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Former NFL player Brian White talks about his role in romantic comedy ‘No Regrets’

He says his career is a marathon, not a sprint, and family comes first

Brian White quickly gained acclaim in dancing and acting after playing for the New England Patriots. Now, he stars in two new projects.

The romantic comedy No Regrets premiered on Urban Movie Channel on Feb. 10. White plays Quincy, who has a chance meeting with flight attendant Nina Thomas (Monica Calhoun, The Best Man) on a long layover. The run-in derails plans with her college sweetheart: She’d spent the last 12 years rejecting his marriage proposals, but had finally accepted after a desperate plea.

No Regrets also features Emmy Award-winning actress Loretta Devine (Waiting to Exhale, The Carmichael Show), Sharon Leal (Addicted, Dreamgirls, Why Did I Get Married?) and Elise Neal (Hustle & Flow, All of Us).

White is also appearing in the TV One drama Media, produced by Radio One founder Cathy Hughes. White plays successful prosecutor-turned-politician Michael Jones. The film also includes Pooch Hall (The Game and Ray Donovan), Denise Boutte (Why Did I Get Married? and Meet The Browns), Gary Dourdan and Penny Johnson Jones.

White has a lengthy resume of roles. But before acting, the Massachusetts native signed with the Patriots and the National Lacrosse League until his career ended with injury after two seasons. He is the son of Basketball Hall of Famer Jo Jo White (Boston Celtics).

According to his website, he co-founded a professional dance/theater company, Phunk Phenomenon Urban Dance Theater Company, which shares the collective life experiences of the ensemble on a variety of socially relevant topics including the effects of drinking and driving, drug use, peer pressure, sex, pregnancy, hazing and race relations. He also runs a foundation, W.A.R.M2Kids (We are All Role Models).

How was this role different from others that you’ve done?

I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to play a lot of characters with children. I’m a married man with a daughter. It was really important to play the type of man, especially a man of color, that puts his daughter first in everything he does. That’s how I was raised. I was raised by a single mom. I had five younger sisters, no brothers. It was always about my parents, my mother, my family, my extended family, sacrificing, putting me and my sisters first so that we have what we have today. That is the most different thing. When I read this script, I saw a romantic comedy with a lot of heart, that was focused around good folks trying to do good. There’s confusing situations. There’s confrontation. There’s some blurred lines. But everybody pretty much sticks to who they are, their personal integrity. They remain faithful to the people they love, and they put the ones that are important most in their lives first, before temporary things. Those are the reasons that I was so attracted to this project.

What was the most surprising thing about the character?

Well, it’s just that we were trying to peel the onion and make a little bit more of a … There’s romantic comedy and then there’s romantic dramedies … Tom Hanks is a good example. All his movies are dramedies. He finds the realness in the character, he grounds them in a way that everybody can relate to, and then in those unexpected moments you’re crying and laughing out loud at the same time. That was the most surprising thing when we started digging into these characters.

Some of the funniest moments you would have never looked at as comedic. I think that was a lot of what we took away from this film, because we really tried to play it close to the vest, close to the moment, not try to create comedy, but find a lot of comedy in ordinary moments and ordinary life. That was a lot of fun to explore in this particular character.

Is there anything that you haven’t done that you’d like to do?

Absolutely. I feel like I just started. I’m just starting to get the kind of opportunities that I’ve always aspired to try. As I move forward, I always want to challenge myself. I’ve never gotten a chance to do a real period movie. I’ve never gotten the chance to vastly change my look. There’s big-budget movies where you can add prosthetics to your face, you can change your voice, you can do things to enhance your ability as an actor to create a character that’s way outside yourself. I’m looking forward to doing a lot of that. I have a big imagination. I’m looking forward to doing more green screen. I’ve gotten to do a little bit, but that’s where you really get to use your chops and create.

Moving forward, I’m hoping that those opportunities will one day present themselves. But I think it’s a marathon, not a sprint, any good career. I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other and jog before I try to sprint. I thank you so much for saying the positive things, that you are seeing the results in my work, and I hope that trend continues.

How do you balance work and family?

Simply to remember that I work for my family and they’re the reason for being. I have a career to support my family, so I never let the career become the priority. I’ve lost many a jobs, I’ve not been able to attend many of auditions, or create opportunities for myself, because on those days or those moments, there was something going on with my daughter or wife and that had to take precedence. I think if you keep things in perspective and keep your priorities in order, good things will happen. God always rewards people who are doing the right thing has been my experience.

A lot of times when I can’t make an audition, I can’t make a meeting, and I think I’m making an opportunity go away because I’m putting my family first or it will cause me to be away from my family too long, another opportunity will come right around the corner. That’s definitely the grace of God showing me that being a man of integrity, being a man of faith, keeping your priorities in the right order, will always lead to positive results.

How does Media differ from other shows?

It’s The Godfather mixed with Empire. It’s a little Dynasty and Dallas thrown in. It’s got action, it’s got romance, it’s got intrigue, it’s got drama, and it’s very, very real. It’s different. I’ve never seen the curtain lifted for brown folks in the world of big business the way it’s been lifted here. I don’t think we’ve ever seen that for people of color, especially black folks, African-Americans, in such an honest, candid way, with no soap added, with no extra added, because in politics and big business there’s more drama than we can even imagine. What Cathy has done is try to expose us to the truth of what it takes to make it in today’s world. I’m just really excited to having navigated it in the real world.

I’ve had many different jobs through the years, and it really exposes the nuts and bolts of what is behind big business and wealth. I think in this world that we’re living in with a Trump presidency, people, especially people of color, really need to know how the game is really played. I think Media shines a light on that in a way that it hasn’t been done before by any other show that I’m aware of. I’m excited for people to see it.

Do you feel the industry can do a better job of portraying more positive images and lifestyles of African-Americans?

We have to. It’s imperative that shows that like black-ish, Media and even Empire show that the mean, the median, the average black person in 2017, has arrived at the Cosby level. We do aspire to be doctors. We do aspire to have more than one bank account, good credit scores, our houses, our condos, costing more than the rims on our cars.

What can we do to take the narrative out of just Black History Month, and keep it an ongoing conversation?

I need all my black and brown folks to realize that we don’t control the narrative and to seize and try to help us, our community, take control of our own narrative. We’re being told HIS story, not our story, we’re being told HIS story.

As a community, as African-Americans, we need to understand what was done to us, get rid of that programming, reprogram ourselves to unify, and then nobody can stop us. Just look at Black Twitter. When we trend something together in unity, it happens. But the unifying power of our community, the purchasing power of our community when we work together, it can’t be denied. I think that’s what we should focus on moving forward.

Kelley Evans is a digital producer at Andscape. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic Southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.