Bobby Brown’s two-part mini-series, “The Bobby Brown Story,” came to life through Abdul Williams, an award-winning screenwriter who won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Television Movie for “The New Edition Story.” No stranger to the industry, Williams sold his first screenplay, The Lottery Ticket, which starred Ice Cube and Bow Wow. Following the success of BET’s “The New Edition Story,” Williams found himself hard at work on the two-part series chronicling the life of New Edition’s Bobby Brown. Williams gave Right On! Digital an exclusive, no-holds-barred interview about some of the controversial scenes in the movie which have been the subject of internet chatter.
BY CYNTHIA HORNER
Q: Congratulations on the success of your latest project. At what point did you get involved with the creation of “The Bobby Brown Story?”
A: As you know I wrote “The New Edition Story” and all of the guys were producers so I got to know them pretty well. We had a long-going relationship. And when the ratings for New Edition’s story came in so strong BET wanted a follow up.
Q; How much time did you have to complete your work on Bobby Brown’s story?
A: It was fast. BET already knew when they wanted to air it before I started writing so I had six months to get the interviews done, etc. But I had a bit of a head start since I already knew a lot of Bobby’s story.
Q: What was important to have in his story?
A: We knew that Bobby’s story would go much deeper as New Edition’s story included six members and (manager) Brooke Payne. In “The New Edition’s Story” we purposely did not include anything outside of the group like the legal troubles. We only touched on “Don’t Be Cruel” but we didn’t go too much into that. There were a lot of stories people knew about Bobby but I wanted to get into the whys.
Q: What did you feel you needed to address about the two iconic celebrities, Janet Jackson and the late Whitney Houston, in Bobby’s story?
A: You can’t tell Bobby’s story without telling Whitney’s story and the challenge that I had is that Whitney is no longer with us. Bobby does not have the kind of relationship with her family where I could go and sit down and interview them so I had to go by Bobby’s memory about the way things happened. The reason why we included Janet Jackson is because Bobby was legitimately in love with Janet; it wasn’t like a fling. To her it might have been; I can’t speak for how she felt about him. Again I’m telling it from Bobby’s perspective: that was someone he had a crush on for many, many years. He felt like he was riding high in the second half of his career and he’s telling her, “I’ve got $25 million.” In part two, though, he loses everything he slowly begins to realize what is important in life: about being a husband, about being a father. He totally changes after he has gone through some things.
Q: Some of Janet’s fans were upset about her portrayal. Would you have approached her storyline the same way if you had to do it all over again?
A: I would have because this is Bobby’s truth. That was the unvarnished truth of his life. I’m a Janet fan, I’m a Whitney fan. It’s not always flattering to portray figures in low moments of their life, not to say it was a low moment but to her it was a fling and for him it was very serious because he was very deep in his feelings. When you look at that scene and the way it plays out Bobby is the one who does not have the upper hand in the relationship, she is dictating the terms of the relationship to him. So I didn’t think it particularly made Janet look bad. And he met Whitney right after that. If I had glossed over it, it would not have been the emotional scene that was necessary for the character.
Q: Now that you have had so much one on one time with male artists like New Edition what advice would you give today’s male stars about their relationships?
A: I would say at the end of the day, and this goes for us as fans of the artists as well, celebrities are human. We tend to hold them to different standards. We have to remember that they’re not allowed to make mistakes, have low moments, etc. Just because these folks are celebrities doesn’t mean that they’re not people.. And you know that better than anyone since you have been covering these celebrities for so long. We need to cut them a little bit of a break, a little bit of space to make mistakes without judgement. And I would say to the celebrities, “allow yourselves to make mistakes.” But don’t live your life in a public way where people have a lot to say. Try to treat everybody with respect.
Q: What’s a takeaway from this mini-series?
A: Bobby chose to focus on moments of his life where people thought he was bragging but he also chose to share some very moments in his life that he could have glossed over. He even showed his relationship with other women with whom he had children. He wasn’t good to them–at first, but he grew into being a better father. There was a period where he had to sleep on a couch, and who had the upper hand then? He learned how to treat women with respect. to respect himself and learn to grow. The reason his marriage is so successful now is the fact that he went through his hardheaded, knuckleheaded years before when you couldn’t tell him nothing.
He had to take a real hard fall. My mom had an expression, “a hard head makes for a soft a–.” That was Bobby’s life pretty much in a nutshell.
Q: There was a scene where he took Whitney to a high-profile restaurant and he said it wasn’t a date. It was interesting the way they interacted at the beginning of their relationship. How did you see it?
A: Janet was so secretive because that is the way she wanted it. On the other hand, he was surprised that Whitney was willing to be seen with him since he had that bad boy reputation.
Q: What are your future plans? You seem to be the go-to person for a lot of things these days.
A: It’s premature but I have been working on quite a few thing that I can’t talk about yet. But I will say that I get pitched on doing more biopics on iconic figures. I’m not necessarily walking away from them since I’m a huge music fan.