Woody McClain and Gabrielle Dennis on their world tour of the mini-series at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westcliff. Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
Taking up a lead role of a true-life story can often be daunting, but for America actors Woody McClain and Gabrielle Dennis, the decision was effortless and the opportunity was life-changing.

The actors, who were fresh from their European tour with The Bobby Brown Story, made a surprise visit in South Africa on Friday to promote the show.

The mini-series is a two-night biopic chronicling the life and career of the controversial R&B singer Bobby Brown.

McClain, who played the “King of R&B”, said Brown was part of putting the story together, making sure he told his story accurately.

“Bobby was there the whole time; he made sure that he told the good, the bad and the ugly of his story. He didn’t keep anything out and any questions we had to ask and that need to be answered he would be 100% honest in answering them,” said McClain.

The biopic picked up from The New Edition Story, which focused on the life and music of the group and takes viewers into Brown’s life as a solo artist and everything that followed, such as his drug abuse, marriage to Whitney Houston and affair with singer Janet Jackson.

McClain admired the transparency that Brown took in making the biopic.

“It says a lot about Bobby because if I was telling my story you wouldn’t have seen me doing drugs, cheating on my wife. I would have been Superman. For Bobby to open his heart for the world to see says a lot about him.”

Vastly different in terms of character comparison to the hit-maker, McClain said he was shy compared to Brown and that the character helped him build his confidence.

A challenge in tapping into his role was trying to gather time to be “a family”.

“We have very little time to become a family. Usually on some productions you have months to build your chemistry, but we had just days to become a solid family,” he said.

He added that the choreography and dance performances in the film were among the most intense aspects of making the series.

“The most intense part was probably some of the dance performances because we did three of them in one day. You had to do it at least 20 times for each one, in different angles,” he added.

With a well-built body in the biopic, McClain said it took time for him to get back into shape.

“The best part is where you can transform your body to what you need it to be,” he said.

Dennis, who takes on the role of Houston in the film, said she mostly relied on past interviews, video clips and reading up on the late singer.

“It was a little less stress for me because the weight of the movie is on Woody’s shoulders because it is The Bobby Brown Story and we’re just trying to support him and not take any of the light from him.”

Her highlight of being part of the biopic was it being different to what she was used to.

“Doing real character work and portraying a person who is real and not being able to add my own flavour to it, it’s really like trying to re-create the essence of a person,” she said.