“I Actually Have Been A Chad.” Neil Brown Jr. Talks His First Comedic TV Role And Bringing Life To His ‘Insecure’ Character
You know you’ve seen him somewhere, but you may not be able to exactly say where. Maybe it was in the films Straight Out of Compton or Battle: Los Angeles. Or just maybe you’ve recently took to rolling your eyes at his character “Chad”, Lawrence’s best friend on HBO’s Insecure. Either way, Neil Brown Jr. is clear about one fact: He’s not new to this. The actor recently sat down Essence to discuss the twenty years of experience he brings to his most recent role, and just what he does and doesn’t have in common with his unflinchingly honest character.
It may come as a surprise, but the role on Insecure is Neil Brown’s first comedic television role ever. In addition to film he’s also had roles on NCIS and CSI. He shares that his overnight success actually has taken place over two decades:
“I was out here in L.A. working in film when I had no agent or manager or nothing.”
“I was very blessed, God took care of me. I just stayed the course. I haven’t had a real job since I was 18. There wasn’t planned intent. I was very fortunate to be able to work in Florida and then do some work out here [L.A.], but it took years for me to get work-work out here.”
Brown Jr. revealed that when he’s not filming, he’s being a father to two sons, ages 17 and 19. Although his character may co-sign Lawrence running between two women, Brown Jr. has been with his high school sweetheart for over twenty years. He says at one point when making his way through Hollywood, he found himself living in a one-room apartment with his oldest son and a then pregnant wife. He shares his current success had made all of the hard times worth it.
Discovered as a child in a Dojo martial arts class, he adds how he came across the opportunity to join the Insecure cast:
“My agent was like ‘Yo, you ain’t got nothing funny on the reel. We need to get some.’ Insecure is my first TV show comedy. I was buggin’. I was a little intimated because these guys are all so great at what they do, you know?”
But just how much does Brown Jr. relate to Chad? He says in the past he had a lot in common with his character, but now not so much:
“I actually have been a Chad. I let my homie stay on my couch for 11 months. Yeah, some people call me like an angel, I don’t know…”
“Chad is everyone and no one at the same time.”
Brown Jr. reveals that he taps into his younger self, older uncles when it comes to making his character believable. Beyond that, Chad’s endearing sense of humor is all the work of writers and show-runner, Prentice Penny. He says as the series continue, he learns more and more how to make Chad real for the viewers:
“I’ve gotten a better understanding of how to portray Chad. It’s the little things. For instance, he takes away the power from Issa by just calling her ‘old girl’ —so he doesn’t make her a real person.”
He also shares why he thinks the show resonates so well with its audience:
“So I understand. That’s one of the things that drew me to Insecure. The way it was written, it was close to real life. I mean, you see some shows that kinda touch on the reality that is our lives as Black people, as mixed people, I am mixed, but we’re so varied in our existence. That’s why we come in all shades, right?”
You can read the exclusive interview in its entirety here.