Brian Edwards nearly struts as he makes his way into the camera line, taking his place beside actors Elijah Chester and Ryan Joyner as they filmed a barbershop scene in “Tarnished Notes” during location shooting in Clinton back in October.
He grins, takes Chester’s hand and offers his lines with great aplomb.
“Cut,” director Mitchell Maxwell yells. “That was absolutely wonderful Brian. Now let’s try it again from the top.”
Three takes later, Edwards is outside the barbershop hamming it up with long-time friend and Sampson native Pam Hyatt, casting director for “Notes.” It was Hyatt who encouraged Edwards, a Los Angeles celebrity talent executive working with such greats as Vanessa Williams and the late Joan Rivers, to hop a plane and head to Clinton to make a cameo appearance in the fiction-based-on-fact movie.
“I was honored,” the LA-based producer, writer and occasional performer, professed during a brief interview on set during October and later in a November telephone interview from his California home. “When you’re in show business, if you are asked to do a cameo, well that’s probably one of the biggest honors in this business. When someone wants you to come in and do this character, it’s more about you fitting.
“When Pam asked me to do it, I was blown away. I immediately cleared my day and told her I would be there. Pam’s done a great deal for me and I knew how much she adored these people that were involved in the movie. I took all that into consideration and hopped a flight.”
Edwards said he anxiously made his way to Clinton to take on the cameo role of Mr. Charles, a colorful barber in the shop where Jim Daniels first meets Kyle Sampson in the fictional account.”I have to admit I was a little bit nervous, but more than that I was proud that I was going to be a part of something this special, a project where so many were working so hard to develop something so good.”
His case of nerves, too, he said, had a lot to do with working with Chester and Maxwell, people he called seasoned professionals. “I knew a lot was resting on that performance, but Mitchell was so sweet and so were the guys. They made it all so very easy for me.”
Relaxed before the cameras rolled, Edwards said when the director called action, “I just came swishing on in there. I think, at least I hope, I gave the director and the producers an element they needed.”
It was his first time in Sampson’s county seat, but likely not his last, since he admittedly loved the area in the short time he was there. “My father was originally from Rocky Mount so I sort of know the area,” he said. “But coming here, seeing the beautiful countryside and meeting such great people, that’s what sold me. I loved the community and that everyone there got involved and was so supportive of this. There’s nothing better.”
Edwards should know, having been in the entertainment business for some 30 years. In that time, the Louisiana native has enjoyed a successful career in the industry as a multi-award winning celebrity talent executive, working with, in addition to Williams and Rivers, such celebrities as Cindy Crawford, Susan Sarandon, Sharon Stone, Shirley Jones, Naomi Judd, Pam Tillis, Ali Landry, Tiffany Fallon, and Whoopi Goldberg — just to name a few.
He grew up in a town of around 7,000 people, a small community not all that unlike Clinton. Although he loved his community, Edwards said he knew at an early age that he didn’t really fit in and that his dreams and aspirations couldn’t be met where he was. “I used that to my advantage, not fitting in. I’m not saying what my town had to offer wasn’t beneficial to many people, it just wasn’t’ to me, so I left as soon as I could.”
Acting and performing came first, but it wasn’t long before Edwards realized his real forte was in public relations. “I just said to God, ‘God whatever door opens first I will go through and I will work as hard I can.”
After working as an executive assistant to legendary five-time Grammy Award winner Donna Summer for six years, he landed a position in 1995 as the assistant to famed talent agent Betty Fanning, then vice president of Commercials at the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills.
In 1998, he moved over to American Movie Classics (AMC) and WE: Women’s Entertainment Networks as their manager of Celebrity Talent for five years, where he served as talent executive / talent producer for three Emmy Award winning shows: In 2001, “Reel Models: The First Women Of Film”, Hosted by: Barbra Streisand – featuring Susan Sarandon, Hilary Swank and Minnie Driver; In 2002 – “Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel”, Hosted by Whoopi Goldberg; and in 2004, for the series “When I Was A Girl,” Narrated by: Charlize Theron and Kristin Davis.
Edwards was also honored by The International Press Academy in 2012 with the Satellite Award for “Outstanding Contribution To The Field of Entertainment” presented to him by Cindy Crawford, becoming only the third recipient of this honor in the academy’s history.
He now owns and operates Enter Talking Client Relations, which involves talent producing, talent booking management and “whatever a particular client needs.”
Edwards is right at home in the entertainment arena. “When I wake up in the morning, I know I will not be bored with my work. My whole life revolves around show business.”
A cherry on top of that career was the publication of Edwards’ first book, the autobiography “Enter Miss Thang,” a national bestseller that has earned honors at The National Indie Excellence Awards and The International Book Awards.
“It was written over a period of 10 years. I started out writing it, completed it three times but I was never happy with the end product or the timing of releasing it. After Donna Summer passed away, I realized you don’t know when your number is coming up, that there is no perfect time. So I buckled down and finished it. Honestly, I didn’t really care how the book did. I just wanted to come home at night and look over at my coffee table and see my book with everyone else’s.”
While Edwards is adamant that would have been fine with him, things turned out far differently. When it was named the most honored LGBT non-fiction book of 2014, he was pleasantly surprised and humbled. “You just never know. When you put your work out there and do it honestly and do the best you can, and people respond to that I think it means that was meant to be.”
Now, about a year from his 50th birthday, he’s working on book number two, one that is making him far more nervous than the first. “The sophomore one is the one that kills you,” he professes. “You know people won’t remember the first one if that second one is a flop. I have no idea how people will respond but you can’t beat yourself up; you just have to be happy that it is good; if not, just move on.”
The book’s title is still under wraps but Edwards acknowledges it’s content is a real conversational piece. “I wanted people to feel as if I was sitting there and talking to them; I didn’t want to bore them.”
With a second book coming out, a cameo appearance in a movie under his belt, and a successful business in a town and profession he loves, Edwards is sitting on top of the world, a blessed man, he says.
“If anyone’s prayers were ever answered, mine were. When I left that small town, all arrows were pointed toward failure, but 30 years later, when my first book came out, I went back home for a celebration. I didn’t think this day would happen — the mayor, state representatives, town residents, they all came to the town’s little theater where I got my start. Wow. God looked after me. Yes I had ambition and some talent but God has something to do with it, that’s for sure.”
Reach publisher and editor Sherry Matthews at 910-249-4612. Follow her on Twitter @sieditor1960; follow the paper @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.