Patterson teen lands role in ‘The Butler’

PATTERSON, La. — Though he only got into acting about a year ago, a Patterson teen is set to appear on the big screen for the first time in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” coming to theaters Friday (Aug. 16, 2013).

Isaac White, 15, a junior at Patterson High School, did not originally intend to get into acting, he said.

He started out as a singer and has been doing so for three or four years.

White first started traveling going to different churches to sing, his father, Grey White, said.

White was going to a vocal school that closed down. “We were looking for somewhere else to go to bring him to keep him busy at vocal lessons,” Grey White said.

Grey White said he and his wife found out about a performing arts school in New Orleans. Grey White said his son just wanted to do vocal lessons but found out the school had acting too. So Isaac White decided to try acting as well, he said.

If the vocal school Isaac White attended had not closed down, he probably would have never started acting, Grey White said.

“The Butler” is about a butler who works for eight presidents. The movie follows his life from his childhood to his 90s and is based on a true story, Isaac White said.

“It’s basically a love story between father and son because what they go through is what father and son go through in America,” Isaac White said. “It’s a story that needs to be told.”

The oldest son is an activist who joins the Black Panthers. The father, who is a butler at the White House, is still fighting for the same cause during the Civil Rights Movement but goes about it in a different way, Grey White said.

Actor Forest Whitaker plays the butler and Oprah Winfrey plays his wife.

Isaac White plays Charlie Gaines, the youngest son of the butler. Isaac White said the oldest son is fictionalized, but his character, the youngest son, is based on a real person.

Isaac White said it was scary at first being on set, but he had fun once he met everyone and saw how nice they were.

Still, the film’s director, Lee Daniels, was intimidating, Isaac White said.

“Working on set was scary too because as a beginner, the director ... was looking for a certain part. And so the director was scary,” Isaac White said. “He even scared Jane Fonda. He was just that tough. He was the real deal. And he wanted his particular thing.”

Isaac White played kind of a “bratty kid” and “a momma’s boy,” Grey White said.

Isaac White’s part in the movie began in August 2012, and he was on set for two to three weeks to film in New Orleans, he said.

Grey White said his son had been in Los Angeles for screen-testing for a Disney movie, but he ended up not getting the part. However, while he was in Los Angeles for another audition, he found out he got the part for The Butler, Grey White said. “A lot of this has come about because he’s a singer,” Grey White said.

Grey White takes his son to a performing arts school in New Orleans every Saturday. “They must have seen something in him because they wound up getting him an audition for something called iPOP,” Grey White said.

In January 2012, Isaac White competed in the International Presentation of Performers, or iPOP, Convention, in Los Angeles. He was awarded four trophies and two honorable mention awards from the event, which brings together trained performers and models to perform in front of choreographers and show producers and to develop networking skills that will benefit them in the future, according to a January 2012 Daily Review article.

While on set filming for “The Butler,” Isaac White said he was surprised during one of his scenes with Winfrey where she was supposed to slap him.

“I didn’t really think I was going to get slapped hard,” Isaac White said. When Winfrey slapped him the first time, she just kind of tapped him on the cheek, Isaac White said.

“I didn’t know, but the director went to my dad ..., and he said, ‘Mr. White, can she hit him a little bit?’ And my dad was like ‘Tear him up!’” Isaac White said. “The next time she did it she slapped me hard, and I said, ‘Ohhh!’ because I wasn’t expecting it, so they had to cut it,” Isaac White said. “Then the director said, ‘Be a man, Charlie! Take it like a man!” Isaac White said while laughing. Daniels always called the cast members by their character names on set, he said.

Grey White quit his job to make sure his son can get to where he needs to for auditions to pursue his dream, he said. “Right now, dad’s life is kind of on the standstill to make sure he’s good,” Grey White said. “That’s my sacrifice.”

Isaac White plans to continue to sing in church and act, he said. “Whatever God wants me to do, basically,” Isaac White said.

He just finished filming a movie called “Sex Ed,” and Isaac White has a lead role in it, he said. Haley Joel Osment stars in the movie.

Grey White owns Screaming Eagles Tae Kwon Do Academy in Patterson. Isaac White has also done Tae Kwon Do since he was 5 or 6 six years old and has won lots of trophies and medals in competitions, he said. His two other sons also have competed in martial arts, Grey White said.

“I try to do everything I can to make sure his dream comes true and my other kids’ dreams come true at the same time,” Grey White said.

Isaac White plays percussion in the band, and is involved in a vocal gifted program at Patterson High School, he said.

Grey White said, “Eventually, hopefully, we can be able to go ahead and showcase his voice through television shows or movies.”

Issac White said he has done up to three auditions in one day. “We audition whenever something comes up,” Issac White said. During pilot season for TV shows, which runs from February to April, he auditions in Los Angeles two times a day, up to 10 times per week.

Isaac White will also be featured in the September edition of O Magazine, which is Winfrey’s magazine.

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