Actor, dad, musician and photographer Ben Patterson does it all.
Most will recognize Patterson for his role in “Noah’s Arc” and as Dr. Ben Warren on “Grey’s Anatomy.” This summer we got to know the striking Mr. Patterson as Noah Kendall on the new drama, “Greenleaf.”
Greenleaf is the Wednesday night hit series executive produced and televised on Oprah Winfrey’s network OWN. Set in Memphis, “Greenleaf” follows the unscrupulous world of the Greenleaf family with scandalous secrets and lies, and their powerful megachurch with predominantly African-American church members.
Patterson certainly has his hands full and he wears many hats—including “the big ol’ floppy daddy hat” to a 5-month-old. When he isn’t spending precious time with and posting pictures with his infant son, the Oakland native is honing in on his creativity.
NBCBLK Contributor Sabrina Campbell caught up with Ben Patterson to discuss working with Oprah and his life on and off screen.
So the question on everyone’s mind is… how is it working with Oprah?! I feel like it’s a dream for an aspiring actor. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about her while working on set?
First and foremost she is an amazing person to work with; she is extremely generous, and extremely kind and extremely welcoming. You would think that because of who she is and what she’s done and the fact that this show is her show she would be extremely inaccessible and that’s really not the case.
She is such a wonderful, beautiful person that even amid her busy schedule she even took time out to talk to me for a little bit because we just haven’t really spoken. Everyone is such a powerhouse that I feel that I need to go further. It’s the best acting class you’ll ever have.
In the first episode of "Greenleaf" Gigi explained to her family that she aligns herself more with being spiritual rather than being religious. In your personal life do you take a stance on either side?
Actually I don’t take a stance on it. I’ve gone to Catholic school and I’ve gone to public school and I wasn’t raised in a house that was religious and that’s just what it was. We weren’t a 'church on Sunday, church on Saturday' type of family. We went a few times on Christmas and a few times on Easter and that’s just how I was raised.
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So my parents were more along the lines of treating people well and going at life with a very open mind. Because I’ve seen other cultures, I’ve seen things which would make the average person go oh ok there are different ways that people view and worship who they feel is God.
So I have a different perspective from what the character [Noah] is showing but at the end of the day it all comes back to it’s the same thing that everyone is doing, it’s just a different way of doing it.
Do you think that "Greenleaf" will continue to get great feedback being that on one hand, it seems that it is a very positive outlook for the church and very inspiring but on the other hand it reveals some controversies that go on behind the scenes? How do you think that viewers will respond to that moving forward?
I think moving forward it is still going to continue to get positive feedback. Not just because of the good things that happen in the show but I think because it’s a fictional show and as good dramas do – if you look at a law drama or political drama - they show things that aren’t necessarily wanting to be brought to light.
Some things are taken from headlines and some things are completely fictional. But they are still entertaining, so I feel as good and as dark as the plot may go, it is still going to be entertaining and it is going to be something that is actually plausible as a plot line.
So I did some social media stalking...
I have to say that the pictures of your son are the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. How is it being new parents for you and your husband? Are there any challenges that you face being two dads raising a son?
To answer your first question it’s really exciting.
As far as the challenges; not really. He’s a great little guy with a great disposition. People that encounter him are like wow your baby is super chill.
When he gets to age where he begins to be around other children, do you guys have a plan to discuss with him any questions related to having two dads? Are you concerned about challenges that may come ahead or have any thoughts on that?
We’ve both been honest with each other and both of our families are such great support that the only thing that we are going to do is answer the questions honestly. We are still in contact with surrogate and we have contact with our donor. So we can explain anything that he needs to know.
Kids can be kids so the best the thing is to give him enough love and enough support that he’s going to be ok. If somebody else has a different opinion as far as his upbringing, that that’s what life is. Everybody can have an opinion but as long as everyday he wakes up and knows that he’s loved by us two, he’s going to be fine.
What are your thoughts on the current atmosphere in the country?
My thoughts are it’s a very challenging time right now. Somebody posted, what’s happening isn’t new, but the cameras are and I thought wow that’s a very powerful statement. When the Rodney king incident happened it was like now somebody’s got it on camera. The way that things are going it is very eye opening but as with anything there are lessons here for us as a whole, and I mean us being everybody as a whole.
We need to do better for ourselves, we need to be better by ourselves and we need to treat people in a better way. There is no excuse for eliminating someone’s life from this planet. There is a lot that’s going on that’s very very very powerful and unfortunately very negative. I feel like as the African American community can support the families and support the youth and therefore not creating these circumstances of which these people are in. No one can say that a guy out in front of 7/11 selling his CDs is wrong, you can’t say that. So how do you comfort the families? You be with them and let them get through their grieving process but you move forward and you take the actions and you take the precautions and you take the steps that will ensure that you are in a safer position.
And if you are in law enforcement, because I have family that’s in law enforcement, you know the situation and you look for peaceful solutions no matter the situation. And that is going to have to be something that is done. You know, everyone just can’t keep reposting and reposting and reposting another new episode because it’s just going to recreate more violent situations.
So is that the reason why you choose not to post on social media about the recent events?
That’s one of the reasons. I have my own specific opinions about it and I’ve learned over the years that ultimately the best ways to get to the solution is to talk about it and deal with the solution. And if something happens and someone says hey everyone needs to check this out, this is what happened, then that initial or first few reporting of that is vital otherwise no one would know.
But when it just becomes an inundation of more information then its starts to lose the direction of, hey we need a solution. Then it becomes, hey I’m looking for something else wrong so that I can put it up there and people can look at me. And I don’t want to be that guy. If it comes from an authentic place then absolutely. I just want to make sure that it does come from an authentic place.
I notice that you wear many hats; you’re not only an actor. Which one is your favorite? And what do you ultimately see yourself doing.
I think write now my favorite hat is that big old floppy daddy hat. I really love being creative and as progress an actor, as I progress as a musician and even as I progress as a photographer. I learned that it’s the creation of something from a vision or an inspiration that I really really do enjoy so I look at it as one thing. I look at it as creativity.
Do you want to add anything?
I did a little look into NBCBLK and I was really impressed with everyone that you all have covered and I’m really so thankful that you guys wanted to talk to me and get to know me. I know that the Instagram and the twitter is a pretty good window into what’s going on with me. And the show is phenomenal it’s a really good time.
So I just want to say, thank you. I really appreciate it. I know that there is so much going on and the amount of content that is out there. One of the special things about this show is that it is a scripted television series and as with anything it has its competition, it has its critics, and it has its praises so I feel like one of the things that people should remember and realize is that hey this is a scripted television show on Oprah’s network that is wonderful.
It’s a great opportunity for people to see great acting, great story telling, great set design, and great photography. It’s just a beautiful project. So I am grateful that you were all gracious enough to pick me for the interview.