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!