Denise Boutte loves to cook. In fact, she loves it so much that she has a cookbook out in October, her own cooking web series, and a killer recipe for a crowd-pleasing, seafood-stuffed catfish. When she isn’t making meals that her family loves, she is acting, a profession she didn’t know she wanted until she was already in the thick of it. Though she’s known most for her roles in Why Did I Get Married? and Meet the Browns, Boutte has the star power that proves she’s just getting started.
Cliché: What was the role that made you want to continue being an actress?
Denise Boutte: This is the weird part about my journey. I never thought about being an actress. I was actually in corporate America for almost 5 years and it was all thanks to clients casting me for jobs. I thought, “This is actually kind of feeling good. What if I could get representation? What if I actually pursue this thing?” I got thrown into acting but I thoroughly enjoy it because I am a Capricorn and a control freak by nature. Acting was my freefall before I came to Los Angeles and I started getting formal training. Acting was about having fun with not being in control because you are kind of living vicariously through the characters. I wouldn’t say that there was a role that made me necessarily continue, for the most part. When I’m not acting, I’m staying creative, so I have something to fill those in-between times.
What have you learned about yourself as a person through acting?
There is a lot of this that I can’t control and that’s hard. For me, I’ve been blessed to have a very firm personal foundation so that, I guess, enables me to take the ups and downs in my professional life. Because I have that steady foundation, I can more easily handle the unknown. My business savvy from back in the day has allowed me to create opportunities. So I’ve learned how business savvy I really am because I was working at advertising for other people. I realized that I’m pretty good at this.
You played Sasha Brown on Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns. What was that experience like for you? What did you take away from playing Sasha?
Why Did I Get Married? came before Meet the Browns. It came out a year and a half after I was here and then we already knew there was going to be a series. The specifics of the series were kind of unknown. For me, it was an amazing experience because I was still so new and fresh to the acting game. I threw caution to the wind, loaded up the truck, and moved to Beverly. I’m not in Beverly, but it was such an amazing experience and I met such amazing individuals. We became a family of sorts. Tyler became like my big brother/mentor; it was just a safe, beautiful place for me to kind of figure it out. I came here with a really good foundation in regards to acting and I was open to trying new things and freefalling into it, but there’s a technique to it. After getting a comedy, there is a lot of technique to it. Everybody thinks you just jump on set and make it happen, but no, there’s very specific things that you have to do in order to bring a comedy to life. Once I knew that Browns was coming, I was in class every day, all day from this amazing guru of comedy named Lesly Kahn. Logan [Browning] and I were the newbies. This was our first series and our first real acting gig.
I would say to not take myself too seriously. I can tend to do that sometimes and the beauty of Sasha for me was she was kind of like a new age Lucille Ball. She was quirky; she was a little offbeat, but she was strong. She was a very strong force who put the family together, but she wasn’t afraid to be who she was and to be quirky, smart, and fearless, but still have fun. For me, Tyler cast me as such because Sasha was very close to who I am.
For me, I’ve been blessed to have a very firm personal foundation so that, I guess, enables me to take the ups and downs in my professional life.
You were recently in the film Media about a lawyer hoping to run for mayor until his mother asks him to run the family empire. What did you love most about your character, Danielle Jones? What choices did you disagree with?
The thing about Danielle is that there were so many places that we wanted to explore with the character in the initial film. The whole basis for Media was to have very, very strong female characters. We were vibing off a lot of things that are trending right now with regard to what the audience is gravitating toward, but I don’t think that we really had the opportunity to show how strong these females were. You can only do so much within the episodes, but Danielle had a lot of girth and Danielle had a whole lot of developing to do. I don’t think that we were fully able to execute that in the initial movie. Either way, it was an amazing opportunity to work with some brilliant actors I admired.
You are not just an actress, but you love to cook as well. In your cooking web series, you make a lot of southern dishes. Do you have a favorite dish? What about cooking do you enjoy most?
My family favorite is my seafood-stuffed catfish. That is, I think, number one. I’m not huge on baking, believe it or not. My mom is the baker. My mom is the one that does the sweets and the delectable desserts, but I would say that I do have a crowd pleaser and it’s my bread pudding. I would say that cooking started the appreciation for the simple life that I lived. When I was growing up, my grandparents had a farm; we had livestock, we had produce, we had it all. With that comes a lot of responsibility. Most weekends, we were together as a family and we were making sauces and doing all this stuff. Of course, as a kid you’re like, “Oh my god, I have to wake up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning? Really?” There’s no replacing those memories getting together with the family in the backyard and visiting and going home with what you made from the crop that season. I think that cooking gave me a more in-depth appreciation for the simple life.
A cookbook of your favorite Louisiana recipes is coming out in October. Do you find that expression via acting and cooking can be similar? Or are they very different?
There are a lot of similarities in that you can put your own spin on it. Each person’s take on a character…the interpretation is going to be different. Your past, your history, and the things that you are exposed to are going to totally change your interpretation of that character. The same thing goes for cooking; it’s based on my roots, where I am from, and how I grew up. There’s certain flavors and tastes that I wasn’t even used to using. There were certain things that I kind of had preconceived notions about. The title of the cookbook is Southern Modified; we’re changing it up. So, in that regard, there is a very similar connection between acting and cooking. They are both very different mediums, but for me, it’s an outlet. I need something to fill my creative outlet. I had no idea that I had this need until I fell into acting and it felt good.
Aside from your cookbook, what is coming up next for you as we near the end of 2017?
Who knows, right? I’ve been very fortunate. The new season of Stan Against Evil starts November 1, so I’m very excited about that. The cast was so welcoming. Dana Gould [creator of the show] is such an amazing talent. He created an amazing character that I really had fun with.
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Denise Boutte Talks Acting and Her New Cooking Web Series: photo courtesy of Birdie Thompson