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“Looking Like Bobby Is Not My Goal, Being Bobby Is My Goal” Arlen Escarpeta Talks Role In The Whitney Houston Biopic
When pictures of Yaya DaCosta and Arlen Escarpeta as Whitney and Bobby surfaced, people had all types of things to say. There were comments that Arlen looked too nice and decent to play Bad Boy Bobby, or too attractive. There were even people who said he looked gay. But more than anything people wondered, where is the gap?
Well, honey we’ve got answers for you. We had the chance to speak to Mr. Escarpeta about his experience working on the upcoming Lifetime movie, the Houston family’s objections, including Bobbi Kristina’s rant, his response to the backlash and why he was missing Bobby’s signature gap.
See what he had to say below.
What initially influenced you to go after this role?
The initial audition was clearly something that everyone went out for. Clearly, Angela as a director is something that immediately pulls you in. She’s going to draw a lot of actors being such a tremendous actress herself. And then you know Bobby and Whitney’s story. I grew up listening to Bobby Brown. And being able to play him from the inside out, versus from the media standpoint, from the outside in, I think that’s what pulled me in initially.
Were you a Bobby Brown fan?
Definitely. I entered a dance contest when I was younger. “Every Little Step I Take,” Tenderoni,” you can go down the list. Bobby Brown, he was the man when I was growing up. So, absolutely.
How did you prepare? Did you get insight on what Bobby was like off stage.
There wasn’t much support from the family in regards to that. So what I did was try to watch as many interviews as I could with Bobby and Whitney together or just Whitney talking about Bobby, Bobby talking about himself, picked up a couple of books and tried to get as much insight as I could from that standpoint. And then the other thing that I did was really get behind Bobby and Whitney’s love for one another. I think that was really the mainstay for Bobby’s character. You know, hone in on that passion, that love that they have for one another.
Did you have any reservations about doing the film without the support of Whitney’s family?
Not many reservations, if any at all because I trust Angela as a director. And I know that if it wasn’t something that was going to be done with class and with respect, she wouldn’t have her name on it. If it wasn’t someone that I knew and that I trusted in that way, then I would have probably felt some type of way about it. But Angela being the upstanding and classy person and actress that she is–with Angela at the captain’s table I didn’t have any reservations as far as that was concerned.
How was Angela Bassett as director?
There were no days off. Everyday, she asked and she pulled and she wanted something from me. She wanted to feel and know that you understood who you were playing and to give it every single day. And that was a treat. Every single day, I learned something different. I learned something different about myself as an actor, something different about Bobby, something different about Whitney. There were so many days of discovery, just different pieces of the puzzle that all came together. And I attribute that to Angela because she was really, really, really one of the catalysts that pulled and pushed this whole thing forward. And I feel that any of the actors that worked with her would give her her credit in that regard.
What did you think about Bobbi Kristina’s comments against Angela Bassett?
Oh yeah I read what she said. I didn’t pay to much attention to it at all because honestly, she’s coming from a place of passion, she’s coming from a place of love. She loves, loves loves her mother, like any child would. It’s completely understandable. I’m certain if there was a place for her to be a part of the film, in front of the camera, I’m certain Angela would have found it for her. But given our schedule, the shooting schedule and exactly what Angela wanted…unfortunately it didn’t work out. If she brought something to the table that Angela thought she could have really, really utilized I’m certain she would have been there.
But then at the same time, you also have to ask yourself, certain times when it comes to films or tv shows, whatever, sometimes someone can be too close to the project or too close to the person and that can create an issue as well. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out but much respect to Bobbi Kristina, I more than understand where she was coming from, absolutely.
Have you received any backlash for this part?
I didn’t receive any personal backlash. There were a couple of tweets here and there. Some people didn’t think I looked like Bobby, which is fine I’m an actor. It’s not my job to look like Bobby, it’s not a look-a-like contest. Looking like Bobby is not my goal, being Bobby is my goal. A little bit of backlash here and there. A lot of people saying I look gay in the picture…You know, it’s fine. I take it all in stride. For me, it’s par with the course. When you’re playing someone as iconic as Bobby Brown, you have to expect that there’s going to be some type of backlash or something specific that people are looking for. All I can say is, when the film comes out, take a look and then we can talk then.
Do you have someone singing for you, like Deborah Cox is singing, as Whitney, for Yaya DaCosta?
I’m not doing the singing myself. There’s a gentlemen by the name of Carlos Battey. He’s from a writing group called The Jackie Boyz. He covered “Every Little Step I Take.” I had a good time with it. I got to dance, I got to sing. I got to wear some of the loudest suits I’ve ever worn in my life. It was a good time. I got to go to dance rehearsal. I got to work with Fatima Robinson and her team of choreographers it was an amazing experience.
Please tell me that you sang “Something In Common”
We alluded to it. In regards to some of the music clearances, we couldn’t do as much as we wanted to. We got to where we needed to be and I think that people who know the song will get it, but we didn’t get to go through the whole song, no.
So tell us why didn’t you have the gap?
The gap is definitely Bobby. Everybody knows Bobby for his gap. Unfortunately, with our shooting schedule, there’s a time constraint. And you know for a dental mold that would actually fit in my mouth properly, allow me to still act, allow me to still be able to lip synch and do all these different things, it just didn’t come into play. They played with a couple of different pieces and neither of those pieces really stood out and looked real enough. And at some point, the producers and myself and Angela as well, we agreed that it’d be best to go without the gap for the simple fact that if it’s going to look that bad and that not real, that would be even more of a disservice than not having the gap at all. And the acting has to come first. So if I can look like Bobby, like we were talking about before, but can’t play the part, that just wouldn’t work.
I look forward to hearing what people have to say and what they think. It was an amazing time, it was an amazing opportunity and you know, onwards and upwards.
The biopic won’t air until next year, so in the meantime, be sure to look out for Arlen in the new film “Into The Storm” in theaters August 8.
Despite the dissension from Cissy Houston and Bobbi Kristina, the Whitney Houston biopic is a go. And if you don’t believe me, you need look no further than the recent behind the scenes interview Entertainment Tonight conducted with director Angela Bassett, star Yaya DeCosta and vocalist Deborah Cox.
During the interview, Entertainment Tonight asked Bassett how she felt about Bobbi Kristina’s Twitter rant against her for not casting her in the film. Bassett, always a class act, said she understood where Bobbi Kristina was coming from.
“I respect anyone’s feelings and truths. So I mean, I can understand it. I can understand it. She adores her mother. And in this process, I lost my mother so I get it. And I love Bobbi Kristina.”
About all the controversy, Bassett said while she was prepared for it, she hasn’t allowed it to get to her.
“With great opportunity there will be criticism, so you learn to expect that but you what you don’t need is to be going out looking for naysayers. You know, you have a job to do.”
And Yaya, who I thought was Whitney on first glance, shared a similar sentiment when she learned she had earned the role.
“I kind of shut off all social media because I didn’t want to be distracted by the, you know, the expectations, you know the naysayers.”
Good thing, because there’s been quite a bit.
Check out the video of Yaya in action below.
From what you saw, what do you think about Yaya as Whitney? And then just go ahead and confirm how classy Angela Bassett is for handling Bobbi Kristina’s comments with such grace. She is a better woman than I.
We could only assume that the Houston family didn’t support Lifetime making a Whitney Houston biopic. The family was not a part of the process and had not signed over any rights allowing the production to use her recordings. And then there was that very unbecoming outburst from Bobbi Kristina (for which she later apologized) in reference to Angela Bassett not considering her for the role of her mother.
Well now, Cissy Houston is stepping forward with a statement of her own regarding the biopic. And to put it simply, she’s not happy.
“Lifetime has chosen to go ahead with the movie about Whitney in spite of my family’s objections. No one connected with this movie knew Whitney or anything about her relationship with Bobby.
In the two years since Whitney’s death, many people have stepped forward to speak about their close relationship with her. I find it difficult to believe people who knew and supposedly loved her would participate in a movie about her done by folks who didn’t know her.
We are exhausted by the continuing misinformation and comments offered by people who did not know her. Please, please let her rest.”
Wow. It’s hard to read this and not take it as a direct jab to Angela Bassett, who is serving as director for this movie. We all know that she and Whitney famously worked on Waiting to Exhale together but it seems Cissy doesn’t feel that was enough to make a movie about her daughter.
Without the family’s approval, do you think that Lifetime should proceed with the film?
By Alley Olivier
A biopic aims to provide an in-depth look into the lives of legends, both living and deceased, but most of the time, when word gets out about them, they are often criticized for missing the mark in one way or another. The story was either too focused, missed major events or attempted to encompass everything, and in that, only glossed over the surface. If that’s not it, then people are calling foul on the actor for not looking EXACTLY like the icon whose life is being followed on film, and that distracts from the story at large. People want to walk away from a biopic learning something new and impactful about a particular group or person, and a die-hard fan wants to see more than a handful of facts easily highlighted on Wikipedia. The stakes are high with biopics, and they won’t be able to please everyone, but bringing the stories of our stars to life is very necessary.
For hip-hop and R&B, there are no textbooks giving the details on the lives of those we follow and love. Our greatest leaders live on the same wax they left behind. Biopics are important because the music that has evolved into what it is today has a lot to do with the contributions of our fallen stars. A particular sound, dance move, vocal arrangement and style is never 100 percent original. There is always some amount of influence from predecessors. In hip-hop and R&B, having a biopic celebrates the lives and work of so many of our greatest artists and allows for a younger generation to connect while providing the older generation with an opportunity to reflect.
Any film is going to come with criticism. The casting is wrong. The plot is off. The film, overall, just did not get it right. But criticism aside, if no one attempted to do a biopic of legends like Aaliyah, Whitney Houston, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and more, there would also be cause for an uproar. That’s how important they are. Our black figures have made contributions that span wider than their genres of music, and they’ve affected American culture enough to bring people of different racial backgrounds together, provide a skeleton or blueprint of sorts for other genres and much more.
In the time of N.W.A, a snapshot of history is woven into the stories they tell organically. For the younger generation, this is important in understanding how music has changed over time and how their social hardships directly influenced their lyrics. You can listen to an artist and love their music, but you might not fully understand it unless you relive the big moments and put everything in context. Biopics relive the big moments.
The chances for a biopic to get it wrong are much higher than it is to get it right. A lack of research and poor casting can be detrimental to the story being portrayed. But whether these biopics appear on the small screen, big screen, Netflix or straight-to-DVD, they are important in preserving and celebrating our culture. There will always be celebrations of the legacies of Aaliyah, Whitney, N.W.A., Jimi and James through the music left behind, but a biopic allows for us to relive their contributions and learn about them beyond what we thought we knew. Biopics will never be perfect, but they will always tell a story that we need to hear.
Now that Lifetime has announced who will be starring in their controversial biopic about Whitney Houston’s life, they’re answering one question that folks are dying the know the answer to: What do they plan to do about music in the film?
According to E!, although Angela Bassett previously stated that Lifetime had acquired the rights to Whitney’s music, they apparently only acquired rights from music publishers, but not for the actual recordings of Whitney’s music. To get around that, the network has hired singer Deborah Cox to re-record some of Whitney’s greatest hits. The film’s star, Yaya DaCosta, will then lip-sync to Deborah’s recordings. Lifetime reps say “music rights and clearances are still being worked out.”
We’re guessing producers probably ran into some roadblocks while trying to attain full rights to Whitney’s music due to the family’s disapproval of the biopic. From the looks of it, this movie is going to be a good one. Earlier this week, we reported on a photo of Yaya, which replicated Whitney’s 1987 album cover.
“I just looked at the picture and did the pose!” Yaya told Entertainment Weekly of the image.
Do you think Deborah was a good choice?
Follow Jazmine on Twitter @JazmineDenise
The first image of Whitney and Bobby together for the Lifetime biopic has been released. As we reported earlier, Belizean actor Arlen Escarpeta earned the role of Brown, starring alongside Yaya DaCosta who will play Whitney Houston.
Personally, I think the casting is pretty spot on. It would be impossible to find someone who looks exactly like Brown but this is pretty close. The hair is everything.
One of my coworkers argued that he looks too clean cut but back in the ’90′s Bobby Brown was a bit more clean cut than he is now. Some you all recall the days when he was the ultimate bad boy sex symbol.
But let us know what you think about this casting. Does it work for you?
And in other Whitney biopic news, Angela Bassett posted an open casting call on her Twitter account, inviting anyone in LA who would like to come and be an extra in the biopic to show up for food and fun.
— Angela Bassett (@ImAngelaBassett) July 14, 2014
We imagine they’ll probably be in a concert scene.
The biopic, which Bassett mentioned will be shot in 21 days, will be released early next year.
Are you still feeling good about it?
This past Monday, we showed you the first look at Jimi Hendrix’s All Is By My Side biopic trailer with Andre 3000. In lieu of biopics, we are excited to present leading lady Yaya DaCosta of The Whitney Houston biopic replicating Houston’s hit 1987 album, Whitney.
According to Entertainment Weekly, DaCosta just recently began filming for the Lifetime movie, which is why this promo photo was released. The America’s Next Top Model veteran said of the pic:
“I just looked at the picture and did the pose!”
The Whitney Houston biopic, directed by Houston’s Waiting To Exhale costar and friend Angela Bassett, will air in early 2015 via Lifetime Television Network. DaCosta was cast to play the late iconic singer despite Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina protests. Bobbie Kristina stated if there were to be a biopic based on her mother’s life, her mother would want her to have the leading role, but clearly Angela Bassett had something different in mind. She responded to BK’s claim, saying:
“I did not think about casting her. And probably for a number of reasons, you know. One being that she’s not an actress. I know she’s acted here and there. I know she’s been on their family’s reality show, but she’s not an actress and acting is a craft. It’s an attempt to illuminate the complexities of human behavior and life. And this is a very fast-paced schedule; we have just 21 days to tell this story. It’s more than just saying lines and turning the light on. You have to drive the story—there’s a technical aspect.”
According to the Lifetime Network, the Whitney biopic will revolve around: “the headline-making relationship between the iconic singer, actress, producer and model, and singer, songwriter Bobby Brown — from the time they first met at the very height of their celebrity, to their courtship and tumultuous marriage. Throughout it all, difficulties followed the superstar couple while they dealt with the overwhelming rewards and consequences of the fame and fortune created by Whitney’s meteoric rise that would soon overshadow them both.”
Bassett noted the film will not cover Houston’s untimely death and by the looks of it DaCosta will give us a run for our money with her life-changing role.
Don’t you love DaCosta’s photo?
Kim Burrell Speaks On Whitney Houston Biopic: “Now That She’s Gone People Want To Say What They’ve Been Wanting To Say”
Just about everyone has an opinion on the upcoming Lifetime Whitney Houston biopic, from fans of the international superstar, to the singer’s family, and the director of the film, Angela Bassett. Adding one more point of view to the pot, we asked gospel artist Kim Burrell how she feels about the upcoming TV movie and all of the controversy around it at the annual McDonald’s 365 Black Awards in New Orleans during Essence Festival. Though Kim isn’t involved with the film at all, she did tell us she’s working on a separate documentary about Whitney Houston, saying whichever project people support, she hopes fans will get to know and love her friend of almost 16 years the way she did. Check out the interview above and see what she had to say.
Bobbi Kristina Apologizes For Calling Angela Bassett A Manly B-Word, But Says Bassett Was Disrespectful Too
We told you earlier this week that after Angela Bassett explained why she didn’t pick Bobbi Kristina to play Whitney Houston in the biopic Bassett is working on for Lifetime (because BK is not a trained actress…made sense to me), Bobbi Kristina tried to take a shot at the Academy Award nominee and acting legend.
“Ha! Ms. Ang “basket case” has such a damn nerve. My Lord, at the least the world doesn’t mistake me for the wrong sex. She has #XTRAequipment.”
“When I win my first Grammy or Oscar, *Shrugs* hmm whichever comes 1st, I’ll be sure 2 shout UR name out b**ch ! hah Ur Test Results= MALE. Lmao”
Yes, it was quite the immature response. And Bobbi Kristina must have realized that she was way too into her feelings, because she decided to take to Twitter yesterday to apologize for talking crazy about Bassett, and to also vow to make her late mother proud.
“I’m a young women that can admit her wrongs. 4who was offended I apologize BUT understand me before your quick to judge though. ThankU”
“I will celebrate your life , I will celebrate you, I will carry you on, I will make you proud, I will love & cherish you mylady”
“No matter what, I will continue to stand my ground as a young women. One thing you CAN depend on is My mother taught me well”
But Bobbi Kristina also took some time to chat with followers about feeling that the way Bassett spoke about not picking her to play Whitney for the movie was kind of disrespectful. BK says she’s the bigger person because she publicly apologized for her words:
What do you think of Bobbi Kristina’s apology? And was Bassett a little hard on her by speaking about Bobbi’s acting abilities in public instead of addressing her first? Talk about it below.
Bobbi Kristina Goes After Angela Bassett For Biopic Casting Decision: ‘At Least The World Doesn’t Mistake Me For The Wrong Sex’
We seriously doubt that Angela Bassett intended to be shady when she expressed why Bobbi Kristina was not considered by casting directors to star in the biopic about her late mother’s life. But unsurprisingly, the 20-year-old aspiring singer and actress certainly took it that way. In case you missed it, Angela, who’s directing the anticipated bio film, recently shared why producers didn’t really think to have Krissy audition for the film and her primary reason was that she is not a professional actress.
“I did not think about that. I did not think about casting her,” Angela told Entertainment Weekly. “And probably for a number of reasons, you know. One being that she’s not an actress. I know she’s acted here and there. I know she’s been on their family’s reality show, but she’s not an actress and acting is a craft. It’s an attempt to illuminate the complexities of human behavior and life. And this is a very fast-paced schedule; we have just 21 days to tell this story. It’s more than just saying lines and turning the light on. You have to drive the story—there’s a technical aspect.”
As you may recall, when news of the Lifetime biopic first broke, Krissy expressed that she should’ve been cast to play her mother. Angela’s response seemed pretty reasonable and quite understandable. However, to a person aspiring to be an actress, we can also see how her response could have been perceived as a tad bit slighting. Krissy took to Twitter shortly after Angela’s interview went viral and shared a few choice words regarding the comments.
“Ha! Ms. Ang “basket case” has such a damn nerve,” the former reality star tweeted. “My Lord, at the least the world doesn’t mistake me for the wrong sex. She has #XTRAequipment.”
“When I win my first Grammy or Oscar, *Shrugs* hmm whichever comes 1st, I’ll be sure 2 shout UR name out b**ch ! hah Ur Test Results= MALE. Lmao”
Tough girl act aside, it appears that Krissy’s feelings may have been a little hurt by Angela comments. We don’t anticipate that Angela will be responding to her attack anytime soon—or ever for that matter.
Follow Jazmine on Twitter @JazmineDenise