The Fatherly Questionnaire: Sterling K. Brown
"He’s basically playing hockey with a putter while I'm trying to work on my putting technique."
As we enter television awards season, one name will be on your lips more often than not: Sterling K. Brown. Brown, who already won an Emmy for his portrayal as Christopher Darden in The People v. OJ: American Crime Story. Currently, Brown plays Randall Pearson on the NBC drama This Is Us. In an ensemble cast marked by sensitive and subtle portrayals, Pearson’s own storyline — his search to reconnect with his birth father — forms the narrative backbone. Brown’s own father, also named Sterling, died when the actor was ten-years-old. Now, as a father himself, Sterling, who also stars in the upcoming Thurgood Marshall biopic Marshall and the upcoming mega-hit Black Panther, took our Fatherly Questionnaire.
What is your name?
Sterling Kelby Brown.
I am a thespian, also known as an actor.
41 years of age.
How old are your children?
Six and twenty-two months old.
What are their names?
My six year old is named Andrew. My twenty-two month old is named Amare.
Are they named after anyone in particular?
My oldest Andrew is. I had a college friend named Andrew Jacob Dare, who passed away the year after we graduated undergrad. We’re still not sure how he died. He was either pushed, fell or jumped from a fifth story window. But my son is named after him. I have a very tight group of college friends. There are six of us currently but there should have been seven. Andrew was the seventh. Now, at least, I can keep his name alive with my son.
Do you have any nicknames for your kids?
Andrew’s name is Andrew Jason Sterling Brown. He’s got lots of good names. If he ever wants to run for president one day, he’s got options. But I sometimes just call him AJB, the Sterling is almost parenthetical. The baby Amare I really just call, “Sweet Baby.” I say “Hi, Sweet Baby.” That’s his nickname right now.
What do they call you?
They call me daddy. Everyone once in awhile the six year old says dad and mybaby, my sweet baby, says, “Sterling.” “Hi, Sterling.” he says. I say, “Hi baby.” It’s cool.
How often do you see them?
Everyday. Andrew is going to summer camp right now so hopefully I’m there to get him to camp in the morning. Then, if it’s a late night at work, they may be asleep by the time I get home, but I try to make it home in time to put them to sleep. This Is Us films in LA so I get to see them all the time. The most time I spent away from them was when I was on location in Vancouver or Atlanta working for Black Panther and The Predator.
Describe yourself as a father in three words.
Growing. I know I am growing because I don’t have all the answers. Inquisitive. Open.
Describe your father in three words.
Awesome. Funny, but you can erase funny because this next one is all encompassing: unconditionally loving. I started using my father’s name, Sterling, as my first name when I was sixteen. When I was a kid, I thought Sterling was a very adult name. My mom tells the story that after the first day of kindergarten I came home and said, “Sterling is eight letters and Kelby is five so I’m just going to go by Kelby and when I turn sixteen you can call me Sterling again.” My father passed away when I was ten and, by the time I was sixteen, it had been a long time since I had heard his name. I just wanted to hear his name again. It had been too long and his presence had been gone long enough that I wanted something to reassert his presence in my life. So I just told everyone, “Call me Sterling.”
Just as it is with my son, so it is with my father, It gives me great joy when people say my name. I get to hear my father’s name and when I say my son’s name, I get to call back my friend.
What are your strengths as a father?
I’m a fun dad. Most dads are Good Time Charlies and most moms are trying to lay down the law. I lay down the law too, but I’m a good time Charlie. I recognize I have as much to learn from these boys as they from me, if not more.
What are your weaknesses as a father?
Patience. Every once in awhile, the patience runs thin. In the times in which your children are testing you and testing their boundaries, it’s good to remember those ujjayi breaths and take as many as you need.
What is your favorite activity to do with your kids?
Miniature golf. For some reason, Andrew absolutely adores it. It’s fun for me too. He’s basically playing hockey with a putter while I’m trying to work on my putting technique. But, we have so much fun together. Occasionally, I’ll see him focus and gets a perfect swing. It’s not the swing that makes me proud. It’s his ability and desire to focus and do something the right way.
What has been the moment you were most proud of as a dad?
During a recent soccer game, Andrew ran somebody down who had a breakaway. I don’t even know if he stopped the goal or not, but the effort he expended on the defensive side of the ball was spectacular. I think I probably cried and had to wipe it away so I didn’t look like some crazy emotional dad at soccer practice with a bunch of five, six, and seven year olds. But when I see that effort extended, nothing gets me more than that.
What heirloom did your father give to you if any?
My father had a gold ring that I had. I say ‘had’ because I lost it. I was eighteen when I lost it. I was about to go to college and I really wanted to take it with me. I felt awful that it was the one really important he would wear it all the time. I used to look at it and think how shiny and cool that ring was. Hopefully he forgives me. I think he does, but I still wish I had that ring.
What heirloom do you want to leave your children if anything?
I don’t wear too many things. Maybe I’ll get some things. My grandfather left my uncle a Rolex which was a big thing for an African American man to have a Rolex to leave behind for a son. I do have a few statues. Andrew once said, ‘Why do you win all the awards? I don’t have any awards.’ I said, ‘Buddy, do you want one of mine?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘OK. You can have one.’ Then he was instantaneously happy.
Describe the “Dad Special” for dinner.
It involves a phone call. Or leftovers.
Are you religious and are you raising your kid in that tradition?
I am spiritual more than I am religious. I grew up Christian but, since then, I believe Jesus Christ led me to a relationship with my God. As I get older, I recognize the relationship with God supercedes the method by which you get there. I’m trying to raise my kids to bear good fruit. We go to a non denominational church called the Agape International Spiritual Center. Recognizing that we are all connected to each other is something I hope to pass along to both my boys.
What’s a mistake you made growing up that you want to ensure your children do not repeat?
I got suspended from high school for five days for fighting. Just for a silly, testosterone infused, somebody was talking crap about you so you beat them up. I hope that I am able to illustrate for my children that violence is never an answer to anything and you must use your words. That’s something I repeat quite frequently.
How do you make sure your children know you love them?
I say it as much as possible. Sometimes my son will catch me staring at him and say, “Daddy why are you looking at me like that?” I say, “Buddy, I just love you. Seeing your face just makes me incredibly happy. So thank you for being here.” He’ll say, “You’re welcome daddy. I love you too.” I hug and I’m also a kisser. Not only am I a kisser, I’m a lip kisser. This dad will kiss his two boys on the lips as long as he can, until they say, “Really dad, I’m seventeen years old. Can you stop?” I’ll be like, “If you make me, I will. But if you let me, I’ll going to keep going.”