Interview with Aussie actor & Bollywood star Nicholas Brown

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Nicholas Brown is an Australian actor, singer, songwriter, and screenwriter. He grew up in the Western Sydney suburb of Greysteins. Nicholas attended Newtown High School of the Performing Arts in years 11 and 12 as an auditioned drama student and is an acting graduate from Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art.

Qu.1. What made you want to be in the acting industry?

Music was the catalyst without a doubt. I was a child singer and did a lot of musicals when I was young. I sang in a professional boys choir and got a taste for showbiz through that. We did lots of gigs around Sydney and recorded albums with several singers. Through song lyrics I became interested in acting. I always loved drama classes when I was young but the entry point was definitely through musicals. My dad hired a video camera back in the eighties to film one of my school musicals  and we were able to have it in the house for a few days after. At seven, I had planned a film shoot with the kids up the road and I was going to use the hired video camera to direct and act in it. That’s when I first became interested in film making.
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Qu.2. Where are you based now and what are you working on?
I’m based in Sydney after a good nine years going back and forth between Mumbai and Los Angeles. Right now I’m in rehearsals for my self penned play Lighten Up for Griffin Independant. I’ve just finished shooting a feature in Arnhem Land called Myth which is an art house road trip film engaging with the Indigenous community in remote Northern Territory. This year I’ve also shot two Indian feature films. One Bollywood horror film called Prattichhaya  and the other a spy thriller called Sedition. Both will be released next year. I’m feeling very grateful as it’s been a good year.
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Qu.3. What is your favourite role in your career & why?
Sedition is the film that I just shot in the Himalayas. The character’s name is Shiva. It was by far the most challenging role I’ve played. In Australian film and TV I’m often a supporting role so it was refreshing to play a lead. It was extremely psychologically and physically challenging so in that sense it was my favourite. The experience was rather harrowing but in hindsight I think it’s my favourite role so far for those reasons. Other favourite roles would have to be Jesus in the Indian Jesus Christ Superstar, Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast, Tony in the Bollywood film Kites and Sachin in Network Ten’s The Cooks.
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Qu.4. Who were your role models growing up and why?
In Australia there were no diverse actors on TV. My role models were all Caucasian actors. I didn’t actually realise I was ‘ethnic’ until I was older. A lot of my identity issues would have been dealt with in an easier way if I’d grown up looking up to other non Caucasian actors. If only I grew up watching Bollywood. That all came later.  In my early twenties Ben Kingsley became a huge role model. I remember feeling very inspired by Jay L’aagalia on Water Rats and by Deborah Mailman on Secret Life Of Us.
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Qu.5
 What do you think about colourblind casting in Australia? Do you think we’re doing enough?
We’ve been lagging behind for years. It’s something that has left me exhausted, frustrated but still hopeful. It’s a hot topic now and I’ve been vocal about it for sixteen years. I just get on with things these days. I’ve been slowly chipping away, creating my own work when doors were closed. Moving to India was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. If Australia didn’t have place for a brown actor then I would go somewhere that did. Things definitely are getting better and that makes me very happy. I’m all for quotas. I know it’s a controversial subject and that people argue that the best person for the job should get the job but in an industry saturated by Caucasians actors – all of those people seen as the best are white and have reached that point because of the way the industry once was. To create a diverse industry in the future I think we need quotas to get new diverse actors (who’ve been devoid of opportunity) trained and experienced so they can be the ‘best.’ Let’s reach a state of equality, then scrap the quotas, then the best person for the job can get the job.
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Nicholas Brown will be starring in Lighten Up which will be performed at Griffin Theatre. A play produced by Bali Padda and written by Nicholas Brown and Sam McCool.
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Crowd funding Pozible campaign for Lighten Up https://pozible.com/project/lighten-up
Crowd funding ends 4th November 2016.
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Director & Dramaturge

Shane Anthony

Cast

Katie Beckett, Nicholas Brown, Vivienne Garrett, Julie Goss, Sam McCool, Bishanyia Vincent

Producer Bali Padda | Stage Manager Lauren Tulloh

Set & Costume Design Tobhiyah Stone Feller | Lighting Design Christopher Page

Sound Design & Composer | Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers

Written by Australia’s own Bollywood leading man, Nicholas Brown and stand-up comedy star, Sam McCool, Lighten Up is a cross-cultural romantic comedy about racism and triumphantly owning your identity… and bleaching your bits!

Lighten Up is a laugh-out-loud comedy that follows John Green, an Indian-Australian man living in Western Sydney. John, an actor, dreams of being cast in his favourite soap, ‘Bondi Parade’ where blonde-haired, blue-eyed people abound. The problem for John? His skin is more brown than white, his eyes more brown than blue, his hair more brown than blonde – in fact, he’s just entirely too brown. Meanwhile John’s overbearing, skin-bleaching mother Bronwyn has high hopes for him to procreate with a white Australian woman and so cleanse the family of any further ‘ethnicity’ in their bloodline. However, Bronwyn’s dreams are shattered when John falls in love with a beautiful Indigenous woman named Sandy. Despite everything and everyone in his way, John is determined to be recognised as ‘true blue’… or whatever colour it is that Australians are supposed to be!

In Sydney, there is a large amount of ‘white’ theatre and a welcomed rise in Indigenous theatre, however the mainstream theatre landscape seems somewhat devoid of the cultural melting pot – the in-between of mixed races and cultures that typifies the backgrounds of many Australians. With so many of us from mixed and migrant backgrounds, it is from these communities that many of our stories will spring. Lighten Up is the first play by an Indian-Australian creator about the Indian-Australian community staged at a professional theatre company in Sydney.

For creator Nicholas Brown, an Indian-Australian NIDA-trained actor who has gone on to great success in Bollywood, starring in numerous films including the blockbuster Kites opposite Hrithik Roshan and smash-hit Love You To Death, the idea for Lighten Up first came 11 years ago. Initially a film script, Lighten Up was a reaction to Brown’s own experiences as a mixed-race actor in the casting arena in Australia. Of this time Brown says:

“After graduating from NIDA in 2000 it became very clear to me that I was treated very differently because of my skin colour and cultural background. At that time there was so much systemic racism in the entertainment industry. Writing about it was therapeutic. I also wanted to write a story about being stuck in between two different cultures, about being mixed race and the complications that go with that.”

Brown finally embraced his heritage and moved to India where his career soared, but he also took note of the fact that race and appearance in India seemed equally as skewed as it was in Australia – the most popular cosmetic product in India being a skin-lightening lotion. Brown recognised that there was a cross-cultural story in all this hypocrisy of human nature and so turned his attentions back to his script for Lighten Up. Brown contacted comedian Sam McCool after seeing some of his hilarious and even-handed material that focussed on race. McCool jumped at the chance to work with Brown on a new theatrical version of Lighten Up. The new script was put into development with Sydney Theatre Company for their Rough Drafts program in 2015 and caught the eye of Bali Padda, actor, producer and Co-Chair of the Equity Diversity Committee who decided that he wanted to produce the show for Griffin Independent 2016.

Lighten Up is a very clever and very funny show that tackles some very touchy subjects and treats them with both dignity and humour to highlight the multicultural, ‘real’ Australia that we see out on the streets and in our neighbourhoods. Lighten Up is a play that shines a light on human prejudices, understanding of cultural identity and what we can all learn from one another if we could all just lighten up a bit!

LIGHTEN UP

SBW Stables Theatre 10 Nimrod St, Kings Cross

Season:                         30th November – 17th December 2016

Previews:                        7pm Wednesday 30th November, Thursday 1st December

Opening Night:                        7pm Friday 2nd December

Performances:                        7pm Monday – Saturday. Matinees: Saturday 17th December 2pm

Tickets:                                    $38 Full | $30 Concession, Seniors, Groups 8+, Previews, Under 35s. | $20 Monday Rush Booking fees apply

Ages:                                    15 years +

Bookings:                         www.griffintheatre.com.au or 02 9361 3817

Photos courtesy of Nicholas Brown and Griffin Theatre.
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