ESSENCE was proud to shine a deserving spotlight on Emmy Award-winning actor Sterling K. Brown for our October 2016 collector’s issue and he shared an inspiring story about his journey to landing the role of attorney Chris Darden in the FX drama series, The People v. O.J. Simpson. Read on to hear Sterling dish about the audition that led to his unforgettable award-winning moment at this year’s Emmys, as told to our editor Regina Robertson.
Sterling K. Brown: “Well, auditioning the first time around…it was pilot season 2015. It was January, pretty early in pilot season, and I had, what I thought, was a good audition. Now, I knew that there were already a few names attached to [the project]. I think, at this point in time, Sarah Paulson, maybe [John] Travolta and Courtney [B. Vance] were already attached…if not Cuba [Gooding, Jr.], as well. And so I thought, “Okay, they’re looking for names, so the chances of me getting this particular role may be minimal.” But I felt like [I was prepared]. I had shaved my head, I had my rehearsal glasses on–they were frames, without the lenses–so, I felt like I kind of “looked” the part.
And I just went onto YouTube and just started listening to [Chris Darden] as much as I could and memorizing my lines and listening to his voice, going back and forth between the film footage and the script. And I felt like I came up with something that was pretty good.
So I go in for the casting directors and they were smiling, which is a good sign. And so, I called my manager up and I said, “If they don’t look for a name, I think I have a shot.” So, fast-forward three months, it’s April…I haven’t heard anything. I’m in Albuquerque, New Mexico, working…and I finally get the phone call saying, “They want you to test for The People vs. O.J.” I was like, “What?” I mean, I’d literally just gotten finished looking through IMDb and I was looking at all of the jobs that I’d auditioned for and seeing who booked them. I was like, “Oh yeah, well good for him. Bokeem booked that? Fantastic! Oh, Mekhi got that? Way to go! Omar got that? Way to go!”
And then I get this phone call.
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So, I fly back to Los Angeles and I read for the producers. And I didn’t know how many people they were going to call back. Normally, the network brings three or four people who are in contention for the same role so they have some options to choose from. In this particular instance, I was the only guy that they brought back to audition for Chris Darden and it was sort of crazy because I didn’t know that. My agents and manager didn’t tell me that. So, I’m looking around the office, at the Fox lot, at every other brother who walks by like, “Oh, well that’s kind of an interesting choice for Chris Darden, but you know..” Because brothers would walk by with dreadlocks and stuff. So I was like, “Well, okay, they’re keeping their options open. Good to know.”
It turns out I was the only person and I read some new scenes that they gave me. And [producer] Nina Jacobson was smiling and nodding her head in an affirmative way and it made me feel pretty good.
Later on that day, I was taking my son to basketball practice and as he was on the court working out his dribble, as three year olds only can work it out, I got the phone call that I got the job. And then the “Denzel tear” slides down my eye. It was…it was a good day.
So, that’s how the job came to be.”
Read more about what’s next for Sterling following his Emmy win in the October issue of ESSNECE, on newsstands now.