Actress Denise Boutte is best known for her role as Sasha Brown on hit sitcom series Meet The Browns. She is now set to return to the small screen as the lead in the upcoming TV movie, Her Only Choice as Tasha Jackson.
Her new role will see her play a woman who must decide between fighting for her own life, or saving her unborn child after she is diagnosed with breast cancer.
The poignant story is deeply personal to Denise, with survivors of the disease in her own family. We asked Denise what it was like playing a character struggling with issues that she could relate to.
“I’m blessed to say that my mother is a proud survivor, along with several aunts! Due to family history and an early self-exam scare, I’ve had to get mammograms (starting off with ultrasounds) since the age of 26 and because my mother carries the gene, had to get genetically tested.
“This wasn’t just another film, it was personal and I was honored to be a part of something so powerful, personal, informative, and inspiring.”
Having had these experiences, Denise says it made the portrayal all the more real. Playing the character also helped her to realise things about herself, she says.
“That experience fed my portrayal and helped me discover how fearless I truly was in depicting such a complicated character.
“When the public associates you with other beloved, more glamorous characters, unfamiliar with grittier, embattled portrayals, it’s hard to convince them of your range and ability. While I’ve been professing my preparedness for some time now, I must remind myself that I’m on HIS time, not mine.
“A surprise? How much I’d repressed my emotions and fear of this disease. When you’re doing your best to be strong, positive and encouraging for the individual who’s on the battlefield, you often push personal feelings aside. Without giving too much away…after one particular hospital scene, a flashback of sorts, the director clearly said “cut” but I was so shaken with crying and hyperventilating, that Producer and Assistant Director had to console and calm me. Later that night, several crew members shared how affected they were by the scene, sharing how touched they were by dialogue that I’d improvised and was so “in the moment” of, that I couldn’t recall.”
When the role was presented to her there was no doubt she was going to take it. She says she felt her life had prepared her for the role.
“Her Only Choice left me with no other choice. Life had inevitably prepared me for this role, so when presented with it, my only answer was “yes”.
As emotionally taxing as it was, I tapped into past experience and at times, had to hold back. The purpose of this film is to inspire hope, to advocate, and educate. While playing the vulnerable notes, I was very conscious of showing this character’s strength and courage. Tasha Jackson’s got too much to live for and is not going down without a fight!”
Denise has starred in several different types of roles in the past, but this one was different - it provided her with a sense of duty to attribute the women who have suffered, and are suffering with the disease.
“Portraying Tasha Jackson was by far the most emotionally taxing, yet gratifying character portrayal I’ve had to date. That said, I’d wake up each morning, reminding myself that this project was “bigger than me” and was a tribute to the brave women who have fought and won, battled but were overcome and are currently fighting, advocating, educating and will inevitably cure breast cancer.
Her talents don’t just stop at acting and empowering, though. Louisiana-born Denise has excelled in cooking and creating her own recipes - which she has put together all in one book!
“It wasn’t until I moved to Dallas, Texas, that I began to re-create family favorites, as a way to ease being homesick.
“By the time I moved to L.A., I’d developed mad skills in the kitchen, which were taken to yet another level, once I joined club mommy. Cooking became more than just a passion….it was a way for me to reconnect/realign with pre-baby Denise.
“It was an outlet, an alternate haven for expressing my creativity.”
Although she has not been always been a kitchen conoissour, Denise says she has been compiling recipes with the intent to write a cookbook for over 10 years.
This desire led to the release of Southern Modified: Southern inspired dishes, modified for today’s healthier lifestyle. The idea for the cookbook was birthed from a conversation she had with Mississippi-born chef Jernard Wells.
“We discussed how we’d both adopted healthier eating habits as adults and for our families. Eating healthy, does not have to mean sacrificing taste!
“In Southern Modifed, you’ll find everything from Gumbo to Tortilla Soup; Smothered Okra to my personal secret weapon, Camera-Ready Cabbage Cleanse.”
And it’s not just the cookbook that Denise has created for the kitchen. She has also released her own spices, Weeziana Girl, inspired by her homeland, Louisiana.
“Thanks to my passion for all things food, I'm in the thick of creating a Culinary Empire.
“When I couldn’t find the perfect off-the-shelf blend I desired, I created my own! After dozens of years of mixing countless batches of this all- natural blend, in my kitchen for self and family/friends that desired bottles of their own, I figured it was time to think bigger.”
So what’s next for Denise and her multifaceted career?
“Only God knows and I can’t wait to see what blessings he has in store! That said, I continue to work…plant seeds, train, and prepare for the harvest.
“I will say that I want to kick some butt... Like Angelina Jolie, a.k.a. Jane Smith in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" style! I'm not toting these biceps around, just for the fun of it people! I’d like to get more physical and know there's an action role with my name all over it!
Southern Modified is currently available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Denise's website www.WeezianaGirl.com. You can also browse Denise's range of spices on her website too.
Her Only Choice is set to premiere on BET and BET Her in October.
Follow Denise on twitter @denise_boutte
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