Interview with NEIL BROWN, JR | The Power of Imagination
Imagination is one of the most powerful abilities all human beings are born with. We can imagine traveling somewhere we have never been, we can play to be someone else, which is also a part of our empathic connection, or we can create objects in our mind before they are physically manifested. The greatest innovations started with a simple idea and those who stayed faithful to it brought it into life. Also, what we imagine carries emotional energy that shows us how we feel about what we think about.
The multifaceted actor Neil Brown Jr, who can currently be seen as Ray Perry on the CBS drama Seal Team, and as Chad Kerr on HBO’s series Insecure says: “I told you, I’m a big kid. I’m fortunate that it’s easy for me, I LOVE to play pretend and it just happens naturally for me because, like a child, I don’t second guess my imagination.”
We often believe that kids have more of an imagination, but the truth is that they just do not limit themselves, they freely allow it to flow from within. In that sense, letting yourself be a kid will inspire the impulse of your unique creative expressions.
In this interview, you will enjoy getting to know Neil a little bit closer: his love for his family, his life and, of course, his art.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Neil Brown, Jr?
Hi, I’m Neil Brown, Jr. “My father’s son,” with just a pinch of a “Momma’s Boy.” I’m a big kid who likes to play pretend, and I was blessed enough to marry my best friend. So I’m winning.
- Having been acting since a very young age, how do you feel your career has shaped you as a person so far?
I think it’s taught me not to take myself too seriously, mostly. To not set my ideals in stone because ideas of success and the life one wants are constantly evolving, just like the work, so always be pliable, teachable. It’s turned me into a person who truly understands that the only thing one can control, is yourself, and to be ok with that. Life is full of magic, and because I still play pretend, like a child, I still get to believe in that magic. I have a very fortunate outlook on life because of this job and how young I started.
- Before you were an actor, you practiced martial arts, which eventually lead you to your first role. Does in any way, Has the union of the mental and physical nature trained through martial arts has contributed in any way to your artistic expression as an actor?
Absolutely! So much of acting, for me anyway, is about filling your mind with all this stuff; training, research, etc. and then just letting it go while still being completely present and letting nature takes its course. Rehearsal, Rehearsal, Rehearsal, and then, letting go, trusting all that rehearsal and study made me the character I needed to be. The very same way I would train as my life depended on it, practicing the same moves over and over again, forging my mind and body, and then getting into the ring and letting it all go while trusting the training made me who I needed to be to win.
- Working in the entertainment industry for a long time, you probably witnessed many changes. How does has the industry has evolved and how do you envision its future?
There are a lot more reality shows on now, I tell ya that. When I was coming up it was just “Americas Funniest Videos” and “Cops,” ha! I believe that the way people watch TV and film has changed more than those shows and films themselves. There is so much more content now, and everything is at the tip of your fingers, you can stop it when you want, rewind it, whatever. In some ways it is cool; so many shows and movies that would have never seen the light of day, get to make it to your screen (whatever screen that may be), but in other ways, with so much control, you really don’t have to pay that much attention and nuance is missed. I think, overall though, with so much content out there, it forces creators and artists to be better, because if it’s not good, people have no lack of something else to watch.
- We are all wanting to live a successful professional life. Do you have a conscious inner practice to deliberately attract and maintain a continuous expansion as an actor?
I study, and study hard. Writers took the time to write the material and I want to give that time spent, the respect it deserves. I read a script 3 times before I pay any attention to my lines. I then read it from the perspective of the other characters, as if I was doing their part, then I get into my stuff. It helps me to find the rhythm and overall arc of the piece. I also just try to be a pleasant person, it takes so much energy to be negative and far less to be positive. I would rather be the light in someone’s day than the dark cloud. I believe this attracts the work, or the type I want anyway.
- Ray Perry is the role you play on the CBS drama Seal Team, which is streaming its second season now. How does it feel to be part of a story that brings awareness of the reality behind the life of so many veterans?
It’s a massively humbling experience to have so many veterans, including my Dad, really respond to this show in such a positive way. When they say we are getting it right, especially the special operators, I know we are doing our jobs.
- Ray is an experienced Navy Seal who is second-in-command. How does the relationship between Ray and Jason Hayes influence the dynamic with the rest of the team?
I believe how well or not the team is working together is a direct reflection of the relationship between Jason and Ray. If those two aren’t “right,” the team suffers, but when they are on the same page, the dynamic duo that we have all come to love, there is almost nothing the team can’t accomplish.
- Ray is married to Naima, what plans does Ray have to balance the high pressure of his job with his personal life?
He talks to her. Come hell or high water, they talk. That has been the issue with the two of them recently on the show, because Ray has stopped talking, which is completely unlike him. Without those conversations, without that relief valve for both of them, it becomes too much to make it through successfully. Parisa Fahkri plays Naima with a tenacity that she would have to have to be married to a guy like Ray, doing the job he does, and with that strength, the two have agreed to not hold back, classified or not. She is strong enough to handle it and this is something Ray has, for a little while at least, forgotten.
- How do have your character Chad Kerr and his relationship with Lawrence on HBO’s series Insecure has evolved so far?
First of all, I have some of the most fun playing Chad, so much of what you see is the real natural energy and banter between Jay Ellis and myself. I learn so much from the brother every scene we have, and I’m so thankful for him, Issa, Prentice, the whole cast and crew really as this was my first comedic television role and they have all helped walk me through it. To answer the question though; Chad and Lawrence have been best friends for a long time, and I think a big part of why Chad had resentment for Issa in the first place was because he didn’t get to see Lawrence as much, which is why he was so quick to be in his corner during the breakup and “help’ him through it. I think ultimately though, Chad has noticed and felt Lawrence’s pain and just wants to see him happy. Whether Chad has the emotional tools and availability to help facilitate that happiness is yet to be seen.
- In which way does the series Insecure, which is soon to premiere its fourth season, represent our modern-day society?
The lack of patience. We have become, as a society, so used to getting the answers we want at the speed of the internet, and I think much of that can be seen in the series. Instant gratification, make me happy NOW, or move on, swipe left. So much emphasis is placed on the immediate moment without real complex thought about the future consequences or the hard work, patience and time it takes to really accomplish long lasting happiness and success.
- What does can the audience can expect in the upcoming Insecure season?
- Having played roles in stories about the military, high-end law firms, zombie apocalypses, to mention a few, you are a prolific actor. How do you adapt to different narratives and make each scenario feel real?
I told you, I’m a big kid. I’m fortunate that it’s easy for me, I LOVE to play pretend and it just happens naturally for me because, like a child, I don’t second guess my imagination. Interestingly enough, if there is ever a time I’m not “feeling” a line, or it’s not “working” for me, I just imagine what it would take for the character to act in that way, or say those words, and use that as my pretext. That’s something my acting coach, Dennis Neal (also on the show) taught me to do a long time ago, and it’s served me well in my growth as a storyteller.
- How does has your self-believe has shaped your sense of possibilities to create the life you want for yourself?
It’s not “self-belief” for me per se, but more belief in honest– to– God hard work. My parents always told me, I could be whatever I wanted to be and do whatever I wanted to do, good or bad as long as I worked hard at it and was willing to deal with the consequences. They said all I needed was faith, and an ability to work hard. I always heard that faith is the oil that takes the friction out off living, so I do my best to keep God first, and that in turn increased my personal faith in what I saw as possible. It is also said that, “‘Luck,”’ is the last dying wish of those who think that you can win by accident, sweat, on the other hand, is for those who know that winning, is a choice. I get up every day and make the choice to accomplish what I need to, so that my family can have all the things they deserve. That takes a commitment to hard work and unrelenting faith in what the Most High has for you.
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is The Essence of a Joyful Living. How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
I have fun doing what I do, always. The feeling that I get when I find a new moment, a new intention, something that I didn’t see the first 20 times, puts me on such a high, that I simply cannot describe. I am sure, however, when people watch the work, they see it, it subtracts anything “false” from the work and just feels real. It then has people approaching me saying things like “that’s totally who you are for real,” or “You’re exactly like that!” That is the final manifestation, the belief of something that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
- When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words from the Abraham-Hicks teachings, what is your take on such a statement?
My parents are smart and they got it right.
Photography by Leslie Alejandro