As some of you know, after I finished my art history undergraduate degree at Stanford, I stayed on for a one-year master’s program in the drama department. While my major’s emphasis was on dance theory and criticism, I did take several classes that dealt with acting. One of these was Drama 162, Performance and the Actor, taught by Professor Alice Rayner in Winter Quarter 1998. It was a small seminar that blended roundtable discussions, readings of various plays, and stage work. I entertained no notions of becoming a great actor myself, but I felt privileged to watch my classmates’ performances. Most memorable was the lesson on Meyerhold’s biomechanical method of acting, which emphasizes physical technique as pure expression of the craft. One student took Meyerhold’s ideals to a mesmerizing extreme, performing the sales contest monologue from David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross while spinning a dinner plate. The effect was spellbinding, and I know I wasn’t the only person sitting there thinking “Sterling Brown is going to be a major star someday.”
I didn’t know Brown well (since he was in the undergraduate program), and I haven’t seen him since the department’s graduation ceremony in 1998. Even so, I’ve always watched his career with interest. When The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story aired earlier this year, I knew that Brown’s performance would be his long-deserved breakthrough. On the other hand, the role of prosecutor Christopher Darden is fairly understated, and I feared that Emmy voters would choose one of the flashier star turns.
I admit I wasn’t paying full attention to the Emmys tonight, thanks to last-minute dinner guests and occasional glances at the World Cup of Hockey Finland/North America game. (I don’t really approve of the World Cup, since I don’t understand why the NHL would risk injuries to many of its best players right before the season, but hockey is hockey.) Nevertheless, I managed to catch the moment when Brown gave his Emmy acceptance speech for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, and I cheered. Sometimes Hollywood does get it right! Kudos to you, Sterling K. Brown, and I wish you success with This Is Us in the fall.