Exclusive: Sterling K. Brown Talks Hotel Artemis

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Exclusive: Sterling K. Brown Talks Hotel Artemis
Posted by Wilson Morales

June 1, 2018

Hitting theaters on June 8 is Drew Pearce’s much-anticipated directorial debut Hotel Artemis, joining Academy Award Winner Jodie Foster, Emmy Award Winner Sterling K. Brown, Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Brian Tyree Henry, Jeff Goldblum, Dave Bautista, Sofia Boutella, and Kenneth Choi.

Penned by Pearce and set in the near future Los Angeles, Hotel Artemis follows a nurse (Foster) who runs an underground hospital for Los Angeles’ most sinister criminals, and finds that one of her patients is actually there to assassinate another.

After Waikiki (Brown) and Honolulu (Henry) participate in a heist that leaves the latter injured, they flee to Hotel Artemis to seek health care. Waikiki’s valuable keepsake worth $18 million from the heist introduces a world of further danger when a notorious bad guy (Jeff Goldblum) decides that he wants the item for himself.

Having won two Emmy in the last two years for The People v. O. J. Simpson and This Is Us, where he became the first black man to win an acting Emmy in 19 years, the lead role in Hotel Artemis is a first for Sterling K. Brown, with hopefully many more to come. Recently seen among the ensemble in Marvel’s Black Panther, Brown will also be seen in the upcoming Predator reboot.

Blackfilm.com spoke exclusively with Brown about his role in Hotel Artemis, working with Jodie Foster and his best friend, Brian Tyree Henry.

What was the attraction to doing this film?

Sterling K. Brown: I was up in Canada at the time shooting Predator when this project came into my radar. There were a few things that I liked. You have the original script, a story that hasn’t been told before. A lot of things get rehashed and there’s a lot of sequels, etc, so it’s nice to know that we’re trying to put something new into the ether. It’s a character driven piece with very interesting people who are forced to deal with each other under traumatic situations in their surrounding environment. It was an opportunity to work with Jodie Foster and that’s a big draw. And as they were beginning to cast my character Waikiki, you also have to cast Honolulu with that and I knew it was an opportunity to act with my brother Brian Tyree Henry was a strong possibility. So it was all of those things and combined with the fact that it was a character completely different from Randall, my character from This Is Us. I also get to be the action lead of a film. All of those things contributed to make this too good to pass.

How would best describe Waikiki?

Sterling K. Brown: Waikiki is the reluctant criminal. He has the acumen for it but not necessarily the heart for it. He finds himself in the situation that he’s in because he loves his brother Honolulu that much. His brother is really the only family that he has in life. He’s the only thing that he has of value in his life. Waikiki makes his life about taking care of his little brother, to his detriment sometimes. Then he finds, in the course of the film, losing his brother and trying to figure out who he is now. What is his purpose.

What did you do to get into character?

Sterling K. Brown: My acting teacher from NYU would say, “What do you think acting is ultimately about?” You have a lot of people that you have to tap into the emotion of the character to understand where their heart is, and that’s true, but how does one get to that emotion? What you realize and what Drew was trying to get us to understand is that acting is an intellectual exercise, meaning that nothing proceeds the thought. If you are moving from thought to thought, then you don’t get yourself caught up in these generic emotional wash. What is the character supposed to be feeling right now and sometimes you are skipping a step with those thoughts. But if you say, “What is the character thinking right now,” then our emotion will organically proceed from that thought.

Hotel Artemis Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry – photo by Matt Kennedy

Waikiki is constantly trying to figure out what to do next. How do I take care of my brother and where is the best place for him to be? How do I get out of this place? What are repercussions if we are found? Each thought necessitates an emotion that comes after it. More than anything, it’s rereading the script, making sure you remember what scene came before because you’re shooting things out of sequence and you have to remind yourself what your journey has been to that point and maintain the vision of the overall arc of the character. He starts off as this bad ass bank robber and the man with the plan and ultimately he finishes the film not knowing what’s next.

How was working alongside Jodie Foster and the rest of the cast?

Sterling K. Brown: Jodie is a beast. How often do you get to work with someone who has been doing it for over 50 years and the entirety of their life and has experienced many trends within the industry and is willing to share her expertise and her life experience with you? That’s what I found in working with Jodie. All of us have different backgrounds with Dave Bautista coming from WWE, Charlie Day with his comedic background, and Sofia being an all-around bad ass. There’s something that Drew was able to synthesize within us all in terms of telling this story. He gave us rehearsal and preparation and he gave us a space where we were excited to create a world we haven’t seen as of yet.

When you have people who all want to tell a story and the script excites us all to a similar level, we can always come back to that. What always tells the story are the ideas that won out and it was fun to see people come up with things that help sell that story. I’m always intrigued by different actors because sometimes you’ll see people made a choice on something that I would have made and it’s always fun to see people who made choices on something you would have never considered. I saw that with Charlie Day. I saw that with Dave Bautista and Brian. I saw that with every actor within the film. It was exciting to be in a scene with somebody new. We all approached it differently but with the same goal in mind.

Brian Tyree Henry, Sterling K. Brown

What’s it like working with Brian Tyree Henry, one of your closest friends in life?

Sterling K. Brown: It’s really hard to fake a relationship in front of the camera. You have to have something off-camera that you can take with you for public consumption. Brian and I have been tight for 11 years now. He’s the Godfather to my first born child. He is like a brother so it only made sense for us to play brothers in this film. It also gave us a chance to geek out as we are both in a Jodie Foster movie and we’re doing a film with Jeff Goldblum. We got a chance to geek out and get it out of our system and then get to work. I see why folks have a blast doing things with their friends. Not only does it deepen and enriches the work, you get to have fun while you are doing it.

What does having a lead role in a film mean to you?

Sterling K. Brown: I never want to put the cart before the horse. I’m never 100% sure on what the next thing is going to be but if it does open up doors like that and I think about watching Wesley Snipes back in the day and Carl Weathers in Action Jackson, but the opportunity to occupy a rarified space as an African American leading male is something that’s really exciting. I love Chadwick (Boseman) and Daniel (Kaluuya) and Michael B. (Jordan) and to be able to part of that landscape and conversation is something that I welcome. I consider myself to be an actor. I don’t know if I’m a leading man by nature or a character actor. I’m someone who loves to play as many different roles as possible, so if folks will see me in that light and give me more leading opportunities, I shall welcome them with open arms.


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