Sterling K. Brown is enjoying his moment. While many people know his work from This is Us, Black Panther, and FX’s American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson, the fact is that Brown has been paying his dues acting in numerous projects over the past decade and a half waiting for his big break. And now that it’s come, he’s not slowing down. While he’s on hiatus from filming This is Us, he’s been constantly fitting in other projects like Drew Pearce’s Hotel Artemis, Shane Black’s The Predator and Reed Morano’s The Rhythm Section.
With Hotel Artemis opening in theaters this weekend, I recently sat down with Sterling K. Brown for a wide-ranging interview. He talked about his recent success, what it was like working with Jodie Foster on Hotel Artemis, what drew him to the project, getting to work with Shane Black, and a lot more.
If you’re not familiar with Hotel Artemis, the film takes place in a near-future Los Angeles and revolves around a secret members-only hospital that caters to criminals. Run by The Nurse (Jodie Foster), the hospital has various rules (including no weapons and no murdering other patients) that are put into question when an object of great value enters its gates. The film also stars Sterling K. Brown as “Waikiki,” Dave Bautista as “Everest,” Sofia Boutella as “Nice,” Jeff Goldblum as “The Wolf King/Niagara,” Brian Tyree Henry as “Honolulu,” Jenny Slate as “Morgan,” Zachary Quinto as “Crosby,” and Charlie Day as “Acapulco.” Hotel Artemis arrives in U.S. theaters on June 8th.
Check out what Sterling K. Brown had to say below.
Collider: What has the last two years been like for you? Because you paid your dues, working, trying to break in- working on a whole bunch of TV shows. Then, the last two years, you’ve broke through.
STERLING K. BROWN: I never anticipated that things would happen as quickly as they did. You know, you sort of make peace with what you think your life is going to be. I’ve been able to pay the bills, paid off student loans, I got a house, I got a family, right? I was able to do all of those things and that was my definition of success. Still, I consider being a working actor a success in it of itself. But this, that’s happening now, is sort of surreal. From OJ to This Is Us, doing Marshall and Black Panther; now I got Hotel Artemis, Predator on the way. It’s a real interesting phenomenon, to be waiting and hoping for someone to give you a crumb and hopefully take that crumb and turn it into a meal, right? You get a co-star or a guest star and you hope that becomes recurring and maybe a backdoor into a series regular, etc. Now, I’m in a position where people are asking, “What do you want to do next? We want to be in business with Sterling Brown, how can we be of service?” That’s sort of like, wow. You spend so much of your time thinking in such a small portion of the pie; “Maybe I can just get this little crust.” Now, people are offering full slices and you’re like, “Wow, I’ve never had a full slice of pie. I bet this will be tasty.”
(laughs). Exactly. I’m getting to Hotel Artemis, but I am a huge Shane Black fan. I have to know, what did you pay to be in The Predator to be able to work with Shane?
BROWN: No, dude. Well, John Davis was a producer on the project and he was a fan of This Is Us, and he had an idea of me playing this particular character in the new Predator film. I read it and I was like, “Wow.” He saw me as this character, which is completely different from what I do on This Is Us. That was exciting because often times people will see me and offer you something similar to what they have already seen you do before. He saw me and said, “No, this guy can act. Let’s give him something completely different so we can flip the switch on people.” So, that was the first draw. Shane, I mean, Lethal Weapon, he was 21, bro! 21! Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is my joint. You get a chance to read the script- he’s got this wicked sense of humor, he has an intimate knowledge of this world of The Predator because he is in the first Predator film. So, there’s an investment for him on a personal level. He and his writing partner, Mr. Dekker, are just bad boys. Once you read it you’re like, “Okay I’m in.” It was that simple.
Totally. That’s why I asked what you paid to be in the movie.
BROWN: What I paid? (laughs).
You were not paid to be in it, you were paying them.
BROWN: (laughs). They got Sterling Brown at a bargain basement price. Similar to the pharmaceutical salesman in your neighborhood, you give them the first one for free.
(laughs). Totally. I completely get it. Jumping into Hotel Artemis, this is Drew’s first film. Did you ever feel like this was Drew’s first film on set?
BROWN: He knew exactly what he wanted. I think he had the story percolating for such a long time, with the idea of him directing it as well. Here’s the thing too, when you’re directing a director, and I’m talking about Jodie in particular, you better make sure that you cross your T’s and dot your I’s because she’ll call you on your stuff. Jodie doesn’t shrink to anybody. It made him be so incredibly prepared and focused on what exactly his vision was going to be for the film, that he was in complete control from beginning to end- and it was great.
You mentioned Jodie is a director. This is also her first film in five years. She has just been directing or doing other things, so to get her first film in five years… it’s hard to get her to act. So talk a little about being in the film with her and the rest of the great cast.
BROWN: Dude. Okay, let me talk about Jodie first. Talk about somebody that you’ve watched since you’ve been a child. Somebody who has been in this business for over 50 years, right. It was one of those moments where it’s like Clarice Starling is right on the other side of the screen, and we’re talking to each other right now. You pinch yourself for a second and then you re-engage and realize what my fellow actors giving me right now is something I can use, and make sure you’re giving her something back. Then you drop into the present moment and everything takes care of itself. More than anything else- more than transformation, more than speech or dialogue or any sort of tricks- is the ability to be present and in the moment, that any actor will respond to quicker than anything else. That’s what Jodie is. She’s dropped in, she’s ready- whatever you give her she’ll give you something back. So, that was awesome.
It’s such an eclectic cast. I mean, you got Bautista, Charlie Day Sofia, Goldblum, Quinto, myself, Brian. What a wonderful place to have all these different sorts of personalities forced to deal with one another. There’s a riot going on outside, so you can’t just go away whenever you want to. You have to deal with these personalities. Everybody got a chance to do something that they’re not normally asked to do. Brian is Paper Boi on Atlanta, gets a chance to be a complete and total knucklehead here as Honolulu in our movie. Charlie is crazy on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but he gets to be a pure dick in this movie, right? So folks collectively relish the opportunity to do something different than what they’ve been known to do.