He’s been working. Paying the bills and paying his dues. Suddenly, Hollywood can’t get enough of him. Who’s this modern day renaissance man? This supremely hidden talent catapulted into superstardom? Sterling K. Brown. From the award-winning FX original series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story to the unapologetic, weekly tear-snatcher This is Us, the Missouri native is on a roll- or, role.
The Golden Globe winner stars as Sherman, a bank robbing vigilante who, along with his younger brother Lev, played by film knock out Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta,” Crown Heights,) who makes one phone call in the heat of a violent moment in Drew Pearce’s Hotel Artemis action thriller.
The premise? A riot-slashed Los Angeles set ten years in the future, where poor citizens wrangle with the powers that be over a dwindling water supply, contains a slight shred of hope with Hotel Artemis, a members-only hospital designed specifically for criminals. A place of refuge for the bad and badder, where one can top notch receive medical treatment. Managed by no-nonsense Jean Thomas, shortly referred to as Nurse, played by Hollywood veteran Jodie Foster, the brothers must face challenges in the Artemis, alongside a ferocious riot and opposing criminal patients.
The Source caught up with the actor as he dished on his character, the best advice he’s ever received and the secret to making love and marriage work. – Angela Wilson
The Source: Tell us about Sherman and Hotel Artemis.
Sterling K. Brown: Sherman and his brother are bank robbers and they’re using the riot as a backdrop in order to perform this heist. The heist goes wrong and they find themselves thrust back out into the riot and they have to find a place to lay low to move to the next city.
They go to Hotel Artemis. Not surprisingly when you deal with someone like Lev, also known as Honolulu, he’s the kind of individual prone to get into trouble. And as his big brother, he’s the person who deems himself as his brother’s keeper to maintain his safety and security. I think that’s the position he’s occupied in his life for a really long time. It has got to a point where he doesn’t know how to identify himself as not his brother’s keeper because I feel like throughout the course of the film you have a couple people asking him, ‘I thought you weren’t doing this anymore, I thought you were getting out.’ And he’d say, ‘I tried, I just don’t know how to do it.’ And the only things they have in terms of family for one another and as much as a knucklehead his brother can be, he just can’t let him go.
Do you think they’ll ever be a real Hotel Artemis in real life?
If there is one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were, I hope I never see it in my entire life because that mean something went real, real wrong! [laughs]
I feel like you’re the epitome of what people would consider an overnight success. Once you burst on the scene you immediately became America’s sweetheart. Do you feel that way?
Wow, it does kind of feel that way. I’ve been working for a long time and I’ve been paying the bills. But from The People vs. O.J. to This is Us to Black Panther, it does have this feeling that now people know who I am, I do feel very much embraced. And that’s not always the case. You can have a certain amount of notoriety and success but you’re not always embraced. I feel like collectively folks have extended their arms and opened them up real wide and everyone is giving your boy a big hug and I’ll take it.
How are you dealing with it all?
One day at a time! That’s the best answer I could give you is one day at a time because there’s times when you can be a little overwhelmed, but that’s what white folks call a champagne problem and black folks call it a white folks problem.
If anything, the positive is the access to opportunity and people wanting to be in business with you. That’s really exciting! There’s jobs you watched from way down below like one day hopefully if I can swim to the top I can make it up there. But now, I’m there. And I’m looking around to others like, ‘You can come do this with me!’ Now, I’m eye level with it.
The challenge of it is making sure you maintain a sense of balance because you never want your career to disrupt what goes on in your home life. I want to make sure my two boys know that they’re first and foremost and that my wife knows that she’s treasured and that we’re in this journey together. So maintaining that sense of balance is something I’m constantly trying to calibrate for myself.
The key word in Hollywood lately is “diversity.” Six months from now, will that still be a hot topic, regardless if any changes have taken place?
I would hope so. But on top of diversity, there’s an appreciation. I also made mention of this at my Golden Globe speech: there’s diversity just for the sake of diversity, just to see different people. But the roles could have been written race-blind or sexual preference blind. But there’s something different when you actually see someone for who they are and recognize you need that person to tell the story. That diversity isn’t just for the sake of itself but for the sake of story and narrative. People need to see their stories on screen.
Why I think it’s not just a moment is because we see diversity is something that’s economically and financial beneficial. We’re in show business. We show art. And now that we’ve shown them we can make money, and it’s not just dollars from our community but globally, what is happening with Black Panther andGet Out, it is undeniable. And it’s one of those things that excite me specifically because the more culturally specific you can be in your story the more universally appealing that story becomes.
Never underestimate the power of a story well told. It doesn’t matter who you put in it, as long as it’s well told. I think we’re moving in the right direction and I don’t think we’re going back.
Sterling, when was the last time you cried?
That’s a good question because I cry a lot but I haven’t cried in awhile. I was watching something with my son because sometimes those animated movies will get me.
Yes, have you seen Coco?!
Yes, Coco is gorgeous. Gorgeous!
A good one that I really remember was watching the “Memphis” episode of This is Us.
I seen the episode many a time and I had been tweeting live with the audience and recognizing how it was affecting the audience as they were watching it. And I was seeing it through their eyes and I got really emotional. There’s so many people who had to deal with the loss of a parent and they have to deal with cancer specifically and Randall was in a very vulnerable and unique position to have a real relationship with his father and whether to embrace this man into his life and then to have him become apart of his family then for him to have to say goodbye to him? I lost it! I lost it.
I also lost it in season two when Jack died. My two TV dads probably pulled it out of me.
What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My mom used to say don’t buy anything you can’t pay for in that moment- in regards to credit cards. So my [credit] score has been high the majority of my life because I only looked at it as a short-term loan. I never looked at credit cards like well, ‘I ain’t got no money, might as well use this credit card!’ No, I can use a credit card because I do have money. So mom helped me out! Tremendously! I think I cut them up in college- anytime I’d get an offer. I didn’t get my first credit card until I was 25.
You and your wife Ryan are goals! What is the secret to lasting love?
I think the first thing that you cannot do without is communication, although it sound so cliche, but every once in awhile you’ll get mad at each other and you stop talking and that’s when things can fester and boil and come to a head. Even when you want to shank your partner and she says the same thing to me like, ‘Negro I feel like shankin’ your black a**, but I’m not!’ At least y’all are saying it rather than just looking at each other. You got to get it out.
Number two: there is no relationship in life without forgiveness. Whether that’s between brothers, fathers, and son or what have you, you cannot have a relationship between two individuals if you’re not willing to forgive. You want to have high standards and you want to be respected but you have to remember good people make mistakes and you have to be willing to forgive. If their presence in your life is as important as you think it is, you can let stuff go. Real forgiveness is not throwing stuff in people faces. It has to be authentic and from the core.
Communication and forgiveness; if you can get those two, you got something.
How do you forgive when you’ve been feel so hurt?
Forgiveness is the best gift you can give yourself. Because you’re carrying this thing around and the other person may be unaffected by what they did but for you it’s so present and it’s still so heavy. When you’re able to release whatever it is for yourself, you can’t let anyone else dictate who or what you are to be in life. We get to choose. Forgiveness brings us back to a place to where we get to choose for ourselves who we wish to be.
Hotel Artemis charges theaters this Friday, June 8.
For tickets and showtimes, click here.