Wesley Jonathan teams up with Cedric the Entertainer in new television show Soul man
Born in Los Angeles on October 18, 1978, Wesley Jonathan entered showbiz at an early age. He now plays Burrell “Stamps” Ballentine on TV Land’s The Soul Man. The show revolves around Reverend Boyce “The Voice” Ballentine (Cedric the Entertainer), an R&B superstar-turned-minister who relocated to St. Louis with his family to preach in his father’s church.
Moving seamlessly between comedic and dramatic roles since he was a young child, Wesley has exhibited an impressive range of acting talent. In addition, he’s a gifted and accomplished dancer and athlete, and has starred in countless movies, television shows and commercials.
He made his television debut at just 8, appearing on the smash FOX series 21 Jump Street. He was a series regular on The WB’s top-rated sitcom, What I Like about You, starring Amanda Bynes and Jennie Garth, and on the syndicated Teen NBC series City Guys. Since then, he has guest-starred and enjoyed recurring roles on some of the most popular shows on television, including NCIS, Cold Case, 90210 and CSI: Miami.
Wesley recently completed the feature film Cobu 3D, adding to his already extensive list of big screen credits, which includes Speed Dating, The Effect, Remember the Daze, Crossover, Roll Bounce, and The United States of Leland.
He is also a producer and star of the feature Dysfunctional Friends starring Stacey Dash and Terrell Owens. And he recently starred in David E. Talbert’s play for BET, What Goes around, Comes Around.
What interested you in attending a Juneteenth celebration in Texas, where it’s an official state holiday?
It was only natural, being African American, since it was the actual day on which the slaves were freed in Texas. I had never been here for Juneteenth, so I feel grateful for this opportunity to learn all about its history.
How would you describe your TV sitcom, The Soul Man, in 25 words or less?
In 25 words or less? That’s crazy! Let’s see … The show is about a former R&B singer of very risqué songs who gets the calling to become a minister. And in doing so, he uproots his family from Sin City, Las Vegas, and moves to St. Louis to take over his father’s church. In the process, his family has to make the adjustment from a celebrity’s lifestyle to an uncompromisingly holy lifestyle. It’s a funny show about family, about change, and about making adjustments in your life.
Isn’t Cedric originally from St. Louis in real life?
Yeah, he is from St. Louis.
You spent part of your childhood in Germany. How much German do you still remember?
I was 4 when we moved there, and the little bit that I learned was gone within months after I returned here at 7.
What’s it like acting opposite a couple of very charismatic, veteran comedians in Cedric and Niecy Nash?
The greatest thing to me about Cedric is that he’s extremely down-to-earth. He’s a really a nice guy on top of the fact that he’s funny. So, working with him is great because you get paid to laugh all day. And Niecy is just as funny and cool and crazy as he is. Having both of them together is kind of explosive.
Tell me a little about your character, Stamps?
Stamps is Cedric’s younger brother. He’s a wacky, wisecracking character, and you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. He doesn’t take life seriously, doesn’t have a job, and is always saying whatever random thoughts come to mind.
You’ve enjoyed an enduring career that began when you were only 8. How did you manage to avoid the pitfalls of fame that have ensnared so many other child actors?
Well, there’s a big difference between being a child actor and being a child star. I was a child actor. I worked a lot as a kid, but the weight that a child star has to bear is far more than that of a child actor. It’s extremely heavy. Secondly, my mother is from a rough area of East St. Louis, and she just wasn’t having any craziness. Third, I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, which was a strict upbringing that helped me stay in line. I also learned what not to do from watching mistakes other people were making. And I had big dreams and I was motivated to help my mother. So, I didn’t want to screw up. Drugs and other stuff were never a temptation. I guess I had an old soul.
When was the last time you had a good laugh?
That’s a great question. It was while filming on set about a week ago. I was doing my best not to laugh while Cedric was going off. I can’t give away exactly what he did, but let’s just say he ate a brownie laced with something that caused him to behave in a way that was hysterical. I’ll leave it at that.
What was the last book you read?
That’s interesting. Right now I’m reading It’s Hard to Fight Naked by Niecy Nash. It’s an advice book about relationships. If you know her, you can hear her voice in the book. It’s really good!
What was the last song you listened to?
Don’t Be Cruel by Bobby Brown.
What excites you?
I like work. [LOL] By that I mean I like quality work. A good script … a good show … a good movie… anything I can be proud of and not have to be nervous about watching when it comes out. That excites me. When someone like yourself wants to interview me, that excites me. When little kids recognize me on the street and come up to me it’s exciting, because it’s genuine with no motive behind it. That’s a really clean kind of love. What a blessing!
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
I see a young man who is trying to be seen and appreciated by the masses for his work.
If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
To no longer be overlooked by the industry.
What’s the difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person you pretend to be on the red carpet?
What keeps me sane in this insane business is that even on the carpet I’m mostly me. I might smile a lot less in real life, but I know how to adjust to the situation. It is what it is. But I think the red carpet is harder on women because of all the attention paid to how they look and what they’re wearing.
How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
It impacted me a lot, dude, a lot. It made me a man. I was a teenager when the relationship started but by the time it was over I was in my early 20s. It opened my eyes to knowing that people change, that people can grow apart and want different things after awhile. It also let me know that there’s a pain that’s beyond physical pain that can be far more scarring. It’s equivalent to a death when you lose someone you love. It’s amazing how having my heart broken also made me look closer at how I treat other people.
If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?
NASCAR race driver.
If you could meet any historical figure, whom would you choose?
Wow! I would say Malcolm X.
What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
Drive and passion.