Yvette Nicole Brown on “Fairfax” and Hypebeast Culture

We caught up with the actress about her new role on the Prime Video animated series

July 5, 2022 6:30 am
Yvette Nicole Brown
Yvette Nicole Brown
David Livingston

We know Yvette Nicole Brown for her honesty.

The award-winning actor always finds a way to weave in blaring truths about society — be it dating, love, family battles or more — in her roles, onscreen and behind the scenes as a voice actor.

We might know her for making Loni Love hide under the table on The Real, or from one of her many roles on TV and film, including Shirley Bennett on the NBC comedy show Community or Dina Rose on ABC’s The Mayor.

Among her long list of credits, Brown, 50, has also been on Will & Grace, The Office and That ’70s Show and has been a guest co-host on The View and The Talk. She received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her role in A Black Lady Sketch Show in 2021, where she starred on the sketch comedy show alongside Skye Townsend, Robin Thede and Ashley Nicole Black.

Now, she makes a guest appearance on Fairfax, the Prime Video series that pokes fun at sneakerhead culture, which recently released its second season last month. She plays the role of Trini, the mother of Dale (Skyler Gisondo), a middle-schooler who faces social pressures in an influencer-driven world. Set in the Los Angeles district of Fairfax, it looks at the dark side of hypebeast culture, smartphone addictions, drop culture in fashion and clout chasing, when real friendship is all that really matters.

The series centers around Dale alongside Derica (Kiersey Clemons), Benny (Peter S. Kim) and Truman (Jaboukie Young-White), who learn about the world, both online and offline. It was created and executive produced by Matthew Hausfater, Aaron Buchsbaum and Teddy Riley, and the character artist behind this animated series is Somehoodlum, who worked alongside clothing brand Pizzaslime.

For season two, Brown is a guest voice alongside Billy Porter (Pose), Ben Schwartz (Space Force), John Leguizamo (Encanto), Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek) and more. You can also catch her in Big Shot on Disney+ a series about a women’s basketball team in high school alongside John Stamos, and she stars next in Disney’s Disenchanted. Brown speaks to InsideHook about hypebeast culture, growing up without the internet, student loans and taking the bus seven years into her acting career.

InsideHook: Why do you love Fairfax?

Yvette Nicole Brown: It’s irreverent. It’s silly, but it also has a good message — we’ve all been kids, trying to make it. We’ve all tried to find our way towards popularity, try to find our first love, navigate our relationships with our parents, so even though it’s a little naughty at times — the things that come out of these kids’ mouths — the lesson is always really wonderful.

You grew up in pre-internet times. Was there anything that was like hypebeast or sneakerhead culture?

It was just every high school, church or playground. Someone would come onto the playground with a new pair of Air Jordans, and word-of-mouth was our social media back then. Writing notes and passing them in class, asking, “Did you see their new Air Jordans?” So it has always been there, but the kids are inundated with it now.

Is it dangerous or just a byproduct of internet culture?

Listen, I hate to sound like one of those old people, “back in my day,” but yeah, I think it’s a little dangerous. There is a difference between when I was a kid, is that you only had to keep up with the kids in your school, which was hard enough. Now kids have to keep up with everyone. They’re bombarded with images that say they’re not enough. That’s a lot. They’re beautiful and wonderful just as they are. I don’t know if that message is getting through with social media.

What did you want to bring to the role of Trini, as Dale’s mom, on Fairfax?

Trini is the mom, the voice of reason, a lot of time. But she knows how to step back and let them be kids and figure out life. That’s part of the journey, too. Sometimes learning about right and wrong is learning from our friends’ mistakes; it’s not just about learning it from your mom and dad. Trini is in that vein. She’ll step in when she has to but is encouraging them to learn as they go.

Do you love doing voice work for an animated series?

I love it. While I’m sitting here talking to you on Zoom, on video, I’m wearing pajama pants. That’s what it’s like in voiceover. You could wear pajama pants all the time. It’s just you and your mic, creating characters in a vacuum during the pandemic. Also, with voiceover work, you can be anything. When you’re on-camera, your face and your body dictates what roles you can play; your age, your weight, your body type. But doing voiceover work, I can be a squirrel, a flower, Trini — a Black woman who used to sing backup for Prince on Fairfax. You can be a thousand different things in the voiceover world.

As a woman who does comedic roles, how do you feel about the standup world today?

I’m just a comedic actress. I have a lot of friends who do standup, and I respect their ability to stand in front of a brick wall with a mic and change people’s trajectories while onstage for 30 minutes. It’s a necessary skill. It is a skill. Some people assume because I’m funny that I have done standup, but I have not. Those who do it have crafted these lives, stories, jokes; it’s really an art form.

Who are your favorite women comedians today?

I love Wanda Sykes. Amanda Seales and Loni Love are funny, and so is Yvonne Orji. Who else? Tammy Pescatelli is a friend, I love her, and Wendy Liebman has been a huge influence on me my whole life.

What can you tell us about your role in the upcoming Disney film coming out this November, Disenchanted?

We shot in Ireland; it’s the sequel to Enchanted. Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey are back. Everyone is back! Maya Rudolph is joining this time, I got to join, and it’s directed by the great Adam Shankman. It’s going to be an event — a musical, romantic comedy event. I think people are going to love it.

What advice do you have for young actors today?

My best advice is to live below your means. I think a lot of people get in trouble when they try to keep up with the Jonses. They usually fly to places or buy things for social media clout. Live below. Save your money. You don’t have to have a car. Ride the bus for a while. That’s the way I did it.

How long did you do that for?

My first six or seven years in L.A. I was poor. I was sleeping on couches and floors, working temp jobs and chasing it. I was surviving, but I was also paying off my student loans. It was difficult. I wouldn’t trade those years. Those years of struggle were some of my best times in L.A. because I earned it. It’s good to earn things in life. You respect and appreciate it more.

Trini on “Fairfax”
Courtesy of Prime Video

Back to what you said about not living beyond your means, do you think one of the core messages of Fairfax is to look beyond the hype? Don’t spend $500 on a pair of sneakers?

The people who live in Fairfax, their parents have the money. That’s a whole other conversation. I didn’t have $500 to spend on anything. That was our rent money, back then. Nothing that was happening at my house in Cleveland. Everyone has to find their own way in life. In Fairfax, I hope there’s lessons in there where you can laugh about it, and it’s aspirational, but across the board, people are more important than things. Caring is more important than popularity. Fighting for causes are important, like some characters on Fairfax do. There are some great life lessons, if you watch closely. We wrap the medicine in some honey and sugar and give it to you.

What book has shaped your career as an actor?

Acting in Film: An Actor’s Take on Movie Making by Michael Caine. It’s my favorite acting book. Michael Caine is one of our greatest actors. In the book, he breaks down how to find the little things to do in a scene that most people wouldn’t think about. He has this part in the book where he says if someone on set offers you tea, and you are supposed to respond “Yes, I’d love some tea,” he asks, “How would you use that line if you have to use the bathroom? Or how do you answer if you hate tea?” but if the response is still yes that you want some tea, how does the line change? The way you respond to that line every time will be different. It’s genius.

Is there any quote that you live by?

Kindness matters. Be professionally kind. If you care about people and you are kind, you will go so far in life. It’s better than beauty or talent or money or fame. If you are a kind person, your life will open up to you in wonderful ways. You won’t be a problem to other people, you get to be a blessing everywhere you go. Kindness matters.

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