*Malcolm-Jamal Warner doesn’t mind forever being remembered as “Theo Huxtable,” the only son of Claire (Phylicia Rashad) and Heathcliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) on the iconic, long-running sitcom, “The Cosby Show.”
He appreciates all the love and cherishes every moment he spent on the show. However, Warner would like the public to know that his creative juices run much farther than sitcoms (he also starred on UPN’s “Malcolm & Eddie”). His talent runs “Miles Long,” which also happens to be the name of his independent band.
That’s one of the reasons Warner agreed to do an episode of TV One’s “Life After” series.
He wants his fans to know all is well and that he’s been keeping busy since “The Cosby Show” ended its (1984-1992) run.
I recently caught up with Warner to talk about acting, his life, and his music.
Darlene Donloe: Why did you want to do a “Life After” episode?
Malcolm Jamal Warner: I thought it would be a good way for me to share that I have a successful life after “Cosby.” My post “Cosby” life came as a direct result of my planning while I was on “Cosby”. I had this maniacal obsession to make sure I had a life after. My mom was instrumental. My mom said, ‘Hey the show could be over next year. What are you going to do when the show is over?’ I didn’t have time for ‘hey I’m a TV star.’ I started directing. I always focused on not being a ‘where are they now.’ I didn’t want to be that dude.
DD: Were you scared when the show was over?
MJW: I was not scared when the show ended. Oh, no. We were all ready. Keisha wanted to go to school. I already had a show in place at NBC so I knew I had two months before I would start working again. Everyone had something to do.
DD: You’ve said “The Cosby Show” was not about a black family, the show was about an upper middle class family that happens to be black. What do you say to folks who said the show wasn’t realistic? I’m sure you’ve heard that.
MJW: Oh, my yes. I heard the same thing. At the time I was getting tens of thousands of letters saying thank you for the show. Explaining it to people was interesting. In so many families a person was the first one to go to college. Media is such a powerful medium, many people get their knowledge of black people from the media.
DD: Malcolm & Eddie – any regrets?
MJW: I’m proud of it. I am proud of the daily fights I had with writers and producers. Things I didn’t back down from. I was fighting for integrity. It was not the show UPN wanted to do.
DD: In the show “Life After” you say it took you 39 years to feel comfortable in your skin. How did you feel before and what changed? How did you get to a comfortable place?
MJW: I will be 40 next month. No matter whether you’re living in the public eye or not, everyone goes through their own set of insecurities. Often time the way we view ourselves is through other people’s eyes. Where is the fine line? Who am I when I’m not in public? A lot of the time – part of our growth is making decisions, having doubts, overcoming, all of the above. I’m in a place where I feel good about who I am and the choices I’ve made. I went through a time when the bad guys were getting all the love. It’s ok to be a good person. Being positive doesn’t have to be corny.
DD: What is it about LA? You’ve been back 15 years.
MJW: The weather. It does kind of lull you into this false sense of everything is great. You don’t have to shovel snow. You don’t have to walk your dog in 20 below weather. People see it as the good life. In terms of being an actor, LA is still the hub and Mecca.
DD: Most of your friends aren’t in the biz. Is that deliberate?
MJW: Definitely! There is so much of my life that is the business. I like talking to my friends who complain about their jobs. It may not be that different from my complaints. I like to know what’s happening in the real world.
DD: How is it you’ve managed to stay scandal free when other child-turned-adult actors have had some issues?
MJW: I work on it. There are hot spots, especially in LA. You know where paparazzi hang out. If you’re caught at The Ivy you can’t complain that the paparazzi is there and shooting you. You learn not to go where the hot spots are. The novelty of being a star wore off pretty quickly. It’s much easier to get caught up then to not get caught up.
DD: Did you learn that on your own, or did mom keep you straight?
MJW: A lot of it came from watching Mr. Cosby. This man is phenomenally successful. A sense of longevity. When we did the show, he had already been in the business a lot of years.
DD: Tell me about Miles Long. You describe it as a jazz, funk, spoken word band.
MJW: It’s very different. It allows me to express myself in a way that I can’t as an actor. As an actor you’re interpreting somebody else’s work. With music, you’re doing your own voice. I get to speak my mind. I do my music independently. It’s unencumbered by someone else’s vision of what’s hot.
DD: Describe what you do.
MJW: I’m not singing, not rapping. Even people who don’t like poetry dig what I do.
DD: So, you’re working on another CD?
MJW: Yeah, I’m currently finishing a CD.
DD: What’s it called?
MJW: I don’t have a title for it yet.
DD: In “Life After” you speak very lovingly about Michelle Thomas, the actress you dated, who died from cancer. You describe her as one of the most inspirational people you’ve ever known.
MJW: She was a person with an incredible amount of integrity. She always had a positive outlook.
DD: When you were seven, you wanted to be a famous actor, poet or basketball player – two out of three isn’t bad. So when are you suiting up, and for what team?
MJW: Those days are long gone. My game never materialized. I’d have to suit up for the Lakers.
DD: But, you’re from New Jersey.
MJW: I left New Jersey when I was five. I used to be one of those kids who would stand outside the gate and get everyone’s autograph. I have all the Lakers autographs. I have Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, Jamaal Wilkes. I have everybody’s.
DD: How is your relationship going with Regina King?
MJW: That’s part of my staying out of the public eye and staying scandal free.
Warner’s episode of “Life After” will re-air on TV One at 8 p.m. (ET), Sun., Aug. 8 and 9:30 p.m. Mon., Aug. 9. Check your local listings.
About Darlene Donloe / [email protected]
From her Plaxo profile page: I have been a journalist for more than 20 years. Within that time I have written about entertainment, travel, medical, sports, politics and more. I’m also a publicist. I’ve worked on high profile campaigns for Nelson Mandela and Michael Jackson, as well as for individuals. When I’m not writing or doing publicity, I work as a massage therapist.