Article published in Dropline.biz on August 15, 2005

Wes Chatham“U.S. Navy to the Mean Streets of Chicago”

By Sarah D. Goldstein (co-authored by Dino M. Zaffina)

Once honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, Wes Chatham went full steam ahead with his acting career.

Wes Chatham served our country for four years. “It was a good four years,” Wes said. He was an Aviation Firefighter assigned to “crash and salvage” detail. Chatham worked on the flight deck of the USS Essex and the USS Bellawood which had H-46s, Helicopters, and Cobras.

He attended aviation firefighter school in Pensacola, Florida for one year before he went to San Diego to get stationed on the USS Essex; shortly thereafter, Wes was transferred to the Bellawood.

While assigned to the USS Bellawood and with only 3 months left in his military career, Chatham was given an opportunity of a lifetime; he met one of the producers while they were filming the feature film Antwone Fisher on the ship. The producer told Wes that he would be perfect for one of the roles so an audition was scheduled. During his audition for the role, Wes met Robi Reed who was the casting director for the movie. Wes was given the role and did a great job.

During the audition, Reed asked Wes what he was going to do after he finished his time in the Navy. Wes said, “I’m going to L.A. to act!” Robi introduced Wes to her sister who is Andre Reed, a Hollywood manager. They both assisted Chatham with his enrollment in the Howard Fine Acting Studio. Chatham started learning the skills of acting. He slowly started working his way up.

Besides attending acting classes, Wes also went to Orange Coast College and studied acting there as well. He was in the process of transferring to Cal State University, Long Beach when he was offered the role of “Isaac” on Barbershop a new Showtime Original Comedy Series.

Prior to landing the role on Barbershop, and in addition to Antwone Fisher, Chatham was given a part in the Fighting Temptations. Chatham was excited to work with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles, but his real excitement came when he discovered that the movie was being shot fifteen minutes from his hometown in Georgia. Chatham’s family got to come to the set and watch him shoot his scenes. They all met the stars of the movie which was an exciting moment for all of them.

Wes played a store clerk in the Fighting Temptations. This character gave him an opportunity to work in a scene with Beyoncé and Cuba. Beyoncé’s character (Lilly) came into the store to buy something, but her credit card was maxed out, and he could not let her slide this time. Cuba’s character (Darrin Hill) is a conman in the movie; he enters the store throwing around all these fake credit cards. He tells Chatham’s character to “try this card.” There was great interaction between the three actors.

Chatham also recently finished shooting the pilot for Sleeper Cell, another Showtime original series. This new show deals with a terrorist network. Wes played a frat guy who is dating the daughter of the head terrorist. Chatham said, “The pilot was really good; this is going to be a great series.

Barbershop begins where the MGM movie franchise left off, with most of the same endearing characters and a few new ones added to the shop. Set in a gradually gentrifying Chicago neighborhood, the cast of characters is headed by Calvin, the soul of this close-knit community, who runs the barbershop he inherited from his father. There, with every snip of the scissors, hilarious conversations and heated discussion about the trials and tribulations of everyday life on Chicago’s South Side unfold. Much like the original films, the series delves poignantly and humorously into the everyday lives and issues facing these characters both in an out of the shop.

Barbershop is not a sitcom,” says John Ridley, executive producer, director, and writer. “It’s a show that’s really, really funny, except in the places where it is not. The show offers opinion and attitude and will resonate a bit. In some places it will be absurd with the characters saying and doing things that are off the wall. It is not any one thing. People are not any one thing, and at its core, this is a show about people.”

Wes Chatham plays “Isaac” the only Caucasian barber in the shop. Isaac is from the Chicago’s South Side. He has had a talent for cutting hair ever since he was cutting his buddies hair in high school. Isaac believes that he is going to become a famous barber one day; a barber to the stars. “His skills are that tight,” says Chatham. “He is very arrogant about his barbering skills.”

Chatham said that he likes this character and the way that he is portrayed. He further said, “A White guy on a black show is usually the stereotypical white guy trying to be something that he is not, and he is usually the punch line. One thing that I really love about this show and the way that Isaac is developing, is that Isaac is not trying to be something that he is not; he is secure in who he is. He is accepted for that. This is his environment and he is just another guy in the shop. That is how he is looked at. Of course, he gets his share of punch lines, but he is not the punch line. He is a genuine person. Isaac is a white guy with soul, instead of a white guy trying to have soul. I enjoy that part of him. It is more fun to play that character.”

In the premiere episode there is an apparent sexual tension between Isaac and Terri (Toni Trucks) a beautiful light skinned African-American woman with golden color hair and an aerobic fit body to die for. Terri is everything that drives Isaac crazy about a girl. He loves her attitude. She doesn’t just come to Isaac too easily. It is not known whether the two characters every get together. Audience members will just have to watch to see if this type of storyline is unveiled.

All the cast members working in the barbershop went to barbering school to train to present realistic barbering skills and etiquette. The show is shot at Paramount Pictures Studios in Los Angeles. The exterior scenes from the Chicago’s South Side are being filmed on a Chicago street, specifically built for the show.

Barbershop’s cast consists of Omar Gooding (Calvin Palmer), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Yinka), Anna Brown (Jen Palmer), Wes Chatham (Isaac Rosenberg), Leslie Elliard (Jimmy James), Barry Shabaka Henley (Eddie), Toni Trucks (Terri Jones), and Dan White (Romadal Dupree).

The other executive producers are Robert Teitel who produced the feature film Soul Food, Men of Honor, Barbershop and Barbershop 2: Back in Business, and Roll Bounce; George Tillman, Jr. who wrote and directed Soul Food, as well as produced the aforementioned movies; Ice Cube, who needs know introduction with his body of work; and Matt Alvarez who has been a partner at Cube Vision with Ice Cube since 1998.

Barbershop premiered on Sunday, August 14, 2005, at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT. The series will air nine new episodes on subsequent Sundays (for a total of ten), with replays Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 10:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.

For more information about Barbershop a new Showtime Original Comedy Series, go to Showtime’s official website at www.sho.com.


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