Bernard White has a recurring role on Showtime’s new series Kidding. His role deals with homosexuality. White talks with ATM more about his role and the subject matter the show puts out.
Interviewer: Gabrielle Alexandra Smith
ATM: Talk more about how your role comes into play on this how.
BW: My character is Scott Perera. I am married to Deirdre who is Catherine Keener. Her brother is Jim Carrey. They are all in this Mr. Roger’s world. My wife is a puppet maker. We have an 8-year-old daughter named Maddy. I work at a travel agency. I have some secrets and they start to come out as the series goes on. I have been having this relationship with a man. This series follows us coming into terms with this and if our family will survive this. Our daughter witnesses our sexual public act in our driveway. She did not understand what it was and goes to tell the mother. The mother has to deal with what if my husband is gay.
ATM: How do children view or handle this type of situation vs an adult? Are they calmer with it? How do children view sexuality at a young age based on your onscreen daughter’s response?
BW: Oh my god. It is completely inappropriate, confusing, and traumatizing. She does not understand it in the show. The mom tries to protect her from it. She says it is dad’s secret handshake from his neighbor. It is the tip of the iceberg for this young girl to discover that her parents have secret lives. These are secrets lives she does not know about. It is a lot about the betrayal of children. And about how parents who are not mature and solid enough betray their kids. Jim Carrey’s character who is like this Mr. Roger’s person there to protect the innocence. He is also not wanting to protect them from the realities of life. This has to do with the death of his son. What do we hide from children? What is the cause of what we hide from children? When is it appropriate to have adult conversations about this? My character’s point of view is that “I am a troubled guy whose sexuality is hidden from everyone like his family.” He is trying to come to terms with it. It is very messy, and we are not handling it well.
ATM: What makes a mature parent in a world where parents are not perfect?
BW: Not lying, being who you are, and knowing yourself. Someone who does not use their kids for their validation. Our whole culture is so screwed up. Kids are having kids. The trauma of their childhood is moved on. It is like endless dominoes of unhealth. Our culture promotes all of this unhealth. Mr. Roger represented this decent and kind man. He was not addicted. We are in an addictive culture. We are addicted to alcohol, sex, drugs, and television. This is a lot of crazy stuff. It shows up in how we raise and neglect our children. It’s someone who is living a life that is true in every way. We all sell out.
We do things that we do not love. We deal with the difficulties of the world. I just saw Michael’s Moore amazing movie Fahrenheit 11/9. You look at Flint Michigan’s water situation. Talk about the betrayal of children. A government that lies to its people about the help and its water. Especially the pain put on people of color. We live in a screwed-up world. This is a lot of what the show is about. I hope it is successful in conveying what about the goodness that is neither Republican or Democrat. It is just human. I am in a particular mood today about the horrors of the world.
ATM: How should a parent have these conversations with children about adults’ things when kids have childish minds, which is not wrong?
BW: Jim Carrey’s character believes that you do not lie to children or do not assume. He is dealing with the death of his child. His father is trying to say do not talk to the children about this. They do not want to hear it. There is a child psychologist who talks about our culture. Kids are much smarter than we think. They can deal with things. We are only as sick as our secrets. You have a culture that hides death and does not talk about it. Our whole culture is set up like this. When people die we do not have ways of grieving death properly. This is like a huge mystery of life. We dress up the body and embalm it whether the casket is closed or not. Death is a serious thing we do not talk about. Other cultures, like tribal cultures, have rituals about these things.
An example is after 9/11. The government’s response was let’s go back to normal. Let’s go shopping and do all the things that we normally do. Then, let’s go to war in revenge. As supposed to let’s pause. This is horrible about what is going on and what has happened. Let’s grieve. The Ground Zero Memorial in New York is stunningly beautiful. I am very proud of what New York did to remember this. How do you talk to kids about this? We put them in front of video games that are horribly violent. Death becomes something that is unreal because it is in the video game. There is fake blood. I am part of an industry that has a lot of blood on their hands with not telling people the truth. I believe our show is looking at this. My character lives in the Midwest in Columbus, Ohio. There is something absolutely wrong with you if you are gay. There is everything from conversion therapy to hiding it. As the season ends, we do not know where he is. Is this some confusion or is he actually a gay man? We never find this out in the first season.
ATM: When you say the word death people look at you like it is a sort of taboo. America or our society treats it as a taboo. People think you are a dark person when talking about death. People want to talk about life. You cannot have life without death. Why does it have to be considered a dark topic? As you said, other cultures and countries have week long rituals for the dead. It is swept under the rug after a week. We only remember it on its anniversary and by having 2-hour television celebrations. Then it is like going back to work. We do not know how to celebrate the dead. It is not in our culture. It is sad how somethings are swept under the rug. People are starting to come out more about their sexuality. Kidding shows people are not comfortable with it.
ATM: Why is your character portraying someone who never came to terms about his sexuality with himself?
BW: Because we live in a horribly bigoted society where gay men are considered less than human. We have a corrupt and strange view of Christianity that makes it a crime to be gay. It is against God’s love they say. People are killed and lynched. This can be the bullying that happens in grade school or tying someone to a bumper to drag them through the streets because they came out. It is the masculine gone crazy. It is our President who thinks in this John Wayne image of what a man is: a man is supposed to be someone who carries a gun and can hurt people through his power. It is everywhere. It is about what is happening in the Supreme Court right now.
My character hides because he is scared. We do not learn about his parents yet in the series. People have huge shame about who they are. The whole show is about this idea of how to fit people into a box. Carrey plays this man who is a national treasure that wears a certain attire like Mr. Rogers. He wears a suit and a tie. People see him as one thing. He is more than one thing. His father is old school and wants him to stay in this box. They make money off of him. They are afraid if he speaks the truth, then he might lose his job. The family would lose their dynasty and this television show. He has to stay in this box. The box is becoming claustrophobic and he is going crazy inside this box. The show is mostly about Jim Carrey’s character Mr. Pickles. All of us are reflecting his story. My reflection of his story is about the box I am put in is a heterosexual man who hates his job. I see my wife going out doing what she does. She is sort of a local celebrity. I have a job, but I am sort of like the stay at home mother. My hope is that they continue this, and we get to know this guy better. It was, in fact, a little negligent on the creator’s part to not develop this character. I am one of the several actors of color on the show and possibly of the few gay characters on the show. My wife and I really love each other, and we have been together for maybe 12 years. I hope we see them work it out and stay together.
ATM: How do you believe our society would be if being gay was natural from the beginning of time rather than heterosexuality?
BW: Oh, this is a big question. What if history were different?
BW: I do not even know how to answer this question. For me, the question is what if love were the norm? What if kindness, tolerance, gentleness, and people embracing their human divine nature of caring for one another were the norm? As supposed to war and competition. It is not about sexuality being the norm, but it is . . .
ATM: About loving who you want.
BW: Yes, and embracing cultural differences. A world where white is not superior to black. You ever seen a movie called 2001: A Space Odyssey?
BW: There is a scene where the Neanderthal apes are fighting over this dry dusky seasonal pool of water. This struck me. This is how Kubick depicts it as being the beginning of violence. They put up a bone. They choose the pain of sticks against sticks. As supposed to figure out how to share their resources. This is my tribe and that is your tribe. The only way we are going to survive is if we kill them. An animal’s instinct is survival. Human beings are not just animals, but we also have a divine nature. There are a lot of spiritual features including Jesus Christ, Moses, and Muhammad who taught some deeper things that have been exploited. Wars take place in these religion names. To me, the lack of acceptance for people’s sexuality is just a metaphor for our lack of acceptance for an idea of us being normal. We have to do this. You have to not kneel for the national anthem because we all stand.
ATM: Right. It is like if you go against our societal norms in America people look at you differently. Why can we not be different? Why was it so bad for Colin Kaepernick to kneel on the floor? Why couldn’t he respect the flag in a different way?
BW: There are people whose fathers have died in the wars. They fought for that flag. They find it to be disrespectful. Everything is set up to be “I am right, and you are wrong.” People should try to understand that Colin Kaepernick is not disrespecting the flag in any way. We have a President who stokes this nonsense. People get worked up. Same thing about homosexuality. You have these creatures in the pulpits talking about how wrong it is and that it is a destruction of our sexuality. Meanwhile, they are having sex with little boys. They want to order raping women and want them to be on the Supreme Court because “boys will be boys.” It is the fear of the feminine.
ATM: It is sad when you really sit back to take in what is happening in the world. It makes you say wow.
BW: It makes you want to holler sometimes and throw up both of your hands.
ATM: The reason is that we have television, music, and films to distract us in a good way from all things happening in this world.
BW: Our show Kidding is a part of this. They are talking about things that really matter. This goes back to us talking about how to treat children. Do you put a video game in front of them? Or take them in to nature to show and talk to them about the corpse of a dead squirrel? Or talk to them about what life and death are instead of all this fake stuff? Right now, this is why people do not mature because people check out with Facebook, pornography, television, and Budweiser to numb themselves from the pain. What if we did not try to distract people but tried to nurture them? Like Aretha Franklin did like Steve Wonder does, and like Prince did. This is where artists come in. We live in a country and a culture that does not care about their artists. We want movie stars. We want big box offices. People have stopped going to serious theater.
I pray for the serenity and the clarity for what God wants me to do with my life.
ATM: I seriously hope you find it.