Thursday, July 7, 2022

Michael Jai and Gillian White on Love, Marriage, and the State of Hollywood

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Michael Jai and Gillian White

*Newlyweds Michael Jai and Gillian White are quite an anomaly by Hollywood standard.  In a town where movie stars jump in and out of relationships as quickly as they change movie roles.

Michael and Gillian spent years developing their bond, opting to build their love on the foundation of friendship, communication, and loyalty.  Also, both actors have fostered impressive careers in the business.

Michael has appeared in such notable movies like “Spawn,” the first black superhero in a major motion picture and “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married” and “Why Did I Get Married Too”; in the long-running OWN Network series, “For Better or Worse.”

Gillian (pronounced Gill-ian , like a fish’s gill) has also carved out an impressive television and movie career with guest star appearances on televisions shows including “The Wayans Brothers,” “The Parkers,” “My Wife & Kids,” “Malcolm & Eddie,” and “Love That Girl.” She also appeared in the major motion pictures,  “Jackie Brown” (Quentin Tarantino) and Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled.” In 2016, Gillian returns to the big screen, along with Michael, as the female lead in the upcoming Sony Pictures feature film, “Never Back Down 3: Battle in Bangkok.”

EURweb.com caught up with the lovebirds on Valentine’s Day to discuss life, marriage, and Hollywood.

 How did the two of you meet?

Michael: We met like 19 years ago, we dated back in the day, and lost each other for a while, and then we came back together.

Gillian: And we’ve been going strong ever since.

In July 2015, you both got married in Thailand, how has married life been treating you?

Gillian: It’s been wonderful but absolutely the same.  Even though we legally got married in July, we have been together for a while, and we have always felt like were married.  Nothing has changed too much.  Everything is still great.

Michael, what is your stance?

Things have always gotten better as time went on, which is like really a phenomenon to me.  Our trajectory kind of feels like equity, it just gets better.  I am at a loss for words about it. I am in a continuing relationship with my best friend.

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Both of you are starring in Never Back Down 3, did you find it difficult to separate your personal relationship from your professional relationship while on set?

Michael and Gillian: No, not at all.

Michael: In our profession, we are [always] helping each other out, whether we have auditions, or rehearsals, [she] is my rehearsal partner.  It was quite natural to [prepare] scenes and shoot them so that nothing could have been more comfortable.  In fact, it would have been a lot worse if she was not with me.

Anticipated release date April 2016.
Anticipated release date April 2016.

Gilliam: For me it was absolutely wonderful working with him.  We hadn’t worked in that capacity before.  He had a lot on him, that could have stressed him out, directing, starring in [the movie], and choreographing my scenes. If anything would have happened it would have happened then, but nothing ever did.  That just showed the strength we have in our relationship that we can work together, as well as, maintain our friendship and our love for each other without getting into it because we have worked on those differences.  He is a great person to direct me.  I take everything he says and just apply it [to what I am doing].

Michael: I think it helps when you know where the other person is coming from; you know that they have your best interest in mind, how can you get mad at that?

Michael, what made develop an interest in directing in addition to acting? 

I have always had a director’s frame of mind, from the first time I ever started acting. I have directed other things like shorts, and storytelling is naturally in my repertoire, so it was a natural transition for me.

Gillian, you play the lead role, can you tell me about your character and did you have to do any martial training to prepare for your character?

It’s funny, everybody thinks I am doing an action because it’s an action film, but I don’t do any action in this [movie].  I am the publicist for a UFC kind of organization and Esai Morales plays my boss, and he is a hard guy to work for, I have to keep calm a lot and maintain the business of what we are doing throughout the movie.  In the movie, Michael and I start to like each other and our relationship blooms between us.

Michael, For Better or Worse, will be entering its eighth season, what can fans look forward to with your character Marcus Williams?

Michael: [Fans will] enjoy [seeing] my character evolve over time and with that evolution you see Marcus and Angela become mentors as opposed to mentees as when we started in Why Did I Get Married? where we both sort of a mess.  There will be different twists and turns and ongoing story lines, it is an exploration of how to live and love each other in these modern times.

Your co-star Tasha Smith, the both of you have great on-screen chemistry, what has contributed to the spark you both share on film and television? 

Michael: We have been close friends for almost twenty years now that is what you see.  It is unusual, but our entire cast has bonded into true friendships and like family.  It has transcended [more than] being a working cast.

It is pretty remarkable that Oprah Winfrey, an African-American woman, runs OWN, the show is produced by Tyler Perry, an African-American man, and the cast is primarily African-American. What cultural impact do you think this will have over a long period?

Michael: I hope it has a great impact because we tackle current issues. We seem to be a throwback to when television shows had a moral stance; it used to be every television show had that.  Now shows about family appear to be concentrated on how dysfunctional a family can be.  I am proud we are going against the grain and exhibiting values we don’t see very often.  I hope that is a lasting impact on folks.  It makes proud of my childhood that I had these [good] shows to look up to that gave me a compass when I was growing up because it didn’t get in my system any other way.  There was a lot of insight that would not have come my way if it were not for these morality based shows.

 Do you think playing Marcus has given you a playbook on what to do and what not to do in your marriage?

Michael: In my marriage I do not have nearly the amount of drama that the Marcus character would have.  There are many times where my marriage can inform Marcus on what to do so it works in a reverse way.

What do you both think has made your marriage successful?

Gillian:  The foundation of our relationship is the fact we are best friends.  We communicate, I mean how do you have problems with your best friend, people can have problems in their relationships, but it is not often you have problems with your best friend.  That’s who you go to with your problems, and that alleviates a lot of [obstacles].  We laugh every day; we have fun, we experience new things together, we just enjoy life, so if any issues come up, we can defuse them because we have a friendship that we base everything.

Michael, you made a statement on social media that received a lot of traction with infidelity and black men, why was that so important for you to express?

Michael:  Well, no one is saying it, sometimes I do not realize that I am an actor that people know, I just see myself as a regular guy, and sometimes I will voice my opinions, and I think I am speaking to a small group of Facebook friends.  But things just got blown up and, of course, you have the gossip sites that exaggerate your words to trick people into reading it, and it sounds like I am going after these icons like Cosby and Martin Luther King, Jr., and I am in shock when I see that.  But I get the fact they have to shock their viewers into paying attention but at the same time, I stand by everything I said.  I challenge anybody to debate the fact that this is something that should be [discussed].

 

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How in this day and age there is this layover of the black buck syndrome. Guys today are revered for the whole black male myth thing with terms like “What up playa, pimp” and all that type of stuff like that’s the thing to be.   When deep down, I don’t think there is any grown man that does not want to be a part of a loving household by being good husbands and fathers.  When the dust settles that what we want.  Just being truthful, I been the guy on the other side, being the guy out there because that is what I am supposed to do, but you are a kid you speak as a kid, but when you grow up, you speak as an adult.  I thought I was talking about it in private, but I welcome speaking about it publicly because it is what I believe.

You and Gillian formed a company called Jaigantic, what led you to start your production company?

Michael: I have been producing.  I recognize a chasm in the movie and television industry that is not filled. I have learned and played a lot of positions like writing, producing, directing, and I think I know this industry.  It is my goal to be a part of creating art, movies, and television shows, I feel will fill that gap.

 Gillian, you are a producing partner of the company, recently Taraji P. Henson won a the Golden Globes for her character ‘Cookie’ on Empire, Viola Davis, Regina King, and Uzo Aduba all were recognized with Emmys for their work as well. As a woman what are some stories that you are seeking to tell?

We have a lot of scripts that we are working with and to me, it is always important to keep women empowered. Taraji made a comment in her speech; that struck me when she said not verbatim “Wow, I am surprised I won for this Cookie role, ex-con” instead of the other roles that she has played.  And then you think of what Halle Berry won for, what Octavia Spencer won for, they would probably rather get praise for something else opposed to the maid, the woman who is sleeping with a white guy, the ex-con. I would like for us to do to more to more films that empower women, put women in positions that younger generations of women can look up to and aspire to be; that is really important to me.

What is a role that both you would like to play sometime in your career?

Gillian: I tell him all the time, so many people are anxious to see me do some action stuff because I train with Michael, and he teaches a lot of martial arts.  I am looking for a tough, badass type of role.  The kind of roles Angelina Jolie gets or Zoe Saldana that is my dream role.

Michael:  I would say, Paul Robeson.  That is someone that this generation should know.

What do both look forward to the most in this New Year?

Michael:  I would say just keep growing in the trajectory that we established.

Gillian: Things are going in such a positive direction for us; it is just looking forward to bigger and better things.

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