Sterling K. Brown isn’t an Oscar nominee — well, yet, as we could see him going full EGOT one day — but he has given quite a few acceptance speeches in the last couple years. So, just days away from the 2018 Academy Awards, we asked the This Is Us and Black Panther actor for his best speech advice for his peers on the big night.
“The only tip I genuinely have is something that somebody gave me,” Brown tells Yahoo Entertainment at the opening of an arts center for Harlem youth, a collaboration between Clorox and the nonprofit Thrive Collective, on Tuesday. “They said, ‘If you can, try not to have a piece of paper. And honestly when I heard that I started going back and watching, and most people have their pieces of paper because they don’t want to forget anybody.”
Brown, who made history with his Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award wins in January as well as his win at the Emmys in 2017, continued: “But what you remember from a good speech is not all the people that you thank necessarily, it’s the spirit of the speech. What’s the overall theme of it that you want to get across. So if you can do it without the piece of paper, I encourage you to give it your best effort.”
Besides, if a winner forgets to mention someone, they can always make up for it by thanking the person backstage in the press room. “Exactly!” he laughs.
Brown’s speeches have been poignant. Not just because he’s said seriously swoon-worthy things about his wife, Ryan Michelle Bathe. He’s also acknowledged that he was breaking-ground — and has been known to shed a tear or two.
On Jan. 21, Brown became the first African-American to win the award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series at the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards. Before he even said a word, he had to wipe away a tear. But watch to the very end for his great advice to aspiring actors: “For all those people out there still hustling, trying to make it: The fame won’t sustain you, the money won’t sustain you, the love — keep that love alive. It will keep you going.”
A few weeks earlier, he became the first black man to win a Golden Globe for a TV drama. “Oprah,” was his first word — and it was a complete sentence. But the most memorable part was when he spoke to This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, saying, “You wrote a role for a black man. That could only be played by a black man. What I appreciate so much about this thing is that I’m being seen for who I am and being appreciated for who I am. And it makes it that much more difficult to dismiss me — or dismiss anybody who looks like me.”
And — making more history — in September, he became the first black actor since 1998 to earn an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. This time his speech was cut off, but what he started off with got cheers aplenty because it was infused with humor. For instance, he told his This Is Us cast that they were the “best white TV family that a brother ever had. Better than Mr. Drummond. Better than those white folks that raised Webster.”
He also won an Emmy the year before for portraying O.J. Simpson prosecutor Chris Darden in American Crime Story. That time, he gave a sweet shout-out to his co-star Sarah Paulson, but an even better one to his proud wife, saying, “I got the hottest chick in the game rocking my chain.”
And, for the record, he also gushes about Bathe when he’s not collecting awards. When we spoke with him at the arts center for inner city youth, he credited Bathe for holding down the fort with their two young sons, who are ages 6 and 2, so he could come to New York City for the opening. “Ryan Michelle Bathe is an absolute stalwart in our family, and if she’d didn’t exist then nothing else could transpire in terms of my life.”
The guy has a way with words. So, Oscar nominees, heed his advice. The 90th Academy Awards will take place at the Dolby Theatre this Sunday, March 4, at 8 p.m. ET. The ceremony will air live nationwide on ABC.
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