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The Life of Actor Isiah Whitlock Jr.? Sheeee-it.

It's Quite A Living

39:27 min | 1 year ago

The Life of Actor Isiah Whitlock Jr.? Sheeee-it.

"I don't have your whole. Resume Memory where you on veep, you were on veep, it's not on your of. Your site. updated. The site in like ten years. Okay. You know, I have two podcasts. Is, with executives and media and it's called insider interviews, and this one is quite a living is conversations about the professional and personal with my more successful friends. So it's really more of my passion project and today for it's quite a living. I'm very passionate about this person. I'm here with Isaiah whitlock junior someone I've known for Oh my God Isaiah almost forty years. Are To believe hard to believe, but it has been them all. Yeah. Yeah. And you don't sound a day younger than. I. Was Hoping you're GonNa say I don't look a day younger, but yeah. That's the beautiful thing. Yeah. Yeah. So the voice the voice might you still here? It's too am so happy to have this kind of platform to memorialize that friendship, but you know I do want to say I'm GONNA lead into episode five by saying, we didn't start out as friends. Now US started as my acting teacher at act. Right. Now, and you scared the hell out of me. Good. Good. Whatever, I was doing was working. You know. Did. Yeah. At practice that you know it's like it comes in handy especially here in New York on the subway or. Trying to bother me when I put on that face and. And people say you know I think I would just rather go onto the next guy? This brother look like he doesn't WanNa be bothered. You know and so it. Will leave you alone. It's so so I came across one of my journals and I shared this with you just a few weeks ago. And I found some of these pages. So I'll explain what he means by that look. Here's what I wrote in my journal, first day of class, Isiah, whitlock, presiding, he asks for volunteers in says act. Complications dry and they run out of every day or weird things to say and I demands. Is that what you call acting and they don't know what to say. He just stares at, them were blown away and you could hear a pin drop. We all come up with philosophical answers and we finally create the response that Isaiah accepts which is. Acting is simply believable on his communication. You must create a reality. But. You scared that out of doing that it was that stare that, will you call acting will never forget that? I can't believe forty years ago. I was Steph profile you know and. I was just GonNa blowing in the wind back. Then you know. That's good. That's good. I still wish I had a little bit of that today. You know the the profundity. Yes I wish I I wish I had a lot of things that have acted. That's one of the. Well you you have my undying friendship. Hey, it's easy moss, and this is episode five of it's quite a living with my friend Isiah whitlock junior. Isaiah. Who's done everything from playing Othello to being in Broadway. Shows has also played the corrupt clay. Davis in the wire, he's been in almost every spike. Lee. Joint including the new to five bloods on net flicks. Funny. Buddy movies too like Cedar rapids. So if you don't know Zia. You will after this episode. I truly. I. Walked into that Class at American conservatory, Theater Really Really Defensive and by the end of it, you had us like fall into each other's arms as an exercise of trust like just Kinda like foul back, and maybe that's a classic scary teacher move enacting I. Didn't know I was so nervous in such a kid. I walked out of there are a lot more in touch with a friend. You know when you really think about it trust is a is vital because you're on stage with another person. Or your on with another person, you're you're trusting them to. Bring their a game and give you what it is. You need to make you do your a game. and. You don't really know until you're out there and you feel it and you're not getting what it is, you need, and so you start to distrust and that's when. Everything, goes off the rails, I. Mean. You don't have to do that exercise, but process is very, very important thing. And then you begin to associated with life and trust in life and everything like that, and you begin to see how the to connect that life is not any different than what it is. You're you know performing on stage, you just have a different set of circumstances. And it seems that you also taught us vulnerability and that seems to go hand in hand with a good life lesson to is trust and vulnerability scary strength. Y- you know the good news is. That's one of my pet peeves about a lot of actors. They don't allow themselves to to be vulnerable. I. Mean What you do naturally in life I, mean I think most people are vulnerable to a certain extent. But on on stage, we have a tendency to be so guarded because people are watching. And you got to let that go certain things you need to do to be able to find that owner ability because to me. That's where the magic happens. We started layering all these things like trust and Boehner warmer ability relieve ability. That's what people are looking for, and that's how you can as an actor stay ahead of people that they can't get out in front because if you're vulnerable, you can't pin that dental. You'd never know where it's coming from how it's going to happen and so you'll always keep the audience on the edge of their seat. But if you're just floating on the surface, the audience will get ahead of you. They'll get bored. Things will start at fall apart. So I said, in the introduction that you've done serious to comedy, of course, the corrupt Clay Davis in the wire five bloods and in in between Cedar rapids. So is it any different to play a comedic role with vulnerability versus a serious acting role? There's no difference whatsoever as far as I'm concerned, the comedy is going to come from that Boehner ability of because people see you in a certain situation and it's sold believable that they want they start to laugh. I never looked at myself as a comedian or trying to be funny, but I think the the comedy comes out of the seriousness of that situation, and so people look at that and it might remind them of themselves or they're wondering how you're going to get out of it, and that's where the comedy comes from or even the seriousness of it. The two were not that far apart. The comedy or comedy and tragedy or comedy seriousness, and the approach is always going to be the same. Sometimes, you play the opposite of it, where of that comedy can be very touching and heartfelt. I Google you will I didn't Google you but I put like Isiah whitlock junior in the little search thing on my TV guide in there were like half a dozen things that are currently airing right now. You know not the least of which is to five bloods but you know the last husband and things like that. So you've got a lot going on. What was the turning point that got you to have a lot going on? Think, there was one turning point. I had quite a career especially when I was at the American Cerveteri, theater? I was working all the time at a lot of energy and I was preparing for that opportunity of and I had a nice life in San Francisco. Then I came to New York, and it took a while to get things started, but I had developed enough of a base in San. Francisco to support myself. New. York to not get frustrated I. I had a bit of an idea as to what to do how to hang in there. So to speak. And when you say turning point, I did a play. This was maybe about twenty years ago at a place called the TRIBECA playhouse. I did a play by Christopher Shinn cold four and. I think, that might be the turning point what I think back because. It was a fifty seat house and the world was changing and I played this. Sort of light. Had A file schoolteacher and it was a huge success here in new. York City. We got re reviewed by the New York Times. I think it was twice maybe three times because the story was so compelling, the world was changing at that time and it was kind of like this brave new world with the Internet and computers and things like that, and what I did was fashion the character in a way that you could not dismiss the guy. and. It was total manipulation my part because I made the audience side with. The pedophile. I made the audience feel something for. A pedophile was going through. I know that sounds terrible. But this is what I was handed. Yours is what had to do. because. My whole feeling was like there's no way I'm going to be able to go out there and play some guy like that. But you get inside that character you start to work with. Okay. Why is he this way? What is he feeling? What is he going through banana? The show I built a very strong case. I mean, it was terrible I got letters, people hated me but But I. Think it was from the attention that I got in the New York Times at that time. You know. In, the case of four you had to play a pedophile and you know you said you were, you played the cards you were dealt and you had to make him sympathetic because that was your character that was your responsibility. But. In a situation where you absolutely didn't agree with the way. The director wanted you to approach a role. Usually I kind of get all that out worked out before I. Even get used. Would I when I did this play for? They said, we have this play. that. We've been passing around in nobody wants to do it. Because of the subject matter. And and they said in conversations, your name keeps coming up as a as a guy who does these types of things. Really. What kind of things? That's what I will. It will. They, say you're the guy who could who can handle this type of material and I said will. Send me a copy of the script. You know. Let me take a look at it. And for about the next week I was thinking, those must be you know they're gonna Sue me a copy of hamlet or some great Shakespearean Tragedy Or. Something and it, and it was this playing for, and then that's when I start thinking Oh. My God, you know who? The hell you know my name keeps coming up. We'll. What does that lot? But I realized what they were saying was that somebody who would not balk at the material who would be willing to give it a shot I mean I began to look at as a bit of a compliment. You know as to somebody who could get inside this character and make them believable and and watchable, and that's what I was able to do. That kind of brings us to. Working with directors. Nothing I'm going to wait that noise. And just getting. Comfortable. DUMBER. PODCASTS. Or, radio. Before. Can Take the boy, Ottoman data but. Indiana out of the. so. One of the the directors you probably have some shorthand with now. where he you know, you don't have to audition anymore. Of course, Spike Lee, headed your relationship with spike come about, and is there any spike Lee joint you have not been in? Will Spike Lee came to see the show that I was doing downtown really that. Say I didn't even know that that was the connection that was the connection he came. He saw the show and he came backstage. And we chatted with everybody in the show, which would there was only four of us. We were freaked out. We were totally FREAKED OUT IN A. Couple of days. Later, he invited me to audition for a movie called the twenty. and. I audition and. There was a moment where I said sheeting. Spike said do that again? I did it again and he said you should keep that. You know you're gonNA laugh about it. We were just weird throwing around a bunch of stuff and just county revising the audition everything like that. He said, you know you should think about keeping that and that he cast me in the twenty fifth hour and that's what I I did that, and that's where that. Came battles. Because Spike came and saw this play that was getting all of this attention downtown, and that's where that all came about. And going back to two four. There was something very wonderful about the grittiness of it. You know you're downtown in this sort of grind joining of a theater. Fifty seat house paint peeling off the walls and it was everything. You see in the movies about you know theater in the old days and doing things like that. You know you're not making any money. You got a cat. Performance where the cat ran across the stage. And your face with Dwi stop the show and say, we gotta get rid of the cat or pretend the cat's not there. In the audience does see the cat or do I work the cat into the action? It was. It was nasty. You put. You put the character that playing on top of it, and it was just nasty. But it was. Honest to God true Gritty Type Theater. But that's where my relationship with Spike Lee and that's where this. Thing started and I thought it was the other way around I. thought that you started that as their trademark in the wire, and then he had you do it in all of his films. So That's interesting. And I number of home. From my wild strings and I think that would take off like that of. Fame we might add. Yes. But. But that was never ever my intention because if you go back and watch the wire, a lot of people say it in liar and that's Kinda. Like a that's for for lack of a better word like a black. You know that you hear growing up constantly, you know my uncle used to do it quite a bit and I was talking to a friend of mine and I said, you know there's a strange thing. People seem so fascinated. By this sort of common thing that we all say she it and he said, no, he said, I think the difference is the way you do it the way you can place it in your voice in your nose and how long you can do it, and that's where the difference comes from, and that's what makes it rang out because it is not like anybody else out there doing it, and I've I've heard people do it after people do it all from you know throughout the years and is a very common thing. But I, think it was the way I was going at. That was making it Kinda saying when I was going it. was making it because thing to the bobblehead. Well, as almost anything you say you called me on almost every birthday and said, he'd be happy birthday. See I can't do it I, do it. Yeah but I always always do it early in the morning with my voice. Yeah. All right. So he said that you know it's like a black thing in. So not only do, i. not have your pipes, but I'm not black all these years I trust. You'd worth will your on your an honorary? That's been to my Hanukkah party. Many times so. But my friend. Jackie. Greene, she's a Broadway publicist in one of the funniest women I know, and she told me as the black lives movement was taking hold. Recently, he would call black friends and say I'm calling to say the wrong thing. After. Thirty seven years of friendship I've probably said the wrong thing to you, and it's weird that we even have to acknowledge our differences. I mean I. I've said the wrong thing many a times you know. Either you know know what you don't know now. But. If somebody if somebody says the wrong thing I very kindly. Corrected. And they'll be correct. There's dare again. I WANNA. Talk about a little bit more of course about your life, just to kind of circle back on some of the professional last August. So almost a year ago, I got an email from you. I was checking in saying, Hey, when can we get together and I didn't know you were still in the city at that point Europe back still in. Vietnam. Then to new, Orleans to shoot a new showtime show with Bryan. CRANSTON. So that's like it's quite a living Isaiah. I, if you put it if you put it like that. People sort of criticize me sometimes because I make it seem like just kind of like a normal. By. It's like if you're expecting someone to say, okay I'm just not leaving Paris. and. I'll be at Hong Kong for a couple of days, and then we'll hook up at the coffee shop back in the APP. City. But that's that's what I was doing. That's what I als- Dorgan. Is. Seems like always call me when when you get your. Name or drop where you are but. I can tell you the most famous one. person, but I got a call from director one time. And he said Isaiah, where are you? And I was shooting a movie in London at I had about a week or so off. So I flew to Italy. Because I was looking to buy up property over there at one time when I was driving from Rome to Florence. But. I'm driving driving driving in the phone rings and it's this director says where are you and I said, well, I was in. London. But at about week off enrollment in what my way to, Florence? To meet with my lawyer Giacomo. To purchase. This property. I was thinking Oh, my God. Oh, my God. This is it. This is it. You know I'm in London a my way to Florence. I got this famous corrector calling me of my God. This is this is happening is happening. This is how it works. You know. And the Director of the Saas Greatest Housebreak, and we talk a little bit about the wire and how much he enjoyed it and everything like that, and he said, okay, well, you know enjoy your trip to Florence. And I was like. Wait a minute. We're supreme. Or? No. I was ready to wreck by car I was like Dude, you're really messing this up. You're messing up that you know I'm waiting for we want you to star. S The next Dr Schneider, it was like come on, come on with it. You know I'm driving on the phone you know come on, come on what is the deal you know? Just. Just. What I tell people. You know, especially, my actor Francis Story. they have no sympathy. Nine and you know, and the thing is that here's the other reality is yes. After Vietnam did have to go to Nola New Orleans and yet. Unfortunately, you're like, I, think eighty percent of the way through shooting and covert hits and everybody bails on New Orleans and you as I recall the story kind of gave up your New York apartment. 'cause you're going to be there for months so. You're now stuck in New Orleans with no Bourbon Street action in none of your little friends. So you know it's it's tough to be famous in dreams homeless. I go, I'm homeless reminds me of what I got to New York I was homeless for about maybe. I wasn't even living here. You could have had my bad sleeper SOFA. No, it was bad. I had gotten together with a bunch of friends and we had a little small theater down in La Chelsea which was bad time away on the left side and I would go in there. I would sneak in there at night on sleep, but I always had to be out by eight o'clock before anybody got. They're letting. We know that I was sleeping there and I would get up around about seven o'clock and just go and sit in the subway on a bench and other continue sleeping or get on the train ride for a while I. Mean, it was. It was bad. This is. This was like. Just, jump what tracks. and. India. Olympic e train, get me or or I mean. About, as low as I'd ever gotten I, don't think I really remember that story that time in your life, what what changed after that Isaiah. got a great job as a bartender started Mickey, a lot of money, and then I could afford an apartment and by the grace of God, you know things stabilize. No. But It was bad and it was during the winter. Winter used to be really Bad York City, a before global warming and. It was just mad I'm glad that you pulled up out of that, and I don't know if this started your your love and appreciation of wine that bartending senior view. But your bio talks about you being kind of like a renaissance man and I do know this about you. You're a huge wine collector when you were in. Italy. Did that property have anything to do with a vineyard 'cause I? Know you bottled your own? Label didn't you? Did. I. Did do like my own label and everything like that I? Still make what? And like I, Love Lucy with the bathtub when everybody says that, but a winemaker, a great winemaker from Italy explained to me why they? Do the wine and stuff with their feet in some places. It's rare. But in some places, it is still done. About, the bruising up the great. So you get sexier wine when it's done with your feet because she don't tear up the great soul that much and stuff's. Released into the wind salt, that is that is still happening. But again, want to you know, maybe possibly do something in Italy wine and stuff like that. But circumstances Kinda changed. Now I just make enough wine to. Give to friends and stuff like that. They seem to enjoy. Not only did I not get the gold plated autographed bobblehead abuse saying she it. I don't believe I've gotten an Isiah whitlock bottle of wine. So when you get back. You never got a bubble bobble head. I got one of the early. I did not get. Plated autographed one mall of Bobble. Head bobblehead. Nor did I get a bottle of wine? The, gold, the gold plated bobblehead trying to. Trying to get at this. Nobody. Kind of fizzled a little bit that was Kinda. Like a special thing we were. We were giving out. Case the. Judge. Players Isaiah. The gold bobblehead was like you know like a grand, you know. Year, what time did I? Give you want in the box that ship to me in the mail? Would you? You GotTa First Tradition Bobble head and that word that's working. Explain what we're talking about by the way. I make these bobbleheads that it is a talking bobblehead. says she it and You can get the bobblehead. It's in their three phrases. Three ways. Say she it on the Bobblehead? It's a great product, and it's a very solid well-made crowd up and we a campaign on kickstarter and we raised over one hundred, thousand August. Two, minute. To. Make. Around. Business. started. Wondering you know. Creating all. But when they handed me the check I was like, you know, should I blow like real clay Davis and say, Hey, look you know. Keeping. A. Cuts. It was like now I gotta be. Thought people would say, well, you know it was Davis that we were giving the money to so. You. know he t took all of it, but we didn't make the bobblehead and I think we we sold about ten down how and we're on the third or fourth addition. But. But, the bobble is still doesn't. ANSWER, why didn't get the bottle of wine, but that's okay because I know you're coming back to New, York soon, that will make you pay or your are well, I mean, I've got quite enough wine you WanNa. Get. is the the new avenue wine coming out? They're very high in grapes got from NAPA, and that's not gonNA get. You want hurricane does. better than the two buck chuck that I have in the camp. Now. You've been to my Hannukah parties before as I mentioned so. What's your opinion on the best wine to pair with lot goes? Come on. What you said, he had buck chuck. are better than. that. I'm not. I'm not talking about the lockers I'm is just you know people come into the party and everything like that. But what I would do with lockers, I would go with like a Pinot noir or. Maybe Merrill of to me. Definitely, not a Cabernet that would just be way too heavy. If it was a party, you could also do Like a real nice French Beaujolais something that's not going to overwhelm. You could also maybe do a white. But wouldn't do anything real acidic even though they're like potatoes and things like that. Still WanNa have that taste Peru. You don't WanNA overwhelmed by Roy heavy walk. Splits bring it back to current time. Now with what we mentioned in New Orleans, what's the name of the show and Wendy, you think it'll actually see the light of day on. Showtime. Will the name of the show is your honor and Bryan? CRANSTON plays a judge. So deals with the the legal system here in New Orleans. But it could be pretty much anywhere covered the wire dealing with everything that was happening in Baltimore, but the field is somewhat universal. I think it's going to be a great series We got about maybe three quarters of the way. and. We had to shut down the IT. So wants things Kinda ease up or we flatten occur will get back together. Often. Open Yeah. Sure they will. Have a cool segue to this one. But I do want to talk about a little bit more of your past because. I love that you are one of eleven children. And at least two of you are kind of famous. Maybe more you WanNa talk about that. Well, my sister is one half of. Madison. Lord in the Momma. Bear and Madison Ward is our son. My nephew, so they have a dual that they play. For on now, pretty much all over the world, but they're doing very well and as much as love that I love that I was just a checking out some of the tweets recently. So. Isaiah. Do. You. Have a favorite memory of say me. A little bit about me. God We? Maybe, when I played nurse Carol. And what did you play? We did a corporate video that my sister was producing for the National League for nursing. We. Got You cheap back then. You, know back to that was still. On your resume for awhile. Yeah. That was that was a good job I. do remember though I was I was newer. And I had gone to Harlem to buy a WIG. Yes. Yes. Yes. I gave a broader wig. We just did use the WIG, but I think your sister wanted me to have bigger. Yeah and I had this wig I handle. Wish. And I remember the guy in Harlem being very angry with me because he had tried a bunch of wigs on and I thought Oh. No, No God. No I'm here on the some pimp. were. Ticket. And and he became very angry. Not Not not angry but I remember him saying, well, Okay I love the Wanted to look around, that was my way of getting out of it and he's low. You know. Go out there and look at look at the rest, and then when you come back, you'll get the best that argument room said you know had. Wanted to say. You've got a beautiful collection of James Brownrigg here, but I'm just not playing Jake Brown. I'm supposed to be adopter orderly. In a hospital and. This is just not gonNA work lift. Golden in that thing I think that you probably trend or. It worked. It worked it. It was fine. You know. I mean, you look at it now, but you know people were not bald back that everybody. Started, but I remember thinking they're going to give me shot. You know if you're. Kind of. Banners, it's video. Yet for your. Results of the time speaking of holiday meals. We did go visit my sister once and it was during. Passover. Passover you open the door to a spirit named Elijah and you invite in anyone who needs food and sustenance, and what have you in new set a cup of wine out for Elisa. So. My sister did know you were coming. So at a certain point in the meal, don't you know that side? And it said all right now, we're GONNA go open the door for Elijah. Indoor, and there was is Ahah. Yeah. Well not quite Elisa as. I answer took both just let let me in. Let me in because. Oh, my God we've had. We've had some fun over the years. Now that was that was. It was I never been to anything. Like that and so it was it was quite an experience, quite an interesting experience. The only thing I gotta say is. It was a very peculiar. Passover Yep, you're Y-. CHOPPED UP Milan's. I didn't want to say anything at the time but It was. To your palate fill to fish. That's what you're thinking of. Saying with No. Filter fish. Good good skills to yet. Well, I'd it. Honestly, it tasted like the name of it. It's appropriately named, but it was yet. Wow, I'm glad this is not the first thing I tasted because. A large allies. Allies there would have been on his way back to trade. I I haven't. I. Haven't played allies. But, it was the because a good a filter. But it was very, very nice and it was good. See your sister and spend that time was wonderful. Well, you are always welcome as Elijah or Isaiah or on my podcast. Wait for you to come back to New York. I'm. GonNa Start Getting requests to to to show up at people's our. Youtube I would say to them. Make him bring the wine. Isaiah, we could definitely go on for another hour and it's been so much fun. Thank you so much for first and foremost being my friend all these years second of all for you know everything you give to everybody as their friend and and your your generosity and entertainment and. I. I love you and I think that you are tremendous. So bushel as Ahah Whitelock Junior, it's quite a living. headed. You almost forget that line. Read that you want that again. I don't remember like I used to. As Ahah, woodlock, junior, stay safe stay well on your way home from. New, Orleans, and all APP to say is Isaiah. It's quite a living. Maybe, it's quite a my. Thank you. My friend. Well, I. Really WanNa. Thank you for listening for sharing. I, subscribing to hopefully been rating this podcast and telling your friends because after all this is just about talking with friends. So thank you for being in my expanding circle of friends. and. The truth is whether you're living white the living. were. All really lucky to be living white the life.

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