An Interview with Chris Brown
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November 19, 2007
In ‘This Christmas’, Brown stars as Michael 'Baby' Whitfield in a story about the Whitfields family that meets up for Christmas. As the siblings come home for the first time in years with plenty of baggage and as the Christmas tree is trimmed and lights are hung, secrets are revealed and the Whitfields joins together to discover the true meaning of family. Also joining Brown in the film are Delroy Lindo, Loretta Devine, Regina King, Idris Elba, Sharon Lea, Mekhi Phifer, Columbus Short, Laz Alonzo, Lauren London, Keith Washington, David Banner, and Ricky Harris.
In speaking with blackfilm.com, Brown talks about his role, being a natural showman, and his latest CD.
There are a lot of old school music played throughout the film. Are you a fan of that generation of music?
Chris Brown: I think I am a fan of that old school because that’s that raw talent stuff that’s missing so much today. A lot of people are just worried about doing catchy songs. That’s really easy, but I think back in the days music was felt more. Back in those days, you couldn’t just go a do a teeny bopper song or a watered down version of a remake. If you are going to do a remake, you had to be just as good as or better than them, and that’s what I try to do.
When you sing a song on the big screen, how different is it from the songs that you and your fans know you sing?
CB: There’s not really a difference, especially with my new album coming out. The first album was when I was 15 years old and I was getting to know myself vocally as an artist and in the studio. Now, it’s about me working on my craft, just singing more. This album that’s coming out; there’s a lot more soul in it and a lot more lines. I would say there’s more gospel in it, but vocally. With the songs in the movie, it sort of blended in. when they it, they will understand me as a vocalist instead of the dancer they always see or the performer. They will hear me as a singer.
In ‘Stomp The Yard’ you had a small but crucial role and in this film, your role is bigger. How much did you learn between both films?
CB: I think everything was natural more so. I had done shows like ‘The O.C’. That was something just to do. No kidding, but I think I was the only black guy on the show, but it was cool because it put me in a different realm. It put me in a different place. With ‘Stomp The Yard’, it was more me being nervous about the acting. With this film, I was more nervous because of the cast of actors and the plethora of A list people. I was saying to myself, ‘I’m not going to be able to pull it off. They would say, ‘He can’t act or do this.’ But as I kept going, people were so down to earth and so cool, I was like, ‘This is nothing. It’s a piece of cake. Let’s have fun.’
What did you learn from Preston A. Whitmore from this film?
CB: Preston’s cool. We used to joke on Preston all the time. Preston would chew so much gum and try to explain the scene, we’d say to him, ‘What did you just say?’ and he would sound as if he’s mumbling. I guess it’s cool. He’s down to earth. He would say, ‘Just feel it and if you don’t feel it, just try something else.’ He gave a lot of actors leeway to get into character.
Did you ad-lib any of your parts?
CB: Yes, we ad-libbed a lot of stuff. The comedy scenes were a lot of improvising and just acting stupid, but they left it in the movie.
I noticed that Brandon T. Jackson had a brief role in the film. Did you guys know each other prior to this?
CB: I had known Brandon probably for two years before we shot the film. Brandon has opened my tours. When ‘Roll Bounce’ came out, we hung and he’s really down to earth guy and really funny, and we clicked. With this film, they brought him in and that was the fun part of being in that setting because we already had chemistry and we were joking and we were the only dudes wilding out.
How good are you with a camera?
CB: With a camera, I’m cool. I took some pictures so hopefully they weren’t too out of whack.
There’s a scene where you cursed at your mother. How real was that?
CB: We actually talked about this. I wouldn’t say that to my mom. No one would say that to their mom if they were still living in her house.
How would you handle the situation if you felt you were old enough to make decisions and your mom was against those decisions?
CB: With me, I got out the situation quick. I brought my own house. ‘Just let me get my own house. I’ll do what I do at my house.’ So there’s no conflict of interest and no arguments and we’re good.
With a couple of films under your belt, what’s the game plan for you to steps into the shoes of someone like Will Smith?
CB: Just continue to do it. I don’t really try to do a lot of acting training. Acting is a hobby for me. Acting is something I can show people what I can do. I would music is my love and my passion and with this album and all these performances that I have coming up and all these classical stuff that I’m doing, and I don’t want to tell them. I want people to see it and say, ‘How the heck did he do this?’ All the stuff that I’m doing hopefully in the future will set me apart from every other person that’s trying to do music like I am. I would be that person in my own bracket and I can show people that what I can do is real. Acting wise, I will continue to do it naturally. I don’t have an acting coach so I just go in there and feel it and have fun. The raw talent is good but no one taught me how to sing, dance or write and that’s what’s great for me. With acting, I try the same technique unless it’s not working. Then, I’ll just get a coach and work on the craft.
With you being a natural showman, was it difficult to pull yourself in….
CB: I was about to say that. I live on stage and I was saying to myself, ‘How am I supposed to pretend like I don’t know how to sing’, but Clint (Culpepper), the President
How was working with this cast? Did you get to talk to Delroy Lindo and Mekhi Phifer, both whom are executive producers on the films as well as actors? Did you learn any acting tidbits from any of them?
CB: With this movie, I actually had a great time because it was a learning experience from all these actors and actresses. I got a chance to really look and observe a lot of acting techniques and see how they approach stuff and see how they go about the acting even when the camera is on and you’re just observing the scene. You take a lot from them. I think that puts you in perspective because you mentally start thinking it’s real. It was a great experience.
When you sang in church, was that something you had done before?
CB: All the time. I had sung in church plenty of times.
Not even 20 yet, how do you handle the pressure of fame?
CB: I think whoever gets in the industry could be a big artist and there are some sacrifices you have to make sometimes and I think if you are in it for the money, then get your money and get out. Me personally, I know it’s coming. All positive and negative stuff and I read Mediatakeout.com and there’s something about me every other week. I’ve heard stories of me and Rihanna dating and we have matching tattoos, and that’s crazy.
What are we going to hear from this new album that sounds different from the last album?
CB: A lot of the stuff is me writing a lot more so you will hear more about my stories and my personal experiences on these songs. My vocal ability has changed and my range has gotten wider, a lot deeper and fuller and I can just do a lot more stuff vocally. With this album, it’s a new beginning. I’m not thinking about the sophomore jinx. I’m just thinking about the new album.
Which song can I put on my IPOD for repeat from this new album?
CB: There are so many but I’ll give you probably three. One is ‘I wanna be’, another is ‘Lottery’ and the third is one I did with Kanye (West) called ‘Down’. ‘Down’ is one I personally wrote myself.
How was collaborating with Kanye?
CB: Kanye was cool. He actually wasn’t a schedule session. He was in the studio working on his stuff and I was working on mine, and my album basically wrapped up and I had this beat and I was writing to it and coming up with ideas and I had a hook to the first verse and said, “Hey Kanye, let me know what you think of this’ and I didn’t know he wanted to get on it. He said to me, ‘This is hot. This is something you and me can be on.' I said to him, ‘Then why are so sitting there bull crapping, come into the studio and let’s rap’ and he said, ‘Alright, I’ll be back in two minutes’. I thought he was giving me the run around and wasn’t coming back and then he came back and told me he told his people he was coming in to work with me and we did our thing. Kanye may seem arrogant to the public, but as a person, he’s not that at all.
Was there a challenge to get you to sing on the screen in terms of licensing?
CB: Not really. Some of the songs were under my label, Sony BMG, so it was okay.
How do you handle the older women coming after you?
CB: I’m legal now, so it’s good. (Laughs) I’m attracted to women in general.
What’s next for you?
CB: I have a movie after I finish my tour. It’s called ‘Phenom’, a basketball movie. It’s about a young guy who has a single mom. Every guy in high school aspires to be in NBA and I’m the Division 1 kid in school who enters the draft, goes to the NBA, and there a guy like Michael Jordan in the league that I would look up to, and he ends up being my father. The casting is ongoing now. Vanessa Williams is being look at for the part of the mom but we’re in talks right now. Will Packer is producing it and there’s no director attached yet.
‘THIS CHRISTMAS’ opens on November 21st, 2007
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