Yvette Nicole Brown: Super Star and Super Fan
For the self-admitted super-enthusiast of all things entertainment, Brown's got just about all her bases covered: she's a prominent network TV actress (see the insta-classic sitcom "Community" and the current incarnation of "The Odd Couple"); she's turned her addiction to "The Walking Dead" into regular guest spots on the aftershow "Talking Dead"; she put her red carpet reporter hat on to host the Hollywood Foreign Press Association official live stream of the SuperMansion" to her flourishing voice actress career -- which includes stints as Beyoncé on "Bojack Horseman" and Amanda Waller on "DC's Super Hero Girls."
She's the ultimate fusion of star and fan, as she reveals in a wide-ranging conversation with Moviefone that includes her thoughts on her ongoing projects, her take on the current season of "TWD," her outspoken Twitter account, the long-apparent genius of Donald Glover, her lifelong love for the late Garry Marshall, and why she needs a real sit-down with the Queen of All Media.
Moviefone: When the Stoopid Monkey guys called you for "SuperMansion," were you already a fan, or did you have to check it out?
Yvette Nicole Brown: I was already a fan. I love stop-motion animation, so they had me with that. You add in Bryan Cranston and Keegan-Michael Key, I'm sold. I got a call about an audition. I think people think there's some glamorous world where people just get calls going, "We need you on set tomorrow, darling!" No, it's, "Would you like to audition for 'SuperMansion'?" "Yes I would." So I auditioned twice, and I got the nod.
What did you want to bring to it? Once you got a sense of the role, and you knew the show already, what did you want to bring your contribution?
I wanted her to be wacky, unpredictable, and fun. Every time Portia came to the scene, or Zenith came to the scene, I wanted them to know that it was going to be crazy fun. I hope that's what I brought.
Did you have to think, "Do I do it mostly in my own voice? Or do I put on a weird cartoon voice?"
I think I was thinking "talk show host," and she has to have gravitas, and she has to have an Oprah way of speaking. And I did her kind of like in reference to Oprah at first, and then the more we recorded, we realized how crazy she is. So we needed to take Oprah to, like, crazy town. So then it got kind of morphed into more of a mixture of Oprah sensibilities and wanting to help people, but then just a wacky black woman
Have you met Oprah?
I have met Oprah, but I haven't metOprah. I've had the, "Hi, I'm Yvette, I love you" moment, but I want to have a sister-girl sit-down, fry-some-chicken, talk-about-life moment, and I hope one day I achieve enough where I can get that invitation.
One of the things I love about you is that you are a fan as much as you are a pro.
I am a fan more than I'm a pro.
Tell me what's happening inside your head in a case like this, as in some of the other things you do where you're living out the fan dream, when you get to show up thinking "I'd pay you guys to be here."
I actually hosted the Golden Globes red carpet for the Hollywood Foreign Press and Twitter and I had a moment where it was like, "I need to cut somebody a check. This right here ..." Or refuse the check they give me, because this is my childhood dream come true.
I'm interviewing Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn and Tracee Ellis Ross and Octavia Spencer and Donald Glover. To get to talk to a couple of my friends, hours before they got their first Golden Globe, and to know that that moment of anticipation and excitement is saved forever, and me getting my chance to wish them well publicly is saved forever, there is nothing greater.
Let's talk about one of those friends, Donald Glover, for a second. You knew he was talented. You knew he was multi-talented, but what's been happening lately ...
Listen, if you Google me talking about Donald Glover as far back as 2009 or '10, I have said this from the beginning: I have never met anyone more talented in every creative endeavor than Donald Glover. He can dance, he can sing, he can draw, he can bake, he can write, he can rap. When we were there first season, and he brought in sweet potato pies, little mini pies that he had made himself? "The baby bakes? Looks like the baby bakes, too."
There's nothing that he can't do, and also, he's very efficient with time. When they yelled cut on "Community," I went to the craft services table, as anybody who watched me balloon on that show will know. When they yelled cut on "Community," Donald went and sat in front of his computer and wrote a song, or went and sat in front of his computer and wrote a script, or did a treatment. No time is wasted. I don't know if he sleeps now, there was a moment in time where Donald wasn't sleeping. He was like, "I've got too much. I've got to get it out." So he's the truth.
And the thing that I always say about him, too -- and I know I gush about him a lot publicly, but I'm so proud of him -- he's also a good man. There's a lot of people that get a pass for bad behavior because they're talented, and this industry rewards bad behavior, and you see people that are horrible just continue to get opportunity after opportunity. Donald deserves every opportunity he gets because he's still a decent human being.
I don't think being Lando Calrissian is going to change him. I don't think being a Golden Globe-winning show creator and actor is going to change him. I think he's a good egg and will remain a good egg until the Lord calls him.
Tell me about being an actress, and being Yvette on camera, too. You're straddling both worlds now. What's cool about that for you?
You know what's cool about it is I always think of acting as an offering. I don't use it to take; I use it to give. I feel like there's a lot going on in the world, and if I can be a part of something that makes people forget something at their job, or something in politics or whatever, for 30 minutes, what a gift that is. So I look at acting as an opportunity to say, "What can I give to people today?"
I think of my Twitter page the same way. The hosting and the "Talking Dead" is me taking. It's me as little Yvette from east Cleveland being around people whose work energizes me. It's me getting to talk about television shows that I absolutely love. So it's very evenly measured. I give and I take, and I hope that I give in the same measure that I take so that the scale stays balanced.
You, of course, are a well-known "Walking Dead" superfan. Do you think they'll ever let you on the show to act? Or is it too meta?
It probably is too meta! I think I could probably be a walker. I've talked to Greg Nicotero and Scott Gimple about being a walker. My only thing is, I've done prosthetic work before on "Percy Jackson," and it's very long hours, and they shoot in the summer in Atlanta, and I'm a girl that likes comfort! So I joke and say, "If they ever want to do a flashback to before the zombie apocalypse in an air conditioned room, I am the girl to call." But as long as they're in the woods with soot and dirt on their faces in the summer time, I'm going to have to pass.
Super polarizing season this year.
What side of the pole are you on?
I have always been someone that affords a creator the opportunity to create the show that they want to make. I respect Robert Kirkman, I respect Dave Alpert, I respect Scott Gimple, Gale Anne Hurd, Greg Nicotero. They are telling their story, and I as a fan do not have a right to dictate the ride they take me on. I can get out of the car, but I don't get to ride in someone's passenger seat or back seat and dictate where they're taking me. That's just rude.
So I thought that the first episode was brutal, but I felt that in order to pay homage to the comic book, it had to be. I feel like those of us that have watched the show from the very beginning, we've seen entrails out of people, we've seen bloated walkers in wells, we've seen people literally ripped to shreds. The reason that episode, the first episode, destroyed as much as it did, was because it was someone that we had been with from the very beginning, and it happened to him.
But we've seen violence equal to, or at times worse, than what we saw in that episode. So I'm not going to tap out because a show about zombies is violent. And I also am not going to tap out before I see the person that caused the violence get their comeuppance. I believe the second half of this season is going to be amazing. I believe that my group is going to find themselves again and come together, and fight back this evil as they always do, and I'm going to be on my couch watching it when it happens.
At the Globes, Meryl Streep made a sensation, and you yourself have been outspoken on Twitter about politics.I find it ironic that Donald Trump is someone who used his celebrity platform to actually end up in the highest office of the United States of America, and yet actors shouldn't say anything?
Isn't that interesting? Doesn't the irony just wash over you like an acid bath? That's what someone said on Twitter. I thought that was a perfect way to say it. I've never felt that your vocation prevents you from being American. I never thought that your vocation or your profession prevents you from speaking up about things that grieve your spirit.
I believe that you are given a platform to use responsibly. I try to do everything in my life with love, with kindness, and with care. When the nation is confronted with someone who mocks disabled people, who assaults women, who vilifies religion -- certain religions -- and vilifies certain races and ethnic groups, who tears down the family of a soldier who has passed away, who's called women pigs, and dogs. As a black woman, a double minority, who would I be if I did not speak out against that evil?
And I don't care what office he's in. He's not the best of America. I'm not saying he can't be better. It is my sincere prayer that he will get better. But I'm saying what I've seen right now, as long as it stays like this, as long as I've got air in my breath and Twitter followers, I don't care if it's five of us by the time I'm done, I will continue to speak about the things that are not the best of us.
As a celebrity that's very wired into social media, you're a bigger target than me when people disagree with you. How do you handle that?
Most of them are ignorant -- and I didn't say "dumb," I said "ignorant." They don't know, and a lot of them don't know that they don't know. That's not saying they can't open up a book, Google a reputable news source and find out, they just don't know. So the first thing I try to see is, is this someone that is reachable? Because if they're reachable and they just don't know, then I'm going to try to share what I can to pull them back from the brink.
But you've got someone in power working against that by calling news fake, and vilifying journalists, and saying that anything that is said that doesn't come from this source is not true. I knew something was wrong when he told his followers not to watch the DNC. So I watched the RNC. I watched every minute of it. I've watched every debate from all of the parties. I am fully aware of every single person that ran. I watched everything. That's how you make a decision.
So if all you hear is one side of a story, and you have someone saying, "My side is the truth, but that person is lying," how will you know? My heart broke when he did what he did to that CNN reporter. My heart broke. Because this is a man that has the most power in the world telling the people that are going to keep him in check "You don't matter. Your questions don't matter, and what you put out is not real. Because you're saying things about me that I don't like."
If he was a decent man, and he heard that a foreign power had intruded in our electoral process, and he cared about this country, he would say, "Stop everything. Let's redo all of this. Because I don't want it if I didn't earn it, and I definitely don't want it if somebody wants me because it benefits them, and that person is possibly a war criminal."
You guys don't know yet about the future of "The Odd Couple"?
We don't. No idea. No, we have no idea. We literally will find out in May, and they have us until June. And listen, we did the best we could, CBS did the best they could, Nielsen numbers count. That's why I've been begging to everyone, I'm like, "Guys just watch these last three. If you've never seen the show, please tune in."
They put us behind Matt LeBlanc's show and we held on 100% to his -- and he was a rerun, and we held on to all of it. That's the first time this season we've held on to 100% of our lead-in. I think Matt into Matthew [Perry] would have been a really great opportunity for our show. I don't know why it never happened.
Did you get to have many encounters with Garry Marshall before we lost him last year?
I did. There's actually a video of me talking to [TV Line's] Michael Ausiello where I cried like a baby through the whole interview about Garry. He was simply the best that there was. The only person I can think of that even comes close to his level of caring for other people is Henry Winkler. The two of them are cut from the same cloth.
This, in my opinion, perfectly encapsulates who Garry Marshall was: he said, "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice." And he lived that. I don't care if you were a street sweeper, or President of the United States. Garry treated you exactly the same and it was with love and kindness. And if you were rotten, he let you know you were rotten, and you didn't have to be that way. You could do better, because we don't do that here. And he created sets with lovely, wonderful people for that reason.
I felt his loss stronger in certain instances than some family members that I lost, because there's not a time in my life where he wasn't a part of it. I love entertainment, so at every point in my life, there's a Garry Marshall moment, a Garry Marshall memory. Then to get to work with him, and he was lovely, funny, and an encyclopedia of sitcom info.
When he did the episode he did with us, getting to act with him was amazing because he's got little tidbits: "When you cross, you make sure you ring the doorbell, then knock on the door -- it's funnier." And sure enough, if you rang the doorbell and then knocked, the crowd went "Yaaah!" It's like he understood the math of how a joke hit someone in the funny bone.