Interview: Dusan Brown

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Dusan Brown, acting extraordinaire — that's what Dusan Brown's business card should read. Despite his young age, Dusan has already been on television, the big screen and even Broadway!

The 12 year old will star as AJ in Nickelodeon's upcoming animated series Blaze and the Monster Machines, which introduces the young ones to science and technology. He also appears on NBC's sitcom About a Boy as Jackson, a friendly "cool" kid. Oh, and did we mention that he was also in 42, where he acted alongside Hollywood legend Harrison Ford?

Dusan had a chat with Musichel about his acting career, Blaze and the Monster Machines, meeting Harrison Ford in 42 and About a Boy. Have a read to learn more about this budding star!

What made you want to become an actor at such a young age?
Well, initially I was a "shoo-in", because my older brother was already in the industry. I booked my first job at about 5 weeks old in Chicago, where I'm from, and have been enjoying it ever since. Since I can remember, I've just always enjoyed making people laugh and entertaining people, so I guess you can say I was a natural born ham. Now that I'm older, I enjoy becoming different people — getting out of my comfort zone, playing someone else that's not me. I like the feeling of tapping into or playing different people, especially if the character is completely different than me and especially characters that are a little neurotic... like multiple personality types.

Tell us about your upcoming animated series Blaze and the Monster Machines.
WOW! What can I say... Blaze and The Monster Machines is a brand-new animated series debuting this fall on Nickelodeon. Blaze introduces preschoolers to the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and it’s the first of its kind. So it feels absolutely amazing, knowing that I'm THE FIRST to introduce a first! Viewers will join me, AJ, an eight-year-old boy and my incredible monster truck Blaze on some spectacular adventures. The graphics are so "futuristic", yet adorable, I think viewers are going to fall in love with this show.

I also am the singing voice of AJ in Blaze, so that was a blessing being cast in both roles, too. Although Blaze targets pre-schoolers, there were many times when I'd get a script where the episode was introducing a subject that I had recently studied myself in school... and I'm in 6th grade! I'm definitely a science and technology guy, so learning about friction, velocity, fulcrums and other fascinating science facts, was quite thrilling. I was anxious to receive the next script, wondering what exciting new subject AJ would be introducing.

Doing voiceover work, for me, was so much fun and quick. Although they'd set aside two hours to record an entire episode, I was so into it, I'd be in and out in thirty minutes. The director made it fun and really helped me to truly embrace and implement the changes, pickups and notes given by the producers. He said it's not always this easy or quick for most people, but that I had a gift, so I guess that always helps. For the singing sessions, because of the many melodies and layers to make the song sound full, those sessions often took up the entire two hours, but were just as fun to record. I can't wait for everyone to see the show and hear the songs!

Which do you prefer: on-screen acting or voice acting?
I like the whole idea of going to set or a location, interacting with other actors, observing the whole "Hollywood magic" come to life, watching how the director decides on the camera angles, meeting new people and the works... so I'd have to say on-screen acting for me. It's always pretty fun, too, when my cousins and relatives get to see me on-screen and a lot of times, my family will host a TV night so that's really fun, watching with them. With voiceover acting, it’s kind of like wrestling — although you're a part of a team, it's really an individual sport. Whenever I'd bump into a cast-mate leaving the recording booth or studio, I'd get very excited because it doesn't happen often, considering how animated shows are engineered and put together. It's very fascinating though, watching how it all comes together... all the details involved with making the animation move just right, and talking or singing and watching how the animators made the character show emotion...

What was working with the legendary Harrison Ford in 42 like?
I didn't get to work with him directly. The day that I was scheduled to be on set at the same time he was, his jet, which by the way he flies himself, was delayed. I did get to meet and speak with him for an extended time though at the after-party. He's a really cool person. I didn't think he'd be that cool, but he's really down to earth and he told me to keep doing what I'm doing, which I guess is a good thing especially coming from a legend like him. The majority of my scenes were shot with Chadwick Boseman, who treated me like a little brother on set. He's an amazing actor and an even better and amazing person.

You currently guest-star in the NBC sitcom About A Boy. Tell us about your character Jackson.
Jackson is a friendly, good-natured eleven year old boy who thinks Marcus is awesome and hilarious, and is the first kid in school to befriend him. My character is sort of like a cool kid (cooler than Marcus, but still not a traditionally "cool" kid, sort of like me in real life). He thinks Marcus is a little weird, but really enjoys his company.

Are there any common attributes that you and Jackson share?
Sure. Jackson and I both have afros [laughs], Jackson and I both play video games... We're pretty much the same person!

Seriously though, we both care about people and understand how things work, such as the importance of making the new kid on the block feel included. For example, in the episode "About A Poker Night", Marcus comes to Jackson's pyjama party — his first one ever — and he sort of acted hesitant about watching the scary movie. Jackson asked if he wanted to watch, he agreed and we did, in that episode. In real life, one of my close friends was visiting my place and I wanted to play Slenderman, a scary game you can download and play... Well, I made sure he was okay with it, before we started playing.

You have appeared on several hit TV series such as The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. Which show was your favorite show to guest-star on?
So far, guest-starring on About A Boy has been my favourite, mainly because the cast included other kids, whom I've gotten to know pretty well and had fun working with.

We hear that you will be starring in the forthcoming movie Chaining Day. Tell us about your role in this film and how you prepared for your role.
In Chaining Day, which debuts in June at the LA Film Fest (I can't wait!), I play a character that's inspired by a real person by the name of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, whose life story was featured on the cover of Time magazine. Chaining Day tackles the situations that occur when kids get caught up in the midst of gang violence and gun violence. It's my first lead role and this character is a very dramatic role, which I was thrilled to learn that I booked. I'm from Chicago and so was Yummy. Also, I'm normally cast in the comedic roles so I'm excited to have had the opportunity to stretch my budding acting chops and play someone whose short, volatile life has impacted so many people.

I prepared for the role in several ways. One way, which is interesting, this past summer, my dad actually drove my brother and I by the viaduct where Yummy was shot and killed by his fellow gang members. He also showed us the corner where Yummy accidentally shot and killed the girl. So having the advantage of being from Chicago and being able to actually see the places that Yummy lived and went to school helped me to get more into the character. I was able to recall those visions and really get in the moment while filming. The director also emailed me links to clips that were very helpful from the movie Fresh and other documentaries that were filmed about Robert "Yummy" Sandifer. I got my hair braided too, to get even more into character.

Not only have you conquered the small screen but you've also been on the big screen and Broadway. What is your biggest career goal at the moment?
My biggest career goal at the moment is to work or even be in the same presence as these four amazing, legendary actors: Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, Kevin Hart and Denzel Washington. My favourite is Kevin Hart. I'd LOVE the opportunity to work with all of them in the near future. I think it'd be the most fun working alongside Kevin Hart and Jamie Foxx and I think I'd learn so much while working alongside Will Smith & Denzel Washington. I have to mention how much I love Martin Lawrence too. Oh yeah, having my own TV show with my big brother, would be a dream come true, too... I envision something like a Kenan & Kel or even The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air mixed with Romeo!... something like that I think could be a hit today. Now, we just need to find some writers, producers, directors, a network and get green-lit, right?

Having worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, do you ever get starstruck meeting celebrities?
Yes! I remember seeing Chris Brown walking by — we were leaving The Butler screening and he was heading into the theater for a private screening. I wanted to say something so badly, but my body wouldn't allow me... My mouth just wouldn't work and if you know me, you’d know that that's nearly impossible. But my mum saw me stuttering and pointing and helped me snap out of it so that I wouldn't regret not having said anything at all. So then I went over and asked if I could take a picture with him. I didn't even remember to introduce myself, but that's all I could say. He's one of my favorite entertainers and I've been watching his music videos since I was a baby, imitating his dance moves, teaching myself to do backflips and stuff, like him. I was definitely starstruck!

Other than that, so far, the celebrities that I've been blessed to work with, I've been able to maintain my professionalism pretty well. Now, who knows, if one of my four acting inspirations were to approach me or I bump into them or have a chance to work with them, I might get starstruck again. But in the past, so far so good.

Photo credits: Frazer Harrison / Getty ImagesAlberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

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