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June 2009

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Yvette Nicole Brown Interview: Getting Schooled Alongside the Legendary Chevy Chase

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Yvette Nicole Brown

Yvette Nicole Brown is a popular actress and comedian. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine & Applied Arts degree from the University of Akron and after graduation, she left Ohio for Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.

Brown has appeared in many commercials including DiGiorno Pizza, Home Depot, Time Warner, Pine Sol, Fiber One Yoplait Yogurt, Shout, Big Lots, and Hamburger Helper.

“My character is Shirley – she’s a 30-something divorced mom, whose husband left her after he won a radio contest and she’s a little bitter. She’s going back to college to kind of reclaim her life and her womanhood.”

One of the most sought after character actresses in Hollywood, Brown has guest starred on many television shows including Boston Legal, Malcolm in the Middle, 7th Heaven, House, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Two and a Half Men, That 70s Show, and The Office.

The talented actress made her feature film debut in 2004 opposite Brittany Murphy, Holly Hunter, and Kathy Bates in the hit romantic comedy, Little Black Book. The following year she returned to the big screen in The Island. Other film credits include Dreamgirls and Tropic Thunder.

Brown can be seen in the upcoming theatrical releases, The Ugly Truth, Repossession Mambo, and 500 Days of Summer, and in a new NBC comedy series called Community beginning in the fall.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Yvette, let’s begin by talking about your family.

Yvette Nicole Brown: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. My mom raised me and she was always very supportive of me as long as I finished school. So, that was her thing … just finish school and you can do whatever you want. So, I finished school and went to college so she was a hundred percent there.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have siblings?

Yvette Nicole Brown: I have an older brother who is a personal trainer.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You began your career as a singer.

Yvette Nicole Brown: Yes, I did. I started off when I was a teenager with a subsidiary of Motown Records.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you miss having a singing career?

Yvette Nicole Brown: (laughs) Well, I never really had a singing career to be honest … but yes, I do miss singing.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was your first big break after you moved to Los Angeles?

Yvette Nicole Brown: I did a gospel play called His Woman, His Wife, so that was probably the first thing entertainment-wise that I did. I worked eight months on that and when I got back I got an agent and then I started doing commercials.

The first commercial I did was one of the 1-800-CALLATT commercials. As far as TV, my first big break was on a sitcom on UPN called Girlfriends. That was the first thing I did for TV. So, those were my big breaks.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you know the exact number of commercials you have made?

Yvette Nicole Brown: I don’t know the exact number but I think it’s somewhere around 30. It’s not really that many. It seems like a lot, but I know people who have done hundreds of commercials.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I think your commercials may be so popular because they are shown many times a day. Do you have a favorite one?

Yvette Nicole Brown: Actually there is one I did for Time Warner – I’m a bride and I’m talking to a friend (she’s my brides maid) and we’re having these dresses altered. We’re talking about how we can read each other’s minds and I ask her, “What do I want right now?” She says, “You want a donut.” I say, “No, I don’t want no donut!” That was funny to me.

I enjoyed that one and I also liked the Big Lots one because those were the first two that I got noticed in … so Big Lots and Time Warner, I’d say.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I like the Fiber One Yoplait Yogurt commercial with Kathryn Joosten (The West Wing, Desperate Housewives). She is a funny lady!

Yvette Nicole Brown: Yes she is. I think there are even funnier takes of me and Kathryn that didn’t make the cut. She is such a professional … such a sweet woman, and so knowledgeable about acting. We had a great time together all day. We had a take where we walked away and I yelled out, “Be strong girl!” There was a lot of playfulness that day.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have a favorite television show appearance?

Yvette Nicole Brown: I really liked working on Boston Legal … a great group of people, so supportive and wonderful and I got to sing and act on the two episodes I did.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How was your experience working on The Office?

Yvette Nicole Brown: Oh, I loved The Office. It is a crazy funny show. What I love about NBC and I’m not just saying this because I’m on the network now, but their shows are so smart and they are kinda … you gotta work for the comedy. You know, as far back as Seinfeld …they don’t give it to you easy.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): They are intelligent.

Yvette Nicole Brown: Yes, they make you think, but once you get into the groove of whatever show it is, it’s like you are rewarded and The Office is like that. It’s the kind of show where you’re like, “Did they really just do that? Did they really just say that?”

It was just great. Dwight is my favorite character on the show. I loved working with Rainn Wilson who is the nicest man ever. I was just overjoyed to go toe to toe with Dwight … and I think I won! I think my character won!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): One of your upcoming films is The Ugly Truth. Tell us about the movie.

Yvette Nicole Brown: It’s a romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler that is set in a TV studio. My character is a TV producer named Dori and if she has a choice between doing hard news and a fluff piece, she’s going to go for the fluff piece.

Dora gets into trouble with the other producers because she’s not very committed to hard news. In the film, Katherine is a Type “A,” really rigid, career focused woman and Gerard is a cad, a macho man, and a “men first” type of guy; of course, the two clash throughout the film.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I read that you enjoyed working with Gerard Butler!

Yvette Nicole Brown: Well, as I told someone in another interview, Gerard is a hugger and that was okay by me!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you find out anything about Katherine Heigl … like if she is going to leave Grey’s Anatomy?

Yvette Nicole Brown: We worked on that movie before she had the whole brain tumor thing on Grey’s, so no, I didn’t hear anything about that.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Repossession Mambo has an interesting premise.

Yvette Nicole Brown: Yes, Repossession Mambo is a futuristic thriller that stars Forest Whitaker and Jude Law. My character is a resistance fighter. It’s a lot of things … it’s dark, it’s funny, it’s interesting, it’s thought provoking.

The film is set in the future where if you need an organ, they will give you a manufactured organ and the problem is when you can’t pay for it anymore, they come and get it. They repossess it. It doesn’t matter if it’s an eye, a leg, or your heart. They come in and chop it out. So the whole film is about what comes with that kind of craziness.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Both The Ugly Truth and Repossession Mambo are rated “R.”  As a Christian, do you have a problem with these movies regarding content?

Yvette Nicole Brown: I make sure all of my characters are “PG.” I can’t control the other parts of the movie or the other characters, but I want to make sure my character is not “R” rated. If I feel like the movie is highly offensive, I won’t do it.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Congratulations on your new comedy series that begins in the fall!

Yvette Nicole Brown: Thank you.  It’s called Community and stars Chevy Chase and Joel McHale. It is a comedy that is airing on NBC on Thursday nights. We start at 9:30 after The Office and before Leno. Then in October when 30 Rock returns to the schedule, we move to 8:00 which is the old Cosby Show and Friends time slot. I am overjoyed that we got such a wonderful time slot.

The show is a single-camera comedy set at a community college, and Joel McHale who hosts Soup and Chevy Chase are the stars. It is centered on a group of misfits … students of all ages, colors, races, genders, and we all form like a sort of a family … a community, in a study group. It is a really sweet, funny heartfelt kind of show. I think people will like it. I hope they will like it.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What is your role?

Yvette Nicole Brown: My character is Shirley – she’s a 30-something divorced mom, whose husband left her after he won a radio contest and she’s a little bitter. She’s going back to college to kind of reclaim her life and her womanhood.

Shirley’s really sweet because she’s a mom, but she’s got some deep-seated anger just bubbling beneath the surface and it kind of pops out when you least expect it. So, she’ll be a funny character to play, I’m pretty sure.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It has a primetime spot on Thursday nights following The Office.

Yvette Nicole Brown: Yes, NBC is definitely giving us a lot of love letting us follow The Office.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What is it like working with Chevy Chase?

Yvette Nicole Brown: It is like coming to work every day and hearing all these wonderful stories. Chevy is just a blast to work with. He’ll say, “Well, the Beatles …or let me tell you what happened on Saturday Night Live years ago …or let me tell you some stories about Fletch.” It is really so much fun listening to him. Joel McHale is just so funny, too!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Take us through a day on the set of a television show.

Yvette Nicole Brown: Well, you’re up about 5:30 in the morning and you go directly into hair and makeup where they make you look very pretty. Then you may stand around for a couple of hours (laughs). You get on the set and you could have days as long as 12 to 14 hours. You go home after that, go to bed, and in the morning you get up and do it all over again.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How do you prepare for a scene as an actress?

Yvette Nicole Brown: I tend to panic, whatever the situation. I don’t really have a process besides thinking I’m going to be fired. So, aside from the fear and trepidation that comes from that (which is a great motivator), I just try to put myself in the mind of the character.

I just try to make sure I always know my lines and I hit my marks and I’m not the problem child on any set I’m on. That’s the preparation I go through, just trying to know as much as I can about the project and my character as I can and hope for the best.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Who has influenced you most in life and in show business?

Yvette Nicole Brown: In life, that would be my mom. She was a single mom and she raised my brother and me by herself. We never went without the things that we needed. You know, there were a few things that we wanted that we didn’t get, but we never did without things that we needed. I never missed a field trip. I never missed out on anything that I had earned because of my academics or whatever, and I really applaud her for that.

The one who has influenced me most in my career is Sandra Bullock. I absolutely love her work ethic. I love the films she makes, I love the things I hear about her as a human being. I’ve never heard anything from anyone who’s met her or who has worked with her … I always hear that she’s just the nicest lady. If I could have a career that models her, I’d be very happy because she has been my inspiration.

Bea Arthur, in regards to television … my mom used to watch Maude when I was a kid and I watched The Golden Girls when I got older. I just loved how Bea Arthur could play the smartest person in the room and still be likable and I think that’s a very hard line to straddle. She also had a gift for physical comedy … a lot like Sandra … that was just ridiculous! Like, she could just lift an eyebrow and you’d just fall on the floor laughing. You knew by her facial expression exactly what she was thinking and that’s a skill that a lot of people don’t have. I really admired her.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I think the same thing could be said about Lucille Ball.

Yvette Nicole Brown: Yes, she was the same way. Oh, and one more thing … one of my favorite shows growing up was The Cosby Show. Cosby was one of my favorite shows and I loved the inspirational type lifestyle that they showed because it wasn’t the life that I grew up with, but it was something I could aspire to as a black person.

I would think well, maybe I could have a house like that one day or maybe I could have a family like that one day. I’d like to know about art and about culture and there were just so many things that I was introduced to. So many famous black Americans were on that show from jazz musicians to dancers … it was like a culture lesson every Thursday. So, that was also a big influence on me.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Does your mother visit you in Los Angeles?

Yvette Nicole Brown: Yes, she comes out two or three times a year – she’ll be out in August for my birthday. I’m going to take her on the set of Community so she should have a good time.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What would you like to do in show business that you haven’t already done?

Yvette Nicole Brown: I’m actually preparing to do it now. I’ve always wanted to be on an NBC show … an NBC ensemble show was always my dream. I never even dreamed that I’d be on Thursday nights because that was almost too big for my mind to conceive of, but I always dreamed of an NBC sitcom. You know, to work with a bunch of other funny actors …and so, God Bless America, the Lord let me do it, I’m overjoyed and I just pray that it is everything that I dreamed about.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you enjoy doing television more than making films?

Yvette Nicole Brown: Sitcoms are my favorite because it’s just a really great workweek. In films you tend to sit around and wait a lot.  At the beginning of my career it was more of a problem for me because I was in the worst trailer ever.

There are these trailers that I call the “pooh pooh” trailers, and I call them that because they are the size of a shoebox and usually they are right by the main toilet that everybody uses. So, when you have one line on a film or one line on a show and you don’t have a lot of credits yet, your agent can’t really negotiate anything better than the “pooh pooh” trailer.

The only step down from the “pooh pooh” trailer is a folding chair in the shade. You know, when you get the “pooh pooh” trailer, it’s like ugh, I really got to do better in this business! Now that I’ve worked a bit and I’ve been blessed to have some credits, my trailers are getting nicer.

I don’t mind so much sitting for a couple of hours because I’ll bring some DVDs and call some friends or check emails and it’s like kind of getting paid just to be in a nice environment for a few hours. So, everything has kind of been evened out now that my credits have gotten me into a nicer trailer.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Great, I’m glad you’re out of the “pooh pooh” trailer.

Yvette Nicole Brown: (laughs) I feel so strongly about the “pooh pooh” trailer that when I’m working on something and someone’s in the “pooh pooh” trailer, I invite them into my trailer. No one should live like that!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’m sure that is appreciated! What are your hobbies when you’re not acting?

Yvette Nicole Brown: I’m kind of a homebody, so I really love TIVO … clearing off my TIVO is my biggest hobby. I just let stuff stack up in there and on Saturdays I just watch twenty thousand things so I love that.

I like going to dinner and lunch with friends and movies. You know, just regular stuff. I’m a Cleveland girl at heart … I never really changed out here. I’m not into the Hollywood scene. I’m not one of the cool kids and don’t really aspire to be. I want to do good work and pay my bills with acting money and be able to bless my mom and my brother, so that’s it. It’s a small life, but it’s a good life.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell us something about Yvette that no one knows about.

Yvette Nicole Brown: I am the greatest cheerleader of people. We have this thing at my church. We call them praise reports where someone shares something wonderful that God has done for them, you know, in the last week or day or whatever. Nobody is more excited about someone else’s praise report than me. I really should carry pompoms with me throughout life because I’m just so … I just feel like life is wide open and we all come here with dreams and goals and I’m just so overjoyed when other people succeed.

I know in this business that is kind of weird because everybody seems to be so full of themselves and so stuck on themselves and they think, “What can I get for me?”  But, I just feel like life is so much better when you’re looking at what you can do for others, so I think what people don’t know … or maybe they do know, that in spite of me being in a business that is cutthroat, I just couldn’t be happier for people. When my friends thrive, I say, “Yea!” So I’m a cheerleader without pompoms … and that’s a secret nobody knows.

© 2009 Smashing Interviews Magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.

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