Actor Brian White joins Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss his new book, “Black Carpenter,” hit movie, “The Heart Specialist” and the obstacles facing Black Hollywood.
MR. MARTIN: Hey, folks. All the women around the show are smiling right now – not because they actually have a job. It’s because my next guest is here. You’ve seen him in “Stomp the Yard,” “The Game Plan” and also “I Can Do Bad All By Myself.” Actor Brian White is here today. We’ll talk about his latest projects in the studio, but also the personal project he’s working on called “The Carpenter.” Hey, man. What’s goin’ on?
MR. BRIAN WHITE: I am blessed to be here. Thank you for having –
MR. MARTIN: All right.
MR. WHITE: — me.
MR. MARTIN: Back again, ‘cause we talked to you when we were in – in L.A.
MR. WHITE: Yes, sir.
MR. MARTIN: We had you on the show last season, talking about all kind[s] of –
MR. WHITE: Yeah, with –
MR. MARTIN: — good stuff.
MR. WHITE: — Blair [Underwood] and Vanessa [Williams].
MR. MARTIN: Absolutely. We had a good time. So –
MR. WHITE: Yes.
MR. MARTIN: — first of all, man, here you are, handling your business on the big screen, having fun. But how in the world you went from being the son of a pro basketball player – Boston Celtics, JoJo White – to doing what you’re doing now?
MR. WHITE: I mean a series of life changes. I started out on the athlete’s path. The first thing was my parents always professed “education first” to me. So, I went to Dartmouth College even though I was a scholarship athlete, ended up playing professional sports with the Patriots and then also professional lacrosse, had an injury and then had to fall back on plan B – that education. And along those lines, I started – I went through Wall Street, found it wasn’t really for me, but learned all I could and then found myself in Hollywood about 2000.
And here we are. Twelve years later, I’m still alive and kicking – but trying to combine business and philanthropy with entertainment.
MR. MARTIN: And – and what has it been like as you’ve been interacting with these young folks a- — and you’re see- — seeing many of them not having mentors?
MR. WHITE: Yes.
MR. MARTIN: You’re seeing them not necessarily have the same parental support –
MR. WHITE: That’s it.
MR. MARTIN: — that you had.
MR. WHITE: That’s it. I – I think the number one thing I see today that’s different is the lack of that parental re- — support, the lack of those role models. If kids have them, regardless of race, they’re doing okay. We were just talking about me coming from Detroit. Ninety-eight percent of the parents at Cass Tech High School in Detroit are participating with that school. Ninety-seven percent of the kids are graduating on time – and going to four-year colleges and graduating from there. A- — and so it’s not so much a race issue as it is a parental involvement issue. Any community where the parents aren’t involved is doing poorly. Any per- — any community where the parents are involved [is] doing better –
MR. MARTIN: Gotcha.
MR. WHITE: — you know?
MR. MARTIN: And how’s the book doing?
MR. WHITE: The book’s doing fantastic, and the kids are really responding. We’re trying to start a movement. Black Carpenter is an empowerment guide. Black – the amalgam of all colors. We’re trying to say it’s a community effort. We can’t do this one race at a time; we have to do it all together. Sure, education needs reform, but the biggest reform is parental involvement, and that takes a – a global village.
MR. MARTIN: Well, that’s what you’re doing in your private time, but I – still, when it comes to your job –
MR. WHITE: Yes.
MR. MARTIN: — dealing with movies, of course, earlier this year, the movie “The Heart Specialist” hit – hit the big screen, but it’s coming out on DVD.
MR. WHITE: Um-hum.
MR. MARTIN: We[‘ve] got a clip, but then [I] want you to tell us about what was it like working with the ridiculously sexy Zoe Saldana.
MR. WHITE: Oh, man.
MR. MARTIN: Now, here’s a clip of the movie.
[FILM CLIP FROM “THE HEART SPECIALIST.”]
[ROLAND MARTIN AND BRIAN WHITE SHARE A LAUGH.]
MR. WHITE: I love Zoe. She’s like a sister, and I’m so happy for her success. We need more role models like that. Seeing women like that – strong, intelligent, wellspoken women on camera and then, you know, in the media can only be a blessing for –
MR. MARTIN: Well, what’s –
MR. WHITE: — society.
MR. MARTIN: — interesting about this movie [is] here you guys are playing doctors. You’re in a hospital, and we talk about what’s happening on the big screen,but it didn’t spend much time in the movie theaters.
MR. WHITE: No. No, and – and that speaks a lot to what sells in society. And the – people don’t know that this was based on true events and true people. Dennis Cooper, the writer, director and producer, is a Caucasian man who had some friends. His friend David was the inspiration for Dr. Z and Dr. Howard – a Harvard-educated doctor that was involved with the film. And Dennis sold this great script to the studios, but he left the character descriptions out.
When the studios found out the leads were Black, they didn’t want to make the movie anymore, and Dennis had to go take his own money and his friends’ money and make this movie himself and then start the long road to getting a distribution deal. We actually won the Urban World Film Festival with[?] ‘07, which is the biggest African-American film festival, and that still couldn’t get us distribution.
MR. MARTIN: Wow.
MR. WHITE: We then had Tyler Perry come and get involved and lend his ideas. Sylvain White, my business partner and the director of “Stomp the Yard” and a host of other people to add more content – which was comedic content – to finally get this distribution deal. So, it – it speaks a lot to, commercially, what’s viable in our marketplace. And – and, you know, we have a real story, a true story about African-American doctors in strong, upstanding relationships; and that’s not necessarily the easiest material to – to find a home for these days. And – and that says a lot.
MR. MARTIN: Well, we – you know, well, first of all, later in our sh- — in the season, we’ll be talking to Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr., about “Red Tails” –
MR. WHITE: “Red Tails.”
MR. MARTIN: — George Lucas with the exact, same thing. You would think that George Lucas could get a film made. They all turned him down for that movie. And lots of other movies that we’ve been supporting on this show, getting the word out that, frankly, the studios say, “Look. We don’t even know how to market a Black film,” which is absolutely crazy if you can market to everybody else.
And so we certainly want to use our voice to do it, so “The Heart Specialist” out – definitely out on DVD.
MR. WHITE: One thing I would – do want to say about “Red Tails”: if you can hear my voice, you need to support this movie. Or, if – if you’re a brown person, and you’re upset that you don’t see positive heroes on screen anymore, see “Red Tails.”
George Lucas, one of the most prolific directors-producers of all time, went back with Anthony Hemingway, a great, brilliant, Black director – a young director who directed this movie – and added in his expertise to put in “Star Wars”-like hero –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. WHITE: — scenes for our people, after the movie was shot to try to ensure this movie succeeds. George Lucas has – has bled for us. He’s cried for us. He’s put his life energy into this movie to try to make sure it – it’s exciting, it’s good, it’s everything that “Star Wars” is. And it’s all-Black actors.
And, you know, if we don’t support this effort, we are directly saying to
Hollywood, “We don’t care” – you know?
MR. MARTIN: But the other piece is these are American troops, so they are
American heroes – not –
MR. WHITE: Tuskegee –
MR. MARTIN: — Black heroes.
MR. WHITE: — Airmen.
MR. MARTIN: They are American heroes. And so I think folks will recognize that.
MR. WHITE: Amen.
MR. MARTIN: — Brian, always a pleasure, man. Hope all is well with you. We’ll chat again.
MR. WHITE: Thank you. Yeah, and –
MR. MARTIN: All right.
MR. WHITE: — I appreciate you havin’ me on.
MR. MARTIN: All right. Thanks a bunch.