Have you ever spoke with someone you had never met, but you felt comfortable? This is how I felt when I spoke with Mr. Wendell James of Raising Whitley. We had a fun but informative talk. This is my conversation with Wendell.
UM: You were born in Ohio. What took you to LA?
WJ: I left home when I was 16 years old. Some would call me a hard headed kid. But when my mother told me I had to live by her rules or get out… I got out. I was homeless, went to Job Corp. and the Army. before landing in LA.
UM: Raising Whitley is about “the Village” coming together to help Kym Whitley raise her son Joshua. What does “it takes a village” mean to you?
WJ: Well it is not about the child. The issue with the village is all the people involved and their different opinions about how the child should be raised. I am a no-nonsense type person with old fashion values. For example, I think when it is dinner time, a child should sit at the table without a TV or iPad and eat his dinner. Other people may allow the child to run around while eating. The child can run to the table pick up food and run around again, never sitting down and eating properly. What this teaches the child is how to play people against each other. They can become excellent manipulators.
UM: When people watch Raising Whitley, one may think the show is scripted. Does the Village really exist?
WJ: There are writers for the show, because people cannot just run around aimlessly. There has to be some structure for the show to make sense. So there has to be some type of script per se, but the show is un-script-ed.
A good example was the show where we took Joshua camping. You pack your stuff and go, but the writer’s had no idea that I would pull out designer luggage. People who know me, understand that is who I am. I was Kym’s “Hollywood Husband” before the cameras started rolling. There was not a casting call for the show because all the village members were already apart of Kym’s life prior to the show. We are a family helping to raise Joshua.
UM: What can you share about the new season of Raising Whitley?
WJ: This season fans will see Joshua and myself doing things together. They will see him getting taller, slimmer and fashionable, which by the way, makes me very happy. He was a small baby when the show started, now he is four and a half years old. So basically fans will see Joshua’s growth developments, his school activities, language improving and more. For me, the show will go more in-depth, in a psychological way, about my dating life. Fans will see the village working together through our family feuds. Some people have said the Village is having problems and out of control, I say we are just living. With that, enters Judge Mablean!
UM: What do you love about working on Raising Whitley?
WJ: I love watching the growth of Joshua. But the truth is there is really nothing different for me. Again, all of us that are part of the village, were friends with Kym already. They just added cameras. But it is really Kym’s daily life. I do want to set straight a misconception I have heard many times about Kym’s adoption of Joshua. It is true that she was a mentor to a young lady who left her name at the hospital as a contact person. Kym brought Joshua home and called on her friends to create the village. The misconception is that because she is a celebrity she had it easy in adopting Joshua. This is not the case.
Kym went through the whole process to adopt Joshua, as any other person. When the State became involved she had a background check along with all of us who would be in Joshua’s life. She had to attend parenting classes and a home study was done, along with fixing things around her home to make sure it was a safe environment to raise a child.
It took about a year for the adoption process to be completed. So Kym and the village is not faking anything for the TV show, she had the room for a child, the love for a child and the village to help ensure he had a family.
UM: So Wendell, when you are not working and doing your community work, how do you relax?
WJ: Most people may not believe me but I like being at home in bed, with my favorite food, watching TV or on my iPad. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do go out occasionally and mix and mingle and I have a good time. But now that I’m older, relaxing at home works for my life. I also get up on Sundays and go to church.
UM: When is the new season beginning? When should everyone be watching the premiere?
WJ: The new season of Raising Whitley will be this coming Saturday, November 21st at 10pm on OWN or OWN on Demand.
Ujima Magazine thanks Wendell James for taking time out to speak with us. We will be watching. Let us know when you land in Austin!
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Photos: OWN, Gstatic and Talking with Wendell
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