When you hear the name Michael Jai White, you immediately think of movies like Universal Soldier 2 and Spawn. You know he is one of the few Black actors in Hollywood who know martial arts. Not until recently, with the explosion of Tyler Perry’s Why did I Get Married franchise could people begin to appreciate White’s explosive talent. He is not just an action actor but also handles himself comedically quite fine. Not to mention that the brotha did his thing as Nicki Minaj’s love interest in the video for her single “Your Love”. Brown Sista sat down to talk about White’s acting past, his time on the set of Why Did I Get Married, oh and did someone say a Black James Bond?
Brown Sista: How did you become involved in acting?
Michael Jai White: It was kind of a hobby. I was a school teacher. I had taken some acting classes while in college but I did not take it very serious. I got more serious about it one summer and decided to get it out of my system to see if I could possibly make a living out of it. I started getting positive reinforcement which lead me to thinking I was doing the right thing.
Brown Sista: A lot of people may not know that you played Spawn. One of the few Black super heroes. What are your thoughts about the lack of Black super heroes?
Michael Jai White: Hollywood disregards Black audiences. That is why more people are starting to go in the direction of doing their own thing; so that they can touch the Black audience.
Brown Sista: What advice would you have for aspiring Black actors?
Michael Jai White: Look at show business as a business. So many people get wrapped up in what they want. The desire for fame. They neglect the fact that it is a business. You have to know the value of who you are. You have to be able to answer the question why choose you? If you are trying to sell something then you have to have a good product. So you need to learn everything you can. That is the best advice that I can give anyone.
Brown Sista: What was the experience like while filming the movie Why Did I Get Married Too?
Michael Jai White: The experience was terrific because we already were friends. It is like getting together and working with your friends again. The movie was like art imitating life in that way. It is not often that you have the opportunity to work with people you like and make money.
Brown Sista: People really enjoy your character in the movie as well as the interaction between you and your on screen wife. What do you think it is that draws people to you two aside from the constant bickering of course?
Michael Jai White: The thing I hear all the time is that we remind them of someone that they know. At first people raise their eye brows when they see me doing something comedic.
Brown Sista: Do you think that is because they are accustomed to seeing you in action movies like Spawn and Universal Soldier 2?
Michael Jai White: Well yeah. I always have physical roles. When you do something that is not what you are defined as, you have the opportunity to reshape how people see you. With Tyler trusting me, because he knows me personally. For him it is no big deal, seeing me in a comedic role. It’s not strange to him. What’s funny is that the majority of the stuff I’ve done, it’s more comedy than the physical role. The physical roles stand out to people because there are far less people who can do that. It is unique. It’s understandable. I don’t gripe about it. It just myself and Wesley Snipes who are known to do martial arts. You see a Black man doing martial arts it stands out to people. We haven’t seen that since Jim Kelly. I knew going into this business it would start to define me. That is why I made the decision not to do any martial arts movies until later on in my career. One of the first movies I ever did martial arts in was Universal Soldier 2. At that time people did not even believe that it was really me that was doing the martial arts.
Brown Sista: Do you have any pending projects?
Michael Jai White: Well, I’m telling you this from my office. I have been working on a movie that I am about to direct for Sony.
Brown Sista: Can you tell me about the movie:
Michael Jai White: It is a post date action movie. It is a little early for me to give too many details.
Brown Sista: Do you think that we are ready for a Black James Bond?
Michael Jai White: Absolutely. I think we are ready for a James Bond who is Black. I know it sounds the same. The same way that Barack Obama is the President and he is Black. The same way a person can play the James Bond it will be because he is a believable James Bond. It would have less to do with him being Black.
Brown Sista: For the ladies that love you, they want to know are you married?
Michael Jai White: I’m married. I have been married for 11 years now.
Brown Sista: I want to change the subject here. Tell me something about that your biggest fan would not know about you.
Michael Jai White: I have no sense of direction. I literally get lost in my own neighborhood. I don’t know if it is early Alzheimer or something but I get lost almost every day of my life. I average about 3 u-turns a day.
Why Did I Get Married Too has recently been released on Blu Ray Disc from LionsGate. The features on the disc are
*DVD/BLU-RAY DISC SPECIAL FEATURES
Girl Talk: The Women of “Married”
Male Bonding: The Men of “Married”
Janet Jackson’s “Nothing” music video
Couples Character Guide
Photos courtesy of Kate sZatmari
La’Juanda “LJ” Knight