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Sterling K Brown: A Star is Born

As we continue celebrating actors this month, here's Murtada on a new one to cherish. He's our TV MVP this week...

Sarah Paulson brought both pathos and steeliness to spare to her portrayal of Marcia Clark. Courtney B Vance was fiery bluster, daring viewers to take their eyes off him as Johnny Cochran. John Travolta was so infinitely alien as Robert Shapiro that he proved fascinating to watch. Almost every single performance was top notch*. What an ensemble.

And yet the clear standout is Sterling K Brown as Chris Darden.

The finale cemented what everyone watching The People Vs O.J. Simpson suspected throughout the past few weeks; we have a new fantastic actor to be excited about. The calm authority he brought to Darden’s closing argument alone should earn him a lot of accolades. Yet he wasn’t finished. At the post-verdict press conference, he goes about delivering a heartfelt speech and then in a split second he realizes words don’t matter, that’s when Brown breaks our hearts. He walks towards the Goldmans with a hunched back and overcome emotions, his body clearly telling us that’s a defeated man. No that’s not all of it. He then earns more of our admiration in his final standoff with Vance. Again bringing an eerie calm to Darden’s final testament.Through him the show delivers its statement about our current world.

Then there’s his final scene scene with Paulson; clasping hands as they walk away as Nina Simone begins to sing. Throughout the series Brown displayed palpable chemistry with his co-stars. The rat-a-tat of give and take acting with both Vance and Paulson, so riveting to watch. But also more. Didn’t you swoon when he took Paulson into his arms for a dance? Their chemistry is already generating both headlines and obsessive fandom! He’s not only a great actor but perhaps a matinee idol? Those don’t come along that often. I bet a lot of us would look at Brown the way Paulson’s looking at him in the photo above if we got the chance.

We shall be seeing a lot more of Sterling K Brown, starting with the Emmys in September. Have you watched the finale?

*I would’ve said all if it wasn’t for Cuba Gooding Jr.

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Reader Comments (14)

Cosign this piece. He really was terrific in bringing empathy and shading to a character who was really set up for me to not empathize with, for reasons I won't get into. I think I have a slightly more charitable read of Cuba Gooding Jr's performance. I do agree that he was weak compared to the other players, but I think that the writing wasn't necessarily there for Gooding to give a good performance. The show clearly took the (I think) correct position that Simpson most likely was guilty, but I think the writers were a bit out to sea when faced with the difficult task of how to translate that into the actual characterization of him. I think the writing of him as kind of doe-eyed and naive clashed in unpleasant ways with the hypothesis the series was presenting and it never felt like a cohesive character, especially compared to Darden, Clark and Cochrane.

April 8, 2016 | Registered CommenterKieran Scarlett

Yes, SKB is amazing and one of the MVPs of the show.

I am also more charitably disposed toward Cuba's work as O.J. I think he did as good a job as possible, given the fact that O.J. was clearly a supporting character in this version of his own drama. The main problem I had with Cuba's performance was that he was so horribly miscast in the role. It needed someone like Henry Simmons or Dwayne Johnson: tall, athletic and with a wholesome handsomeness that would be out of sync with the violent abuser O.J. was revealed to be.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Sarah Paulson was always going to be my MVP, but Brown really was fantastic. I wasn't really familiar with him at all before this (seemed to be on various TV series that I never watched), but I'm definitely a fan. I hope both win their Emmys for this.

Cuba was fine, and I agree that the writing for him wasn't really there. I thought he would have been more prominently featured going into the series, but I'm kind of glad he wasn't in the end.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

I absolutely loves the series.. This and "Angels in America" are my 2 favorite series for TV.

I thought the cast was amazing.. however; Cuba did not for a second even look the part and as has been said ... no real role writing.

Paulson, Brown , and Vance were amazing. I hope FX will continue to bring this quality of movies to us.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

If memory serves, the real Darden was not held in high public esteem during and directly after the trial. He was considered a goof. Brown made him a believable hero by using nuance and subtlety. Great pick as MVP. This series has somewhat redeemed Ryan Murphy in my eyes.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Sarah Paulson and Vance were the MVP's of this fantastic series. I was a news junkie through the real trial and I did not have a high opinion of Darden or Judge Ito. I still find it difficult to forgive Darden for letting OJ try on the glove, so Brown did a great job of at least getting me to sympathize with his character.
But the best part of this series was the attention they paid to all of the characters, Nathan Lane, John Travolta, Connie Britton, Robert Morse, etc. It wasn't just one or two actors it was the whole ensemble and the accuracy of the production design that made it so good.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

OJ Simpson as a character was there on the page. It is simply impossible for anyone to do justice to him as the walking contradiction that he is.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I thought everyone on the show was amazing, from the lawyers to the jurors. Gooding was miscast physically and there's only so much an actor can do to counter-act that (and the show did him NO favors. If he is 5'7 and supposed to be 6'2 and hulking, then you cast extras that are short and svelte, like they did for Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia")

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjakey

While Paulson and Vance still remain my MVPs, this article certainly makes a great case for Brown.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

Brown also did stellar work on the series Army Wives; do check it out.

As for Cuba: He also does not possess the magnetic charm that made O.J. so universally loved, especially in white America. In his hands, O.J. is an oaf. But that was probably the intention of the filmmakers.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNewMoonSon

Paul Outlaw - Cosign on Henry Simmons as OJ. As soon as I saw Cuba as OJ, first thing I thought was "they should have cast that guy from Lackawanna Blues instead."

Terrific show, the casting directors did a great job outside of OJ. The weakest ones to me were Cuba and David Schwimmer. But hey. Still surprised it was a Ryan Murphy show but good to know he can still produce great work. As long as he doesn't write it.

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSanty C.

I always felt like Travolta--often bad, occasionally good, always ludicrous--was there to remind us that this was indeed a Ryan Murphy production.

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Yes, a thousand times yes. It's a close one between him and Paulson for MVP (with Courtney B. Vance just behind), and I think Paulson just edges him, but we all knew she was good. He's the discovery. I, too, hope this opens a lot of doors for him.

Re: CG, Jr., I'm with those who think he was egregiously miscast but did ok considering. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would've been my pick.

Really, the whole cast was terrific.

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

By the way, if you're in LA, Sterling K. Brown is performing in Suzan-Lori Parks' Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) at the Taper until May 15. I'm going closing night.

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

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