American Idol star Brooke White talked to me about her role in “Banner 4th of July,” premiering on the Hallmark Channel this Saturday at 9/8c. White plays Desiree Banner, who once was in a successful band called The Banner Project with her brothers Mitchell (Christian Campbell) and Johnny (Michael Barbuto). She left the group, and had not seen them for ten years when she comes home to help care for her Rosalind (Mercedes Ruehl), who has had a heart attack. Shortly after Desiree arrives in her hometown of Pinewood Hills, she learns that the town will face bankruptcy if it can’t make a bond repayment by the July 4th Holiday. As the Fourth of July approaches, it is up to Desiree and her siblings to put into action a plan that will save Pinewood Hills. If you think that will involve a performance by The Banner Project, you have the right idea.
I talked to Ms. White about the movie and what Mercedes Ruehl has taught her about acting. “I’m the rookie of the bunch. This is basically my second and both were lead character roles and I was fortunate to work with patient and kind and talented people who really helped me and were so generous with me. They were really encouraging and made the whole experience really fun.
I would ask her things and she was just so kind and so open in sharing with me. Vocal exercises, more even than acting. Making sure that I enunciate things. If you don’t enunciate things, then you have to record it again later. When it comes to emotional scenes, getting to a place of crying. That makes me nervous. I’m a really emotional gal and my emotions are really close to the surface. But when you have to do it — on demand — and movies are not shot in chronological order — you could have just done a funny scene and now you’re having a big fight with your brother and mourning the last ten years of your life — and the camera is on you — that is difficult. She really helped me by being honest about how difficult it is. And I have a really loud voice naturally, due to the anatomy of my vocal chords. I have to really push to get the sound. Long story long, this is sometimes a struggle when you’re making a movie because a little goes a long way on screen. I had to find a tone that was not too loud or forceful. The director was really helpful as well. She has such a high level of energy, you want to come back at her with the same level of energy. She really elevated my performance and helped me to be more creative, to have fun with it, be free with it, try different things. It’s helpful to have more experienced actors tell you — yes, this is fine, you can do this.”
She wrote songs for the movie, which are now available on iTunes, including “XYZ,” “Sun Up, Sun Down,” and “Fly Fly Fly.” One is the hit the band had when they were all still together, ten years ago. It’s got a country, Americana feel. I was really inspired. I rarely sit down to write a song about a specific subject. I let the song-writing process dictate itself. It was a positive experience, so I’m going to start songwriting with more intentional ideas and concepts. The other song is for a poignant moment in the movie, called “Fly Fly Fly.” It was by far the most rewarding thing for me, to see the songs come to life in the story. We had this whole audience of people singing along, the pinnacle of the movie, a really awesome thing for me.”
She said she is inspired by real life. “I can’t say that every song is about me or comes from my life, but if it isn’t about it it comes from someone close to me. Songs revolve around relationships, humanity and people and their imperfections. There are conflicts but I like to have some kind of redemption or hope, or life. You can’t experience joy without sorrow and music is one way to play with that notion of opposition and how it plays into our life. And mu daughter, who is one, she really inspires me. The whole time I was pregnant I was recording and on the road. So I always had a guitar up against my belly and this kid came out with so much natural musicality! She loves music.”
And she is very proud of the themes of the film. “The music brings everyone back together and heals everyone and it’s a Hallmark movie so of course there is a little bit of romance happening, but overall it’s about the family mending their fences and coming back together.”