets talking. BOSSIP Senior Content Director Janeé Bolden spoke with one of the show’s stars, Brian White, about his role as Mayor Evan Lancaster. Check out their interview:
BOSSIP: How are you feeling about the buzz around “Ambitions”
Brian White: It’s exciting. I am in Las Vegas working on Season 2 of “Monogamy” so I switched gears. I’m a different character and I’m in a different world but “Ambitions” looks like it’s going to be a juggernaut, just looking at the commentary and the stuff I’ve seen when I was live tweeting. It seems like people like it. We put in a lot of work. Jamey Giddens is one of the best writers I’ve worked with in my entire life, Will Packer, his reputation proceeds him so it’s a real honor. I’m blessed to be part of it, it seems to be on a positive trajectory and I’m very excited.
BOSSIP: Your character definitely has some flaws, he’s cheating on his wife, beefing with his sister and he’s a politician who may be on the take, what’s it like playing the bad guy?
Brian White: I don’t necessarily know that there is any character on the show that isn’t that way. Evan definitely isn’t the bad guy on this show. I’ve played some bad guys where I’m supposed to be the arch villain in the series or in the episode and that’s not the case in “Ambitions” so I’m very excited about that. In the pilot we need to set up the story and Evan takes the baddie title along with Greg Peters in this first episode but as things unwind I think we’ll find at the top of the food chain is my wife and Robin [Givens] serves it up so deliciously that I think people are going to like watching her do it and she’ll probably get away with it. People will like watching her do it so much that they’ll actually forgive her. She has an interesting wizadry/sorcery over the audience when she does that and it’s really fun to watch.
BOSSIP: How much research did you do to play the Mayor of Atlanta?
Brian White: Two years ago I was blessed to work with Kevin Arkadie, our showrunner, on another of Will Packer’s productions called “Media” for TV One and shot it in Atlanta and in that story I played a character running for Mayor of Atlanta and I did a lot of research for that project. I spoke with people like Kaseem [Reed] and Will and going to lunch with them and asking what it was really like, and previously I had been a surrogate for both Mayor Garcetti in L.A. who is our mayor and previously before that, Barack Obama so I have a lot of political experience, working on a campaign trying to understand how the whole political process works. So I took all of that and then all of the instruction from Will and his team and voila. Will Packer knows what he wants and so does Jamey Giddens so even if we’re a little unprepared they’ll guide us the rest of the way.
BOSSIP: We saw that your first role was as an extra in “The Best Man”. What do you remember about that experience?
Brian White: I was playing professional football at the time, I used to play for the Patriots and in the “Best Man” they needed someone to play one of Morris Chestnut’s teammates, his character played on the Giants. At the time I was modeling and my agency sent over my headshot and I happened to be in town in New York and I got the job. I sat next to Melissa DeSousa who, she and I ended up on “Second Time Around,” a sitcom a few years later, but I sat next to her, I never met her before, for a short scene where she was crying as we were watching Monica Calhoun and Morris Chestnut exchange some vows and their acting was so powerful, I was listening to them and I started crying and ended up in the scene. Andre Lee came over and brought me to Malcolm Lee and they said ‘Hey, you did a great job, I’m going to put you in some more things.’ I ended up in about 10 scenes; the bachelor party, the wedding scene, the getting dinner scene, yadda yadda yadda, and I made friends with those guys. A few months after we shot that I was in L.A. at a club and a casting director named Chemin Bernard who cast “Moesha” at the time came up to me and said, ‘Hey you have a good look, you should audition for our sitcom tomorrow.’ She gave me her card and I said, ‘I’m not an actor, I’m here playing football, trying to get on the Raiders.’ And in walked Terrence, Taye and Morris walked in the party and were like ‘Hey! Blah blah blah,’ and she knew all of them, of course, and they said ‘Oh hey, you know Brian? We just worked with him on ‘The Best Man,’ he’s amazing, we just did this that and the third’ and really just flattering, just huge stars being nice to a football player and she said, ‘You’re going to have to come in.’ I ended up getting that job on “Moesha” and my first week in L.A. And my first week in L.A. I got a job on a sitcom and the rest as they say is history. Very random, just being in the right place at the right time.
BOSSIP: You play a father on “Ambitions” and you have a daughter in real life, can you talk about your experience as a father on screen and what you’ve drawn from real life?
Brian White: One of the thing that is interesting about “Ambitions” is the show is based on relationships and love and it seems like everything is broken in the beginning and one of the things that I’ve found that is interesting as the season unfolds is each one of these five families is very very family oriented. They’re twisted, they do crazy things in support of that family unit, but these families actually fight for each other. They have each other’s backs when it matters and that was a concept that was important to me because every morning that I wake up, every time I leave the house is for my wife and my daughter. If it doesn’t suit us one day and I’m at the top, I’ll go be a plumber. I think there is a lot of that in our storyline, as the season unfolds you’ll find the husbands have their wives backs even though their doing stuff behind their wives backs and the wives have their husbands backs even though they’re doing stuff behind their husbands backs and it’s a very juicy, old school, “Dallas/Dynasty” story that speaks to, you know it’s a struggle to keep wealth, it’s a struggle to keep big things together, and there are lots of sacrifices being made by the various people that hold these assets and we are seeing never seen stories where you have brown and black people that are asset holders with all this wealth and you’re seeing the struggle behind the scenes to keep all this stuff. It requires all this behavior that is not comfortable, standard, normal under most circumstances and those are the things that are important for me to include so that when my daughter watches, she’s five now, but when she’s 16 and watches she’ll say ‘Yeah Dad I see there is all this sex but I also see the story, and I see that Evan does a whole lot of bad things but he loves the woman he married and he does them to make sure that his daughter and his son have more than what he had.’
A new episode of “Ambitions” air on OWN tonight, Tuesday June 25th at 10PM EST on OWN.