Our Interview With TV One’s Media Cast Member, Denise Boutte
You’ve loved her in her standout roles as Trina and Sasha Brown in Tyler Perry’s 2007 film, Why Did I Get Married?, and his acclaimed TBS series, Meet The Browns. However, Denise Boutte is truly multi-talented when it comes to the world of acting. She could never be placed into just one box. The Louisiana native is making her impact throughout Hollywood, as she takes it to the next level, one character at a time.
Starting out in advertising, Boutte obtained a degree in Mass Communications and went straight into the advertising arena. With a genuine love for people and creativity being her strong suit, Boutte assumed that she had finally found her calling. She became an esteemed asset to many Dallas, Texas-based firms.
Though advertisement was the main course on her menu, at the time, Boutte also gained a great interest in the set life while working with clients on campaign shoots. Flashing lights, cameras, she loved it all. From advertising to acting, Boutte was approached by a talent agent, being presented with the opportunities of a lifetime. Not long after, she decided to take a leap of faith, moving to Los Angeles, California, to pursue dreams in the entertainment realm. She soon found herself in front of the camera, being the star of commercials, herself. Nonetheless, there was something bigger in store for the southern beauty. She went from ad campaigns to casting calls.
Boutte’s resumé speaks for itself. Aside from her notable work with the honorable Tyler Perry, she has starred in a number of other projects, such as the TV One exclusive film, For The Love of Ruth—alongside veteran actress Loretta Devine and Gary Dourdan, Secrets, a Tressa Smallwood production, and more recently, The Bounce Back, which features former Criminal Minds star Shemar Moore.
Her latest project happens to be portraying the role of Danielle Jones in another outstanding TV One film, Media. The film features a star studded-cast, including Brian White, Penny Johnson Jerald, Pooch Hall, Gary Dourdan, and, of course, Boutte, herself. Media centers on the Jones family, the owners of an urban media dynasty. As the family takes an unexpected loss, they must come together to keep the empire together. Amidst lies, conspiracies, and even rivalries, the Jones family must do everything in their power to beat the odds.
Check out our interview with Mrs. Denise Boutte. She talks about her character in Media, the importance of Blacks holding leadership roles in Hollywood, and going back to her comedic roots.
Parlé Mag: You’ll be playing Danielle Jones—wife to Brian White’s character, Michael Jones, in the film, Media. Tell us a little bit about this project and what we can expect to see.
Denise Boutte: Anything and everything that this family has to do to protect their name—whatever it is that they have to do to protect their business, they’ll do. If that means you gotta knock off a few folks or whatever, here and there, if you gotta have a conspiracy under the table, so be it. The beauty of it is that it’s not a Black story or a white story; it’s a family story. It’s a human story about what this family will go through—whatever lengths they will go through, in order to protect their empire. They built this from the ground up. Penny Johnson Jerald is just a brilliant actress, as it is, so, working alongside her, she had such gravity. Like, whenever she’s speaking, she has so much conviction. She’s just a beautiful person. So, it’s tense. You know what I’m saying? A lot of the stuff that you’ll see in this movie will have you on the edge of your seat. I mean, waiting after commercials, like “What the hell is going on?!” You know, as we were flipping through the script, it was like, ‘Oh my God!’ A lot of twists and turns that are very, very unexpected. I guess you can say, ‘seemingly uncharacteristic’ for a lot of us. For some of us, this is a very different type of genre. I started out in the world of comedy. [laughs]
Parlé Mag: Right! A total different lane now!
Denise Boutte: Yeah! But, in the last few years, I’ve been playing the bad girl you gotta watch out for. She’s not exactly as nice as she may seem on the surface. Ms. Cathy Hughes and Kevin Arkadie, they gave us something that we really could sink our teeth into, and allowed us to play and create. When you have an all-star cast that you’re creating and you’re working alongside, it was magic! It felt amazing. Like, it felt good. After we finished the scenes, we were like, “Yeahhh!” This script—from the jump, we were working with a wonderful foundation to build from.
Parlé Mag: You said you started out in comedy and later switched over to the dramatic side of acting. Were you nervous to indulge in such an intense role, like Danielle?
Denise Boutte: In the last four years, TV One has allowed me to flex my muscle. I guess you would say, in the more dramatic type characters, with regards to For The Love of Ruth. That was, for me, a total departure from the way people usually see me. If I do play drama, it’s Trina (Why Did I Get Married?). You know what I’m saying? I love it. Don’t get it twisted; this chick really has a lot of Trina going on! But, she makes Trina look like a saint! Needless to say, they’ve trusted me with some pretty big dramatic type roles. Ruth was not about the makeup or the hair, or the clothes. It was just a bible story that you really and truly had to be vulnerable. You had to be completely, like, naked; you really had to just allow yourself to free fall and be sympathetic to the character in telling their story. They’ve taken quite a few gambles on me, and I always say this, ‘You never get into something that you can’t handle.’ So, when those projects present themselves, I’m always like, ‘This is where I’m at. This is what I’m ready for.’ I always thought I was, “a dramatic actress”. Who knew that I had a comedic muscle to flex? It’s all fun. It all just kind of offers you something different and it was just a fun ride. Again, when you have an all-star cast, you just go! You just free fall and trust that it is what it is. As long as you’re honest and you’re simply responding, and you’re really and truly being vulnerable and not judging your character, you never know what kind of magic you can make!
Parlé Mag: Definitely! So, how did you become a part of this amazing Media cast?
Denise Boutte: It’s a very funny story. I’ve been dabbling a lot in the culinary world, and I was on the Tom Joyner Cruise doing a lot of cooking demos—doing a lot of dishes with Southern flair and all this other stuff. One day, I was actually on my way to do some prep work for our gumbo; we were doing gumbo the next day we were doing cooking demos. Lo and behold, there’s Ms. Cathy Hughes sitting in the restaurant area. She was having a conversation with Tom, having a conversation with a lot of her family members; her sister was on the boat. I think they had just finished lunch, and here I am in my yoga gear, going to get it crackin’ in the kitchen, and I went over and introduced myself. I’d never met her before, but, of course, I knew what she looked like! I was like, ‘Oh my God! It’s such an honor to meet you!’ Literally, she welcomed me to sit down. So, I dropped my little bag to the side, with all my knives and cooking gadgets, and sat down and had a conversation! [laughs] She actually started talking about the project, at that moment. We were talking and kind of bantering back and forth, and she let me know that she had a project that was really close to her heart. She had worked on it for years with an amazing writer; kudos to you, Kevin! She was like, “This is my story; this is my baby. I think there is a place in it for you.” Needless to say, by the time I got off the boat, there was already a contract on the table. I was just like, ‘Oh my God! Who knew?’ So, that’s pretty much how it transpired. From that conversation on the Tom Joyner Cruise, it manifested into what we have here.
Parlé Mag: It seems like it kind of just fell in your lap!
Denise Boutte: It kind of did! That’s just a testimony of life. A lot of times, you work, and work, and work, and you’re grinding, and grinding, and grinding, and you’re focused on this. But, a lot of times, you can’t force it. It’s always cliché to say it, but it’s true; if you just do the work and you prepare yourself for whatever, it will come. It wasn’t something that I saw coming my way. A lot of things come with seeds that you plant, and you never know when you’re going to reap the benefits or if it will. You don’t know, but you plant the seeds with good faith and not necessarily expecting something in return. You never know. A lot of my career has been just that—things that I didn’t have on my radar that just kind of manifested into something bigger. You just trust your heart and go along with it. In the grand scheme of things, I’ve been very fortunate, very blessed.
Parlé Mag: From the looks of it, you definitely have! What do you think your character contributes to this film?
Denise Boutte: This chick is no joke! She’s not what you see on the surface. It was very important for me not to judge Danielle; she does a lot of sketchy stuff in this thing. But, when you’re the actress, having to bring life into one of these characters, you don’t judge the character. You have to legitimize it, in some way. You have to make it a stronger reason than what’s on the page, as to why it is that you’re doing these things. From what I could tell in the description of the character and what I created for the character, she’s all about her family, she’s all about her marriage. She does have a lot of projection of what she puts out for the public to see as oppose to what she does behind closed doors. All in all, she has a whole lot of respect for Jackie (Penny Johnson Jerald); she has a whole lot of respect for what this family has built. The family is the core of who she is and what she wants, because, in my mind, she didn’t necessarily have that. So, this is everything to her. If Jackie calls on her, Michael (Brian White) calls on her—whatever it is that she needs to do to protect this family, that’s what she’ll do. She’ll stop at nothing less in order to project them, to protect their name and to protect what they’ve built.
Parlé Mag: This chick seems to have a lot of layers to her!
Denise Boutte: Yeah! I mean, this is the thing, we’ve got the men of Media—they’re all gorgeous. Ladies, you are definitely going to have a lot of eye candy… trust and believe that! But, these women are no punks! They are holding it down! Seriously. Crystal (Chrystee Pharris) is the only daughter; there are three sons and one daughter, which is Chrystee’s character. Jackie Jones is the matriarch; she’s the one holding it down. Michael Jones is the one portrayed by Brian White. Clay Jones in Pooch Hall; he’s the oldest son. Then, you’ve got Chrystee Pharris who is Crystal Jones; Chrystee plays Crystal. Blue Kimble plays Anthony. Blue is off the chain! Oh, my God. He, I think, has the most layers because you see a transition from him. You see this guy who says whatever, do whatever, But, he has this way adding a layer of emotion and sensitivity to this character. He’s a fascinating young actor! He beautifully breathed life into this character. So, again, you’re about to see some twists and turns that you did not expect to see in this movie. I got the opportunity to work with Gary Dourdan again.
Parlé Mag: He’s a great actor.
Denise Boutte: He was also my leading man—my co-lead, in For The Love of Ruth. So, this is actually the second time that I worked with Gary. He’s such a beautiful person. Those beautiful gray eyes, his spirit. He’s just a beautiful person. He plays a bad, bad guy! Let me tell you something; he’s just it! He, again, is the person who’s wrecking havoc on the Jones family, along with Willis Randolph (Stephen Bishop). Stephen, I’ve never worked with before. I knew his work, but this is the first time I’ve worked with him. Gisele (Jillian Reeves), they’re kind of the folks who are coming after the Jones family and trying to dethrone them from their empire. Like I said, there’s a lot of backdoor deals, conspiracies, a little bit of murder—why not? Got a little bit of that going on, too. Finesse (DJ Drive), I’ve worked with years ago on Meet The Browns! He comes in there and he adds a lightness to this, that is so necessary because it’s heavy! It’s got you on the edge of your seat. He’s so awesome! I’ve always loved working with Finesse, and just to see where his career has gone. It was always in a great place. So, kudos to Finesse! Everybody brought their A game. We were all excited about this project and wanted to do it justice.
Parlé Mag: Media captures the unspoken truths behind family-owned businesses. How do you feel or hope Media will educate the viewers?
Denise Boutte: I think it’ll just give you the idea of the family dynamic, and that it doesn’t matter what level you’re on, financially or whatever level you’re on. Family first. You know what I’m saying? Yes, they are protecting their empire; they’ve worked hard to build it. But, all the money and all the success in the world won’t necessarily bring you happiness if you don’t have anybody to share it with. So, what you’ll see from the Jones family is that, when they have to, they unite, when they have to, it’s all about keeping each other in check—keeping each other on the right path, making sure that each other is protected, making some really hard decisions. Not only protect that family name but also protect them as a whole. It’s them against the world. It’s a very beautiful testimony to the gravity and the importance of family dynamics. That’s something I think we’re kind of losing sight of these days. Not to go pessimistic or whatever, but it can be toxic, where everything is about me, what I need to do. You know? I guess you can say, very, very selfish. That’s why I think marriages don’t necessarily work anymore. You can’t go into a marriage with a ‘me, me, me’ attitude. If you don’t put that other person’s needs first, it’s like, what’s the point? And, when you do, you’ll see how it reciprocates, and you then do become number one! You do. But, you have to give unto that other person as graciously as possible, in order to reap the rewards, and then you get put on a pedestal and be that number one.
Parlé Mag: Yes!
Denise Boutte: When you put that person number one, they, in turn, do the same for you. Like I said, it’s all about individual goals, individual needs, “What you’re doing for me?” That can be toxic! It can. If nothing else, I would hope that that would be something that resounds with viewers—that, if they do learn anything from it, you have to be selfless. In a family dynamic, there are times when you’re going to have to sacrifice what’s best for you, in order to do what’s best for the whole.
Parlé Mag: How important do you think it is for our young Black people in today’s generation to see others who look like them, portraying leadership roles, in Hollywood?
Denise Boutte: I think, every year, we show that we are making advances towards that. Every year, I think you are seeing that talent is embracing and willing to show other dynamics of us. Hidden Figures is a very, very powerful representation of that. Here’s the thing, so many of us were so ignorant and had no idea that these women even existed. The fact that Hollywood, now, it is putting money behind these things and giving relevance, and giving breath, and giving life to people who—without this kind of platform, would’ve gone unnoticed for who knows how much longer. I’ve heard of so many people who are gathering money to bring young girls to see this movie [Hidden Figures]. Again, it’s not a Black story; it’s not a white story, it’s just a human story about these dynamic women who were basically forgotten from the history book. It’s very important. These kids and this culture—our generation, we need some positive energy! We are thriving in the negative. One of the reasons why I very casually partake in social media is that, if you’re trying to live in the positive, it can take a lot out of you because people gravitate towards and they thrive in the negative. I don’t know if it’s because it makes them feel better about themselves. I don’t know, but it’s so easy to cast stones at people, especially when there’s no ramification. You don’t know these people. It’s so easy to insult people behind the screen of your phone because you never know how you hurt that person. You can turn off your responses. So, you never know what that person said to retaliate. You can operate and be vicious and not care about the repercussions. That’s dangerous. I think it’s very important to continue to project these positive images. I think it’s very important that we continue to create, that we use our platforms to give leverage and give voices. We have so many different layers and so many different faces, and names, and occupations. I think that this talent is doing a really good job doing that. The people who are at the top, the people who are getting the deals, the ones who can dictate the next project that gets financed, these people are using their platforms in the proper manner. The Viola Davis, the Taraji Hensons—they’re breathing life into stuff and using their power in order to give us life and give us an opportunity to shine and show all of the other dynamics of us.
I was talking the other day about that Black-ish episode, the one that was in response to Trump’s win. If you saw it, you would remember it. When I tell you, Anthony [Anderson], he delivered this monologue in the boardroom that held so much weight and gravity. He articulated what we were feeling—the heaviness. We all felt something, but I think we were all still kind of numb. [laughs] What the hell just happened?
Parlé Mag: [laughs] Exactly.
Denise Boutte: He put it into context that was so relatable. So, then, here you got the number one comedy on TV, and they’re using their platforms—not to shine weight from reality, not to be like, ‘Oh, we’re not going to touch the hard stuff. We’re not going to deal with the hard stuff because we don’t want to insult anybody.’ No! They are going in, and, at that table, they gave you all the different manners in which you could look at and respond to this things. It was heavy, but in the best of ways; it was heavy and rewarding at the same time. It was beautiful.
Parlé Mag: I saw a lot of people talking about that episode! So, it definitely caused a lot of buzz.
Denise Boutte: Oh my God! Again, it was one of the most beautiful ways that I’ve seen anyone deal with that. When I do follow people, it’s people who, often times, put things in perspective, and I love Van Jones. Van Jones, he was the person who had the resounding voice, I would say, after the election, to kind of get us past the numbness. Everybody’s like, “Come on, Obama! Don’t leave!” You know? It’s like, look, Obama’s done his job. Now, it’s time for us to do ours. Obama didn’t let dude in the White House. We voted. But, when Obama was running, we came out in droves. We were bussing people to the polls; we were doing all of this stuff. We didn’t necessarily do that. I’m saying ‘we’. We all can raise our hands and say that we could’ve, would’ve, should’ve done more. But, it happened. You can’t take it for granted. I think we were tying our hands behind our heads, like ‘Whew! This dude is never going to be president! People aren’t that crazy!’ Uh, okay. That’s what happens when you just have a positive expectation, but you don’t do anything to affect the outcome.
Parlé Mag: You said a mouthful then! Aside from Media, what can we expect from you in the months to come?
Denise Boutte: I did a really fun project; we wrapped in November in D.C., called Couples Night. Oh God, it was fun to go back to comedy because, like I said, I didn’t expect to do comedy! But, lo and behold, I did for a lot of years. Then, drama, drama, drama. To get an opportunity to do comedy again, it was just so fun! It was just so fun to be able to play and create in that capacity again. Reagan Gomez-Preston is the other female lead in that movie. We see each other at auditions and all this other stuff, but we never really got a chance to really know each other. Spending that time with her and getting to know her, she’s just such a beautiful human being. You know when there is chemistry; that’s all it is to it. When you got chemistry, it’s lightning in a bottle, and you play and create, and it’s like, ‘Oh my God! That was awesome!’ When I tell you, we had the best time, in D.C. We were actually allowed to film in front of the White House. We got clearance for that. So, that was amazing! We got to go to the African-American History museum; it was just fun! It was work and play and all that other stuff. Tony Rock and I actually play husband and wife in this thing. So, you can tell we’re kind of husband and wife dynamic duo. [laughs] Tony is hilarious! He’s a beautiful human being. And, then, Charles Malik Whitfield. He and I worked together in one of my first movies that I ever did out here. The first real drama movie that I did was with Malik, and we had so much fun. It was an awesome, awesome experience.
Parlé Mag: I see it brought you back to your roots!
Denise Boutte: It did! I was just like, ‘Oh my God! I miss this.’ I really and truly miss it because now I’m kind of being the bad girl. I’m that chick. So, I’m like, ‘Hey! This is fun. Don’t get it twisted!’ It was liberating. There are no mistakes in comedy; you just let it roll. It was awesome!
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