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October 2008
An Interview with Rob Brown

An Interview with Rob Brown
by Wilson Morales

October 6, 2008

When Rob Brown came on the Hollywood scene, in his first film he had a major leading role opposite Oscar winner Sean Connery in ‘Finding Forrester’. He had no acting experience at the time and yet was able to hold his own opposite the legendary Connery. He has since taken on other films in supporting roles while attending school such as ‘Coach Carter’, ‘Take the Lead’, and most recently ‘Stop Loss’. All of this has helped Brown to prepare for his biggest role to date, playing Ernie Davis in ‘The Express’.

Based on the incredible true story, ‘The Express’ follows the inspirational life of college football hero Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Following his draft by the NFL, tragedy struck the star athlete and he was never able to take the professional field. But his tale would forever change the face of professional sports.

Co-starring with Brown in the film are Dennis Quaid, Darren DeWitt Henson, Aunjanue Ellis, and Charles S. Dutton.

Most recently, Brown spoke to blackfilm.com about his role in the film and working with Henson and Quaid.

What attracted you to the role?

Rob Brown: What didn’t? I just felt that it was my role to lose and for self reasons. I love football. Who wouldn’t want to be in a football film?

How did you get the project? Did they contact you or did you go audition for the part?

RB: Well, a draft landed on my manager’s table for a reading and I went in for it. We’ve in talks from then until production started. I definitely had to go out and earn the role. I had to go through an intense football workout even though I played college football.

How much did you about Ernie Davis before you took the role?

RB: I knew that he had won the Heisman and that he went to Syracuse, but that was about it.

When a lot of the key figures in this film, with the exception of Jim Brown, are dead, how much research did you have to work with?

RB: I watch any and all of types of film that I could get my hands on that should his essence of who he was as person and as a player. Then I relied on Gary because he did a lot of research. He spoke to Jim Brown regularly, so I relied on him.

Were you able to get any guidance from Jim Brown as far as playing the role of someone he knew?

RB: He let me be an artist and ultimately it worked out because he got it right. I actually didn’t speak to him very much prior to and during shooting.

This film also dealt with the racism that Ernie faced growing. In playing the role, did this aspect of his life change or moved you in a way?

RB: I feel that I’m more mature now after getting to know Ernie through playing him and reading about him and getting as much information as I could from those who knew him. If he can succeed under those conditions then I really have no excuse because I don’t face the same turmoil that he did.

You mentioned earlier that you played football in college. Did you have to get back into physical shape for the role?

RB: Yes. Prior to the summer, I worked on a film called ‘Stop Loss’ and we were out in Texas. I was lifting weights and eating barbeque. I was like 215 pounds. I was huge. That’s the weight that Ernie played at, somewhere around 210 and 225, but that doesn’t really translate on screen. I wanted to be in great shape, so I lost 30 pounds for the role. I worked with a trainer out in LA and he put together a program that had me at 182 by the time we started shooting.

Why do you think people should get out of this once they finish watching the film?

RB: The thing that was surprising to me and it’s kind of embarrassing to me because I am college football player is that I had no idea who Ernie Davis was, yet I know who Jackie Robinson was even though I wasn’t old enough to remember him and that he played baseball. I never played baseball. Ultimately, I just want people to get an overall general knowledge of Ernie.

How was working with Dennis Quaid and Darren DeWitt Henson?

RB: It was great. In a lot of way, Darren was able to help me because Jim Brown was his mentor since he played him in the film. Darren is also a very generous guy. I would ask questions about Jim and he would be very open. Dennis is just as generous as well. I tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could in the short time that we worked together. I too was able to answer any question I had and was there to listen to.

Although you have done other films, this is the first film that puts you in a major spotlight since you did ‘Finding Forrester’ years ago. As actor, do you feel the pressure for this film to succeed?

RB: That just comes with the role. This is about a guy who lived at some point. I owe it to him, his family, and those who knew him to do a good. It’s a dream role. It’s one that I looked at and said that it’s a perfect one for me. There’s also a responsibility that comes with it as well because I have honor this guy.

What sort of roles are you looking for these days?

RB: I don’t know. I just take things as they come. I just want to continue to do good work period. If something great comes my way like this film, I’m ready to do it.

Do you have anything else coming up?

RB: No. I’m just letting this soak in. I just graduated from Amherst College this past May. While I was there, I played wide receiver on the team.

Why should anyone see ‘The Express’?

RB: It’s an inspiring life story. It’s more than just a football film. It’s about a wonderful man who touched so many people in his life. Ernie Davis was a graceful individual who died too young. He’s been a symbol to so many people, including those who didn’t know him, and with this film they can understand why.



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