by Dr. L.A. Gabay
Rob Brown is an actor by fame, Knicks fan by birth and a man of action by all accounts. More than a decade after starring in Finding Forrester and eight years after hooping in Coach Carter, Brown’s love of sports remains at the forefront of his personal and professional life. During a recent lunch in Brooklyn with the Treme [final season begins December 1. Don’t miss it!.—Ed.] star, his DIII hand-eye coordination is on display as he multitasks eating a Marlow and Son’s burger, participating in an iPhone group sports chat with fellow Brooklyn (NY) Poly Prep alums and maintaining eye contact while we speak.
SLAM: You were born, raised and still live in Brooklyn. Any thoughts on becoming a Nets fan?
Rob Brown: I am not converting. The Knicks returned to the physical under [Coach] Woodson, not like the old beat-down days with [Pat] Riley and his guys, but this is the best we’ve been in a while. Ray Felton plays with scrappiness like a New Yorker. I am excited that [Tim] Hardaway’s son is here; I think he will be able to contribute early. Offense fills the seats but defense wins Championships. I also can’t believe that ESPN is already pressing Melo about free agency and the Lakers! Too soon!
SLAM: Have your days as a high school and college football player contributed in any way toward your acting?
RB: Athletes and actors are part of a team and everyone has an assignment. If one person messes up, you jeopardize the integrity of the play or scene. I like that aspect of it. As an athlete, I can play, not that I am DI or anything, but I can pick things up quickly, and as an actor I try to be as natural as possible. It is also necessary to listen and learn from coaches, directors and those sharing the experience with you. Specifically the people who have been at it for a long time. I consider them mentors just from being around them. Wideout coach Bill McBride is the reason why I went to Amherst College, which is a great school, but not the most diverse place. He had my back and made me feel comfortable there. The director of Coach Carter, Thomas Carter, was on me to get my degree and Sean Connery repeatedly told me to “finish school.”
SLAM: The projects that you seem to align yourself with are more than entertainment. Treme, The Express and Take the Lead are like love letters to these people and places.
RB: I gravitate toward the humanistic. I graduated Amherst as a psych major and a story has to mean something to me socially. It is important to create a discussion amongst the people who watch it. When I read a script, I can be thoroughly captivated but realize it is not for me. I am not against explosions and those things, but it needs that deeper element. The same holds true for what I read. I just finished The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. They should make that a required book in schools. People are unaware, they just don’t know.
SLAM: Your personal narrative is perhaps more compelling than the wide range of extraordinary people you’ve portrayed in front of a camera.
RB: I grew up in foster care. It is not my style to be in everyone’s face about these things, but the group home environment is inherently chaotic. The staff is incredible, but it is structurally unfeasible to get kids back in the homes in six months—kids and parents need time. It takes years and money. I waited a long, long time for my mom to be in a better space in life. She recently graduated with her MSW and things are great with my family. For Christmas this year, my mom and sister came down to [New Orleans] and handed me a Knicks Santa hat. This is another reason why I am not converting to the Nets.