Weems, a former Assistant City Solicitor and County Child Advocate, now with his own practice, has lately been garnering attention on the reality show "Toni Braxton's Family Values," portraying himself, Antavius Weems, lawyer to Toni Braxton and her family. In the following three-part interview, Mr. Weems talks about what it's like to play yourself on reality TV; his concerns about protecting both himself and his client from the salaciousness of reality TV; and the reaction of the Georgia legal community.
How did "Toni Braxton's Family Values" come about?
Toni lost a bet. [Laughs] Several of her sisters, specifically Tamar, had suggested she do this show. They said, "Toni, this is the new age, the new millennium, people want to see what their artists look like at home. They want to see the real." And Toni kept saying, "No no, I'm old school, that's not how I do it." But they were playing Monopoly. I think Tamar had all the hotels. And Tamar said, "If I give you these properties plus Park Place, you gotta do the reality show." And Toni said, "Fine." And Tamar held her to it.
Initially Toni signed to do three episodes because she was still leery about it. Then the ratings came in. It struck a chord with her fan base. So WE tv asked to extend it for the whole season.
At that point, part of my concern was, "Well, that's great and fine. But in order to make this a win-win for all parties, I want to make sure she gets an opportunity to look at all episodes before they air. And she gets executive producer credit."
And when did you get pulled onto the show?
As a character? Trina Braxton got a DUI. She calls me and says, "Antavius, I don't know what to do." I said, "Of course, let's talk about it." So she says, "Would you mind coming and talking to me about it on air, while we're taping?" Now I've always been leery of lawyers doing reality shows, because there's so much confidentiality [between lawyers and clients], that you gotta be careful. But I said I'll see what happens.
So when you went to see her, were the cameras rolling? And if so, did you have to sign a contract, or an NDA, that you yourself had drawn up?
[Laughs] The answer is yes, the cameras were rolling. I drove up to the studio and I got out of the car like I always do, with my briefcase, and the cameramen ran out and said, "No no no no, get back in your car! We want to film you driving up." I said, "What the hell have I gotten into?"
So I get back in my car and I'm driving up--and now I'm feeling like an actor, right? I get out of my car and they're right in front of me, filming me, as I'm walking in.
And, yes, I did have to sign the release. The release was actually from the producer's attorneys--and I don't represent the production company. Of course I did modify it some. I'm a lawyer. That's what we do.
Next Monday: Protecting the client, and the lawyer, as the cameras roll.