Interview with Kam Williams
Born in Los Angeles on October 18, 1978, Wesley Jonathan entered showbiz at an early age. He currently plays Burrell “Stamps” Ballentine on TV Land’s “The Soul Man”. The hit sitcom’s second season premieres Wednesday, June 19 at 11pm ET/PT. The show revolves around Rev. Boyce ‘The Voice’ Ballentine (Cedric the Entertainer), an R&B superstar-turned-minister who relocated to St. Louis with his family to preach in his father’s church.
Moving seamlessly between comedic and dramatic roles since he was a young child, Wesley has exhibited an impressive range of acting talent. In addition, he’s a gifted and accomplished dancer and athlete, and has starred in countless movies, television shows and commercials.
He made his television debut at just 8, appearing on the smash Fox series 21 “Jump Street”. He was a series regular on The WB’s top-rated sitcom, “What I Like about You”, starring Amanda Bynes and Jennie Garth, and on the syndicated Teen NBC series “City Guys”. Since then, he has guest-starred and enjoyed recurring roles on some of the most popular shows on television, including “NCIS”, “Cold Case”, “90210” and “CSI: Miami”.
Wesley recently completed the feature film Cobu 3D, adding to his already extensive list of big screen credits, which includes Speed Dating, The Effect, Remember the Daze, Crossover, Roll Bounce, and The United States of Leland. He is also a producer and star of the feature Dysfunctional Friends starring Stacey Dash and Terrell Owens. And he recently starred in David E. Talbert’s play for BET, “What Goes Around, Comes Around.”
Wesley always finds time to give back to the community, especially causes that benefit children. Among the many charity events he has participated in are *NSYNC’s Challenge for the Children, Magic Johnson’s A Midsummer Night’s Magic, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s A Time For Heroes Carnival, Joe Torry’s Celebrity Basketball Challenge, the National Urban League’s Youth Summit, 100 Black Men of Cleveland’s computer literacy campaign and KTLA’s Kids Day LA.
Kam Williams: Hi Wesley, thanks for the interview.
Wesley Jonathan: Absolutely, Kam! Thank you.
KW: What interested you in attending a Juneteenth celebration in Texas, where it’s an official state holiday?
WJ: It was only natural, being African-American, since it was the actual day on which the slaves were freed in Texas. I had never been here for Juneteenth, so I feel grateful for this opportunity to learn all about its history.
KW: How would you describe your TV sitcom, “The Soul Man,” in 25 words or less?
WJ: In 25 words or less? That’s crazy! Let’s see… The show is about a former R&B singer of very risqué songs who gets the calling to become a minister. And in doing so, he uproots his family from Sin City, Las Vegas, and moves to St. Louis to take over his father’s church. In the process, his family has to make the adjustment from a celebrity’s lifestyle to an uncompromisingly holy lifestyle. It’s a funny show about family, about change, and about making adjustments in your life.
KW: Isn’t Cedric originally from St. Louis in real life?
WJ: Yeah, he is from St. Louis.
KW: You spent part of your childhood in Germany. How much German do you still remember?
WJ: I was 4 when we moved there, and the little bit that I learned was gone within months after I returned here at 7.
KW: What’s it like acting opposite a couple of very charismatic, veteran comedians in Cedric the Entertainer and Niecy Nash?
WJ: The greatest thing to me about Cedric is that he’s extremely down-to-earth. He’s a really a nice guy on top of the fact that he’s funny. So, working with him is great because you get paid to laugh all day. And Niecy is just as funny and cool and crazy as he is. Having both of them together is kind of explosive.
KW: Tell me a little about your character, Stamps?
WJ: Stamps is Cedric’s younger brother. He’s a wacky, wisecracking character, and you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. He doesn’t take life seriously, doesn’t have a job, and is always saying whatever random thoughts come to mind.
KW: You’ve enjoyed an enduring career that began when you were only 8. How did you manage to avoid the pitfalls of fame that have ensnared so many other child actors?
WJ: Well, there’s a big difference between being a child actor and being a child star. I was a child actor. I worked a lot as a kid, but the weight that a child star has to bear is far more than that of a child actor. It’s extremely heavy. Secondly, my mother is from a rough area of East St. Louis, and she just wasn’t having any craziness. Third, I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, which was a strict upbringing that helped me stay in line. I also learned what not to do from watching mistakes other people were making. And I had big dreams and I was motivated to help my mother. So, I didn’t want to screw up. Drugs and other stuff were never a temptation. I guess I had an old soul.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
WJ: That’s a great question. It was while filming on set about a week ago. I was doing my best not to laugh while Cedric was going off. I can’t give away exactly what he did, but let’s just say he ate a brownie laced with something that caused him to behave in a way that was hysterical. I’ll leave it at that.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
WJ: That’s interesting. Right now I’m reading “It’s Hard to Fight Naked” by Niecy Nash. It’s an advice book about relationships. If you know her, you can hear her voice in the book. It’s really good!
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
WJ: “Don’t Be Cruel” by Bobby Brown.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
WJ: I don’t cook. [LOL] But I love Italian food, especially pastas like Fettuccine Alfredo.
KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
WJ: I like work. [LOL] By that I mean I like quality work. A good script… a good show… a good movie… anything I can be proud of and not have to be nervous about watching when it comes out. That excites me. When someone like yourself wants to interview me, that excites me. When little kids recognize me on the street and come up to me it’s exciting, because it’s genuine with no motive behind it. That’s a really clean kind of love. What a blessing! Cars excite me, too, seeing a nice car drive by. I love cars! And I love dancing and a whole bunch of other stuff.
KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
WJ: I’m not a name brand type of person. I do like Diesel jeans.
KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?
WJ: I don’t know. I haven’t made it yet.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
WJ: I see a young man who is trying to be seen and appreciated by the masses for his work.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
WJ: To no longer be overlooked by the industry.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
WJ: That’s a great question, but no, I’ve been asked everything. I can’t think of one question that has not been asked of me.
KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Is there something that you promised to do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?
WJ: I love Anthony Mackie. I made a movie with him and Wayne Brady in 2006 called Crossover. I would like to devote more time to caring for abused animals.
KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person you pretend to be on the red carpet?
WJ: What keeps me sane in this insane business is that even on the carpet I’m mostly me. I might smile a lot less in real life, but I know how to adjust to the situation. It is what it is. I hear what Viola’s saying, because you do have to turn it on and off. But I think the red carpet is harder on women because of all the attention paid to how they look and what they’re wearing.
KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
WJ: It impacted me a lot, dude, a lot. It made me a man. I was a teenager when the relationship started but by the time it was over I was in my early 20s. It opened my eyes to knowing that people change, that people can grow apart and want different things after awhile. It also let me know that there’s a pain that’s beyond physical pain that can be far more scarring. It’s equivalent to a death when you lose someone you love. It’s amazing how having my heartbroken also made me look closer at how I treat other people.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
WJ: Arguments between my mother and father when I was 2 and 3 years-old.
KW: I’m sorry about that. The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
WJ: An eagle. I’d like to be able to take flight.
KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?
WJ: NASCAR race driver.
KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do? Would you do the bad stuff, you never got a chance to do, or would you do good stuff to make sure you make it into heaven?
WJ: To acquire as much knowledge about Jehovah, God, as possible.
KW: The Michael Ealy question: If you could meet any historical figure, whom would you choose?
WJ: Wow! I would say Malcolm X.
KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
WJ: Drive and passion.
KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you’d like to star in?
WJ: Yeah, The Last Dragon, an inner-city martial arts movie from 1985 that starred Vanity.
KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
WJ: As talented, real and loving.
KW: Thanks for putting so much thought into your answers, Wesley, and best of luck with “The Soul Man”.
WJ: Thank you, Kam.