“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.