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9 Quick Questions for Wayne Brady

Emmy-winning performer hosts Season 15 of ‘Let’s Make a Deal’

spinner image wayne brady in black business suit against pinkish orange ombre background
Photo Collage MOA Staff; (Source: Monty Brinton/Fremantle Media)

Wayne Brady, 51, is ready to start wheeling, dealing and entertaining audiences once again. As host of the popular CBS game show Let’s Make a Deal — which kicks off Season 15 on Sept. 25 — the multitalented performer showcases his improv, acting, dancing and singing skills. He shares his tips for staying quick on his feet, his next Broadway endeavor and why he’s finally ready to write his own story.

Who are some of your comic inspirations?

All my life, I have been a fan of Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, John Leguizamo. What they all have in common is they are brilliant actors who do whatever is required of them, because they have this vast skill set that can make you laugh, that can make you cry. They can do characters. They can be straight. They can make you feel something. Those are my influences without me realizing that I even had them as influences, because I’ve always loved them. In hindsight, Robin is probably one of the biggest influences in terms of someone who has done improvisation onstage — watching someone be able to move on a dime. Definitely Robin.

spinner image wayne brady holding microphone; tiffany coyne holding open case that says florida; a few people in background in person and on a screen on the set of let's make a deal
Season 15 of the CBS game show “Let’s Make a Deal” starts Sept. 25.
Sonja Flemming/CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

How are you so quick on your feet?

A bit of it is natural. It’s how your mind is wired sometimes. But it’s also the way that you live your life. I love to read. Some of the mental acuity comes from being curious. You should never lose your curiosity. Don’t be one of those people that just because you’ve lived past 50 [you think], I’ve seen it and I’ve done it, kid. No, no. Find other things that you haven’t seen that you haven’t done. Curiosity is going to be the thing that moves us forward.

Are your priorities changing as you age?

All the time. If nothing changes for you, then I think you’re doing something wrong. I’ve had a huge personal paradigm shift in terms of the things that make you happy. In fact, even doing this interview, I was freaking out because I’m like, Why am I doing an interview with AARP? That’s the mindset that a kid has when they think about age, because they’re like, Oh man, I remember when somebody who was 25 was old. Or then somebody who was 30 was old, and then holy crap, 51. The beautiful thing is my paradigm shift is, Wow, why am I being interviewed by AARP?  Well, Wayne, you know why? Because you win. You win. You’re 51. You’ve won another year. You’ve won another year of experience. You’ve won another year of being on this planet. I truly embrace that now. I love the fact that I’m getting older, that I can.

Your daughter [Maile Masako Brady] is also an actress. Did you encourage her to pursue that career?

It just happens that I think it’s been in her, and she’s been around it from the time that she could crawl, and she loves it. And most importantly to me, is it makes her happy. And she is very good at it, and she’s gonna be far better than me, faster than me. She’s an amazing writer. She is a wonderful improvisationalist. In fact, she came on [the comedy improv show] Whose Line Is It Anyway? — on our last season, that hasn’t aired yet — and she was one of our guests, and I improvised a couple songs with her. She’s a wonderful singer and songwriter. She’s a complete creative, which is what I’ve always encouraged her to be. Which is what I tried to be. That is the biggest blessing for me — to be able to watch my child who’s gonna be turning 21 soon come into her own. And I just thought about something else that has shifted since I’ve gotten older.

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What else has shifted?

At 51, I have outlived my father by six years. So it’s more about the lessons that I’ve learned, because I was living my life with a clock. I’ve always been under pressure since I graduated high school. I said, “I’ve got to make it, because I’m probably going to die at 45.” … So, luckily — and it doesn’t happen for everyone — by the time that I was 26, that’s when I got [cast on] Whose Line Is It Anyway? and my life changed. I was able to do everything else from Broadway to film to music — the whole nine — but I was always working under the clock. And the bad thing about that clock is, [you think], OK, now you’ve achieved something. You’ve got to achieve more. … And then 45 rolls around and you think, Well, now I’m getting ready to die. Have I done enough? And then of course, I didn’t. … So my life started to pave the way for me to be happy to be around. And healthy and thriving and trying to create. And embracing my age at 51, because I didn’t know that I’d make it.

spinner image wayne brady clapping next to person wearing a frame that says zonk all around it on set of let's make a deal; contestants behind brady; giant screen in background that says let's make a deal
Brady has hosted 'Let's Make a Deal' since 2009. The job showcases his many improv, acting, dancing and singing skills.
Sonja Flemming/CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

You’ve competed on Dancing With the Stars and The Masked Singer. Any other reality show you’d like to compete on?

No. I did Dancing With the Stars as a tribute to my grandmother. Also, I wanted to push myself. Having just turned 50 and going on that show is definitely different from me dancing at 30 and doing eight shows a week on Broadway and feeling nothing from it. That really kicked my ass.

Would you like to go back to Broadway?

Well, next year I will be back on Broadway. I’m playing the Wiz in the Broadway version of The Wiz — The role [that was] done by Broadway legend André De Shields. It’s going to be the first time that it’s been on Broadway since it debuted on Broadway originally [in 1975]. So next year is looking really, really bright already. I start the show in San Francisco in January, then I’m in Los Angeles in February and then from March until June or July I’m on Broadway.

Did you get the opportunity to see much theater when you were a kid?

I didn’t, and it’s funny that we’re talking about this, because this is going to be in this book that I’m writing right now as well. I never knew I wanted to be an actor at an early age. I knew that I wanted to be a performer because I watched a lot of black-and-white TV on PBS. I watched a lot of old shows like the early variety specials with Sammy Davis Jr. and Flip Wilson, Harry Belafonte. And then shows like The Ernie Kovacs Show. And Danny Kaye was someone that I loved. Monty Python, and this other British sketch show, The Goodies. So I had this grab bag that I used to pick from when I was very young — of all these different things from comedy and music and drama. I loved Sammy Davis Jr. most of all. I said, “I want to do that.” But growing up in my neighborhood in Orlando, Florida, I didn’t know how.

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What’s your book about?

In a nutshell, it’s going to be a book about realizing that at the age of 50, I’m actually ready to learn and to reflect. I turned down all these book offers earlier on, because how can you write about your life when you’re 30? I would have been lying if I had written a book. Even in my 40s, it would have been an absolute fabrication, because I wasn’t ready to truly be honest and tell stories that maybe were very funny, but didn’t always paint the best life. Or that you wanted to remember things so that you always came out on top, because that’s not life. You don’t always come out on top, but you can learn from the things that have happened to you. You’ve got to learn before you go forward. I wanted to shut out a lot of my childhood and I wanted to dismiss things [but] that actually was holding me back from enjoying life. Now I embrace all of it. I embrace every single flaw, because that’s going to help me move on. 

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