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Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. as Marvel's Black Panther and a Jedi Knight? Indeed!

Bruce Gerard Brown's most recent headshot.
NOLA VIEUX Photograhy

First impressions can be a slippery slope as you begun to get to know an individual and perhaps their true personality is revealed to you-intenationally or not! There are individuals that immediately strike a person as marvelously decent and well rounded human beings. The same rule can be applied to interviews and is brought up in the case of actor and teacher, Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. This writer was given the opportunity to interview this remarkably well adjusted and wonderfully intellectual actor and teacher about his career, his life and perhaps a shot at playing the iconic Marvel Comics character known as Black Panther as the comic book character is rumored to be on track to make his appearance in a Marvel Films production that is soon to be announced. He could also comfortably fit into the Star Wars universe as a character of his own creation called Kaanan Ardaare.

Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. is a handsome gentleman of African-American descent who is in incredible shape due to his decision to take up martial arts training. Beyond his peak physical condition, Brown's intellect matches and surpasses his striking exterior visage and this fact did manifest itself during the course of the interview! Introductions are needed and Brown begins, "I was born in New Orleans and my immediate family and I left New Orleans in the early 80's and relocated to Inglewood, California. I remained in Southern California for several years. From Inglewood we moved to the Inland Valley-the Pomona and Claremont area where I attended all of my schools from Philadelphia Elementary to St. Joseph's and then Claremont High School." Brown continues to reminisce, "I began my Master's at actually Cal-Poly Pomona and finished it at the prestigious University of Phoenix!" It was and is quite evident that this is a man who has a thirst for knowledge and is justifiably proud of that fact. Brown continues, "I taught high school, ran the drama program at two school sites and returned to New Orleans in 2010. I have just recently returned to Los Angeles about a month ago."

One of the most endearing personality traits that Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. honestly exhibits is that he is incredibly humble. It is immediately evident when he discusses the martial arts in relation to his skill level. Bruce candidly speaks, "I don't know if I have mastered anything. That is a title reserved for women and men who absolutely and unequivocally dedicated their lives to that form of discipline. I will never be able to call myself that, but I will say that I have become proficient in some styles. I began wrestling towards the end of middle school and then in high school. I wound up wrestling freestyle and Greco-Roman style. It was a great way to maintain discipline and remain in good shape." Brown continues, "by the time I got in college, two upper class-men introduced me to the idea that there was an Afro-centric form of martial arts that existed called Capoeira which originated in Brazil by way of West African slaves. I eventually picked up Muay Thai at nineteen years old, but I wasn't that good with my upper appendages so I began to cross train and eventually learn to box. I morphed those styles and that was before M.M.A. was even a term because I was always interested in multiple forms of martial arts." Brown adds, "every martial artist I know will always give respect to Bruce Lee because he was one of the first people to publicly say that synthesizing martial arts is the best way to come up with the ultimate form or style."

If there was one defining moment in the life of a very young Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. that had paved the way for the rest of his life it was perhaps this incident that Brown remembers quite vividly. Bruce states, "if it weren't for Star Wars, I probably would not be in the industry! When I was a kid, my mom took me to see a double feature of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. I had a lot of questions for my mom. I asked her what are we going to do? I said to her that the empire had won and Darth Vader got away, Han Solo was frozen in carbonite and Luke Skywalker had his hand cut off! My mom had told me that it is make believe and all we could do is wait for the next movie to come out. What we saw was a story being told on the screen and those people aren't real, but there are people who play those parts! She said they were actors that get paid to be those people and hell I immediately thought that what I want to do!" Bruce continues with a joyous laugh, "Star Wars has been the my entire reason for continuing to exist in a place where I can tell stories."

Many continue to dream of being involved in the Star Wars franchise and these dreams do not go past that stage and then there are others like Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. who continue to break down barriers to make such dreams a reality. A tale must be told about how Brown created his own opportunity in the Star Wars universe through the creation of a character by name of Kaanan Ardaare and it is best told by the storyteller himself. Brown speaks, "there is a character that I have been working since I have been an undergrad that started off as a what if. A friend of mine named Vincent Nanni and I had created these Star Wars characters. I was having a very difficult time coming up with a good concept, but I did know I wanted the characters to exist around the great Jedi Purge. At that time the prequels hadn't been released yet, but we had already known from expanded universe comics and the Ballantine Books in the 70's and 80's that the Jedi were hunted down and killed. I like biblical references when I come up with names so I wanted a name that alluded to someone that doesn't have the best genealogy or maybe he came from a place that was a little bit darker, but that doesn't dismiss the fact that he is a Jedi." Bruce continues, "I liked the fact with Star Wars that you could tweak things, so I decided that it would be interesting if I used the name with a K. Names as you know sometimes describe the essence of a character. The last name was thought by Vincent and I believe it is a Latin derivative of fire, although I am not entirely sure. He was going to be a good guy and that much I decided."

What is the character's relation to Star Wars and what has become of him? How and why did Bruce team up with development producer, Erik Von Wodtke and artist, Douglas A. Sirois to create what is essentially a pitch? Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. fills in the blanks. Bruce speaks, "I have been essentially researching Star Wars ever since I was born pretty much-expanded universe and otherwise so I was asked to create these stories. Erik is very good at coming up with ideas and he has been real good at that. I'm a little bit more practical. I am the realist and that is why we make such a great team. It worked out so we knew we had a pitch and we needed someone that could illustrate them visually. That's where Doug came in because we had both enjoyed his art. Erik and Doug had established a business relationship and he suggested that Doug should be the artist. He invited me to be the one to embellish the art by creating stories with those subplots and basically treatments."

Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. had worked on the concept and storyline with Erik Von Wodtke and it should be noted that the character of Kaanan Ardaare appears to be Brown himself which must surely have been a dream come true for a lifelong Star Wars fan such as Bruce. Brown comments, "Erik has said that if the character is going to be in your likeness-we should use some poses so Douglas could use them as a template!" Bruce continues with an enthusiastic laugh and responds,"I said of course!" Brown continues, "my cousin, Sean Ellis did some poses over at the Claremont College one night and used Kali Sticks as a stand in for light sabers."

The stories and images that were created had come to fruition in the year, 2008 and also gave Bruce a unique opportunity to possibly run with the pitch that he and Erik had crafted. Brown speaks, "I remember when, Megan(Erik's wife), Erik and I attended the Star Wars breakfast at the 2008 Comic-Con. At the time, Mary Franklin and Steve Sansweet were the heads of fan relations and we wanted to make sure they had a copy of what we had done because we were super damn excited. We wanted to get it into George Lucas' hands and we were a person or two away from that there. Ultimately we wanted to get it into the right hands and I think we did!" It is this thought that can be justified because of recent developments in the new Star Wars series called Star Wars Rebels that has caused this columnist and perhaps many others to pause for a moment. Could Dave Filoni have been inspired by the story treatment that was handed to Franklin and Sansweet or is the inclusion of similarly named character in Star Wars Rebel be a mere coincidence? Bruce addresses this with remarkable aplomb! Brown speaks, "I am actually very excited to see Star Wars Rebels. I will tell you this that it would be beyond flattering to know that our work was the inspiration for something that has been made. Of course I would also like to see something closer in tone to what I have created." It is yet another admirable quality that Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. exhibited which was that of an artist that can see that inspiration can be a factor in properties that are eventually transformed into products that can be seen by the general public and that he is does not blindly point an accusatory finger against others. Brown continues to be supportive of new Star Wars incarnations that are released and he enthusiastically states, "we are happy for him and anything remotely Star Wars. As a professional I don't plan on ever stopping until I am involved in some kind of way and whether I will be carrying a blaster or light saber I know there is something for me!"

The incredible amount of superhero films that have been released and will be released might present Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. with another opportunity to portray an iconic character. The very well established Marvel Comics character named the Black Panther became the subject of much discussion as this reporter brought up the notion that Brown would be a brilliant choice to portray T'Challa. Bruce's enthusiasm is contagious! Brown speaks, "T'Challa from Wakanda! That would be bad-ass! I have been wanting to see a Black Panther film for a long time." Bruce speaks about the character with reverence and knowledge that goes far beyond fanboy adulation. He speaks of the seminal Marvel Comics character with the gravitas of the learned academician that he is. Brown illustrates, "there was an episode of the animated series where Captain America ends up dropping into Wakanda(Black Panther's country) and the Black Panther addresses him by saying that we take care of our own business here. They proceed to go toe-to-toe and he taught Steve Rogers a lesson." Bruce continues with the most remarkable approximation of the Black Panther's accent, "one day you will be to your country what I am to mine!" Brown punctuates his quote with a hearty laugh and states, "I thought it was the most brilliant line I think I have ever heard in an animated series!"

What does the immediate future hold for this dynamic actor who has appeared in such high profile television dramas such as 24 and The Unit? Bruce details, "I am always on the lookout for a project, but for the time being one of my mentors, Mr. Bill Cobbs and I are working on a short of which I don't want to divulge too much of at this moment. I hope to release it before ​Halloween. I will continue to teach and thankfully I have a principal who understands that as a working actor sometimes I need to jump ship for a few days. That has yet to be a problem." Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. is a remarkable realist who continues to juggle two full time jobs as a teacher and as an actor. He concludes with a wonderfully optimistic statement that is grounded in reality. Bruce Gerard Brown Jr. happily states, "there will be a time when I won't be able to do both and that time will be a blessing and not a curse!"

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