Gilbert Glenn Brown is an actor, writer, and director born in New York City in a hardworking and family-oriented Caribbean home that emphasized love for the Jamaican heritage of his immigrant parents. Brown’s latest role is playing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the new Jennifer Hudson film, “Respect,” which follows the life of superstar singer and cultural icon Aretha Franklin.
While Brown had originally auditioned for another part in the film, he declined that role as it didn’t feel right to him. He received a call a week later, on his birthday, asking him to audition for the role of Dr. King, and after about two weeks, he was offered the part. Brown shared that he had played the role of Dr. King in other productions and had already done considerable research to prepare for the challenge. His previous portrayals of King were presented in a staged reading of the play “Mountaintop” before it appeared on Broadway, participating in the national tour of the show, and then starring in the show in its production in Los Angeles in 2019.
Describing the greatest challenge in taking on the role of the historic and iconic Dr. King and participating in the film project, Brown noted the scope and size of the overall vision involved in telling Franklin’s story and the difficulties of including all the important and amazing figures in history connected to her life in a two-plus-hour film. Telling the singer’s story was “not a simple feat,” he said, adding that it was also humbling and slightly intimidating to share the experience with actors and artists he had always admired.
Brown described Dr. King as a “wonderfully complex and powerful person.” For the actor, the role did not involve focusing only on his vocal intonations and the ability to deliver his speeches, but also to show that the man was a “living, breathing human being who was deified, but who never saw himself that way.” Dr. King always viewed himself just as a man working for the people who had the same hopes, doubts, fears, and aspirations. “I wanted to present him that way,” Brown added.
Brown first became interested in acting as a profession when he saw Sidney Poitier on screen. In high school, some of his teachers introduced him to Broadway theater, and he was especially inspired by a production of “The Tempest” starring Aunjanue Ellis and Patrick Stewart and decided he wanted to be a part of the theater world. He joined the Mind Builders Creative Arts Center Positive Youth Troupe, a group focused on issues facing young people, and saw for the first time that people like him could talk about their own challenges and issues. At the age of 15, Brown went on tour with the troupe to Detroit, and the trip showed him that his love of theater could open doors for him that he had never thought possible. This was when he realized he could make acting his career.
Now a seasoned performer, Brown has succeeded in many performing genres, including stage, television, screen, voiceover, writing, directing, producing, and as director of photography. Among his many accomplishments are originating the role of R&B singer “Jett Slade” on “The Young & The Restless”, recurring as “Dean Evan Foley” on the Emmy-Winning “The Inspectors”, and appearing with Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell in “Best of Enemies” as “Howard Clements.” He recurs as “James Michael Chapel” in DC’s “Stargirl” and appears as “Dr. Riley” in Walter Mosley’s “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” with Samuel L. Jackson.
Brown is a member of Jamaicans in Hollywood, a group established in 2019 by eight seasoned, professional writers/performers/producers with Jamaican roots and the strong desire to work together and produce their own material. The organization seeks to inspire and promote genuine Jamaican stories to the entire world by supporting real Jamaicans who are creating plays, films, and television shows that present authentic Jamaican experiences.
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