We were fortunate enough to chat with actress and producer, Denise Boutte at That’s My Entertainment. Effusive and effervescent she has an optimistic heart and an adventurous spirit. One of the women in Hollywood knocking down doors and leveling the playing field.
It is her willingness to explore new territories that have led her to her current role on IFC’s Stan Against Evil. Boutte plays the leader of the mysterious demon and witch fighting organization, The Black Hat Society.
So, let us begin our in-depth portrait of an artist who never takes anything for granted!
That’s My Entertainment: Let’s start off by talking about your background which is quite fascinating. When did you decide that acting was for you and who were some of your influences?
Denise Boutte: It’s very interesting. I would say I fell into the business. I never went to school for it. I am a very tactical and a very planned individual. Becoming an entertainer was never a point of my trajectory. I moved to Dallas, Texas and I got involved in advertising.
It sounds like I made this up, but honestly, I have several references that can attest to it. It was the weirdest thing but three of the accounts I worked on, one of them put me in charge of casting commercials.
The clients would show up when the commercial was being cast and they would say, “Denise has more of the look that we are going for.” Pampers was the first commercial for me. I ended up playing with a baby all day. Then I did an Iams dog food one. It just kind of kept happening.
Then one thing led to another and I was doing local ads for Mary Kay. It ended up where my boss said, “You need to make a decision. Either you do this or you pursue this acting thing.”
For some reason, I was like why not? There must be something to this. I can be a control freak but at the time, I had this hair-brained idea to go, let’s see what happens. I wanted to give myself a fair amount of time, if it happens great. If it doesn’t, I can come back to this gig.
I thoroughly enjoyed advertising. I was also checking out journalism and thought maybe one day I would be a news anchor. You know, I have always been very open to exploring and when things keep happening, I think let’s see where this takes me.
So far, so good. It’s kind of worked out. Every few years, I reinvent myself. Fortunately, I have been blessed. In my career, I go with the flow.
TME: Working as an actor and producer (like John C. McGinley) is no easy task. If you had your way, which do you prefer? Do you like acting or producing?
DB: I love what presents itself in the moment. I never question what opportunities present themselves. When it comes to my professional career, if it doesn’t fit, don’t work it. I will do my due diligence. I will wake up in the morning as if I have a call sheet.
I will go into my office and I will handle my to do list. I will continue to pursue certain paths that feel good. I am a believer that if you plant a seed, it will manifest. Doors just seemed to open. I’ve always been very prepared.
I keep up with my training to make sure that I don’t get rusty. There are people that work all of their life for this and it does not manifest. So, I do not take this for granted. I have an arsenal of projects waiting.
I know that arsenal has been created for a reason. When the right pieces of the puzzle present themselves, that will be my next project.
TME: You have also worked in television and film. Do you have a preference when it comes to either medium? Some actors and actresses like the faster pace of television because in film there are a lot of takes and quite a bit of waiting around.
DB: There are things about film that I appreciate and things about tv that I appreciate. I worked on Meet the Browns and we would do three or four shows a week. So, there was no better training ground.
You didn’t have time to think. You really have to let it go. You learn so much about yourself personally and professionally. I have a very strong work ethic. Any time I get to act, I have to let go of the controlling part of Denise and free fall.
You can only study so much. You are reacting to the person across from you. I mean, that’s it. For me there is nothing more liberating than free falling on the set. It’s like a vacation! I thoroughly enjoy both mediums. Acting for me on the whole is very liberating!
TME: Your fans might not know some of your early work. You started out in a show called Caliente in 1995. You were thirteen years old. What do you remember from that experience and did it help you in future roles?
DB: (Laughing uproariously) You found my blackmail material! Oh my God! That is hilarious! I knew that was somewhere so you did your due diligence, okay? I didn’t question the opportunities that presented themselves.
You’ve got nothing to lose. It was like, another credit, another credit. None of this hardball. You just got on set, you went with it and you sort of free falled. I just had fun!
Welcome to Willard’s Mill
TME: Your career is taking you where you want to go. It has evidently led you to your current role in Stan Against Evil! Do you think we will learn more about your character Lara in season 3?
DB: Well, that of course is in the hands of Dana Gould. I’ll tell you what. I want to know what happens to Lara because I like her. She is dangling all of these loose ends and going what is happening?
I grew up in Louisiana in a very simple place at a very simple time. That is why I just go with the flow. I have a work ethic that is about putting in the work and things will manifest.
This is another situation where you couldn’t have told me that this is going to happen. I had another series that I was cast in.
Four months before Stan started, we were in negotiations and the project got pulled. Part of me was like seriously? The other part was like I am going to focus on culinary and my cookbook.
Right when I was thinking of taking a break for a while no sooner than two weeks later, my manager gets a call. G. Charles Wright, one of the biggest casting directors around, made me an offer for Lara Bouchard.
I was like sign me up! This is not an accident. It is funny because G. Charles was a fan of Meet the Browns. We’re in syndication. A friend of his had a recurring role on it and that is how he started watching it.
As it turns out, Stan is what I was looking for. I wanted to kick some butt and show the guns. This is a complete switch in where I thought I was going to go. Things happen for a reason.
The moment you are in the valley, you don’t see that. I knew when my manager called me about this job, there was a reason the other project got pulled. It was to make way for this new path. I was very grateful.
TME: This is another instance where a door closed but another one opened. When you are on set, what is it like to build chemistry with John C. McGinley? He is a veteran actor and producer so the pressure is pretty intense.
DB: The first thing you have to do is make sure you don’t “fan” out. You just have to play it cool. This for me was the first time I had to jump on to a moving train. That was a new experience for me. Here they are in season two.
I had to jump into a double dutch game. You prepare, you show up on set and get ready to free fall. John and the whole cast are very talented. Our characters are very distinct.
They are there for a reason. Why is Lara coming? What is she doing? You’re showing up isn’t to escalate anything or be funny. You have to play this straight.
Now, if the audience gets a laugh out of it, then great. You can’t add anything extra on to it. You have to take it seriously.
These are the people, this is their lives, so my whole goal was to jump on this moving train and be as prepared as possible. I want to bring my own interpretation of Lara and be very specific on why she is here. Why is she necessary for Dana to tell the story?
The cast was very open and welcoming. Debbie (Deborah Baker, Jr) took me around to every single person, cast and crew on set. It was like oh, how sweet! Where did this ray of sunshine come from?
TME: Since you had that very comfortable and open environment, how did you rehearse the séance scene?
DB: Not laughing was half of the battle right there. It was funny. We’re playing it straight but then you have the ridiculousness on top of it so you can immediately “break.”
Dana let us free fall. We would get different directors who have their different takes and we just wanted to have fun. I had to get the laughter out beforehand.
Dana would just come over, and if he was inspired, he would give you an ad-lib. I would like to get a peek into his brain. His gears are always in motion. It is fascinating to me.
TME: Since Dana has created this environment where ad-libs can come at you anytime so you have to be fast on your feet, do you have any behind the scenes stories?
DB: I want to give credit to Sofia Pavone who plays Constance. We had several scenes together. Just to get some insight I would talk to her. She was just a sweetie pie.
You know how they say it’s all in the eyes? She is wonderful to watch and she can do so much with her eyes. It is so simple. You don’t have to overdo it. That’s the thing about acting. You don’t have to put in extra all the time.
An amusing scene was with the mailman in the kitchen. You don’t know what is going to make the cut so they pretty much chopped that reaction down. I was so hysterical in that scene when I discover him.
Well, Dana was with his daughter on set. I did the scene two or three times. Then I would just go out on the porch to settle myself. He came out and asked me if I was alright.
I told him, well I wanted to give it all I got. I have to be hysterical. He was like, yeah but I want you to be okay. It was the sweetest gesture. It showed me what kind of heart of gold Dana has.
TME: You said previously that you wanted to kick some butt and do things you haven’t done before. Do you think that you, Stan and Evie will ever partner up to defeat some of the demons and witches?
DB: Girl, you saying that, put that interview out there! I want to get these guns out. I would love to get more physical! If Dana feels so inspired, I would love to join forces with them. I want to kick some major butt!
Lara has taken over the Black Hat Society for a reason. From what I can tell, she is on the side of good. So, yeah, I would really like to have more physical stuff going on in the future. I would thoroughly enjoy that.
TME: You are from Louisiana. Did you do any research to prepare for Lara? It is rich in voodoo culture.
DB: I did! Good old Marie Laveau! There was a lot of stuff I already kind of knew. I definitely tried to inject a little bit of that in Lara. This was supposed to be my role for a reason. I would love to know more of who she is and where she is going.
Revisiting the Past
TME: Let’s take a look at some of your past works and future projects. What was it like working on Chris Rock’s show, Everybody Hates Chris?
DB: Once again, it was like being on a moving train. My character on this show was not that likeable. Majority of my characters are either trying to steal your man or steal your money. Obviously, I have done my job right if they think I am like those characters. I was very honored to be there.
TME: You have also worked on episodic television with some legends like Deidre Hall in Days of Our Lives and Tyler Perry in Meet the Browns. You learned about the fast pace of television from working on Tyler’s show. Is there anything you learned about working on a soap opera?
DB: I would like to thank Fran Bascom. My manager at the time, was very good friends with her. When I first moved out here, I went out to dinner with both of them. I guess I was ignorant to who Fran was.
She told my manager that if a part comes up for me that she would definitely put a call into her. She was a woman of her word because my first television credits for Days of our Lives were courtesy of her.
I had some wonderful chemistry with the actors on that show. The writers get to know your strengths. I would love the chance to do something like that again. It’s like a family. You get to free fall and play.
I know it sounds like a cliché but you really aren’t going to work. You are going to spend some moments with your family.
I also want to thank Tyler for giving me a safe environment on Meet the Browns to learn and figure things out. I have grown so much as an artist and a person.
Facing the Future
TME: Well, you definitely have some good things in the mix coming up. You have a movie called Couples Night with Clifton Powell and Biz Markie that is completed. When will that be released?
DB: I don’t know. But I actually saw a screening of this on the Tom Joyner cruise. Oh my God, Tony Rock! He did his thing and his brother, Chris did his thing. It is like Beyoncé and Solange. Both talented in their own right.
It was so cool. I just had fun being on the set and playing with these guys. I worked with the production company before and they just trusted me to take this character wherever I did.
I don’t know when it will come out. You may see it in Redbox but I don’t know.
TME: Then in February you are Simone Wilcox in the Choir Director with Jaleel White and Anna Maria Horsford. What can you tell us about it? IMDB lists it as a drama but it sounds more like a thriller.
DB: It is a drama and a thriller for sure. Simone Wilcox isn’t very nice. She is conniving and scheming. I probably shouldn’t say this but I don’t want to play that girl. I kind of don’t.
She did money laundering and blackmail. I just hope no one has a Simone in their congregation! You need a séance. It was fun though.
TME: Some other fun for you appears to be cooking. Tell us about your cookbook of your favorite Louisiana recipes Southern Modified. Is it Cajun or Creole?
DB: I loved cooking as a kid but it wasn’t until I moved away from home to Dallas, that I actually started discovering my love of cooking. Southern Modified is about traditional Southern dishes modified for a healthier lifestyle.
My partner, Chef Genard and I have taken dishes and used healthier alternatives to create them. There is a Gumbo dish in there because you come under a firing squad if you leave Gumbo out back home. I had to be very careful on how I modified the recipe so the folks back home wouldn’t say, “Uh-huh, girl! You can’t do that.”
I try to make sure the dishes are faithful but not high in calories. The whole purpose of this cookbook was to be an homage to my Grandmother and Mother’s recipes.
Southern Modified is feeding my spirit and makes me feel good. I can’t wait to see where this path takes me.
TME: When can we expect this to hit stores in 2018? Will you be doing a book tour?
DB: Absolutely. The goal was actually to have it out before the holidays but I have never done a cookbook. That first draft, I was like oh, my word! We are doing it through an independent publisher.
We are making sure that the book is visually appealing. Another friend of mine designed the Louisiana Girl logo. The cookbook will be out in Q1 2018. I’ll keep you posted. It is definitely progressing along nicely.
It’s about Decency and Civility
TME: You were a presenter at the Heroes in the Struggle Awards which is dedicated to the fight against HIV/Aids. How did you become involved with the organization?
DB: I won’t disclose the people in my life who are fully functioning and have progressive lives with this disease. It is something very near and dear to me. That is how it started.
The older you get, the more mature you get, and you find out that you can have all the presents and money in the world but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have your health.
This has taught me to not sweat the small stuff. It is about living the best quality life that is possible, caring for your fellow humans and being civil.
If I can be that one little voice that is just fighting for common decency and humanity, I just want to do my part, however that is possible.
TME: Did you have anything else that you wanted to say in closing, Denise?
DB: I just wanted to say that if it weren’t for the fans, we wouldn’t have jobs. The fact that the Stan fans have given this character so much love and they have embraced her, I am just so grateful. I do not take it for granted.
Thank you for all the support. Let’s just see where Willard’s Mill takes us!
TME: Thank you so much for your time, Denise. It was a pleasure talking with you.
You can follow Denise on these social media platforms