Isaiah Mustafa: From Old Spice to “Big Happy”

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like is no longer on a horse. He’s in a movie!

Isaiah Mustafa, better known as aromatic man whose perfect pecs and suave delivery sent the internet aflutter in his now-classic Old Spice ads, is savoring the sweet smell of success with his first major movie role in “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family.”

“In my head, the only thing I was thinking [was] that I had no other choice but to do a good job, because I had to be seen as something other than what people normally see me as,” Mustafa tells PopcornBiz. “So I didn't really have a choice to play around with it.”

Mustafa owes his big-screen big break to no less than Oprah Winfrey, who made the on-show introduction to her pal Perry which landed the smooth pitchman the gig. “There's nothing better than being surprised by Oprah with something,” Mustafa says. “If it's a movie role, that's probably the only thing that'd be better than that, even a trip to Australia.”

The actor and former football standout says he’s hoping audiences respond to his role as a long-suffering husband grappling with a mysteriously angry wife, “to see me be able to take a character like Calvin and bring him across. My fear was that people would see the movie and go, 'Oh, there's the Old Spice Guy.' Initially, I think you're going to see that anyway. You can't really help it, right? But my hope was by the end of the movie they go, 'Wow.' Even if they say, 'The Old Spice guy did a great job,' then I know I did a great job.”

Even now, Mustafa marvels over the overwhelming response to his commercial character. “I thought that they would do well, but I didn't think that they'd lead to…everything,” he admits. “I didn't know it was going to be like this. It still blows my mind. I still don't understand it. I'm not saying that I don't like it, but sometimes I'm just like, 'Wow.' It blows me away.”

And he’s still getting used to the often enthusiastic response from fans, he says, “from guys asking me to hug and kiss their girlfriend – which I don't understand – to guys saying 'Can you sign my girlfriend's…?' – you know, her body parts – to girls saying ‘Can you let me ride on your back? Can you take your shirt off? Can I have your shirt?' They say crazy stuff. I think I've heard just about everything that you can possibly hear as a request. People ask me to propose, they want me to just be at their wedding to marry them.”

“Sometimes people can't draw a line between me and the character,” he explains, “but if you meet me, you get it right away because I'm not talking in that tone all the time – except when my daughter is around. I talk to her like that. Actually, that's kind of where the tone came from.”

Despite the craziness, Mustafa remains grateful for what the ad appearances have brought his way. “In one way my life's 100% less chaotic because I had a lot going on, trying to have a day job and be an actor and be a dad, and I was in a relationship. It was a lot at the time,” he says. “Now, minus the relationship, minus the side jobs, I can just focus on being an actor and being a dad. So it's a little more hectic as far as me traveling a lot more and I have a lot more things to do, but I'm doing what I love to do, instead of bartending or doing something as a means to an end. Like, this is it – This is what I want.”

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