From his early years in New Edition, to his solo work hitting stages across America, Bobby Brown is an entertainer through and through. The Bobby Brown Story delves deep into Brown’s past, from his childhood in Boston, to his relationship with Whitney Houston—all from his perspective. We get the good and the bad in The Bobby Brown Story, and that’s what fans were hoping for! We spoke to actors Woody McClain (bringing Bobby to life on the small screen yet again), and Gabrielle Dennis (aka Whitney!) about their work on this very personal project. Read our interviews below, and be sure to stream The Bobby Brown Story on BET today!
Woody McClain as Bobby Brown
This is your second time playing Bobby Brown—how did it feel to step back into his shoes for this project?
This one was a lot different from the first one [Ed note: The New Edition Story] so we wanted to approach this whole project differently. But it’s always amazing to be in front of the camera no matter who I’m portraying!
Reprising this role must have been so rewarding for you, since you got to dive even deeper into Bobby’s story. Were there elements from his past that were newly revealed to you during the filming of this project? Or perhaps things about his past that surprised you?
Absolutely! When I found out about his relationship with Janet Jackson, it caught me by surprise. There are just so many other stories that I had no idea about, that I found out while doing this project.
Do you feel like the physicality of the role helped to put you fully into character?
The dance routines were a lot of fun, and having a dance background played a big part in me being cast for the role.
You’re known for your comedy chops, but there are so many heavy moments in this film. Does your process differ at all when you’re working on a dramatic scene as opposed to a comedic one? Do you prefer working through a dramatic performance or a comedic one?
Honestly, I just live in the moment! Once I’m in the scene I’m 100% in it, regardless of if it’s drama or comedy.
What’s your favorite Bobby Brown moment/song and why?
My favorite Bobby Brown moment is his Soul Train award performance. His energy was crazy, and he really put on one hell of a show.
Gabrielle Dennis as Whitney Houston
What did Whitney mean to you?
Oh goodness, she meant a lot to me. She was just full of so much love, heart, and tenderness. I’ve loved getting to know more about her and the woman behind this larger than life public persona. I feel like I have a much deeper connection, understanding, appreciation, and respect for her than ever before.
I’ve always been a fan of Whitney. I’ve always thought that she was just so lovable and beautiful. I prayed a lot through the process of working on this film, not only hoping that I did her justice and represented her in a way that was honest and grounded, but I also had her mother on my mind a lot. She was in the public eye, but she was also someone’s daughter.
How did you get into character? Were there certain rituals you indulged to help you get into Whitney’s shoes?
I listened to a lot of her music! Depending on what period in her life we were filming, I would listen to her music from that era. I also watched a lot of her interviews and of course her music videos too.
It was so interesting to see how her approach to interviews changed throughout the years. In a lot of interviews at the beginning of her career, she spoke cautiously because she was thinking about what she would say. I’m not sure if that was the result of a media training, or if it was just because it was all so new to her. As the years went on you could hear a change in her voice—she became more comfortable in her own skin.
Whitney had such an incredible sense of fashion and frequently changed her look. Is there a specific look of hers that’s your favorite, or perhaps a specific fashion moment that you really love?
I think most people are going to think this is strange, and maybe it’s just because I played her, but for me I love casual Whitney. When she was at home and she could leave the beaded gowns and the big hair, she was just so relaxed and casual. She loved being in a t-shirt and jeans, just relaxing—that was her vibe!
You’re so passionate about Whitney, and playing her has obviously been an emotional journey for you. Actors sometimes say it takes a while for them to shake a character after embodying them on screen. Has that been the case for you?
Oh yeah. It took a while to get her out of my system. What made me so sad is that she’s no longer here with us. We dealt with a lot of heavy emotions in the film, and it made me so sad to know that there was so much more she could have done. She was so inspiring, and I feel like I’ll always be connected to her story and her life in a really special way. I can never hear a Whitney song the same way again! I’ve never done this kind of character work before, but having people who knew her in real life tell me that I nailed certain nuances or moments really made it extra special for me.
What do you hope people come away with after seeing the film?
I’m hoping that there’s more understanding around the how’s and the why’s that lead to addiction. Sometimes when she was dealing with so much pain and drama, she needed an escape. That was just her vice and how she dealt with things. Unfortunately it never got to a point of her healing. At the end of the day, addiction is a disease, and I hope people understand that it’s a painful thing that people deal with every day. Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown aren’t the only people in the world who have dealt with it, and they won’t be the last.