This Is Us star, Sterling K Brown, on Frozen 2 and The Predator
If you’ve ever feared you’re too old to catch that career break, then say hello to your new favourite actor. Sterling K Brown was touching 40 when the big time beckoned via the one-two of The People Vs OJ Simpson and This Is Us. Since then, he’s won a Golden Globe, two Emmys, a Screen Actors Guild award and countless other gongs and trophies. And the great thing is, at 42, Sterling is just getting started…
FIRST UP, YOU ARE THE HOTTEST PERSON IN THE BUSINESS WE CALL SHOW…
From your lips to the universe’s ears, if that’s true, it’s a privileged position to be in. As someone who for a long time sat on the outside and looked at people who have ‘heat’, you always wonder, “What is it that allows someone to get to that position?” Now I realise, there’s nothing you’re doing per se; it’s kind of the stars lining up and giving you opportunities. I’ll take it.
HOW DID YOU GO FROM THE OUTSIDE TO HAVING HEAT?
The first thing I can accredit it to is The People Vs OJ Simpson. It caught the cultural zeitgeist. Ryan Murphy put together a team of actors with a lot of name recognition, and your boy from St Louis, Missouri was able to slip in between the cracks. I’ve been a journeyman actor going from guest spot to guest spot, and then had an opportunity to shine. It was a win in every way you can imagine. And then to go into This Is Us, back to back? My agent said, “You know this doesn’t happen.” I said, “Dude. Trust me. No one is taking this for granted.” I never thought I’d experience this in my career.
HOW MUCH IS TALENT AND HOW MUCH IS GRAFT?
It’s funny. When I graduated from undergrad, my friends suggested I move to LA and do it that way. But I felt I had potential that I would like to further realise before stepping out in the professional world. I really value my time at NYU, the conservatory training we received there. I have a bag of tools at my access that not everyone does. There’s something about having theatre training background. It’s easier to scale a performance down than amp it up.
HOW DID THE PREDATOR COME ABOUT?
I was approached by the producer, John Davis, who was a fan of This Is Us. What I appreciated was that the role was completely different. I’m always looking for opportunities to do something different. It’s a constant, strategic battle that the industry doesn’t see you in one specific and particular light. That’s why I did Brooklyn 99, Saturday Night Live, Hotel Artemis and The Predator. I’ll take whatever little credit I can for being in the right place at the right time, but it all feels incredibly serendipitous and pre-ordained. You have to wait. A lot of people’s times come when they’re in their 20s or 30s. I’m 42 and am experiencing such a delightful moment in my career and I hope it continues. When I think a lot about friends having moments later in life, there’s a genuine appreciation there. Whatever my path is, I’m very thankful and am taking none of this for granted.
WERE YOU A FAN OF THE ORIGINAL PREDATOR MOVIES?
I’m a child of the Eighties, born in 1976. I grew up with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. And so to be in this movie is ridiculous. My friends in college teased me because being a dark-skinned African American actor, there weren’t a lot of us who were popular in the Eighties. One actor in particular, who I love, is Bill Duke. Bill is in in the original Predator. Now, the only thing Bill and I have in common as performers is that we’re both dark-skinned African American males. But because we have this one trait in common, my friends say, “You’re going to get those Bill Duke roles when you blow up!” I was like, “Shut the f*ck up.” So when I got cast in The Predator, they were like, “We told you! Your black ass was going to get cast in the Bill Duke roles!” I said, “Kiss my ass!”
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT FROZEN 2?
I can tell you they’re making one. It’s definitely being made, with lots of vocal talent… and possibly, hopefully myself. Negotiations are transpiring as we speak. There’s a new character they’re introducing that I might possibly have an opportunity to play. When my seven-year-old saw the first one, all he wanted to do was play the first song. [Sterling belts out a note-perfect rendition of Frozen Heart] That was his joint because he’s such a boy. Hopefully if I get in this one and get a song I’ll convince him to play that.
IS GREEN LANTERN CLOSE TO HAPPENING?
I can’t say that it is. I sent out a tweet many moons ago not recognising the power of social media. The fact it got any kind of traction was a real moment of: “This is a tool for fun, but also people pay attention.” It’s not just you on your phone in a hotel. I had an opportunity to meet with the people at DC as a possibility. It’s difficult for a film like that to fit into the schedule. I have seven months on the TV show and five months to play with, and films like that take five months in order to do appropriately. If it lines up, I put my hat in the ring to play John Stewart.