Brian J. White has been a consistent face in so many of our favorite series and films. I still remember his character's crazy but sexy relationship with Olivia Pope on Scandal. And who can forget him repping the Theta's in the college classic Stomp the Yard
Well, today, he's gearing up for the release of a new one, Ambitions (which makes its premiere Tuesday, June 18 on OWN). The story digs into how far people will go to make their desires come true, even when it endangers their relationships and more. Brian has a juicy storyline playing Atlanta Mayor Evan Lancaster, who is very dedicated to his own aspirations. But in real life, the 46-year-old is a successful happily married family man with a passionate perspective on ambition and relationships.
In our chat, we discussed his views on career-focused women, marriage, and advice for singles and serious couples alike.
In your own words, what makes an individual ambitious?
I don't think ambition is connected to achievement, I think it's a desire or want. Every person on earth has ambitions but not many achieve them because of what it takes. Ambitions explores what's required. It portrays those that achieve it, those that struggle with it, and everything in between.
What do you think about the theory that people should be with someone who matches them, in reference to achievements, finances, education, and etc?
I think that's a misuse of the word, "matches them" could be exchanged for "suits." Some people think if they're a doctor they should be with a doctor, or if they're a lawyer they should be with a lawyer. They want someone "on their level" and I think that's why a lot of people aren't in the right relationships. They've put boxes on a potential prospect that could fulfill them based off on what they think their soulmate should be. Get rid of the boxes. The tighter they are, the less likely you are to meet the actual fit for you. Our partners are complements of us; they're not mirrors. If you're meeting someone you can already conceptualize, they're adding nothing to your life.
Courtesy of Brian J. White
"Get rid of the boxes. The tighter they are, the less likely you are to meet the actual fit for you. Our partners are complements of us; they're not mirrors."
When you met your wife, were there characteristics you were looking for, or personality traits you felt suited you?
I was not looking at all, and she had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and didn't want to date either. My dad always told me, "Wait until you just can't stay away from someone. Never go looking for a relationship when you're a young and successful man. Wait until someone comes and derails you off the path." When I met my wife, I kept hearing his voice saying, "This is the one." So, I started changing my life to prepare and be everything I felt she deserved in a partner. What was most attractive about my wife was that she wasn't interested in me. She was a corporate woman who was very into her career, and I was a little actor guy (laughs). We just became best friends first and everything fell into place.
With her being so career-focused, do you think her ambition was part of the attraction?
Absolutely. I have five younger sisters who all have their degrees. They are five black, beautiful, strong, and educated women. When I was at Dartmouth, one of the things the women were proud about and would openly discuss was that they didn't have to necessarily use their degree. They would go to Dartmouth and then law school and knew they could make millions or become President, but also desired marriage and family. I saw that in my wife, she didn't need to be in the position she's in, she wanted to be. That was very attractive to me. Also, that she wasn't looking to date. I met her at my home. I was living with a female housemate (separate floors) and she simply came over to visit one day for dinner, we met casually.
Interesting, so when women exude that they’re looking to date, is that a turn-off?
For me, yes. I think a woman's most attractive state is when she's doing her thing. You see her pride, beauty, elegance, and everything. It might be a lunch break from her business or art job. That's when she's most powerful. When you're at the club for example, it's like an African Serengeti, everything is a target and you're out there with a gun. Any of those typical situations, like dating apps, you're assuming no emotional connection. Unless your true goal is only physical, the best place to meet people is in their natural life. Like when I met Paula, I was at home.
Courtesy of Brian J. White
"I think a woman's most attractive state is when she's doing her thing. You see her pride, beauty, elegance, and everything. That's when she's most powerful."
How did you know she was the one?
My Dad passed last year, and I included this story in his eulogy. He used to have these sayings, two-word sayings. One was, "you'll know." Well, Paula and I had been dating a few years and it was going well. We had talked about long-term but hadn't got to marriage. Anyway, one day we were sleeping and suddenly, I'm awakened to this booming voice of my dad saying, "Jodi (he used to call me Jodi), you'll know."
I’m a sap, so I’m loving this. But I must ask, what were some of the hardships and struggles you two went through?
Travel and separation for sure. The first time I worked with Boris and Nicole they taught me about the two-week rule. What makes couples not work is distance. You're not familiar with each other and you end up starting the dating process over and over again rather than furthering it. So, my wife and I ended up with the 10-day rule for most of my career, and we've maintained it. We almost always travel as a family.
If you could give a piece of advice to couples looking to make the step toward marriage, what would it be?
Well, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. It's a partnership and a contract. Make sure you know about each other's health, debt, and credit issues. What do you each own? Do you want kids, what religion are you raising them? Are you both social? Do you like to smoke weed and drink whiskey, your partner may need to know that. Long-term, all these things matter. And you must talk about all of it before you get married.
You can catch Brian J. White starring in Will Packer's Ambitions coming June 18 to the OWN Network.
For even more of him, follow him on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Brian J. White