Malcolm-Jamal Warner has been paying close attention the ups and downs of Justin Bieber.
The actor, 42, grew up starring The Cosby Show, which aired from 1984-1992, and has a keen understanding of what it means to transform from teenager to adult in the spotlight. After all, he became a big star at 14, and his gig ended at 22.
Hm, what’s his advice for the Biebs?
“Think about life after stardom,” he tells me this week during National Geographic Channel’s world premiere party for The '80s: The Decade That Made Us held at Debbie Gibson's Culture Club in NYC. “It’s age-old wisdom, and as cliché as it sounds, it makes so much sense. The people you meet on your rise to the top are the same people you’re going to meet when you’re coming down.”
He continues, “My mother used to always say ‘be nice to people, because you never know who you’re talking to.’ I think that has served me well. I’ve been nice to people, just for the sake of being nice, and they turned out to be some really influential people. [laughs]”
For Malcolm, having a wise mother to guide him has been hugely helpful.
“When Cosby first hit, and the numbers were great, my mother said to me, ‘baby, it’s great that this show is the phenomenon that it is, but you know how this business is—this show could be over next year. What are you going to do when this show is over?’”
Because of her, Malcolm continued to work hard.
“When you have longevity to your career, there are always going to be peaks and valleys,” he says. “I had such a maniacal obsession with not wanting to be one of those ‘where are they now’ kids, so I was always preparing for life after Cosby.”
Still, it didn’t take a downfall for him to enjoy what he had.
“I was a teenager with a driver’s license living in NYC on the #1 show in the world,” he marvels. “I was grounded enough to understand life, and that it was a business, so to live that kind of life without being caught up, was a great existence.”
Because of his foresight and direction, Malcolm-Jamal has continued to work steadily.
“My post-Cosby life has been so great and so fulfilling because, when I was on the show, I was preparing for life after Cosby,” he explains. “By the time Cosby was over, I had directed about half a dozen episodes, I was directing music videos, I was directing Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—there were always things to keep me working.”
The thoughtful actor can also see clearly.
“When you have longevity, you’re going to have dry spells. My mother impressed upon me that during those dry spells, you don’t want to have to be in a position where you’re making desperate career choices, so whatever lows that I’ve had in my post-Cosby life, they’re relative—and they haven’t really been that low. [laughs]”
Thanks to his upbringing, Malcolm is satisfied with where he is today.
“I just finished the second season of my show on BET called Reed Between The Lines, with Tracee Ellis Ross,” he says. “I have a band called Malcolm-Jamal Warner’s Miles Long. I’m a bass player and a frontman. We’ve got two CDs out, and I’m trying to finish the third CD now. Between those two projects, I’m keeping busy.”
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