Michael Jai ( pronounced Jye )White was born in Brooklyn NY and as a pre-teen moved to Bridgeport, CT.(a some what impoverished city that at time boasted some of the highest crime rates per-capita, in the country.) The fact that Bridgeport is so close to Westport, CT. ( which has one of the highest per-capita income levels in the U.S.) would bear no significance to Bridgeport’s mean streets. However the geographical proximity would prove to be invaluable in this future actors life. Living so close to two such drastically opposing worlds Michael grew having friends from the worst housing projects as well as the richest mansions and felt much at home in either setting.
In school, Mike tended to hang out with the more introverted and some what “nerdier” types; while at the sometime carrying on a street persona as well. Always possessing a hatred for bullies, Mike would seek them out to battle and he eventually earned a reputation as one of the toughest and most feared street fighter’s in the area.
At age 14 Michael was partially on his own to fend for himself in the world. Already 6 ft, 190 lbs., with a deep voice and facial hair, he was easily mistaken for an adult. He made money teaching Karate at the local YMCA, fighting in tournaments, and dancing in contests. The former troubled youth graduated high school with honors and went on to college without a clue as to what he want to become. Michael jumped from university to university; UCONN, S.C.S.U., and major to major; Political Science, Communications, Engineering all the while finding room to squeeze in an acting class or two. In college Mike never gave acting a consideration as a possible career choice.
Mike eventually became a junior high school teacher. He found he had a gift for reaching troubled children. For three years he taught 5th, 6th, and 7th grade, emotionally disturbed children. This endeavor is what Mike says has been his proudest achievement. Along with his growth as an educator, came the growth of the desire to act.
Though reluctant to follow acting, he felt he had to get it out of his system; so he began to audition for roles in nearby Manhattan, in his time off. He eventually landed commercials, theatre roles, and bit parts in soaps. Faced with the difficult decision to leave teaching, he finally did so with the blessing of his young students. In 1992 Michael moved to LA to pursue acting. Incidentally Michael’s motivation to act is from the standpoint of a teacher; “The actor has a responsibility to teach his audience the truth while standing in the shoes of the character he is playing at the time. Done correctly, acting can teach people about themselves as well as others. It has the power to touch and change the lives of millions at a time.