Not many men would call their ex-wife their greatest inspiration, but Wayne Brady does. “I’m so inspired by Mandie, by what an artist she is and how smart she is,” Wayne, 47, reveals to Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “She is my best friend, my production partner and we made a beautiful baby, Maile, who’s a wonderful young woman.”
Wayne’s good-natured attitude may be one reason why the Emmy winner keeps getting hired again and again. Today, when he’s not busy hosting his 11th season of Let’s Make a Deal, he’s guest-starring on Broadway in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revived hip-hop improv show Freestyle Love Supreme, acting in three upcoming indie films, appearing on The Bold and the Beautiful with his 16-year-old actress daughter, doing stand-up and more. “There hasn’t been a year since I started Whose Line Is It Anyway? [in 1998] that I have not been on a TV show, and I don’t take that for granted,” he says.
We caught up with the busy entertainer to talk about his career, what drives him and why “you shouldn’t have any regrets.”
Scroll down for our complete Q&A with Wayne!
What’s the best part of hosting and co-executive producing Let’s Make a Deal?
The giving aspect is life-changing to a lot of people. There’s lots of people that I talk to who say, “I watched your show when I was going through chemo,” or “My grandmother and I watched the show and she passed away. Thank you.” I can’t think of a lot of other jobs on TV where you can give laughter, you can give love, and you can effect change on a monetary level.
You’ve done so many different things. What’s been your favorite?
Doing Hamilton [in Chicago in 2017] was definitely a life highlight. But then again, I loved doing my first record and getting nominated for a Grammy [in 2009]. I thought having my own variety and talk show and winning [two] Daytime Emmys for that was my favorite. I thought my  Broadway debut in Chicago was, and then I thought doing Kinky Boots [in 2015–2016] was. I always want to be amazed and happy and thankful about what has happened.
You also won an Emmy for Whose Line Is It Anyway? Any highlights from that?
Sharing the stage with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg — just amazing.
What about How I Met Your Mother?
What an experience getting to work with Neil [Patrick Harris]; breaking down a boundary of sorts for representation in the LGBTQ+ community by playing someone who was not a stereotypically gay character was amazing.
What was it like acting with Maile on The Bold and the Beautiful this year?
That was a lark. I did that to say that I did a soap opera with my daughter, who has a recurring role, and do something that I knew my grandmother would love.
How about The Wayne Brady Show?
Both of them — the [2001–2002] primetime show and the [2002–2004] daytime show — were wonderful. And not a lot of people can say they have footage from their talk show of their daughter being born! [Laughs]
What was your childhood like?
I was raised in Orlando, Florida, by my grandmother Valerie. She did an outstanding job of taking care of me, protecting me and making me feel safe and strong enough to pursue a career like this. My father was in the military and she raised me because he traveled around. That worked out for the absolute best, and I’m lucky enough that I still have her.
Any moment that set you on your path?
A friend dropped out of the school play, I took over his one-line role and met [teacher] Karen Rugerio, one of my dearest friends. I call her my second mom. She said, “This is what you were born to do.”
That’s great. When you moved to L.A. in 1996, was it tough to start acting?
Once I moved I just started working. I was the Wolfman and Dracula in the Beetlejuice show at Universal Studios Hollywood. I sang at weddings and bar mitzvahs and did some theater. The guys I moved out with, we were in a group called the Houseful of Honkeys, which is how we got the Whose Line audition.
You were married to Diana Lasso from 1993–1995 and Mandie Taketa from 1999–2008. What did you learn from them?
My first wife is a great person, but you should not be getting married when you’re 20 or 21 because you still don’t know yourself. I think the lesson was not to rush into things. I’ve learned how to become a better man and someone’s friend from Mandie, how to listen, and when you have someone who’s truly on your team, that you need to be grateful. She’s someone who knows me better than my family, who always has my back, and we hope the way we co-parent can be a model for others.
What are you looking for in a partner?
Someone I can respect for what they do because they’re operating at the top of their game. Who’s accepting of my relationship with Mandie and her boyfriend, Jason, who are my family just as much as my daughter is.
In 2014, you opened up about your battle with depression. Why?
Because I wanted to love myself, plain and simple. Robin Williams had just committed suicide, and I thought that if someone who brings so much joy has the problem of loving themselves, then I can’t ignore it. You need to open a dialogue with yourself and admit you need to get help.
What’s up next for you?
I would love to originate a role on Broadway, to write my own show, to start a sitcom — which we’re working on now with CBS. I’ve got another record that I’m releasing soon. And I’d love to open up a performing arts academy. I’m going through the list slowly but surely.
Any life lessons you can share?
Be grateful. Be kind. Even on the crappiest of days, it doesn’t cost anything to give a high-five or a smile.
For more on your favorite celebs, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!
Reporting by Diana Cooper