Monday, May 25, 2009

David Mann: The “Meet the Browns” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Meet the Manns

Born on August 7, 1966 with a beautiful singing voice, Texas-native David Mann began honing his skills in his grandfather’s church at an early age. The music world took note after he tunefully teamed up with three-time Grammy-winning gospel sensation Kirk Franklin and the Family.
Mann added acting to his impressive repertoire when he joined forces with Tyler Perry, introducing the flamboyant Leroy Brown to audiences in stage productions of I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Madea’s Class Reunion, Meet the Browns, What’s Done in the Dark and Madea’s Family Reunion. He subsequently reprised the role in the screen adaptations of Meet the Browns and Madea Goes to Jail before bringing the shameless scene-stealer to mainstream America via the TBS sitcom Meet the Browns.
His partner both professionally and in real-life has been his equally-talented wife, Tamela, who has co-starred as his daughter, Cora, in all of the aforementioned Tyler Perry offerings. The spiritually-oriented couple has been married for 21 years, a sacred union which has been blessed with four fun-loving children and three adorable grandchildren. Here, David talks about their hit television series which is set to start its second season with back-to-back episodes on May 27th starting at 10 PM on TBS.

KW: Thanks for the time, David.
DM: Thank you.
KW: How does it feel to be starting the second season of Meet the Browns?
DM: I’m definitely excited about it. I’m just kind of sitting back and going “Wow!” because I realize that this is not an opportunity that everybody gets.
KW: Tyler Perry, being the genius that he is, certainly has recognized your talent and figured how to bring it to TV.
DM: When they told me it was for 70 episodes, I asked somebody, “Are you kidding me?” But then after the audience response to the first season, I was like, “Oh, they’re loving it.” I just couldn’t believe it, because you never know with these types of shows whether they’re going to love it or hate it. But hey, thank God they’re loving it.
KW: Do you dress in loud, tight outfits in real life, like your character, Leroy Brown, does on the show?
DM: No, I’m very conservative. My wife would not have it, and neither would I.
KW: Congratulations to you and Tamela on already being blessed with three grandchildren. How have the two of you managed to raise four children while simultaneously pursuing such successful singing and acting careers?
DM: It’s a juggling act, but it beats the alternative of not having anything to do. It’s a lot to juggle, but you know what? I’m enjoying it.
KW: I know Tyler shoots the show t his studio in Atlanta. Have you moved the family there?
DM: We have an apartment, but he we haven’t really moved there yet. We’re still based in Texas. Click your heels, there’s no place like home.
KW: Does it ever feel strange to be playing your wife’s father?
DM: It can be awkward because when we’re on set, and I have the Mr. Brown gear on, she tells me, “You’re not my husband, now. You’re my father, so no kissing or intimate stuff.” That makes it funny, because I’m always trying to kiss her, and she’s like, “Nooooo, unh-uh, not until you take that off.”
KW: What is your favorite form of entertaining, the stage, movies, TV or singing?
DM: I like the instant gratification of the stage, because you know immediately whether the audience is enjoying it or hating it. But I also like how with television, if you’re not satisfied with the first take, you can go back and redo it right then.
KW: What challenges did you encounter in making the move from acting onstage to in front of the camera?
DM: One of the hardest transitions involved in coming from the stage to TV was that I was very animated. With TV, less is more, so I had to dial it down from 10 to about 6. That was kinda hard for me at first. The movements have to be smaller, and more contained, although sometimes, they’ll say, “Hey, go ahead, just do it.”
KW: I guess you have a lot more leeway with a character as colorful as yours.
DM: Definitely.
KW: Does Tyler Perry direct any of the episodes?
DM: He’ll come in in the morning, we’ll do a read through and then he also directs most of them. And if he thinks of a better joke while we’re shooting, he’ll say, “Try this…” And it works! I don’t know how he does it. He’s everywhere. I guess they unplug him and take his batteries out at night.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you that you wish someone would?
DM: No, I think they’ve hit everything.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
DM: Tasha’s been on a couple episodes of Meet the Browns. I get more nervous than afraid. I think when I’m nervous, for some strange reason that makes me more alert about what I’m doing. So, right before anything, I’m nervous. But once they say “Action!” or I hit the stage, I’m good.
KW: How much of your character, Mr. Brown, was on the page, and how much did you contribute to creating it?
DM: It’s about 50-50. They kinda give me the skeleton, and I’ll put the meat on it. A lot of it is ad-libbed. They’ll give me my lines, and I’ll take them and just go from there. Sometimes, an episode might be running a few minutes short, so they’ll just give me that room to go in and add my little brand of comedy.
KW: What can we expect new from season two of Meet the Browns.
DM: You get to learn a lot more about the different characters. The first season, we didn’t dive into their personal lives, their back stories or histories. We pretty much just got to meet Mr. Brown. Now, we get to go deep into a lot of the other characters’ business.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
DM: Very. I’ve been happier with less. So, now, with more coming in, I’m definitely not going to be miserable. 21 years of marriage… my children and grandchildren are healthy… my own television show… everything’s good. What more could you ask for?
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh?
DM: I had one this morning. But that’s just the way my life is. I have one every day. I just told my wife, “I’m going to have to start charging you, if I’m making you laugh every day.” You can’t keep getting them for free.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
DM: It was called, “His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage” by Willard Harley. []
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays?
DM: Tamela Mann. My wife has a new CD coming out in July or August called The Master Plan, so I’ve been listening to it over and over.
KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
DM: I don’t know if this counts as an obstacle, but not taking “No!” as your final answer. That was true for both me and Tamela, because we were both often told “No!” in this industry. It may be “No” for now, but it won’t always be that way.
KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
DM: Wow! How can my fans help me? Some people’s answer to that would be by leaving me alone. But my fans don’t have to leave me alone. I realize that it’s because of the fans the show is doing so well. How can the fans help? I don’t know. By watching the show.
KW: How do you feel about Barack Obama’s becoming President of the United States?
DM: I love it, although it made me a little teary-eyed because my grandfather passed away a couple of years ago, and he and some other ancestors who struggled and helped build this country didn’t get a chance to share that historic moment. I consider it such a privilege and an honor to see something like this.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
DM: I see a guy who’s grateful, not because he’s the most talented guy or the best actor, but because of nothing but the grace of God and God’s favor. I know that might sound a little deep, but that’s just the way it is.
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
DM: For my word, because your word is one of the only things you have that’s yours. And as a good husband and a good father.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
DM: Like I said before, don’t take “No” for an answer. Don’t let that be your final answer.
KW: Well, thanks again for the interview David, and best of luck with the new season.
DM: Thanks so much. I look forward to talking to you again.

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