Yvette Nicole Brown keeping busy onscreen

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Yvette Nicole Brown (left) and Valerie Bertinelli in an episode of Hollywood Game Night on NBC. -- (Trae Patton/NBC)

Former local resident and longtime friend of this column Yvette Nicole Brown is having a busy summer onscreen.

Not long ago on NBC’s Hollywood Game Night she won $25,000 for a contestant and $10,000 for her chosen charity, the Amazing Grace Conservatory. She was on ABC’s The Chew. She has a supporting role in the new Percy Jackson film, Sea of Monsters, which opens next week. She was part of the Community cast’s recent appearance at Comic-Con. And she will begin work on that show’s fifth season later this month. So we recently caught up on some of her activities — and one job she would really like to get.

The Percy Jackson Part. Along with Missi Pyle and Mary Birdsong Brown plays the ancient and eeerie Gray sisters in the film, the second one based on a series of young-adult novels. While she is excited about the movie coming out, she noted that her role called for heavy makeup and prostheses. Very heavy, in fact.

“I realized, like women who have babies and forget about labor pains, that now all I think [about Jackson] is that it was a wonderful shoot,” she said. “And it was a wonderful shoot. It’s just that the prosthetics were very difficult for me and my co-stars.

“The people that put them on us and took them off of us were amazing. It wasn’t the process of being with those people that was difficult. It was that you don’t realize how much you lean on your senses. Touch, sight, smell — all of my senses, if they weren’t taken completely away, they were dulled to a point where they were no longer useful to me. There were prosthetics on my hands. My eyes were blacked out. My ears were covered. Every part of my senses that I use to interact with the world were dulled or gone.”

But how do you act when you’re in that situation? “Most of our stuff was seated, which I felt was very safe for us,” she said. (They had people helping them move between shoots.) “The prosthetics were very expressive. Like, if I raised an eyebrow, the eyebrow in the makeup went up. That’s why we had so many makeup tests so we made sure it didn’t look like a mask — that it could do everything an actor could do.”

And now, she said, “I’m forgetting that stuff and I’m seeing the images from the film, and it was so worth it.”

Community Coming Back. The series about the folks in a study group at a community college has been getting extra attention because creator Dan Harmon is returning one season after getting fired from the show. Moses Port and David Guarascio ran the show during the 2012-13 season, though some hardcore fans found their efforts disappointing.

“I felt like last season was all right,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of commentary on that other stuff. I do feel that it’s unfair not to thank David and Moses for getting us through our fourth season. It’s a little bit unkind and unfair to not be very grateful for them stepping into a difficult situation and doing the best they could. We would not have a season five if we did not have a season four.”

At the same time, she said: “We are overjoyed that Dan is back. He created these characters, he created this universe. I always think that after a certain amount of years the actor knows the character maybe better than anyone. But I have to say that Dan may know the characters as well or better as those of us embodying them for 16 hours a day for four years.”

Brown said she has not seen a script yet; the first table reading will be on Aug. 12, her birthday, with shooting resuming a week later. She has been trying to pick up hints from Harmon’s comments on Twitter and at Comic-Con but “I don’t know which way it’s going to go. Maybe it will be that great mix of one wacky episode, one grounded, one wacky, one grounded.”

Comic-Con Craziness. The huge TV and movie event was especially big for Brown and Community this year because of the return of Harmon. “Usually I come the day before the panel and leave the day of the panel,” she said, “but this was the first time I had things to do to promote the show [for four days]. Wow, just the number of outfits you need!” she said with a laugh. “For girls, it’s a big deal, because there’s cameras everywhere and you want to look nice, and a lot of fashion stuff that goes through your mind. I’m not a clotheshorse but you want to look nice every time you show up to talk about the show.”

A self-described nerd, Brown used to go to Comic-Con just as a fan but does not anymore. “There are so many fans of Community. And I’m the kind of person where I can’t put my head down and ignore people calling my name. That’s rude. They all want to take pictures and chat, and I want to do that with them. So it’s a situation where you can’t get to the figurine of Yoda that you’re trying to find.”

Still, she said, “It’s a small thing to give up when you think about everything you get, you know what I mean?” She can see a time when she can go back to Comic-Con as a fan “when Community is done and I’m back to being a journeyman actor.”

Hollywood Game Night. The series puts teams of three celebrities and one non-celebrity in competition in various parlor games, as well as considerable off-camera drinking, as host Jane Lynch has more than once mentioned.

Brown’s success came not only from a keen competitive sense and game smarts but also from a likely advantage over the imbibers.

“It’s a party, so merriment is encouraged,” she said. “I don’t drink, so it’s easy to say no.” Nor was she going to risk costing a contestant 25K by drinking. “This was a chance of a lifetime for someone. Let me help.”

And That Dream Job? Brown really really wants to return to Talking Dead, the discussion show following AMC’s The Walking Dead, which begins a new season on Oct. 13. And she wants to be there for the season premiere.

“I have been subliminally sending mental messages to (Talking Dead host) Chris Hardwick: Please, please, please. I love doing the show, but it goes beyond doing the show. I want to do Talking Dead because I get to see the (Walking) episode early. When you do the show, you get the episode a day or so early. So my hope is that they’ll have me back on that first show. Please. Did you see the trailer? It looks so good.”

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.

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