Brooke Payne

The Real Brooke Payne on ‘The New Edition Story’ & Being Portrayed By Wood Harris

The longtime New Edition choreographer opens on being the glue that keeps the guys together

by Ronda Racha Penrice, January 26, 2017

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Brooke Payne

Perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises in BET’s hit miniseries The New Edition Story is Brooke Payne. Handled ably by Wood Harris, Payne is clearly the seventh member of the group. As their early manager, longtime choreographer and dominant male role model, it’s clear that he is the super strong Krazy Glue that has kept New Edition together.

Like his nephew Ronnie DeVoe, Payne left his native Boston and set up residence in Atlanta. And at BET’s promo screening of The New Edition Story in the ATL, Payne, whom Harris portrays as a man of action and few words, was uncharacteristically vocal about the experience and Payne couldn’t contain his pride.

“I’m glad that y’all enjoyed it,” he told the crowd. “This is for our culture. It’s about New Edition and we need to uplift that.”

During the event, which took place earlier this month, Payne also dished on the dance moves, sharing that “all the choreography [in the film] was the actual [New Edition] choreography. The only thing that was new was the song ‘Holdin’ On.’” He added that on the spot “because they needed something.”

After giving his assistant Leon Lee credit, Payne praised all the actors in the cast. “These guys worked hard,” he let it be known. But he still kept it all the way one hundred and shared some of his reservations early in the process. “I was little worried when Keith [Powers] came last,” he admitted. “I was a little worried with Elijah [Kelley]. It gave me a remembrance of when Johnny came because I was really worried when that guy came.”

Outside the theater, in a private conversation, Payne praised how he was portrayed in the BET production.

“I’m pleased, number one, because it was Wood Harris,” he told EBONY. “He’s a great actor. So I felt that all those emotions came across, just like in his facial expressions. I felt me in his acting.”

Payne also spoke on the timing of The New Edition Story and the words of wisdom he gave the guys during the many ups and downs of their career.

“What I believe in my faith is that things all happen in God’s time, and I’ve been telling them that their whole career,” he said. “So the accolades that are coming now is God’s time. And they always had problems within their career [with the timing] and feeling like they didn’t get the Grammys they wanted to get and stuff like that. My thing would always be that that’s gonna all come in God’s time. We don’t make the time. So I’m glad that God chose the time while they are all still here to see it and share it with their families.”

Time, however, hasn’t made Payne, who is still very much involved with New Edition today, let up on his guys. Just as we’ve seen in The New Edition Story, Payne doesn’t play when it comes to their performances and takes great pride in the fact that they still bring it today. Foundation is everything and Payne shared that the guys’ choreography has remained tight “because they’ve been trained like that and they’ve been doing it 33 years.”

He also said the group’s continued success has been helped by his consistent influence.

“I’m still that same person. So, whether it’s New Edition or BBD, when they come off stage, when they’re in the dressing room or in a closed room, no one goes in but me and they get critiqued on every show. That doesn’t stop,” he explained. “It’s like the football coach; you’re still talking about what could have been better so nobody gets comfortable.”

Payne’s capacity to foster brotherhood and love fiercely hasn’t changed either. Through being a presence on the set of The New Edition Story, and by putting the actors through a rigorous boot camp before they started filming, Payne’s been able to help forge yet another tight bond.

“As far as these actors, the Littles and the Bigs, they now have a bond with each other that’s a lifetime bond and that tickles me inside,” he said. “They’ll forever be my little sons and brothers for life.” Just like with New Edition.

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