Season 2 of Bravo’s Southern Charm New Orleans has just wrapped, and the cast member who provides the comic relief for the high drama series, Justin Reese, is enjoying a well-deserved break. A native of New Orleans, this main cast member has come out as the new front runner of the show by allowing fans into his life, showing off his funny personality and hardworking mindset. This well-traveled man of many hats is an unorthodox fit for what people imagine as a reality TV star, but regardless he has created a name for himself in the reality television industry.
Before becoming a staple cast member on Southern Charm New Orleans, Justin also practices law and is a very successful sports agent. As a well-educated man, he graduated from Morehouse College in 2014, where he not only majored in psychology but was also a member of the National Honor Society. Sports-enthusiast Justin is also a Certified Contract Advisor with the National Football League Players Association where he represents many well-known football players. With these huge career responsibilities, it's remarkable that Justin had the time to join the cast of Southern Charm New Orleans. The show has so far run for a successful two seasons and it has been so well received by audiences that it has a high chance of returning for a third.
In season 2, the group of friends went through some pretty intense changes - between Jeff Charleston and Reagan Charleston’s divorce, to Tamica Lee turning over a new leaf regarding her work schedule. In the middle of it all - there was Justin - trying to keep the group of friends grounded while balancing the challenges of his everyday life. Halfway through the season, Justin had a serious conversation with his girlfriend, Kelsey Nichols, regarding where their relationship was going. Even when the bombshells from other castmates were dropped, Justin had kept his cool. The season ended with the whole cast supporting Reagan in her marriage to Reece Thomas when he proved that solidarity and friendship always prevails. Screen Rant sat down with Justin to see how he felt season 2 of Southern Charm New Orleans went. In this exclusive interview, Justin opens up about his career, his relationship with Kelsey, and his fear of ghosts.
How did you come to star in a reality TV show for Bravo?
The process started with a previous casting company and it started with pretty much almost all of the same cast with the exception of maybe like four who were previously doing it. And my name was initially thrown into the hat for that. You know they started with Barry, Tamica, Reagan, Jeff, Rachel and Mike at that time and going through it I guess with how they were formatting the show, I wound up not kind of fitting into it for the premise of the show, and so something happened and it fell apart in 2014. Then in 2015, I was getting ready to walk into the Saints game and I ran into a close friend of mine - Heidi.
And this is when the production company - that we are now rocking and rolling with - came back and again my name got thrown into the ring. I was practicing law, and I was like, all right sure, I’ll see how far this takes me. What’s the worst they will do, tell me no? Then I will go right back to practicing law. I did all the Skype interviews, phone calls, it got further into doing test filming and I just kept going with it until they didn’t need me anymore. I guess now three years later we just finished season two - I guess it kind of worked out for me.
Who first approached you and was it always a dream of yours to work within the TV industry?
You know what, I always share this story; it's kind of crazy. My last year of college I had finished my major early and I just needed hours to graduate so I spent my last semester at Spelman College in the drama department. I say that respectively because I didn’t realize how tough drama is. It is tough. People truly underestimate the skill level it takes to be good. Long story short, a lot of my friends had a passion for theater or TV and I just enjoyed doing it; it was fun.
I always said, you know what guys, I respect the hustle and starving artist. I always said if I was ever going to be on TV, my story was going to be one of those exceptions - like I was walking in a mall and a casting director said you kinda have this look that I have been looking for. I would do it to see what would happen, TV wasn’t going to be something I actively pursued, but if it happened in my life I would take advantage of the opportunity. I would take the opportunity very seriously.
Fans watched you practice law on Southern Charm New Orleans and we also know you are a sports agent. How do you balance being a lawyer, sports agent and now a new reality star all one?
I love practicing law. My father always taught me that your network is equal to your net worth. It is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done, to try and manage everything. I’m very fortunate my office; I have a great staff that keeps my calendar for me in check, lets me know when all my court appointments are and dates ... They really help me do my best to build a case and do my best to get them what they need from a medical standpoint, first and foremost, and then to make sure they are compensated for their injuries.
With regards to sports, the fall is my most difficult time of year because it's during football season, I’ve got to get on the road. I have to recruit. I’m gone a lot of weekends; it is very time-consuming. This past year, I struggled, because we wound up filming in the fall - and the fall is when I do a lot of my recruiting. My recruiting actually suffered quite a bit this past year because I wasn’t able to get on the road because the weekends are when we do the bulk of what we call all casting bits, and so I couldn’t miss out on those for recruiting purposes. So last year was really difficult for me. We are waiting to see what’s going to happen with season 3, every year the way it works is they look at to see whether the dynamics, what’s going on in everyone’s life, sometimes there is a shift with cast members, you just never know how it's going to play out.
Bravo has been very good to me. I love the project. I love what we are doing. Of course, I want to continue to be a part of it. We never know what the true filming schedule will be. We could be filming as early as next month or it could be next year, I have no idea. The only thing I can control right now is my legal practice and if we don’t film in the fall, then I will be really focused on my sports recruiting and if we do film in the fall I will have to figure something out with my business partners as far as recruiting goes to see how I can still be active, even though I can’t necessarily be fully present.
Fans only saw a glimpse of your career as a lawyer, what does practicing law in New Orleans really entail. What are the types of clients you take on?
So, my practice truly involves personal injury and it’s from top to bottom. All the way from your little, minor fender benders in an auto accident and all the way up to, unfortunately, fatalities. So, I do car accidents, I do wrongful deaths, whether it's work-related or accident-related. I do offshore work - if you work offshore in the Gulf of Mexico on those oil rigs, the platforms. I do mesothelioma cases -people who work in factories and have been exposed to asbestos. And I do medical malpractice cases. Then we do some transaction litigation as well, a hot button case is the opioids that is going on across the country right now, my law firm is heavily involved with that, so that’s pretty much the extent of my practice.
Is there a project or accomplishment that you consider to be one of the most significant in your career thus far?
I really like to say no matter how big or small, my clients all need me at the end of the day, and they need my help to get that end result. Some accidents, some cases are going to be more complex some are going to require a little more attention, but I take pride in all of my cases. I’ll give you two cases in particular that really stand out to me - it was one where I was representing a gentleman who was working and unfortunately passed away; he was in a hazardous condition and died on the job - and he had two children. We went to trial, the case is settled for almost a million dollars, with one defendant prior to trial, and then during the trial, we tried the case, and got a judgment for over a million dollars for those two kids. For those two kids, that’s very important. They were young, at the time they were still in high school and middle school respectively, and their father had passed away. They had to think of their future; they had to think of college. We all know college is super expensive. So the money from that trial even though unfortunately the kids no longer had their father, there’s no amount of money that could bring their father back. What we were able to do for that family and for those two kids was secure their future, and their future education. That one really sat with me.
The most recent one that I had was an older woman, at the time of the accident she was in her late 80’s completely autonomous, was living by herself, driving on her own, never had a medical issue for a woman her age, only medication she was taking was supplements. Her first week of moving back to New Orleans since she was 18 years old, she falls down a flight of stairs at her new primary care doctor. After that fall, she required 24-hour care, around the clock in a nursing home. What we did was settle that case almost at a million dollars for her which is now going to secure her future at the nursing home and give her the care that she is going to need for the rest of her days. I treat all of my clients the same. Obviously, those two cases were a little bit more special because of the needs behind it, I wanna say when it comes to practicing law, I really want to make sure that everybody is taken care of.
Turning back to your show, I am sure Southern Charm New Orleans fans are dying to know how your relationship with Kelsey is going. Have you been able to meet the six months deadline that she presented to you during season 2?
Kelsey and I are doing good. It was a little tough at the end of the season and early in the summer. We were trying to figure things out, at one point we initially broke up and you know it was a lot dealing with the show. People kinda interjecting in our relationship, "When are ya’ll getting married, when are ya’ll doing this, when is this happening..." And then with the cast, being on social media, it just gets a little bit overwhelming. It kind of got the best of us. We had to take a step back, reset, kind of start opening up a conversation, get back to basics, figure out what it is that we truly want - not what everyone else’s thoughts are about our relationship. We are still working through that, we’re still talking. We still live together. We are still trying to navigate through those waters, but we are doing it at our pace and our terms - not everybody else’s
Towards the end of season 2, fans did see Kelsey give that deadline of six months, a possible proposal, and we saw your reaction was a little hesitant. How did you feel about being presented with a proposal deadline? Did you step back even farther from the idea of marriage?
I thought for me therapy was really good, I did it way more than once. It was one of those things where you know, I’ve always been the one where people come and talk to, and I’ve always been the one trying to give advice. Now it was time where I needed to actually be vulnerable and I needed to talk to somebody, and I need help. Having realized that about myself, I really wanted to do that, you know as far as like talking about that timeline, I didn’t necessarily see it as an ultimatum per se. I saw it more as something that we did both talk about. This is something that you know we wanted to see happen, I saw it as more like, maybe being a lawyer, I am used to working on deadlines. So I don’t want to say it was an ultimatum, I saw it as you know, this is something we talked about, maybe let see it as a goal.
I saw on the last season your relationship with Kelsey had a tense effect on your friendships, especially Tamica. I understand you, Barry, and Tamica have been friends for over twenty years, how is your friendship with Tamica today?
So Tamica and I, [knew each other] longer - high school. Her brother and I went to high school together. Our parents knew each other for sure. Obviously, Barry came into the mix later as Tamica became an adult. From there, Barry and I kinda developed our own friendship, I’d even say to a certain extent Barry and I probably got a little bit closer.
Viewers watched Tamica be hard on Kelsey throughout the season. You even at one point had to take Tamica to the side and stick up for your relationship. Did that affect your friendship with Tamica or are you guys as strong as ever?
I think we are pretty much the same. Look, I do not like to fight with women - it is not my thing. Kelsey is a strong woman. Kelsey is also the kind of woman where I don’t think she wants me to be there for her, but she doesn’t need me to fight her battles for her. Essentially I was like, "Look, I’ll let you handle it the way you see fit if you want me to step in I will." I felt like it was getting to a point where what was happening that friction was now seeping into our relationship and into our house. Once things start affecting my house and my tranquility, then I’ve gotta step into it, because when I come home from work I’m already stressed out enough as it is - I’m not trying to come home to stress. So, I felt like at this point I needed to step in and say something.
On the past seasons of Southern Charm New Orleans, viewers saw you choose to lead a healthy life, losing weight, eating right, and exercising. What drove you to actively chose to be healthy?
So, for me, my wakeup call was I actually saw a picture of myself. It's one thing when you’re getting dressed and you’re putting on your clothes, it's like you know what I like this, I’m feeling good, I’m feeling fresh, I like this look. But there is something about a camera and a picture that will humble yourself a lot more than a mirror will. I saw this picture, it was a picture of me, Barry, Kelsey, and Ed, we were at a Saints football game and I looked at myself and I was like, "Wait a minute, no way that is me." I barely even recognized myself. I prided myself on being an athlete. I played high school football; I played college football. I get it - yes, I’m a lawyer now - I sit behind a desk, but that’s no excuse. And look, heart disease [and] cancer, runs in my family so I was like something’s got to change and quickly. That was my light bulb. I’m in the gym five days a week working out now, eating healthier. I’ve been feeling so much better and feeling really good these days.
What is the food you miss the most?
My favorite go-to New Orleans dish is a good old fashion New Orleans Po’ Boy sandwich. I love shrimp Po’s Boys, fried shrimp are one of my absolute favorites. That’s it, [a] little hot sauce, little ketchup - absolutely! That has been so difficult; I’ve just learned to do it in moderation. I have definitely maintained my healthy eating throughout the course of the week, I may do a cheat meal on Saturday - not a cheat day. But it’s tough in New Orleans. I’ve lived in a lot of cities but it’s coming back home, it has destroyed my health.
How do you feel you are being portrayed on Southern Charm New Orleans; do you feel it was accurate?
I do. Look, I feel like the one thing about me is I take accountability, for everything I do and everything I say. I’m not perfect, but the one thing is I stand behind everything I did. I felt I was portrayed how I was. This year was a little bit more of an emotional year for me more so than a comedic year like it was the first year. People got to see the other side of me as well, I’m not just the guy who is here for the drinks and to crack jokes.
I have to be honest, I did have a good laugh at your interaction with ghosts on the first season when you were tricked into staying at the haunted plantation.
You know, that is real for me. I do not like haunted houses, I do not like ghosts, goblins, and ghouls, and voodoo. I don’t like any of that stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I will go watch the scary movies all day. I’ll watch Paranormal Activity, but I don’t wanna be a part of it. I’ll go watch the movies for sure. I don’t wanna live it though.
I know we have touched base on filming for season 3, but are there any little hints you can give Screen Rant? Are you guys currently filming right now for season three? What can viewers expect for the next season if there is one?
Here’s the thing, we still haven’t been told anything yet, and it's kinda like the way that they work. It's kinda like on movies when everyone is sitting around and then it's like DEFCON 3, battle stations get ready - you know? That’s how it feels sometimes. I mean, look, I felt the season went very well; I think the fans loved it. I think Bravo loved it. I’m very confident, there’s no green light or anything like that, there’s no official confirmation, but I’m very confident we’re going to have a season 3, it’s just a matter of when do we start filming, and where things are going to go.
Viewers have had a chance to meet your parents through your interactions on the show, growing up with a judge and a civil activist did you feel any pressure to follow in their footsteps?
My parents have always had me involved. I won’t say it was pressure, but they always taught me that the old adage that much is given much is required, they’ve always had me involved, just so I could know what was going on in the community in regards to politics, or whether its community, or civil activism that my mom does, and just giving back. I don’t necessarily call it pressure; it was just more you have to be apart of your community and I wholeheartedly agree with that. We look at what’s going on in today's society, what’s happening around the US as a whole, what’s going on with the community and outreach programs whether its for homeless or kids, battered wives, whatever the case may be, you know you have to know what’s going on in your community and if you have the opportunity to help somebody, then you should.
I think fans are probably dying to know your opinion on the Jeff and Reagan saga. I thought it was a quick move, what did you think of Reagan moving on and you being there to support Jeff?
I mean, from a guy’s perspective, Jeff, both Reagan and Jeff were not like you have to pick a side. They were cool about it. You know, Jeff took things at a different pace than Reagan did. Jeff moved a lot slower, he’s kinda figuring out what he wants out life in the next phase of his life, where Reagan already decide - as you saw - what she wanted. I guess what made it tough, tough for us, we felt like - in the best way I can describe it - is like when you’re at dinner and the server brings out you know your appetizer, salad, and entrée all at the same exact time, as opposed to giving you a couple of minutes in between. Literally, we were meeting Reece, they were announcing that they were engaged, getting married, then right after that, they were having a baby.
So that really happened. You guys didn’t get a secret heads up, no chance to plan your surprised faces?
I met Reece that night when we filmed. That was the first night I ever met him. Then when they announced that they were getting engaged at Halloween that was the first time I had heard that. Then when they announced that she was pregnant, or she told Kelsey at our housewarming party, that was the first time I had ever heard that. So, I’m literally living this stuff as everybody else is. It’s like we were at a restaurant and Reagan brought us our appetizer, salad, and entrée all at the same exact time. It was a lot.
If someone wants to steep themselves in the Southern Charm where would you recommend, what is your favorite spot in New Orleans?
The thing is there is so much! There is so much to do, honestly, you can get a lot done if you come down here on an extended weekend. Being from here, honestly, I really don’t go into the French Quarter that much. The history is so rich, you have to go down there. Anything to just spending a night on Bourbon Street, to going to Jackson Square, St Louis Cathedral, the mint, doing a haunted tour. As much as I don’t want to spend a night somewhere its kind of cool to hear some of those stories, the history behind it. It is actually really cool. As far as food obviously you have to go to the staple, Café Du Monde, get some beignet and coffee. You definitely have to get your char-grilled oysters from either Drago’s or Acme Oysters. There are just so many good places to go to eat.
What is something you would like the fans of Southern Charm New Orleans to know about you?
You know I say the one thing about me is that I think there is a lot of layers to me, and I think the show has been doing a good job of showing that. I do have this very witty, charismatic and funny side to me but there is also a side that you know is very intelligent. There’s a side to me that I think gives great advice, I have a worldly perspective on things. I’m very world-traveled; I’ve experienced a lot of the world. I can give a lot of insight, history, politics, and religion, through my experiences. I think there is so much to me more that I’m still waiting to show everyone. You know I think everyone knows that I am passionate about my career, my friends, and my family. But there is still so much to learn and see about me.