Interview: Rob Brown
On the strength of that performance, the talented teenager was hired to co-star with Samuel L. Jackson in Coach Carter. What is rather remarkable is that his first two pictures met with both box-office success and critical acclaim. In fact, each earned a spot on my annual Top Ten List. Currently, Rob is a senior at prestigious Amherst College, located in western Massachusetts.
Then 16 year-old Rob Brown burst on the scene in 2000 when he made a most-impressive screen debut in Finding Forrester, holding his own opposite a trio of Academy Award-winners in Sean Connery, Anna Paquin, and F. Murray Abraham. The Harlem-born high school student had never even acted before, and landed the role after answering a casting call for extras.
On the strength of that performance, the talented teenager was hired to co-star with Samuel L. Jackson in Coach Carter. What is rather remarkable is that his first two pictures met with both box-office success and critical acclaim. In fact, each earned a spot on my annual Top Ten List. Currently, Rob is a senior at prestigious Amherst College, located in western Massachusetts. He recently took a little time out from his hectic schedule to share his thoughts on third full-length feature, Take the Lead, a bio-pic starring Antonio Banderas as Pierre Dulaine, a ballroom dance teacher who in real life started a popular program which offers free lessons to poor kids in the New York City public schools.
BSN: Howâ€™s Amherst?
RB: Itâ€™s going well. Hopefully, Iâ€™ll be done soon.
BSN: What are you majoring in, drama?
RB: No, psychology.
BSN: Iâ€™m located in Princeton. Did you consider attending Princeton?
RB: I actually did. I visited and I liked it. The campus is beautiful. But the school was a little big. Amherst is a smaller school.
BSN: Are you planning to go to grad school or will you focus on acting after college?
RB: I have no idea. I really donâ€™t know what Iâ€™m doing. I donâ€™t know what Iâ€™m doing in the next five minutes, let alone after I graduate.
BSN: I know you played basketball and football in high school, but I assume between acting and classes, youâ€™re not playing sports at Amherst.
RB: Iâ€™m on the football team. I play wideout.
BSN: Whoa, where do you find the time do everything?
RB: I really donâ€™t know. To tell you the truth, I have a ton of schoolwork to do when I get back. Iâ€™ve been juggling it all pretty well so far. I just try to focus on the task at hand.
BSN: I almost feel guilty for asking you for an interview. How was it on the set making Take the Lead?
RB: I enjoyed it tremendously. I had a real good time, and I walked away with a lot of new friends.
BSN: And how was it working opposite Yaya DaCosta, who plays your dance partner?
RB: That was great. Obviously, she did a fine job. The whole cast got along well and got real tight. So, weâ€™ve all stayed in touch.
BSN: You grew up in New York City. Did you attend a public school that had a ballroom dancing program like the one in the movie?
BSN: Had you acted at all before you tried out for Finding Forrester
RB: No, no, I never did any school plays or anything like that.
BSN: So, how did you even hear about the role?
RB: I actually got a flyer in the mail through a program that I was involved with at the time.
BSN: What was it like for you when that film came out?
RB: It was exciting and surreal at times, obviously, but I was still just in high school. It didnâ€™t get crazy, because I had to all the things that high school kids do.
BSN: In Take the Lead, how did you decide how to play your character, Rock?
RB: I just drew on growing up in New York.
BSN: Is he a lot like you then?
RB: Iâ€™m not a lot like rock, but I know kids who are, and I used to see them every day. I had my own vision, but it was also a collaboration with Liz. [director Liz Friedlander] It all came about after sitting down with her to make sure we were on the same page.
BSN: Thereâ€™s a lot of dancing in this movie. Do you have a dance background?
RB: No, I go out and party, but thatâ€™s about it.
BSN: So, how much time did they spend teaching you ballroom dancing?
RB: First, I spent a week in New York during my Spring Break and worked with Pierre for five hours a day. And then when we got up to Toronto, we rehearsed eight hours a day for three weeks.
BSN: So, Pierre himself worked with the cast. Whatâ€™s he like?
RB: Heâ€™s a great guy, very polite, courteous, and caring about people. And whenever youâ€™re in a room with him, you definitely know heâ€™s there. He has a real presence about him. He has a way of commanding respect without demanding it.
BSN: Heâ€™s not the sort of guy you would expect to encounter in the â€˜hood.
RB: Pierre really does walk through the â€˜hood to get to the schools where he teaches.
BSN: How does this film compare to Mad Hot Ballroom, the documentary this movie is based on?
RB: The difference is that Mad Hot Ballroom was more about the kids, and this one was more about Pierreâ€™s journey, though itâ€™s also about the kids, too.
BSN: Do you have any advice for aspiring actors who want to follow in your footsteps?
RB: I guess itâ€™s kind of hard to follow in my footsteps, because I donâ€™t know really how I got into all this. I tell people, at the very least, to be resilient. Donâ€™t give up is the best advice I have to offer. Everybody who I know in this industry has a different story. Thereâ€™s no formula to it.
BSN: Both of your first two movies made my annual Top Ten List. Whatâ€™s the secret of your success?
RB: I donâ€™t know what it is, but hopefully, itâ€™ll keep working.
BSN: Well, all I can say in closing is the same thing Sean Connery said to you in Finding Forrester, â€œYouâ€™re the man now, dog!â€?
RB: Well, thank you.
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