The actor tells EW how he landed the part, his thoughts on the singers' infamous feud, and how similar he is to "the boy" in the song.

By Rosy Cordero
August 31, 2020 at 06:11 PM EDT
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Brandy/Youtube

It's been 22 years since Brandy and Monica released their hit track "The Boy Is Mine" and now they are facing off again in today's Verzuz battle, but first, actor Mekhi Phifer, who portrayed the titular boy in their music video is sharing memories with EW about what it was like getting between the two.

It's no secret that the two singers had an acrimonious relationship that played out in the media throughout the years. (Although, Monica has said it was mostly "brilliant marketing.") But Phifer considers himself to have been a neutral party in any actual hullabaloo and is excited to show support for both women during tonight's reunion performance.

"I had just moved to California from New York and I was meeting with the people involved with I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and Brandy had already been cast in the film as my love interest," Phifer tells EW about how he landed the role in the video. "We were getting ready to shoot the movie in a few weeks and in between all that she was working on the music video for 'The Boy Is Mine.' They asked me if I wanted to be the boy in 'The Boy is Mine' and I thought it would be a cool little prequel to the film so I said, 'For sure!' The rest is history."

Last year, the song's producer Dallas Austin spoke about the "heavyweight beef" between the two women that may have even gotten physical when Monica allegedly "punched [Brandy] in the face" before their performance at the 1998 Video Music Awards. Although Phifer admits his experience was different from Austin's he does recall some tension.

"Dallas was a little bit more behind-the-scenes on the video and this was my first time meeting Brandy and Monica," he explains. "There was little stuff there. I think Brandy and her camp were used to having all the attention on her, in some respects. At this point, Brandy had played Moesha and had hit singles and had already released an album. And Monica was up-and-coming and doing her thing. So, there may have been some tension there but I didn't really see it there until maybe a little bit later."

Brandy/Youtube

Although the music video ends ambiguously with the viewer not sure if either woman ends up with "the boy," Pfifer can't begin to imagine how it would end if it was shot today.

"We're all older and more mature today so who knows how it would end? When the video ends, I'm acting coy so we don't really know what happens," the longtime actor, who most recently appeared on Love, Victor, says. "Did I choose one over the other? Or did they both call me a cheater and say, 'Get away from me!' Who knows?"

Phifer promises he's a long way away from being anything like "the boy" he was then. "Look, you gotta figure — especially back then in '98 when I was around 22 or 23 — when you're young and you're just getting into the business and you're going to all of these parties and you're meeting a lot of people it's tough not to date a multitude of people. I know I have," he says. "But you grow out of that and you look for someone that fits you, whose dreams you can support and vice-versa. You learn that it's more about quality than quantity. That's more how I am right now, more mature, and more focused. Today, I'm happily married and my wife and I are building for our future. You get to a point in life where you can't run that rat race anymore."

Watch Brandy and Monica battle it out again live on the Verzuz Instagram page at 8 p.m/ ET/5 p.m. PT.

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