“Behind the men who changed hip-hop is the woman who knows the truth.”
This past week, I had the privilege of interviewing an old friend of mine, the magnificent, and multi-talented, Rhyon Nicole Brown, about her starring role as Michel’le in the upcoming movie “Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Me.”
Many readers fondly remember Brown for her role as Lizzie on “Lincoln Heights” (2006-2009). Although Brown has acted in a multitude of television shows since Lincoln Heights ended, she found time to also graduate from USC’s film school two years ago.
Now, she takes on the starring role of Michel’le in “Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Me,” a follow-up movie to the blockbuster hit “Straight Out of Compton” which chronicled the career of rap group N.W.A.; the film focused on members Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre.
“Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Me” is the story of Michel’le’s version of events. Michel’le had a son with, and was engaged to, Dr. Dre, during the time the time frame of “Straight Out of Compton.” As well she was signed as an artist to his record label. Hence, this is a riveting film that takes us deeper into the personal lives of these artists during their rise to fame. Brown stars alongside Curtis Hamilton who plays Dre and R. Marcos Taylor who plays Suge Knight.
I asked Brown what drew her to the character of Michel’le, and she said that since this is her first major project since she graduated from USC, she was looking for “a role different from her previous roles and a character so different from herself.” She said that the Michel’le and her are very different in “where I am in my life right now versus Michel’le’s life.”
As well, it was a challenge to portray Michel’le’s high-pitched voice, “As hard as it was, it was an amazing opportunity for me as an actress. I’ve always dreamt of playing characters that are not only different from me but push me as an actress. I hope people see how hard I worked to take Rhyon out and became Michel’le.”
Brown tells me she was drawn to the movie because of a few key messages. The biggest message regards overcoming the situations you’re in. A majority of the movie focuses on Michel’le’s abusive relationship and the turmoil she went through. Brown said she “wants the movie to prove to women that they are better than staying in an abusive relationship, and finding your inner strength.”
Brown’s sister, Ravaughn, is a well-known singer. But, Ravaughn isn’t the only singer in the family! In the movie, Brown sings to many of Michel’le’s tracks. Then, “the two voices were layered over each other,” Brown said.
She added that “people are so connected to Michel’le , and that’s why they used her original voice as well.”
In addition to seeing Brown act and sing in the movie , those that want to hear more of her original music can anticipate the release of her album “Pretty Girl” at the end of October.
“Because I went to film school and I act, I wanted my music to showcase everything else in my career,” said Brown. “My goal is to use my music to make a short film.” Thus, she will release a short film with her album. The film is about her “college experience and the amount of growth (she) I experience throughout that time,” she added.
Brown is an inspiration as an artist, a person and mentor. So, in parting, I asked Brown what advice she has for teens. She said that when you have a goal or dream, the best thing you can do is write things down.
“When you write your ideas down, they become more realistic. Remember nothing happens over night,” she said.
She says to enjoy the journey because though there is a lot of preparation, it can be fun.
“If you’re true to who you are, and ignore the people who don’t believe in you, then you can do anything,” she said.
Rhyon Nicole Brown as Michel’le in “Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Me” premieres Oct. 15 on Lifetime.
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