Sterling K. Brown’s acting trophies come from portraying kind-hearted good guys: criminal prosecutor Christopher Darden on “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” and Randall Pearson, who grew up as the lone black person in his household on “This Is Us.” But the actor told IndieWire he is grateful for chances to “show a slightly different color” this year: He played Wakanda’s traitorous prince in “Black Panther,” an assassin in “Hotel Artemis,” and a dentist with a rap sheet in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” one of his two Emmy-nominated performances this year (along with his network series).
The mean streak continues in “The Predator” (September 14), which premiered its first footage Thursday at San Diego Comic-Con. Shane Black’s sci-fi ensemble features Brown as Will Traeger, an alien technology expert through his Project Stargazer. Studying artifacts from past predator attacks, Traeger is amassing all the knowledge he can about the creatures. “He has his own interest at heart, but also [is] looking to just kick the predator’s ass,” Brown said, sitting in the shade of a massive patio at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront this afternoon. Or, more bluntly: “Traeger is not the nicest person in this movie. He’s a bit of a penis, and it’s a delight to play just a bit of a penis. Someone who’s not always kind, like a dick.”
Brown says John Davis — a producer on all five “Predator” films — offered him the part with the caveat, “‘I don’t think anybody else sees you in this film, but I know you can do it and I want you for it.’” Just 11 years old when Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in the first installment, Brown was “full of nostalgia” when he read Black and Fred Dekker’s script, and also said yes because, “If I get a chance to whoop some ass a little bit, carry a little weaponry, do that sort of thing, then I know my dad is smiling upon me down in Heaven, because this is his kind of movie.”
Unlike his NBC gig, a big-budget blockbuster brought the luxury of time. “I have the best job in the world, but getting a chance to do these films — we have five months to play around,” said Brown. “The Predator” was once slated for a February 2018 release, but 20th Century Fox postponed so Black could squeeze in three weeks of reshoots. The new ending gave Brown more screen time with “the Loonies,” the crew of soldiers also out to demolish the thermal-visioned beasts, led by Boyd Holbrook and Keegan-Michael Key.
Brown will appear in at least two more movies next year, “The Rhythm Section” with Blake Lively and “The Angry Birds Movie 2.” The latter will appeal to his young sons (ages 2 and 7), but likely not as much as another 2019 animated film he is in talks for, Disney’s “Frozen 2.” “I’m hopeful, I’m excited,” he said, adding he’s talked to the franchise’s returning snowman, Josh Gad, “about it a couple of times because he’s a friend, [and I’m] excited to do something with him.”
In addition, this month Brown and Lucas Hedges were announced as stars in the upcoming A24 title “Waves,” the third film from “It Comes at Night” writer-director Trey Edward Shults. However, Brown wants to correct early reports about the production: “It is a film that relies heavily on the usage of music, in terms of how it tells its story, but no one sings. So it is not technically a musical.” Brown received the script as an electronic file that not only noted all the instrumental cues, but also allowed him to press a button and hear pre-recorded melodies as he read.
“It was one of the best film scripts that I had the opportunity to read,” he said. “It’s a drama, it’s an indie and whatnot, but it’s very unique in its construction and that the music feeds each scene in a very specific way.” Brown will play the father to a teen boy and girl, and their respective romantic relationships are at the center of the narrative.
The range of projects is impressive, especially considering Brown was once a Stanford economics major; he transferred to drama following an internship at the Federal Reserve Bank that left him “bored out of my mind.” “Anytime I did a play, my life got better, because I was doing something that fed my soul,” he said. “If your soul is quietly diminishing as you go through life, then that’s not a life worth living. So the acting thing said no, I won’t let you leave me alone.”