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Actor Rob Brown’s versatility is all over NBC’s ‘Blindspot’

Working as a film actor taught him ‘how to fit 20 pounds of action and drama in a five-pound bag’

He was born in Harlem, raised in Brooklyn and now lives in the same neighborhood that he attributes to helping shape him. Actor Rob Brown says being a New Yorker has served him well in the “industry.” Now he’s in the midst of his role as FBI Special Agent Edgar Reade on NBC’s Blindspot, which airs every Wednesday.

“I feel like New Yorkers go after things. We have a certain amount of strength and we’re not afraid to fail.”

In Blindspot, Reade has no memory of the past. His suppressed memory and the unsolved mysteries include the murder of Coach Jones — an adult he befriended at Mulmur Hills Football Camp. Reade attended the University of Michigan, where he still holds the record for most receiving yards. In a chilling plot twist, the character wonders if he was one of Coach Jones’ sexual abuse victims and he is trying to figure out if he was somehow involved in his murder while doing his job as an FBI agent.

Brown’s character is also a former college football player in Blindspot. He played sports growing up and stakes his claim as a huge sports fan because it involves a high level of collaboration.

‘I just love collaborating,” Brown said. “That’s what I love to do in general. On small projects, on big projects, if I look in my history, I’m always involved in some kind of project with a group of people. I love collaborations. Football teams, for example, you need 11 guys working towards one goal and they all have different assignments. If one guy breaks an assignment, he kind of destroys the integrity of a play. I really enjoy teamwork and celebrating everyone’s individual virtuosity that ultimately comes together to form something great.”

While attending college at Amherst, Brown balanced his education and his acting career. He took on the role of high school basketball player and young father to portray Kenyon Stone in the 2005 biopic Coach Carter. His basketball coach in the film? Samuel L. Jackson, who played the lead role as Ken Carter.

Brown, 32, is known for his breakout lead role in the 2001 feature film Finding Forrester, starring alongside Sean Connery. Brown was thrust into the role with no previous acting experience and nailed it.

Brown played the lead role in The Express opposite Dennis Quaid, in which he was nominated for an NAACP best actor award for his performance.

He was in a starring role with actor Antonio Banderas in New Line’s feature Take the Lead. In 2009, Brown was next to Hollywood stars Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the Paramount feature film Stop-Loss.

“In those films in particular we worked a lot of hours. We kind of fit 20 pounds of action and drama in a five-pound bag,” Brown said.

He was a regular for four seasons on the critically acclaimed HBO series Treme, a depiction of life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The show ended its run in 2014.

Brown says he’s been taught by some of the best educators and coaches in the country.

“I grew up without a father, but I don’t think I missed out on anything because at any given time I was being coached by some guy who kind of stepped in. It’s like a composite that I’ve carried with me that I’m proud of. I try to take good examples seriously,” Brown said.

Rob Brown as Edgar Reed

Rob Brown as Edgar Reade.

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The most difficult part of Brown’s journey has been transitioning quickly from role to role because of so many acting opportunities.

“I’ve been blessed throughout the years to move around and travel, but that constant transition is kind of a drag – just moving and getting and settled in again. I guess I’m lazy in that regard. I don’t like moving and packing boxes,” Brown said.

While he doesn’t have much of a footprint on social media, he does engage on Twitter and Instagram.

Brown’s bursting onto the acting scene with big stars so early in his career has called for times where he’s had to display a high level of courage.

“I think it’s a function of growing up in New York,” Brown said. “I’m willing to try anything within reason. I’ve been blessed to go to school and end up doing what I do now. As a black man I have to be courageous if for no other reason, things are counterintuitive. From that standpoint it’s nothing for me to go into an audition.”

Brown plays an FBI agent on the NBC show, but he has experienced his own share of woes with law enforcement.

In June 2013, Brown was on the receiving end of racial profiling. After purchasing a $1,350 watch as a gift for his mother at the flagship Macy’s store in Manhattan’s Herald Square, he was stopped by three plainclothes New York Police Department detectives.

Brown filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of himself and other individuals of color who have experience racial profiling at the store, according to court documents in November 2013.

The following June he reached “settlement in principle” in the racial profiling lawsuits against Macy’s and New York.

“I’m not afraid of the police,” Brown said. “I don’t avoid them. I respect them. But I have been actively trying not to get shot. I think they’re treated unfairly. Like the difference of pay in New York City cops and county cops. It doesn’t make any sense. But on the flip, automatically it sucks … ”

Brown says sometimes there is a feeling that when he’s driving around he has to be conscious of where police are, fearing that he could get pulled over.

 

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.