Brandy has been successfully juggling a career as an actress and a singer for several years, ever since she became famous when she was a child in the mid-1990s. She currently stars in the BET series “The Game,” a drama about professional football players and their significant others, and has occasional roles in movies. She appeared in the 2012 feature film “Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor.”
She is also a recurring guest star on the Lifetime series “Drop Dead Diva,” a drama about a beautiful-but-vapid model wannabe named Deb who is reincarnated in the body of a plus-sized attorney named Jane Bingum (played by Brooke Elliott). Here is what Brandy (whose last name is Norwood) had to say in June 2012 about her guest appearance that month on “Drop Dead Diva.” During this conference call with journalists, Brandy also talked about her album “Two Eleven” and her fond memories of the late Whitney Houston.
Can you talk about how you became involved in the “Drop Dead Diva” role in the very beginning?
Yes, in the very beginning I had a meeting with Craig Zadan and he’s been a longtime friend of mine. I worked with him on “Cinderella” back in the day. And I expressed to him that I wanted to get back into acting. I started to feel that acting buzz again and he told me about “Drop Dead Diva,” gave me the first series to watch. And I fell in love with the show and they wrote the character Elisa Shane for me. And I relate to her so much in so many different ways and I’m just happy they gave me the great opportunity to be apart of such a great show and a great cast.
Is there a specific scene, without spoiling things, that you’re kind of looking forward to fans seeing?
Absolutely. I got a chance to work with Serena Williams this season on “Drop Dead Diva.” And it was so amazing to work with someone that you never thought about in the acting world. But she completely transitions and did such a great job and we had a great time working together. So I can’t wait for the fans to see us in interacting just the whole story line with Elisa and everything that she’s got going on this season. I can’t wait to see what the fans think of her and what she’s gone through.
What is it you think Elisa’s scared of with Parker? Is she afraid of his personality? Is she afraid of how he’ll impact her child?
I definitely feel like as an example, as a father, I do see this season he really falls in love with our son without giving too much away. But I think there is a deeper feeling that she has for Parker. I think she’s still in love with Parker but because of what he’s put her through, she doesn’t want to get her heart broken again.
And like all women out there who’s had their heart broken and sometimes they’re afraid to try again and trust the same person that actually broke their heart. And that’s never good for when you have a child together, that’s never good for the mom to be hurt and the mom and dad to not be in a good space for the child. So I think that’s what she’s afraid of.
You have some amazing musical talents. Is there a chance we’ll get to be seeing you sing on the show?
I have not been asked yet to sing. I don’t think Elisa can sing, but that’s why you have me to sing for you outside of the set.
And when can we expect a video for your new single “Put it Down?”
It’s coming soon in July. You can expect a video in July. I’m really excited about it. It’s my first single since four years ago. So it’s great to be back on the music scene. It’s great to have a song with Chris Brown and it’s going to be an amazing run I think hopefully in this cause.
What do you like about how Elisa has evolved from when you first appeared?
I just like her drive and the fact that she really wants to dedicate her life to helping people. She’s a nurse and I just love the love that she has for her son. And so to see her go after what she wants as well as take care of her child to the best of her ability is amazing to see. I’m a bit inspired by her character because everything that’s she’s doing I would do for my daughter and what I want to do in my life for a higher purpose and what I’m supposed to do as far as taking care of my son or my daughter. So I love the character.
After growing up in the business, what ways do you feel you’ve grown as a woman in order to play a character like Elisa more effectively?
Well, I am a mother. I was a mother very young. I had my daughter at 23. So I’ve had a lot of experience in that area, ten years experience as a mother.
And Elisa’s son is about the same age, and I know what it’s like to go after what I want. And I know priorities that mean everything to me in my life. And I think I relate to her in that way and you know I’ve been through a lot in my life.
I’ve struggled, I’ve gone through so many different things and so I have all of that to pull from to get to this character and prepare for this kind of a character. And I’ve definitely had my heart broken. Someone has definitely cheated on me in the past. So I’ve been there so I know exactly how she feels about the whole love thing with Parker.
With the experiences you mentioned that you had similar to the character if you were to give advice to her about her situation, what would it be?
I would just tell her to keep doing what she’s doing. Keep fighting for what she knows is right for her life. We all feel the fear. But we shouldn’t let fear hold us back from doing what we feel is the best thing for us. And I think that’s what she’s doing so she really doesn’t need advice from me, because that’s what she’s doing.
Has there been anything in your life looking back that fear has held you from that you kind of regret?
Well, I try not to have any regrets in life. And I’m the type of person to face my fears and there have been so many circumstances where I’ve almost allowed my fear to hold me back, but I feel so guilty about it that I’d go ahead on in faith.
A recent fear that I’ve had was to do “Dancing With the Stars.” And that fear was so strong I felt so guilty when I was like, “No I shouldn’t do it.” And then the guilt just made me say, “You know what, I have to face it. I don’t know how great I can be.”
And this other personal thing in my life that I’ve experienced that fear has almost got the best of me. But I try to face it as much as possible and you realize on the other end of the stick, fear is just an illusion, it’s not even real.
As a celebrity have you ever felt the pressure of looking great 24/7?
Absolutely. I think this business is partially about always looking your best. You know, it’s like now in this day and time, it’s like you can’t go outside unless you look your best because paparazzi is around and they’re dying to get a bad picture of you.
So yes, there is pressure there but I try to stay true to myself. You know, if I feel like makeup, fine. If I don’t, fine. It’s whatever I’m feeling in the moment. I try not to let this business dictate what I do for myself. I do keep myself up. I do work out. I do try to take care of myself as much as possible. But that’s for my health it has nothing to do with how I think people look at me or how they feel about me.
How did the characters you play on “The Game” and “Drop Dead Diva” in anyway influence your new album in terms of sound?
I don’t think one has anything to do with the other. My music is completely separate from the characters that I play. But in so many ways we all relate because we’re all women and we go into the same things.
And we’ve been through the same things so in that aspect I guess there’s the influence. But I try to keep my music and my acting as separate as possible because I want to give each as much time as possible in the different focus. So, yes.
Who’s directing your new video for “Put it Down”?
I can’t tell you who’s directing it. It’s so sad because I want to tell you so badly. But it’s going to be an interesting, great video, I believe. And just the treatment is great. And just the extra addition with Chris Brown I just think it’s going to be an epic video. I hope so because I haven’t had one of those in a long time, so to be on this path it just feels really great.
What was it about this particular character in “Drop Dead Diva” that you made you fall in love with her and make you want to take on this role?
Well, I have so much in common with her. I love what she stood for and I related to her in so many ways. And there was something so sweet about her spirit that I completed connected to. And she’s totally different than Chardonnay. Chardonnay gives me a different freedom that Elisa doesn’t.
So I love being able to be as versatile as possible and I would love to play different characters. It’s so much fun playing somebody that’s not me. Moesha was so similar to me it’s like, this is boring, I want to do something completely different than me and what I do everyday. So it’s fun playing characters that are just different.
You said you like to keep your music and your acting separately. Which would you say you immerse yourself more in, as far as when it comes to your inspiration?
My music is a little bit easier for me because I’m completely self. You know, I get in the studio, and I just let go. I just close my eyes and I sing what I feel and whatever comes out, comes out. And pretty much my music is the soundtrack to every stage in my life. So I’m able to be transparent in my music and also able to just be free in music. With acting, it’s like I’m playing somebody completely different than myself. But also have to add pieces of myself to the character to bring the character to life.
So that’s a little bit more of a challenge because I’m playing somebody different. But I have to also bring the truth and the reality to that character as well. So that’s a little bit more of a challenge for me, but I’m working on it and I’m definitely see a future in the acting for me because I have such a passion for it. So hopefully, the roles can keep coming and I can keep doing what I do.
Has it become easier for you now to balance acting and the music? Or is it harder since you got extra roles, like mom and producer and all that extra stuff added to your plate?
It’s definitely a challenge, I think, for anybody to balance their life. But I think because I’m so hungry to do what I want to do consistently all the time. I don’t mind it being a harder challenge for me to balance. And I have a great family, a great daughter who understands what I have to do and respects and receives time that I give them, when I’m not working, so I have a great team around me to help me balance my – my crazy life. But I wouldn’t trade this for the world, really.
Is there a chance that Brooke Elliott might be featured on one of your songs?
You know what? I did not think about that. I did not think about that. I’m going to make Brooke a deal. She can appear on my album if she lets me sing on “Drop Dead Diva.” That’s fair right?
They do like little singing segments on the show and I was like, “Wow, they didn’t even invite me to do any of that.” So if Brooke wants to do a feature on this album, I need to sing on “Drop Dead Diva.” Let’s go.
Is there a chance we’ll be seeing you in maybe Season 4 of “Drop Dead Diva”?
I really want to go back. I just hope they have me back, like I said it’s such a great cast and it’s the friendliest set I’ve ever been on. It’s fast; it’s just a great place to work. So I would love for them to have me back, really. You’ll have to put in a good word for me.
Is there a chance also, you’ll be singing at the BET Awards?
I’m not sure about that; everything is up in the air right now. I would love to because I’ve never performed at the BET Awards and I’ve only been there maybe twice in my life. I would love to just be there, so everything’s in the air, but I have a good feeling about it, so hopefully yes.
What do you feel it is about the show “Drop Dead Diva” that resonates well?
I just think it’s real and it has so many different elements. It has the whole lawyer element. It has the relationship element and I just think it just deals with subject matter that so many people can relate to. And they have like the coolest celebs that come in and out. I heard that Kim Kardashian’s going to be on this season and Serena Williams, and so they always have like good little things that they throw in. And so I think it keeps people interested in watching and I’m happy to step in and help too. So I’m happy about that.
Has there been a standout moment on set for you when that kind of sticks in your memory that’s particularly memorable for you?
Oh, it’s so many great moments … Brooke and I would always sing and stuff like that. There was a rat on set that was a part of a scene. I’m afraid of rats — like, ridiculously afraid. And I had to be in the scene with the rat. You know, people were holding it and petting and I’m like, “These people are crazy.” I’m like, “What is going on?” I don’t do rats. So that’s one of the moments that I’m like, “Oh my god.”
You have a lot of amazing fans which you refer to as stars, what would you like to say to them?
Hi, stars. I’ve said so much to them I’ve written in paragraphs just how I feel about them. And I can just honestly just share with everybody on the phone that the stars they believe in me when I don’t believe in myself. And they have kept me going besides my family they’re like my extended family.
And whenever I need to be uplifted I go and read their comments on Twitter and some of the emails that I’ve gotten from other stars that have sent me things from other stars. So it’s just amazing to have an extended [family] that not only looks up to you, but holds you up and makes you shine. So that’s why I call them stars because without them I couldn’t shine. I couldn’t be the type of entertainer that I want to be and that I’m growing into becoming.
How would you describe your character in “Drop Dead Diva”?
My character her name is Elisa Shane. She is a nurse. She is a mother and she’s a go-getter and that’s what I love about her that she stands up for what she believes in. And she really loves her son before her father died she took care of him and tried to give him the best life possible. And I’m just happy that they chose me to play her because I have a lot of fun with her.
You’ve been famous since you were a child. Did you enjoy that time, or do you think it was really hard or difficult?
Well, I definitely enjoyed it. You know, and I enjoy what I do, I love what I do. At times it was very difficult because you’re growing up in the public eye. When you don’t know who you are at that age you’re growing into developing into who you are, when you don’t know that sometimes you can get caught into people pleasing and trying to please everybody but yourself.
So I was able to take a break and take a look within myself and figure out some things, have a baby, and now come back with a sense of who I am. And now the journey back to the top with a journey back into entertainment is my life. And it’s a dream and it’s exciting because now I have a sense of who I am.
When is your next album coming out?
The new album is coming real soon.
Can you talk about Whitney Houston, who co-starred with you in “Cinderella”?
I really miss her. I miss her so much and I love her so much. And this is the person that I looked up to and she was the possibility for me. She was everything in terms of singing like everything could happen for me at one point in my life, she was the reason.
And just her spirit was just infectious. I can’t even put into words what her voice meant to me and what she meant to me as a person. And she will forever be loved and missed.
Which singer do you admire the most right now?
I admire a couple of people. I absolutely adore Beyoncé. I love Adele. I think she’s great. Usher’s a great artist. Chris Brown, There are so many great artists out there right now that I love and admire, just those is just to name a few.
Where do you get the drive to do so many things at the same time?
Honestly, I just come to terms with the fact that acting, singing and all of these things that I get a chance to share is a part of why I was born. It’s my purpose. It’s a service and so I have so much that I have to fulfill. And when I’m doing the things that I love to do I don’t feel fulfilled. It’s a service that I have to give to the people of the world.
You have tried so many different looks in your time, in this past. What made you step out and try these different looks?
I think in the past that’s I wore the braids for a long time and then things start to get a little weird with my look. So I’ve been practicing for years to try to get it right and I finally found the right team that I feel comfortable enough with to take chances. And so I think right now it’s all about shock value for me.
When you’ve been gone for so long and people kind of forget who you are or so you try to do things to kind of shock and get people to talk. And so you can’t do that with just music anymore. You have to do it all the way around. So that’s all I’m trying to do, I’m just trying to take risks and chances with everything I’m doing from music to looks to videos to acting roles. I’m just trying to get back out there consistently.
What is the one thing that you hope people learn from your journey throughout your life?
That I realized that it was my purpose and that I gave everything, all I had. I really loved music and I really love everything that I did and I put my all into it. And at the end of the day, like I said, I’m just here for service. That’s it. And I realize that, when you grow up, you want to be famous, you want to be a star, you want to be popular. But it’s not about that for me anymore. All that’s great but it’s really about living out my purpose and really giving back to the people who believed in me for all these years.
What’s the name of your next album?
The name of the new album is called, “Two Eleven.” And that’s the day that I was born. And every year, I grow and I evolve and I become a different person every day actually. But that year you celebrate the day you were born and you just try to get better and better.
And it’s also the day that I lost my idol, but gained her as an angel but lost her in the physical. So that day has really become so special to me and I just dedicate my life to just living my purpose and doing what I’m supposed to do.
Aside from Chris Brown, are there other guest artists on the album?
At this point, it’s the only feature on the album. I wish I could have had more, but Chris Brown is the only feature on “Two Eleven.”
Are you going for more R&B this time around or more Top 40?
This album is definitely rooted in R&B. I think that’s what’s brought this thing for me for a long time. And so it’s great to be back to my core but it definitely has a different twist and a different edge, a different sound. It’s futuristic R&B.
For more info: “Drop Dead Diva” website