Denise Boutte Interview: 'Meet the Browns' Star Is on the Rise
Stunningly beautiful, down to earth, and downright hilarious actress Denise Boutte has quickly risen to become one of the most sought after actresses of her generation.
The Louisiana native starred in the hit film Why Did I Get Married? alongside Janet Jackson, Jill Scott, and Richard T. Jones. Other big screen roles include Extreme Movie, Sister’s Keeper, Nola, Way of the Vampire, Behind the Smile, and 15 Minutes of Fame.
"When I went to LSU to study to become a doctor, it wasn’t long before I discovered it wasn’t for me!"
With countless television and film appearances, Boutte currently stars on Tyler Perry’s award-winning TBS series, Meet the Browns. Her character is Sasha Brown, the compassionate but quirky nurse who struggles to balance her career with a family.
Boutte is also looking forward to her lead role in a much-anticipated romantic comedy this summer.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Denise, how are you?
Denise Boutte: I’m good … girl, you are in the South! You know, I’m from Louisiana, right? I know my accent will come out now. Every time I talk to someone from the South, here comes my accent.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Speaking of southerners, I spoke with (Georgia native) Jasper Cole a few weeks ago to promote MacGruber. He said the same thing and sure enough, as the conversation progressed, so did his southern accent.
Denise Boutte: Yes, I know Jasper! We talked about that the other day. You don’t purposely hide it, but I think after you’re gone for a while you just subconsciously start taking on an accent wherever you are.
One day I was at the agency (when I was in advertising) in my office and on the phone with my mom. One of the girls had to come in and make sure it was me on the phone. She said I sounded like a totally different person. It’s so weird.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’re from Maurice, Louisiana.
Denise Boutte: Yes, I used to say the big city that was by Maurice. Then my home folks started saying, “Okay, you’re not from Lafayette, you’re from Maurice.” So now I say I’m from Maurice. We’re about 30 minutes south of Lafayette, right on the coast.
It’s about two hours west of New Orleans, but depending on how you’re driving … I’ve done it in an hour thirty personally (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is your family still in Maurice?
Denise Boutte: Well, I lost my dad in the beginning of April and that’s still unreal to me. But, my mom is still there as well as other family members. For the most part, the offspring moved. My brother and first cousin are in Houston.
When I’m in Atlanta taping, it’s no more than a forty-minute plane ride. As soon as the plane’s leveling off, we’re about to land. I call it a prop plane because there’s literally two rows of seats; one on one side and one on the other. It feels every bit of turbulence. I could do without that, but it’s so darn quick!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You only have one sibling?
Denise Boutte: Yes, my brother is eight years older. I tell my mother all of the time that I was a mistake. She tells me I was perfectly planned, but whatever (laughs). My brother has three kids.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was life like in Maurice?
Denise Boutte: It was just a simple life. Small town living is so different, but it was just a way of life. My grandparents lived about a quarter of a mile up a little dirt road in back of our house. They were the ones that had the farm so everyday I had chores. I would gather the eggs and feed the animals.
It wasn’t until I was getting older that I started realizing that there was more out there in the world. We took family vacations but we weren’t big on traveling. My first plane flight came when I was a junior in college, so we weren’t very well traveled.
What I knew, though, was that in order for me to afford to go to college and get an education, I had to have the grades and get a scholarship. I mean, I wasn’t a crazy studier, but I was adamant about it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You made good grades?
Denise Boutte: Oh yeah, I graduated top of the class. That’s what I had to do to get the money I needed to have a higher education.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You wanted to be a doctor?
Denise Boutte: I don’t think I knew what I wanted to be. I just wanted to get off the farm. My brother, my first cousin, and I were the first generation of my family to go to college. Our parents, like every parent, wanted something better for us than they had growing up. So, we knew we wanted to be successful but I really wasn’t exposed to what a college education offered.
The doctor thing came out of practicality because that was my thinking as a teenager. I always heard parents say of their kids, “My son is a doctor or my daughter is a lawyer,” and they sounded proud of them. So that’s what stuck in my mind. When parents considered their kids successful, they were doctors or lawyers. That’s kind of where it came from.
When I went to LSU to study to become a doctor, it wasn’t long before I discovered it wasn’t for me! It wasn’t just the work; there was no interest there, no passion.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So when did the acting bug bite?
Denise Boutte: That sort of came out of nowhere! I switched my major to Mass Communications and got a job in advertising after college. I got an offer to go to Dallas. You could work in advertising there without heading for the west coast. I was on the print side of advertising.
When I was working on a clothing line, a local Texas agency reached out to three of us for modeling work. I was at Fossil in Richardson, Texas when they called me. The three of us laughed at lunch because we didn’t think we were models. A month went by and they called again.
I finally took the meeting to see what would happen and lo and behold, I began work immediately. I landed a beauty campaign, a hair campaign, did some stuff for Mary Kay … and became the poster child for the Texas lottery. I was the Vanna White for the TV lottery. When the numbers rolled out I had to put on a big smile and show excitement.
I loved it! I didn’t know why, but I just loved it! Then a manager from LA came to shoot photos and she told me that I could stay with her out there in California. She wanted to introduce me to everyone she knew in show business. I worried about quitting my job, wondering how I would survive out there, so I had a choice to make.
I’m also not the kind of person to just trust any stranger that comes by so I can’t explain why I trusted her, but I did. My life past Dallas makes no sense whatsoever! I believe it was just God because I personally would never have made those choices and would never have planned it out for myself that way.
Every single job I have landed since then has been a total game of chance. I’m at the point now where I just do what I can in the now and prepare myself because whatever comes next is going to be good!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you audition for Tyler Perry’s 2007 film Why Did I Get Married?
Denise Boutte: Yes, well in a way. The night before, like most auditions, my manager called and said, “You’ve got an audition for an untitled Tyler Perry project – he’s the guy who does the stage plays.” I went to Blockbuster and it just so happened that I picked up Why Did I Get Married? the stage play.
What I didn’t know was that I was auditioning for a sitcom not Why Did I Get Married? When I went in the next day, I saw him dressed as Medea and I didn’t realize he was Tyler Perry (laughs). To this day he keeps saying, “You knew who I was!” I keep telling him that I didn’t know (laughs).
Anyway, when I went in on the callback, Tyler stood up and said, “You are Sasha Brown!” I realized then that I had been hired for Meet the Browns. Then he said he also had a role in a move that he thought I’d be right for. That ended up being the part of Katrina in Why Did I Get Married?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Funny story! You were actually auditioning the whole time for Meet the Browns.
Denise Boutte: Yes and I guess after he saw my audition, he decided I was also right for Trina. So I never did audition for Trina. It was kind of a by-product from Sasha. Isn’t that crazy?
We initially shot the first ten episodes of Meet the Browns before Why Did I Get Married? But, those are not the ones that aired because we totally changed the dynamics of the characters, relationships, and storylines.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The show is filmed in Atlanta?
Denise Boutte: Yes, in a beautiful studio in Atlanta. I think people still wonder about a television studio in Atlanta. You can see a little piece of the back lot from the street. Parts of it look like New York City, so it looks like a whole other world.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It’s a funny show.
Denise Boutte: I keep telling people that they will love what’s going to come next! Our writing staff is so awesome. They know what our strengths are and who our characters are now. The stuff that will be airing soon is so on another level from where it was, so I can’t wait for people to watch it!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your character is pregnant.
Denise Boutte: Yes, she’s preggers! That was part of the cliffhanger from last season. She’s a nurse and had no idea she was pregnant. She’s wanted a family for a while, but wasn’t planning on it quite yet, so this came as a surprise to everybody. There’s some drama coming … oh yes.
When we left two weeks ago we finished 120 episodes. There are about 70 that haven’t aired yet. We’ve just been stockpiling those suckers. We’re on hiatus right now and are coming back for 20 more episodes. So, depending on how the audience responds, we might come back for more after that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you commute between Atlanta and LA?
Denise Boutte: I like to say I’m tri-coastal (laughs). I’m on the east coast for work, I live on the west coast, and I’m from the gulf coast. I’ve spent more time in Atlanta this year than I’ve spent in LA.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You were on Days of Our Lives a few years ago. Would you like to return to daytime drama?
Denise Boutte: I wouldn’t mind. But, what is so sad is that it appears daytime is a dying breed. Why that hurts me so much is because that was my start on television. So many actors got their start on soaps.
When you’re new to the business, one of the first people to welcome you is the people of daytime. So, without that training ground and that opportunity, newcomers will feel that void. You learn so much there. They have pages and pages of dialogue.
Many people don’t realize that we shoot one show a day. Tyler said, “You can shoot an entire hour of a daytime drama, so why can’t you shoot a half hour comedy?” It works. From the blocking to the “in the can” is a day. We shoot 3-4 episodes a week.
When you’re working on that kind of schedule it makes you throw away your inhibitions to a certain degree because you’re moving so fast you can’t question yourself. You do as much preparation at home that you can, but when you come to work it’s all about freefalling and having fun.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Not much rehearsal time.
Denise Boutte: Right … three times is the charm and you’ve got to hit it. It’s just like the daytime world. I think there is so little respect for what daytime actors do because it’s such a rollercoaster of emotions … you’ve got to keep it moving. You’ve got to trust yourself and your co-stars and just let it rip.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Jasper Cole told me about a new television show called CIT.
Denise Boutte: That’s my baby! Jasper told me when I got here to create my own opportunities.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How did the two of you meet?
Denise Boutte: My manager, who I was living with when I moved to LA, was also Jasper’s manager. Jasper has been in the business for a while and has gotten some shows off the ground.
When I hammered out a treatment (which is based on a real police precinct in Houston), I shared it with Jasper and he thought it was brilliant and something he wanted to be involved in. So we began working together and writing a script.
Right when we were about to put it out there was about the time the writer’s strike began. So that kind of took the wind out of our sails. When we finally got the opportunity to start pitching it, we got some interest and some constructive criticism. We tweaked the script and the treatment and put it out there again formally this past pilot season.
We’ve gotten quite a bit of interest – 3 networks have asked us if we could tweak the script to something that would fit their needs. So that’s where we are now. It’s one of the cable stations and two network stations. We’re in serious discussions with them.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You also have a new film coming up this summer.
Denise Boutte: Yes, but I can’t really talk about it! It’s a romantic comedy and I’m so excited about it. We’re shooting in Miami. But, they haven’t gotten the final contracts on everybody yet, so I can’t talk about it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You can’t even tell us who your hot leading man is?
Denise Boutte: Girl, I think from the choices so far, I’ll be alright!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are your hobbies, Denise?
Denise Boutte: I love to entertain. I like to cook for other people. All you have to do is tell me that this or that is so good and I’m happy. Cooking for yourself is just too boring.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are some of your favorite dishes?
Denise Boutte: I’m working on a cookbook – I’d like to say that it’s a twist on southern cuisine. I make a mean pot of gumbo, an amazing shrimp and crab stuffed catfish, and asparagus pasta to die for. That’s a vegan meal, no meat whatsoever.
Paula Deen is my idol. She puts a block of butter in everything and laughs about it! I call her husband Santa Claus because he looks like him. One day I’m going to get to Savannah … I’m going to meet Paula Deen and Santa Claus. When I open my restaurant in a few years, will you come?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I will absolutely be there.
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