Daily Press (Sunday)

Brown: Film’s satire tells social truths

- By Daniel Neman St. Louis Post-Dispatch

For actor Sterling K. Brown, it is the light hand that the movie “American Fiction” takes with its satire that makes it easily palatable — and one of the reasons he wanted to make it.

The Emmy-winning Brown, 47, is best known for playing Randall Pearson on the television show “This is Us.” In “American Fiction” he plays Cliff, the brother of the main character, who is portrayed by Jeffrey Wright. Cliff is a recently divorced plastic surgeon.

“His life is a bit in shambles right now as he’s trying to discover what life looks like now. I also think he has not been able to be his authentic self for the majority of his life,” Brown said in a recent interview.

“He is fully intent on being who he is, unapologet­ically and quite messily, until he is able to find a new equilibriu­m of sorts.”

Made by veteran TV writer, but first-time filmmaker Cord Jefferson, “American Fiction” tells the satiric story of an erudite writer, played by Wright, who happens to be Black. But in the movie, publishers and mostly white readers are not interested in books by Black writers, they only crave what they consider Black books — books set in ghettos and filled with drug dealers, crackheads and violent criminals.

Brown, who is Black, sees truth in the satire.

“For a long time, the kinds of stories that seemed to be open for mainstream consumptio­n had to deal with Black pain — whether it had to do with inner-city stories of drug dealers or strung-out mothers or single mothers who can barely deal with keeping it together,” he says.

“Seeing us in anything else felt not as commercial­ly viable.”

The family at the film’s heart is upper-middle class and privileged, with a house on the beach outside of Boston. Though the family’s structure is fragile, they live in a good deal of comfort.

“It’s a story that isn’t typically told, populated with Black faces. It made me excited in terms of how it could expand the breadth of representa­tion for our community,” Brown says.

Brown took the role of Cliff mostly because he was impressed by the script, which he thought was new and very funny. But also it gave him the opportunit­y to explore a character unlike the loving and stable, if anxious, man he played on “This is Us.”

“It’s always exciting to zig when people think you’re going to zag,” he says. “I think Cliff was a nice zig to throw up in the gumbo of characters that SKB has played thus far.”

He was also glad to be able to work with an impressive group of actors, including Tracee Ellis Ross, Erika Alexandra and Leslie Uggams. But the actor he wanted to work with most was Wright.

How is it to work with Wright and Uggams, actors he has long admired?

“It’s pretty damned fantastic,” he says.

Jan. 14 birthdays: Actor Faye Dunaway is 83. Actor Holland Taylor is 81. Actor Carl Weathers is 76. Director Steven Soderbergh is

61. Actor Emily Watson is

57. Rapper LL Cool J is 56. Actor Jason Bateman is 55. Musician Dave Grohl is 55. Actor Emayatzy Corinealdi is 44. Actor Grant Gustin is

34. Musician Molly Tuttle is 31.

 ?? JASON MENDEZ/GETTY ?? Sterling K. Brown attends a screening of his film Dec. 10 in New York.
JASON MENDEZ/GETTY Sterling K. Brown attends a screening of his film Dec. 10 in New York.

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