With its backstage brawls and faithfully recreated concert moments, The New Edition Story, a three-part miniseries chronicling the meteoric rise to stardom and ultimate meltdown of the iconic R&B group, garnered rave reviews and gave BET its highest ratings in five years this week.
Following the boys from the Roxbury, Massachusetts projects to the global music stage over two decades, this account had the full cooperation of all band members, who served as producers and advisors to the cast. Newcomer Woody McClain, a social media star thanks to his ‘Woody the Great’ persona and DIY content, plays the volatile Bobby Brown, who went on to have the biggest solo career—and personal troubles—of the group.
With The New Edition Story offering repeat showings all weekend, we asked McClain to discuss the role, his out-of-the-box career path and one memorable on-screen demise.
“Now I have a wild side, just from studying Bobby! I watched everything about him and it rubbed off on me.”
Were you a New Edition fan growing up?
Yes, I was. And a big Bobby Brown fan. I knew about the music, but I didn’t know them personally. I never knew what they were going through. In my generation, you know everything that a celebrity is going through, because we have social media. Being part of this project, we got to hear what exactly happened from the inside. I got to sit with Bobby and hear what he had to say. Bobby has been through so much—his ex‑wife passing, his daughter passing—but he’s still here and strong. I took a lot from him.
Was it intimidating to play a living famous person who is a producer on the project?
It was a lot of pressure but Bobby made sure that I was at ease and had any information I needed, every step of the way.
What preparation did you do?
They gave us a flash drive with everything about New Edition. I did a lot of homework.
Bobby has a notorious reputation. Was there anything he didn’t want shown in the miniseries?
No. He was open to anything they decided to put in the movie.
Do you have a wild side you could channel to play Bobby?
Now I have a wild side, just from studying Bobby! I watched everything about him and it rubbed off on me. Nothing too dangerous, though.
Were you a bad boy growing up?
When I was in elementary school I was acting so bad in class. The teacher called my mom. She was outside the door watching me throw paper around and I didn’t know she was there. She punished me in front of the whole class. So embarrassing. I never did that again.
This is your first major role—what was it like the first day on set?
It’s like the first day of school. You’re so excited and nervous at the same time. It’s that same feeling. I’ve been doing videos on social media for like three years now—writing, producing and directing my own stuff. That and being in acting classes definitely prepared me.
What got you into performing?
Social media. Before social media I would just watch TV and say ‘this is amazing.’ but I didn’t know how people got into it. When social media came along it made it accessible for all of us.
You have an upcoming guest role on Training Day.
Yeah, I play Raww Dogg, the leader of an L.A. gang.
Did you get a good death scene?
Yes I did. It was hard to see myself like that, being covered in blood.
You sing, dance and act. but do you have some unusual talent we wouldn’t expect?
I can play tuba and trombone. I was in a marching band in college, the famous Marching 100 at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
So what’s next for you?
I’m going to start working with Kevin Hart’s digital department HartBeat Digital and Laugh Out Loud streaming service on comedy sketches. I want to do more. I want to learn more. I like to write and produce my own content. I love acting. I’m so addicted to it now.