Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Actress Spotlight: Yvette Nicole Brown

Yvette Nicole Brown has worked with some of today's hottest stars in Hollywood. The Cleveland native had her big screen debut in the romantic comedy Little Black Book with Brittany Murphy where she played a production assistant. But you might also remember her from the Pine Sol "woo" lottery commercial.

She's had guest starring roles on Girlfriends, Entourage, The Office, Boston Legal, Curb Your Enthusiasm, House M.D., Half & Half and the Disney Channel's That's So Raven.

Brown was kind enough to answer my questions about her road to Hollywood, her upcoming films and the importance of faith amidst it all.

1. When did you get bit by the acting bug?

I've always loved commercials, even when I was a little girl. So I guess I've been "bitten" for as long as I can remember. But I didn't actually start auditioning for things (school plays, local community productions etc.) until I was in junior high school.

2. How did your family react when you told them you decided to be a professional actress?

My family is full of funny creative people, so everybody was pretty supportive. My late uncle, Charles Brown, was a successful actor on Broadway and in television and film. So it's sorta in my blood, I guess.

3. When you made the big move to Los Angeles what were those first few months like?

I moved to L.A. right after college. It was scary at first because I didn't know anybody and I only had a guaranteed place to stay for the first three days...but I had faith that God would make a way...and He truly has every step of the way. I ended up staying with a friend from high school's mom for my first three months in L.A. That was a blessing that came out of nowhere!

4. Who was the first person you called when you found out you got the role in Little Black Book?

I think I called my mom. That seems like the first person I would share that kind of news with. But I honestly can't remember for sure. I'm about 97% sure it was my mom.... she's been the first call for everything good and bad that happens for most of my life.

5. What's your process like when you prepare for a new role?

It depends. For a commercial, often there's not much to prepare. There may not even be lines. But if there are, I just make sure I know them. HA! You never want to be the one to slow down a shoot. For TV my preparation consists of panic...kidding, um, sorta! HA! I'm always nervous that I won't know my lines so I keep running them 24/7. On sitcoms, there's a lot of rehearsal and the script changes everyday until you shoot... and often times while you shoot, so I never really settle completely into the role until it's done. I'm working on that. I really take the fun out the experience for myself, at times...at least that's what I've been told. And in films, I just try to make sure I know my lines backwards and forwards. There can be lots of takes on a film set, but since I'm at the beginning of my career, my roles aren't usually big enough to warrant the director giving me another pass at it if I'm not my best. Those extra takes are reserved for the stars (and rightfully so, they're the ones putting the butts in the seats). Because of that, I've learned to be 100% ready to go each time they yell "action". Yikes, how's that for a long, rambling answer?!

6. What were some of your favorite moments from working on the Drake & Josh show?

I loved filming "The Storm" episode the best because pretty much everyone who recurs on the show was in that episode. It was great to get to hang out with folks I didn't get to see that often. And I really enjoyed any down time between takes just laughing and joking around with everyone on set. The environment on that set was truly one of the best work experiences I’ve had as an actress.

7. What's the best advice you've learned from someone in the biz?

I've gotten a lot of great advice through the years, but something I've learned from my own experience in this business is to not get attached to anything. That may sound a little pessimistic, but the truth of this business is that everything ends. Sometimes it’s after a day on set, for a commercial...a few weeks/months, for a movie...or after a few years (if you're lucky) on a TV show. It all ends. You can't get attached to the shape your life takes at any given moment. You have to stay loose and free and grateful. And pack up and move on when the time comes...and it's going to come. HA!

8. How does your faith keep you grounded in an industry focused on...well, you know what it's focused on?

I decided when I entered this business that the moment I couldn't continue on with my Christianity and morals in tact, that was the day I'd go no further as an actress. My goal when I started acting was to hopefully make some people laugh and make enough money to live off of along the way. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed to do that. Anything else that comes my way, is just icing on an already awesome cake. I think most folks who lose their way in this industry, lose it because they’re focused on riches and fame. And the love and pursuit of those things is what makes you compromise. I think it’s also important to know where your blessings come from. Mine come from God, not a particular studio head or casting director. So I never feel the need to do something I don’t agree with to gain their favor. At best those in power can be used by God to bless me (and thankfully so!) But what’s good in my life doesn't originate with them. As long as I keep my eye on where all the good stuff comes from, I won't be swayed by offers to take part in things that go against what I personally believe. Keeping my eye on God keeps me grounded.

9. What do you do to cheer yourself up when you don't get the part?

I listen to Fred Hammond. Any song by Fred, especially anything from the Pages of Life double CD, is guaranteed to pull me out of whatever funk I may find myself in. HA! I also give myself a time limit on "pity parties". Depending on the part I missed out on, how bad I wanted it and how much I prepared for it... my limit is anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 days. HA! It's self-indulgent to be down too long. The Lord has cattle on a thousand hills. Whatever part I missed out on is not the only part out there. And when I'm honest, I admit that when I'm sad about missing out, it's usually because I didn't do all I could do to prepare. You can't stay in that "poor me" place too long when you didn't do all you could to maximize the opportunity, ya know? That's one to grow on.

10. What advice would you offer young actresses looking to make in it Hollywood?

Read as much as you can about the industry. The internet and book stores are full of info about breaking into the industry. I'd also suggest reading the biographies of folks who've had the kind of career you aspire to have. And also, always believe in your dreams. So many people will tell you that you can't do it. Your job is to not listen to them.

11. You like to share quotes with on your blog. So, what quote is running through your mind now?

Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I’m loving that right now! When life feels a little difficult, this helps me put everything back in perspective.

12. What filmmakers/actors would you like to work with in the future?

I would love to work with Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Will Smith and Morgan Freeman on the acting side. And Joel Schumacher, Spike Lee, Stephen Soderbergh, and Steven Spielberg on the directing side.

13. Do you see yourself stepping behind the camera (i.e. directing/writing) anytime soon?

I'd love to write something for myself and possible produce projects in the future. Directing is a tall order. I don’t know if I’d ever have the courage to undertake that. But you never know what the future holds.

14. What are some of your upcoming projects?

I've got a few really cool movies coming up. This summer I will be in: Meet Dave with Eddie Murphy (blink and miss me, HA!) And I'll also be playing Matthew McConaughey's assistant in Tropic Thunder. It was directed by Ben Stiller and I had to pinch myself the entire time I was there. I was thinking, "How did little Yvette from East Cleveland end up on this set?" Which when I think about it, it's pretty much how I feel about my whole career! HA! God is truly a miracle worker! But I’m digressing...in 2009, I will be in Repossession Mambo, 500 Days of Summer, The Ugly Truth and Hotel For Dogs. Whew! Again I say...God is GOOD!

15. Anything else you'd like to share?

Just that I'm honored that you asked to interview me!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Have You Placed in God's Hands?

I read this quote on Light for the Writer's Soul and it really spoke to my heart in a profound way.

"I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess." ~ Martin Luther

[photo Stephen McGee]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Disney Channel Stars Record New Audio Bible For Tweens

Countless prayers of tweens from across the nation have been answered. They'll get to share their Bible study time with Corbin Bleu (High School Musical) and Cody Linley (Hannah Montana). And all the tween girls shouted amen!

Tiger Beat's Blog Girl recently reported that: "Cody Linley told me he just recorded an audio version of the Bible. He’s the voice of Jesus. Corbin Bleu, Emily Osment, Annasophia Robb, Alyson Stoner and Jesse McCartney are also in it."

If you have any tweens in your family then you'll know that those names are as big as Madonna in their realm.

Linley told the Pantagraph that, "Playing the role of Jesus is the most important role I could ever get. I'm never going to get a project that has a stronger message than this." That's a pretty cool thing for an 18-year-old Hollywood heartthrob to say.

And now you have the perfect gift idea for your little nieces and nephews.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Band Spotlight: The Undeserving

The Undeserving is the kind of band that gives you butterflies.

This four-piece rock band out of Ohio makes your stomach flutter with their piercing lyrics, dreamy guitar melodies and mesmerizing vocals. They sing of love, self-discovery, friendship, purpose and hope. There's a graceful innocence and depth to their sound that nourishes your spirit like only good music can.

The one shocker is that they're unsigned. But I'm sure that won't last for long. With exceptional tracks like "Almost Alive", "There for You" and "Something to Hope For" I can easily imagine their music being played in an indie film or finding its way on a soundtrack for music-friendly shows like Grey's Anatomy or One Tree Hill.

I was able to catch up with the lead singer Clay Kirchenbauer and ask him a few questions.

1. What's your songwriting process like?

Well. It's pretty simple. Brennan or I will get an idea and we'll develop until it's time to go to the studio.

2. What's "your something to hope for"? Your source of hope in hard times?
Really, I don't listen to my own music much. I wrote that song for other people to get hope from.

3. What does the phrase "human condition" mean to you?

To me it's the state of mind of a human being

4. What epitomizes a great live performance? And what’s your approach to performing on stage?
To me a great performance starts with great songs. If the artist can convey those songs in a raw emotional way, thats great. As far as for us we just try to be as real as possible on stage.

5. What do you think about the current state of the music industry?

I think that the reason sales are down is not only because of piracy, but because there's a ton of bad music out there. We just try to do our best to write songs people can relate to.

6. What are you looking for in a record label?
Well that's a good question. We just tried to find people we could relate to, and who shared our vision for our songs. More news regarding this soon.

7. Upon success, what core beliefs have you promised your bandmates that you would stay true to?

I think it's most important to not get caught up in all the glitz and glamor of the industry. There's a lot less than you think. We just try to keep our heads on straight and make the best music we can.

8. Lastly, anything else you would like to share?

Sure, I'd like to thank everyone for their support, and stay in touch! Thanks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The NBA Playoffs

I went to my first NBA playoff game over the weekend. Pistons vs. Magic.

Attending a playoff game is something I've dreamed of for a long time. The cool thing is I had nothing to do with it. God did! He blessed me with the tickets the day of the game and it was so cool to see the Pistons blowout the Magic. Being in a stadium full of excited people is exhilarating. It made me think of what Heaven will be like, just imagine being surrounded by billions of people cheering for Jesus. That's wild! I wonder if there will be thundersticks in Heaven. If so, that would be pretty sweet.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The 2008 Asian Excellence Awards

Last night I watched the 2008 Asian Excellence Awards on E! and the show was so good I wish it lasted longed. Here's my recap:

Sharon Leal won the award for Outstanding Film Actress in This Christmas. She gave a nice acceptance speech thanking her Filipina mother and appreciated the acknowledgement of her work and mixed heritage. Sonja Sohn, of Korean descent, who won the award for Supporting Television Actress in The Wire had similar sentiments. That was really cool.

Kristi Yamaguchi was presented with a special Inspiration Award for profound work in Olympic Ice Skating and for being an encouraging role model for young Asian-Americans. She definitely rocks. I remember watching her when I was little and she was one of my favorites.

Tia Carrere sang a song off her Grammy-nominated album Hawaiiana. You may remember her best from Wayne's World or True Lies. She's done a bunch of things and I'm glad she's still pressing on in Hollywood's tough industry. It would really like to see her star in a quirky drama i.e. something like Juno that could be a hit at all the major film festivals.

America's Best Dance Crew winners the JabbaWockeeZ performed alongside KABA Modern for the opening number. They were undeniably cool.

Lindsay Price gave a teary-eyed speech when she won for Outstanding Television Actress for her role in Lipstick Jungle. I've been a fan of Price's since she was on one of my soap-operas back in the day so it was fun to see her get recognized for her work.

My favorite Dancing With the Stars instructor Cheryl Burke won for Favorite TV personality. She looked fabulous.

Carrie Ann Inaba (Dancing With the Stars judge) and Bobby Lee (MADtv) did a great job hosting the show. Sometimes Lee was a little off with his jokes but he had some real funny ones too.

All in all, the show was a blast. I'm really glad award shows like this exist because celebrating diversity is totally worth it. Congratulations to all nominees and winners. I'm already excited to what new talent will emerge for next year's presentation.

[Hat tip Angry Asian Man]