Extras in movies don’t typically get their moment in the sun, but the opposite was true back in the late 1990s when cameras were rolling on the hit comedy-drama “The Best Man.” It was there that an emotional moment “Ambitions” star Brian White had while filming seriously set his acting career in motion.
“I was in one scene in the church and I cried because Morris Chestnut was doing such a good job acting, and the camera caught me and they put me in about 12 more scenes — I was an extra, no lines,” White said to Atlanta Black Star in September.
He said that after doing “my best” he maintained a friendly rapport with stars Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard and Chestnut. Two months later, he ran into the stars at a Los Angeles club.
“They remembered me from being an extra in their movie,” White explained. As he caught up with Diggs, Howard and Chestnut, Chemin Sylvia Bernard, a casting director, walked up to them.
“‘Hey, you have a great look! Are you an actor?'” the TV star recalled. “And I said, ‘no,’ and those three guys said, ‘Yes, he is! He was just in our movie! He’s amazing!'”
White made it clear he was an extra, but Bernard said that didn’t matter and handed him her card before inviting him to come audition the next day for a show she was casting.
“I auditioned that next morning for a show called ‘Moesha,’ and I did eight episodes that season,” White says. “And that was the first time I ever had a series regular role. And I was taken off that show and put on another show and the rest, as they say, is history.”
The actor wasn’t just limited to sitcom roles after “Moesha.” He went on to return to film as a supporting character in films like “Stomp the Yard” and “Good Deeds.” He later returned to TV with recurring stints on “Men of a Certain Age,” “Scandal,” “Ray Donovan,” and the series “Beauty and the Beast.” Today, he plays the fictional mayor of Atlanta in “Ambitions.”
With all of his gigs since the ’90s, he has this to say to hopeful actors.
“Never be afraid to start as an extra,” he says. “Always be humble, always be hungry, always present your best self, and you never know what can happen.”