Whitney and Bobby Brown’s relationship the focus in new biopic

Directed by Angela Bassett, the telefilm chronicles the relationship between Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown from the moment they first meet in 1989 right up to their tumultuous marriage.

Words by Imagine TV Network

Yaya DaCosta (Tron: Legacy, The Butler) and Arlen Escarpeta (Star Trek Into Darkness, Into the Storm) play the role of late pop sensation Whitney Houston and her ex-husband Bobby Brown in Lifetime's new biographical film. Written by Shem Bitterman, the film is director Angela Bassett's directorial debut and Whitney's vocal performances in the film are sung by multi-platinum selling singer Deborah Cox.

Image credit: Lifetime

Escarpeta recalls being ambivalent about portraying Brown when he first knew about the plans for the production. "The Bobby that people know through the media, I don't know if I can get behind [it]... I don't know how to play that bad boy stuff," he says. To better understand Brown, he watched video interviews of Whitney and him talking about and interacting with each other.

As he read Brown's autobiography, he says, "I could just tell that he had a lot of love to give... And wanting to get that love back. He wanted love and he gave love."

In spite of that, a lot of the made-for-tv movie resonated with him, he shares. Playing Brown is a "nice little reminder" of how blessed and fortunate he is, and shows him the value of living in the moment. At some point, he says, it is inevitable to feel the pressures of having success, trying to be successful and keeping up with that lifestyle. It is part of being in the business and being in the industry, he remarks.

Image credit: Lifetime

Getting behind Whitney and Brown's love is also the crux of the telefilm. What Bassett was looking for was for both DaCosta and him to depict that spark of magic when two people first meet and that place between love and wonderment in a relationship.

Describing the pair's relationship, he says, "[It is] two people falling in love before they knew what could happen."

He takes the view that arguments and disagreements are necessary in a relationship and approaches these scenes in the film by setting a goal to understand the character a little bit more.

"There are a lot of moments where Whitney and Bobby are having these arguments and these issues. And it's a battle of ego, it's a battle of love, it's a battle of control."

"When Whitney and Bobby were still trying to figure things out, there was a lot of happiness there," he adds. But once the success of their individual careers came into the picture, it became more of an effort to keep their relationship together.

There were multiple scenes he found challenging but they relate to different aspects of acting, he remarks. The challenge for the sex scenes was that it required him to take directions off-camera but he had to make the actions look natural and unscripted.

The lip-syncing and performances were tough but fun to shoot, he says, but the argument scenes, on the other hand, always drained him and left him feeling empty.

Image credit: Lifetime

For him, the most emotionally-charged scene was the one at the end where Brown comes back from drug rehabilitation. "[Brown] thought that he made the right decision to move forward and he didn't know when he walked into this room, he's going to come face to face with the same person whom he was [and] whom he left."

The different views they have of themselves, and of each other, eventually led to the breakdown of their relationship. It was a painful thing to watch, he reveals, because you know what is going to happen and where it is leading.

"You wished they made different decisions or different choices... There's beauty in the struggle and there's ugliness in the success and I think our film kinda painted that picture very, very well."

Whitney will premiere on Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514) on 11 February 2015 at 9pm. Remembering Whitney, an hour-long special consisting of interviews with her family and friends and paired with archival footage of Whitney Houston, will premiere on Lifetime at 8pm.

 

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