Sterling K. Brown Talks Fathers and Sons, Saints and Sinners

October 09, 2017

Sterling spoke with Brendan Francis Newman for Dinner for One’s radio interview. You can listen to the full interview here.

Actor Sterling K. Brown won his first Emmy for portraying Christopher Darden in “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story.” And he won his second, a little over a week ago, for his performance as Randall Pearson in the acclaimed NBC drama “This Is Us.”

His latest role in the biographical drama “Marshall,” which tells the true story of one of the first cases of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Sterling plays Joseph Spell, a man accused of rape and attempted murder of a wealthy socialite, and Marshall chooses to defend Spell.

Brendan met with Sterling before he won his recent Emmy. Sterling talked about a change on the horizon of casting in the television industry, why his “This Is Us” role resonated with him, and more.

Interview Highlights:
On how Randall represents a change in the way people of color are portrayed on television

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, let’s talk about this character you play. You play Randall. And he was adopted and raised by a white family. You’ve said that you like playing him partially because he’s “black on purpose.”

Sterling K. Brown: What I mean by that is so many people or people of color who happen to be on network television, oftentimes wind up playing roles that are all ethnicities submitted. And it is a wonderful sort of thing because it allows for people of color to have roles where they may not have before, in terms of colorblind casting. But I think the next step forward from colorblind casting is actually seeing people for what they are and using all of what they bring to the table to help tell the story of that character.

So, if you’re dealing with an African-American, or a Latino, or an Asian, you make reference and address their culture and their experience within this country, and you use that to help tell the story of that person. They’re not just Asian by coincidence or black by coincidence. So, I like the idea that we’re moving in that direction, where people are being fully seen and appreciated for their differences rather than trying to wash them away and have us all become something that is more homogenized.

On how Randall’s backstory and white family influence Sterling’s portrayal

Sterling K. Brown: I ask myself these kinds of questions a lot. My wife and I have conversations. There’s certain sort of cultural touchstones that my wife and I share with one another by virtue of being born the same year in St. Louis, Missouri, both African-American, having a similar education, as well. And so, there’s a lot of those things that Randall probably missed out on and had to play catch-up with.

I have a friend of mine from St. Louis who’s married to a guy who’s black, who was raised by a white family on the East Coast. And so, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him on occasion about what his experience, and he’s like, “I was constantly trying to figure out what the joke was. People would make references to these movies that I had never seen or music that I hadn’t heard, but through time and because I had a genuine curiosity, I sought it out.”

And I feel like Randall’s that person that actively sought out his culture through his exposure through this mentor he had as a child named Yvette and being around her children. And then, later on, when you choose somebody like Beth for a wife– oftentimes, men choose women that look like their moms or remind them of their moms in some way, but Randall made the choice to choose this black woman to share his life with, and I think she probably helps him, also, you know, educate him in those cultural touchstones that he may have missed out on in his youth.

On how Randall’s storyline with his biological father resonated with him

Sterling K. Brown: Stories about fathers and sons always have a particular resonance for me in my life because I was 10 years old when my dad passed away. And so the opportunity to sort of explore this relationship with William and Randall was intoxicating because the question that I asked myself entering into it, I said, “If my dad were around or someone who I knew could possibly replace my dad or replace that father figure in my life, I would do everything that I could to pursue that relationship.”

And so, now Randall is given that opportunity. Now there’s this biological father that he’s finally found, and there’s so many what-ifs that if you don’t actively pursue it, they’ll just remain what-ifs, and then what-ifs usually lead to regret.

And so, he had to — even though he thought when he first met William that he just wanted to chastise him and show him how much he had made of his life in spite of his absence, what he was really longing for was that sense of connection. You don’t go 100 miles away from your home and wind up bringing somebody home to stay with your family unless there’s something on the inside of you that is really longing for something that’s missing.

On working on courtroom dramas like “Marshall” and “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” and how he scrutinizes scripts

Sterling K. Brown: I mean, the history of the African-American male and how they’ve been treated systemically by the criminal justice system is sort of at the forefront of both of those stories. And it’s the reason why black America rejoiced when O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder of Ron and Nicole, and it’s the reason why the NAACP had Thurgood Marshall going around the country looking to defend African-Americans that they felt were not getting the defense that they deserved and possibly were being falsely accused because the system doesn’t seem to have us in their best interest all the time.

It seems as if there’s another eight-ball that you’re working behind as an African-American male where you’re almost presumed guilty, and you have to prove your innocence, which is not the way in which it’s supposed to work.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Do you feel like, in some way, having that heightened awareness of that situation in society–is it a heavier weight to bear when you’re delivering those lines or scrutinizing those scripts?

Sterling K. Brown: Yes and no. So, there are things that I’ve always been aware of as a black actor that I can’t do in the same way as some of my white counterparts because of the way in which it might be perceived. And I give… The most innocuous one that I think of immediately is “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”

I think Jim Carrey is absolutely amazing in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” but if a black actor gave you the exact same performance, like, note for note, people would be like, “Why is this brother making an ass of himself?” Right? It just comes across in a very different way.

And so, I’m cognizant of that sort of thing as I take on roles and look at what I’m doing because–not that I want every character that I play to be upstanding or whatnot, but I don’t want them to be an embarrassment to black people, right? That is important to me. I want to play as wide a breadth of people as I can, saints and sinners alike, but I don’t want to embarrass nobody.


Sterling K. Brown Literally Ran Through Koreatown to Get His Wife to Date Him

October 06, 2017

Sterling was interviewed by the ladies of the Talk yesterday and shared some of his experiences dating Ryan.

Now this is love at first sight.

Sterling K. Brown and his wife Ryan Michelle Bathe have been married for 10 years, but before she agreed to date him, she made him literally chase after her.

On Thursday, the This is Us star stopped by The Talk to spill the details on just how he won her over.

“Is it true that you had to work really hard to win Ryan over?” asked co-host Sharon Osbourne.

“Yes ma’am, it is,” Brown, 41, replied before being cut off by Osbourne, who informed the Emmy-award winning actor he didn’t need to be so formal; he could just call her “Mrs. O.”

“So we dated off and on in college and then we broke up for three and a half years before we came back into each other’s lives,” Brown began. “She was on the treadmill working out, and I had this epiphany, ‘I have to go tell this woman she’s the love of my life.’”

“I go to her apartment, I tell her, and she’s like, ‘Well, I’m working out right now,’ and I was like, ‘No, I can see that — I’ll just talk to you while you’re on the treadmill,’ and she’s like, ‘Well, I feel like going outside. So I’m gonna go on a run,’ ” he continued.

“So I’m like dressed [in a suit] and she starts running through Koreatown and I start running along with her,” he added. “Brother had to work, but it was well-worth while.”

Brown and Bathe, also 41, wed in 2007 and share two children: Andrew, 6, and Amaré, 2.

Brown has been known to fawn over his wife in sweet social media posts, like when he captioned an Instagram video of his wife getting ready for the 2017 Emmys, “Don’t hurt ’em, Bird! #emmys2017 How can it get any better than this?”


Stills from The Today Show

September 27, 2017

I have added stills of Sterling’s interview on the Today Show with Hoda Kotb & Savannah Guthrie.

Gallery Links:
Sterling K. Brown Fan > PUBLICITY > 2017 > THE TODAY SHOW

Sterling on the Today Show

September 27, 2017

This morning Sterling made an appearance on the Today show … check out a clip of his interview below:

Actor Sterling K. Brown joins Kathie Lee and Hoda to talk his Emmy-winning role on “This Is Us,” which starts its second season Tuesday. He promises “a big clue” about Jack’s death in the season premiere, and also talks about his role in “Marshall,” the upcoming biodrama in which he plays a man defended by the young Thurgood Marshall before Marshall became a Supreme Court justice

How Caitlyn Jenner Prompted a Powerful Heart-to-Heart Between Sterling K. Brown and His Son

August 28, 2017

I love the Jess Cagle interviews that People and does with celebrities. Sterling’s is no exception.

Sterling K. Brown doesn’t shy away from having “those conversations” with his kids.

Sitting down with with PEOPLE’s Editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle in the latest episode of The Jess Cagle Interview (streaming now on the People/Entertainment Weekly Network), the This Is Us star opened up about raising kids in the modern world.

“I lived in St. Louis, Missouri, and now my kids are growing up in Los Angeles, so that’s culturally very different,” the 41-year-old father of two said.

The former American Crime Story star, who plays Randall Pearson on NBC’s breakout drama, pointed out some key differences between his childhood in the “very conservative” Midwest and the life his kids have now.

“I have gay people in my family who weren’t able to openly discuss homosexuality and I feel like that’s shifted, especially here on the coast,” he explained.

This more open environment, Brown said, contributes to “conversations with my son all the time.” One of the most powerful ones came after his son saw Caitlyn Jenner‘s legendary “Call Me Caitlyn” cover of Vanity Fair.

“He asked me one time … he saw the cover of Vanity Fair and he goes, ‘Daddy, is that a man or a woman?’ I said, ‘Good question. That’s a woman who used to be a man.’ And he goes, ‘How’s that work?’ I was like, ‘I don’t have all of the information, but she felt like she was a woman, but she was in a man’s body, but now she gets to be a woman.’ And he goes, ‘Am I woman?’ I said, ‘I don’t think so. I think you’re a guy.’ ”

The conversation then shifted to one “of homosexuality.”

Brown continued: “He was like, ‘Well, can I marry you?’ I said, ‘That’s very sweet. I appreciate that, buddy. But I’m already married to mom and I’m not gay, so it wouldn’t work out between us.’ ”

Added Brown of his relationship with his son, “We have those conversations. My mom didn’t have those conversations with me. It was a taboo thing that just wasn’t talked about.”

To watch the entire interview go here.

How Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry Finally Got Seats at the Emmy Table

August 25, 2017

Until last year, Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry had carved out parallel careers as recognizable but not particularly nameable actors.

After meeting 10 years ago at the Sundance Theater Lab, as part of the cast developing “Wig Out!” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, they became close friends as they worked together, on plays including Mr. McCraney’s “Brother/Sister Plays” trilogy, and separately — Mr. Henry was in the original cast of “The Book of Mormon” and Mr. Brown appeared in television shows like “Supernatural” and “Army Wives.” Along the way their bond deepened as they watched peers break out.

“Brian and I both, for a long time, we would see film roles and TV roles go to people,” Mr. Brown said. “And we’d be like, ‘Oh man, good for them, but when is it going to be our turn?’”

The answer: 2016, when the actors appeared in three of the most acclaimed new series of the year. Mr. Brown, 41, won an Emmy for playing the prosecutor Christopher Darden in FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” and stars as Randall Pearson, the high-strung family man, in the NBC breakout drama “This Is Us.” Mr. Henry, 35, is now best known as Paper Boi, the gruff but hilarious rapper in “Atlanta,” also on FX. The roles have brought more opportunities — Mr. Brown has a role in Marvel’s coming “Black Panther,” among other movies, and Mr. Henry will work on a total of six films this year, including “Hotel Artemis,” a futuristic thriller in which he is the brother of a hero played by … Mr. Brown.

In July they each received Emmy nominations for “This Is Us,” with Mr. Henry getting a guest acting nod for his appearance in a February episode.

“I’m still in shock,” he said. “We’re both at the Emmys together, for me being on his show? I was like, ‘O.K. this is crazy, man.’”

In a joint conversation, the actors discussed their friendship and how it shaped their journeys from upstarts to Emmy nominees. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Did I read somewhere that you bonded in the early days because one of you shaved the other?

BRIAN TYREE HENRY When you put it that way…

STERLING K. BROWN It sounds really sordid.

HENRY It sounds so “Crying Game.” I had a full beard, but I was playing a drag queen in [“Wig Out!”]. So Sterling was like, “I’ve got some clippers,” because we’re in Park City, Utah, where I’m definitely not going to find any black barbers. And he shaved my face for me. It was very nice — I don’t know many people who would’ve hooked a brother up like that. I also think he was being very particular about his clippers.

BROWN That’s exactly what it was.

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Sterling K. Brown of This Is Us on His Ascent, Loving LeBron, and Black Representation on TV

August 25, 2017

GQ is featuring Sterling in their new issue … and what a great interview it is!

The Emmy-winning actor, here making monochrome look masterful, has some opinions on just how quickly Hollywood is running toward diversity.

However Hollywood charts talent, a pretty swift case could be made that the biggest breakout in the past year is not a newcomer but a veteran, Sterling K. Brown. After years of bill-paying recurring roles, Brown, 41, won an Emmy last fall for his deeply felt portrayal of Christopher Darden, co-counsel with Marcia Clark, in The People v. O.J. Simpson, and just earned a second Emmy nomination, for his hyper-sensitive Randall Pearson, the anchor of NBC’s heartstring-yanking This Is Us. While O.J. earned Brown prestige cred, This Is Us is the reason that people come up to him, spontaneously crying, when he’s out buying eggs. As he’s started getting recognized more, he says, “I catch myself every once in a while doing that weird thing that I see famous people do, where they have sunglasses and hats on and grow out beards thinking that they’re fooling people. Dude, you’re not fooling anyone, you look just like you.”

Brown’s recent success tracks an expansion in film and television of stories focusing on characters of color. This fall he appears in Marshall, about the young Thurgood Marshall, and early next year in Marvel’s Black Panther, the black-superhero movie directed by Ryan Coogler. Brown could not imagine a movie like Black Panther being cast this way a decade ago. “Hollywood is learning—Oh, we can make a dollar off of these stories,” he says. But even still, “there’s often the sort of conversation that transpires behind closed doors, and I shall entitle this conversation: There Can Be Only One.” What he means, of course, is that while there are more parts than there used to be, there still exists a kind of quota. “Why can’t there be two black guys? Why can’t there be a black woman?”

Brown recalls when, a few years ago, ABC green-lit a Kevin Hart project at the same time as it was shooting the pilot for Black-ish. ” The conversation was Well, which one are they going to pick up? Is it going to be ‘Black-ish’ or Kevin Hart? “Brown has spent 15 years with a front-row seat to Hollywood’s justifications of its aggravatingly narrow programming decisions. Now, though, not only is he present for the changing tide, but he’s quickly become one of its most recognizable faces. It gives him the platform to push things a little further. “Well, maybe we don’t have to choose anymore,” he says. “Maybe we can put them both on the air and see how the public responds.”

GQ caught up with Brown in early summer as he was finishing shooting The Predator and before returning to set for the second season of This Is Us.

GQ: A lot of the recent press about you is on how it has been a breakout year for you. It’s true that it’s been a huge year, but you’ve actually been a successful working actor for a long time.

SB: I’ve been able to pay the bills. I’ve been able to pay off my student loans. I was a homeowner before anything happened in the larger public eye. But yeah, I’ve been alright, I’ve been happy.

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