411mania Interviews: Sterling K Brown (Army Wives)

Source: 411Mania.com
Date: June 5, 2009

411’s Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with Sterling K Brown from the record breaking Lifetime series Army Wives

You may recognize Sterling K Brown from his roles on Supernatural, Third Watch, the cult favorite Starved, or Eli Stone, but it’s his performance as Dr Roland Burton on Lifetime’s record breaking series Army Wives that has gotten him the most acclaim.

Al Norton: If you can remember back a couple of years, when your agents brought you a script called Army Wives that was going to be on Lifetime, what was your reaction?

Sterling K Brown: (Laughing)…My initial reaction was that first and foremost I have to read the material. So many times agents and managers want to push you in one direction or another based on the network or the buzz of the producers associated with the project so I learned early on in my career that I really just have to respond to the material. Everything else business wise has to go to the back burner and if it’s something I connect to emotionally and it’s something that can be relevant and entertaining and educational, and edifying to the human condition, so be it. When I read the Army Wives script, penned by Katherine Fugate, I was definitely moved and intrigued to explore the possibilities.

Whether it was Lifetime, HBO, or ABC was second nature to me. The words really did the job.

Al Norton: What was the process like for you to get the part?

Sterling K Brown: Let’s see…the first audition was with the casting director and Katherine Fugate and after that I got the call I was going to test. You go to studio first and then you go to network. There was a work session in between because they had already cast Joan (Brown’s character’s wife), Wendy Davis had already gotten the role, so I had the work session before I went in for my studio and network tests, and that went pretty well. She was in the test for network so we got to read together. There were three of us auditioning for it from the beginning and all three of us made it through studio to network. We’re all just sitting around, we know somebody’s got to get the job, so we wished each other good luck.

Al Norton: Did you walk out thinking you had it?

Sterling K Brown: Yes (laughing)…I’ll say yes but it could have gone another way. One of the guys up for it was a contemporary of mine who I see just got his own show on the Fox network so I’m very happy for him, and then there was an older gentleman who probably reads 10-15 years older than I do. I felt like if they were going younger than I made a strong showing but if they wanted to go older there was nothing I could do about it.

Al Norton: Did you do any research for the role, talking to men who have wives in the Army?

Sterling K Brown: One of my best friends is a military spouse of the male variety. They were both in the air force and he got out before she did. I got the chance to talk to him about what life is like as a civilian. Dr Roland Burton has always been a civilian so it was a slightly different experience but it was really interesting talking to him about the sacrifices he made in terms of pursuing his own career to make sure his better half was able to accomplish what she was trying to do in the air force.

Al Norton: What’s the feedback been like since the show’s been on?

Sterling K Brown: As far as I’m concerned its been pretty positive. Deeply appreciative that these stories are being told in the first place because there really hasn’t been a show that’s addressed the home front the way our show does. People take for granted that the men and women who support the men and women who defend our country are making a tremendous sacrifice for those people, allowing them to focus on the task at hand knowing that the home front is being taken care of.

The only time I got anything negative is when I strayed on my wife in season one. People were none too pleased.

Al Norton: That scene was easily the steamiest scene even shown on Lifetime.

Sterling K Brown: (Laughing) You know, it probably was. My mother in-law never fails to tell me she saw my naked buttocks on television. I tell her I did have on some form of g-string but it may not have appeared on camera. On a comical note, when the show first came on the air my mother would call me after every episode and tell me what she thought, she was so proud and so happy. For mothers there is really no separation between character and child so when that transpired in episode 108, my mother didn’t call me for about a week. She was hurt, deeply hurt. I told her it wasn’t me and she would say, “I know, I know.” For several weeks after clips of that scene were in the “previously on Army Wives” and she would say, “do they always have to show that?”

Al Norton: Where do you feel more pressure, achieving success or maintaining it?

Sterling K Brown: I guess in maintaining it. Achieving it is like catching lightening in a bottle. You never know what is going to catch on with people; for every show that gets to air and makes it there are hundreds of pilots that you watch and think are great but never see the light of day. The real pressure, not from an actor’s stand point but for writers, producers, networks, and so on, is keeping it going for as long a time as possible.

Al Norton: The show did well season one and then in season two it seemed like each week there was a press release about how you had just set a new network ratings record.

Sterling K Brown: I am as astonished as anyone else. I’m very proud to be a part of it. When you get feedback from actual army wives and husbands and children who say, “thank you”…to be a part of something like that is a true blessing. The fact that people watch, and hopefully will continue to watch, is almost icing on the cake. We would like to keep it going for as long a time as possible, still being social relevant, still affecting people and making them think about these sorts of issues.

Al Norton: Do you think one of the reasons the show does as well as it does is that despite being called Army Wives and being on Lifetime, the male characters are extremely well drawn?

Sterling K Brown: Thank you. On behalf of Drew (Fuller) and Brian (McNamara) and Terry (Serpico) and Jeremy (Davidson) I’ll say thank you again. It’s called Army Wives so if you don’t get the Army part right you don’t really have a show. It’s a big part of the success of the show because the women don’t exist in a vacuum. Seeing how they deal with each other as couples is the core of what draws people in. I think I’ve been given a wonderful gift with my part. About 7% of military spouses are men so they’re definitely in the minority and I’m always asking myself how they do it. They are kind of on an island since they’re not military so they don’t have that bond, and they’re not a woman so they can’t fully bond with the wives.

Al Norton: I have to mention Starved, which I thought was brilliant.

Sterling K Brown: Thank you.

Al Norton: I know this is a cliché about great shows that didn’t last but do you think it was ahead of it’s time? With all the addiction reality shows know, wouldn’t the current climate be perfect Starved?

Sterling K Brown: You’re probably right.

Al Norton: Roland Burton, Gordon Walker (Supernatural), Adam Williams (Starved), David Mosely (Eli Stone)…These are just a few of the characters you have played. They are all very different but is there something that unifies them in your mind or is simply that they are well written characters and that’s what draws you to them?

Sterling K Brown: They are all well written characters. What draws me to them probably is that they are so diverse. It’s kind of a spice of life for me in choosing them. It’s a joy to have as many different walks of life as possible on my acting resume. When people see me on Army Wives and then they happen to catch an episode of Supernatural that I’m in, that’s always my favorite thing.

Al Norton: Sci-Fi Fans being as devoted as they are, have you dipped your toes into the cash cows that are Sci-Fi Conventions?

Sterling K Brown: I went to one convention that was across the pond, just outside of London. The fact that we had about 1200 people from all over the globe was kind of crazy. Really, those are what you call fans. They are fanatic about the show. It was a blast. When people care that much about the work…you don’t realize how much you can affect people, how much they appreciate what it is that you do. When you get the chance to interact with them up close and personal, as an actor there is no better feeling.

Al Norton: What kind of preview can you give me of season three?

Sterling K Brown: There is a lot going on. Emmalin took off with her boyfriend last year when the Holdens were all set to take off to Brussels. Joan and Roland have their daughter and now Joan is schedule to deploy. As far as I know, the armed forces say that once a child is six months old, the female parent can deploy. That’s going to cause some tension in the relationship. One of the biggest things is that the unity of the tribe has been rocked because Denise had an indiscretion and people react differently to the news of that. Some people are more accepting and some will be less so. It may take a while for the tribe to get back to good times but hopefully we’ll find a way.

Don’t miss the season three premiere of Army Wives, Sunday at 10 pm on Lifetime.