The vast majority of theatergoers are woefully unaware of the cultural depth of the likes of Brian White. They are too often distracted drinking in his visage on the big and small screen.
When women discovered I was writing a lengthy feature on White, I could almost hear the giggles through their Facebook postings, exhaustively detailing his extreme good looks and sculpted physique. They got lost envisioning and describing White in various scenarios — none PG rated. (Sorry ladies, White is off the market, he got married last year). But sometimes hidden gems are not really hidden at all. Sometimes, they are camouflaged and packaged in the brother-next-door persona that White exudes. Men like him don’t floss their pedigrees and portfolios like so many finger rings and necklaces for all to see.
When fans watch White on the silver screen, as say — -the horrible boyfriend and child molester in Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself, opposite Taraji P. Henson, most probably deduced that White rolled onto the Hollywood scene with a handful of swagger, a dash of get-up-and-go and leaned on his looks to get access to a movie set. Wrong. Stopping there robs the average fan of the opportunity to see the intangibles that make White a bankable Hollywood star.
You see, it’s hard enough to comprehend a man, like this Good Deeds and Cabin in the Woods star, being athletically gifted and hungry enough to get drafted into two professional sports leagues; the National Football League and the National Lacrosse League (yes, there is a league, folks). Many of us regular people would be happy with a nod from the local flag football squad.
It’s equally difficult for many of us to fathom being accepted to and graduating from an Ivy League school — especially when we think back to how our brains nearly melted and drained out of our ears while cramming for midterms at regular state schools. (I still have flashbacks of sweaty palms and bouts of delirium during those days). And it’s beyond most of us to consider mixing it up with the suits walking along Wall Street, that intimidating avenue in Lower Manhattan that reeks of power and affluence.
Any one of these accomplishments commands respect from your peer group back on the block in your hometown. And finally, most of us cannot perform the mental acrobatics to bend our minds around the fact that one single person can do it all, and do it all well — and do it well before the age of 30.
But, then again, most people are not Brian White — actor, athlete, author, dancer, model, entrepreneur, stockbroker, philanthropist and founder of his own nonprofit organization. Yes, yes, as some of you already know, his father is the legendary Jo Jo White of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. So, I guess you could say White got a hereditary head start. But success is far from preordained even for the heir apparent, especially when you consider how the offspring and siblings of many sports legends wound up in life.
It would be imprudent of us to compare Brian White with Michael Corleone, but we can extract certain attributes from that iconic Hollywood character and wrap it around White like one of his designer suits. He took what was the family business — the business of entertainment and sports — and expanded on the empire.
That business was not acting or sports or business. It was education.
“It was all I ever knew. My father was an NBA legend. My cousins are baseball legends, so it is a family business. The most important part of that [equation] was ‘Ivy League.’ My parents beat my butt, making sure I got my education. So when I got drafted, I had a plan B. Two years in [the NFL with the New England Patriots], and I got injured. So I had to fall back on that Plan B. It was a great learning experience, it was a great adventure and it led to today. So here we are.”
Brian White always has a plan. He didn’t just spill out onto the pavement of Hollywood Boulevard off a Greyhound bus, looking for a come up, and an audition. He took the genetics bequeathed to him by his parents and drove it like a snowplow through a New England blizzard.
Along the way, he didn’t waste time digesting the pressure and expectations that come from being the product of a family sports dynasty.
“No. Being the prodigy of an All-Star player opens a lot of doors, [it gets] you a lot of second looks. And if that’s your proclivity, if you’re good at it, then you have a lot to live up to,” he said at the rolling out photo shoot in Los Angeles, his current residence. “It was always helpful to get that second look as a player, trying to prove myself as an athlete. I think pressure stems from what the parents can put on you, and my parents never did that. So it was a blessing.”
The blessings are flowing in abundance right now for White, partially from the seeds of goodwill he’s planted with his theater company and nonprofit organization, and partly from his relentlessly single-minded pursuit of excellence. White is starring in a slew of TV and film projects in 2011. In The Politics of Love, White portrays a political campaign worker for former Republican presidential candidate John McCain who gets entangled in a romantic web with a Barack Obama campaign volunteer coordinator.
White is also appearing in a lead role in the comedy drama “Men of a Certain Age,” a vehicle that follows the hilarious dilemmas of middle-aged men who try to recapture their college youth and remain friends as they transition in life. He just finished shooting the horror thriller, Cabin the Woods, the story of a group of friends on a cabin retreat that turns bloody when they stumble upon a horrific entity. He’s also taken a part in the comedy “Love Bites,” which reveals all of the things that can happen when folks go on expeditions to find love — and what can happen when you find it.
And he has just wrapped his tag team effort with Tyler Perry, in the comedy-drama Good Deeds. White plays an affluent businessman who is about to marry the woman of his dreams (Gabrielle Union) — that is until he encounters a enigmatic but alluring single mom (Thandie Newton) who causes serious interruptions to the pre-scripted flow of his life.
In between stints on the crime series “Body of Proof” and “9ine,” White is hardly waiting for Hollywood to come calling. Using his tenacity and business savvy, White is creating projects on his own. He co-founded Media 3 Films, a Beverly Hills-based feature film production company that develops and produces independent features, television and animation projects for national and international distribution.
Interestingly enough, when you ask White what he believes has been the key to his success in his multifaceted career in entertainment, sports and modeling, White swings the topic away from those industries and back to his core values: education.
“First and foremost, get your education. If you don’t have an education you’re going to panic during those tough times because you are not going to have a solid foundation to support yourself when it gets lean. A lot of the actors that I know are doing a lot of other things than just acting,” he says. “My business partners are college grads. These are people who can create for themselves when Hollywood doesn’t come calling.
“Secondly, never burn a bridge, you never know when you will need those relationships. You’re only as strong as the rest of your team. Always take care of those relationships and lead with integrity and respect and you’ll be respected [back],” he continues. “And third, don’t do it if you’re trying to be famous or trying to make that money, because you probably will never get that money and you’ll never be as famous as you want to be. It’s about ‘I can’t do anything but this. If they never pay me, I’ll sleep on a park bench, but I’m still going to do it.’ If you feel like that, and you have those two other things, then go for it by all means. But don’t do it for the money.”
White urges people to be a part of something greater than themselves. That’s precisely why he founded White on White Inc., which works to funnel all of his various philanthropic and community activities through one portal. One of those endeavors is Black Carpenter “Empower Me” Tour, a multidimensional vehicle that includes his book, Black Carpenter, and other tools to help youth navigate through obstacles and achieve lasting success.
“The purpose of Black Carpenter is to create a tool box of essential life skills for the next generation. I had the great fortune of being born into a family with strong values who gave me the courage to follow my dreams and reach for the stars,” he says on his website, brianwhiteonline.com. “My mother and father instilled in me a sense of purpose not defined by today’s street obsession with bling, cars or cribs. Black Carpenter is as much their message of hope, perseverance and achievement for young people, as it is mine.”
So, even if we cannot wrap our minds around how White has achieved success in so many aspects of life, we can understand why he has been blessed abundantly: because he has planted the seeds of blessings that go back to his earliest days in Hollywood. It’s an example that more should follow.