According to 16-year-old Dante Brown, getting cast in FOX’s highly anticipated “Lethal Weapon” series has been the moment of a lifetime.
With the premiere of the series looming just overhead, Dante’s persona is one of cool and ease. He’s excited as he mentions that he’s getting to drive now and the Childish Gambino concert that he was attending with his little brother the day after Dante’s interview with Teenplicity. It’s dope, he says, as he describes the fact he even got to meet Childish Gambino because of his rising fame in Hollywood.
“I’m making music, I’m drawing, I’m writing, I’m designing clothes,” says Dante of the many things he’s working on at the moment. He even states that he’s in a short film called Black Dove with his younger brother and calls it a new experience. But overall, Dante is just focused on having fun. “This is all new to me,” he confesses. “This is all something I’ve never done before. Getting to meet new people, getting to meet some of my idols. Getting to meet some of the people that I’ve seen on TV that I’ve always looked up to. Or even music wise.” Childish Gambino is a big deal in particular for Dante. “I listen to his music a lot,” he says.
“It’s a lot of that type of experience. Something new and spontaneous. It’s very energetic. It’s draining sometimes but I love it,” Dante explains with ease, and the adoration he has for his work is clear in his tone. “It’s something that I love experiencing.”
Dante is about to handle an even bigger change and the start of an even more incredible experience when “Lethal Weapon” airs on FOX this Wednesday. Though this isn’t the first time that Dante has been put under an intense spotlight, he was on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” showcasing his talent when he was younger, “Lethal Weapon” offers a complete new expanse for the young actor.
The freshman action/crime drama premieres in just two days and audiences will finally be able to sink their teeth into the reboot series of an ‘80s classic.
“Yes! I was!” Dante exclaims when asked if he was aware of the large following and fan base the original Lethal Weapon films. “My dad actually told me about the movie and we watched the first two!” With the series taking precedence, as well as the many other hobbies in Dante’s life that he’s been accomplishing, he admits that they’re having trouble finding time to watch the other two movies. Though his excitement leaks into his voice as he recalls that his father’s favorite film is the one with Jet Li, Lethal Weapon 4, and that both he and his father are hyped to finish the franchise. “But I was very aware of the movie,” continues Dante. “I’ve always heard rappers use metaphors towards it and I did a little research on the trailer before I even knew about the audition, so I was very aware of it.”
Dante remembers being in his house and his mother telling him about getting the part. His smile sneaks into his voice as he says, “I was like really excited, you know, jumping up and down! We did like a family group hug, which is cool. And I was just really excited and ready to start working. It was a once in a lifetime type of moment, knowing that you’re attached to something this big – a show, and also a movie series that the fan base is [from]. This situation is great. It’s mind blowing actually.”
Dante is taking up the mantle of Roger “RJ” Murtaugh Jr., who is described as “good, but slightly rebellious.”
Of his character, the young actor says, “I mean, he’s been straight-laced all of his life. And you know, he wants to explore! Any teenager wants to explore.” Dante can relate to his character. “I’m always exploring – that type of kid who’s always experiencing things. [RJ] wants to have some type of chance to have fun and let loose. I would describe him as that. He wants to be adventurous and try new things and experience life.”
It’s with a laugh that Dante explains how refreshing it is to play a character like RJ.
“The characters that I usually play are really edgy and they’re more dark. This character is really light. He’s intelligent, he’s smart, he’s very clean cut. This is the first time of me really, really getting deep into a role like this. And the past shows, I’ve done some pretty grimy things so this time, it’s cleaner.” He pauses for a moment before saying that this is another thing that’s new to him. “So getting to play this role is an honor.”
For fans of the original film series, there’s a good mix of old and new. According to Dante, the action, comedy, and drama are still there and mixed together. “This one,” he begins to state the difference, “it has family in it. In the movies, you didn’t see much of the family in it. But this one, you see family.” He reiterates the sentiment that there’s still comedy involved, finger pointing to his on-screen father Damon Wayans who plays the senior Roger Murtaugh. While he believes there’s aspects of the series that are a little darker than the films, the teen is quick to mention that it is still a show the family can enjoy. “It’s a lot of fun. It has love, caring brother-love type relationship with Damon and Clayne [Crawford, who plays Martin Riggs]. It’s a really good buddy-cop story.”
It may be the original characters that drew him in, or perhaps it’s from watching Damon and Clayne on-set, but Dante is up in the air as to which character he’d want to be.
“Murtaugh because he’s just so fun and spontaneous. He’s like, that one guy you always want to keep around when you get down, if you’re sad. He’s the guy you want around you. He’s motivating in a very… in the background type of way. He’s not the type of guy that’ll go, ‘Yeah! Let’s do it! Let’s do it!’ But he’s the type of guy like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I want to do it.’ Then he makes you say, ‘Yeah, I want to do it. Let’s do it together!’ type of guy. He brings that type of play to the role.”
On the other hand, Riggs is a tempting choice for Dante as well.
“[Riggs] is so dark and the depth that Clayne brings to this character…” Dante’s voice is filled with awe as he expresses, “Oh man. It’s actually really wonderful to do scenes with Clayne. And it’s just… it’s the depth that he brings to it. It’s just amazing.”
In a safe conclusion, the teen decides that he’d be happy being either of those characters. But when a fan asked what actor of the original film he’d have do a guest spot, Dante pauses for a moment to think before deciding on Danny Glove, the original Murtaugh.
“I would have him play Damon’s dad,” he says on what Danny Glover’s role would be like if it were up to him. “Like a granddad or a super – I don’t know the rankings of the officers – but over the chief.”
Asked to describe season one in three words or phrases, Dante perfectly describes the feeling he’s giving off.
“Exciting. Super-cool. Deep.”
As mentioned earlier, one of Dante’s first appearances on television was actually as himself, on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. The episode he was on was the first “Amazing Kids” special and at only the age of five, he captured audiences with his talents in dancing, acting, and comedy. Since then, Dante’s career has blossomed. Looking back at his time in the industry so far, the talented teen says he learned that he’s a very creative person.
“I like doing a lot of creative things. And with my career, I’d say that I learned that when I work with my mom, I’m very versatile when it comes to doing different styles, learning different styles, and picking up on things quickly.”
However, with so much going on in his life, how does he keep himself balanced?
“Well, I don’t,” he admits with a laugh. “My mom and my dad, they kind of balance me out, you know, giving me a schedule. I also schedule things out but my mom is usually the one that’s like, ‘Hey, let’s look at the calendar! We’ve got something to do!’ And I just find the free time to do my hobbies which is rapping and engineering and producing music. Or writing a script for my animation TV show. Or, you know, designing cloths. I always do that stuff in my free time because right now, the most important thing for me is my acting, because it’s something that I’ve been doing most of my life and everything else comes after.”
“So, I really just balance it that way – with Google Calendar,” he says with a laugh. He says that he uses whatever free time he has, even while on a ride to or from somewhere, and he’ll use that time to do whatever he wants or needs to get done.
In addition to his busy schedule and multiple passions, Dante is also an advocate for raising awareness on the many important issues that are impacting society every day.
On the fact he is constantly raising awareness, Dante says, “I hope [my fans] gain knowledge on the cause,” he says, referring to the many issues close to his heart, like police brutality, gun violence, gang violence, and teen drug abuse. “A lot of people don’t know a lot about, I would say either gun violence or what’s really happening with different situations with African Americans. So I would say [to my fans to] read more up on it, get more knowledge about it. So that either if you run into me, we can have a conversation about it, or just to know and be conscious of that, of what’s going on around you.”
Dante hopes to become a part of a charity that’s close to home for him, like in Chicago where he’s from. He wants to make sure that he shows kids, either through his art or whatever he may be doing, important things about gun violence, police brutality, or that they don’t need drugs.
“There’s so many ways that I want to tell kids to not get involved with either gangs or drugs, and also too, I want to help out with the Black Lives Matter and just kind of represent and show people and other kids that are African American, that you can stand up for this too, don’t be afraid. If you really are about the movement, you can join too. It’s not just African American kids or African American people. If you believe strongly that everybody is equal, that everybody deserves to be treated right – if that’s in the custody of police, if you’re just walking down the street, if you’re in different places – that everybody deserves equal rights then stand up, don’t be silent about it.”
“And for drugs,” Dante continues, “I’d tell kids, you know, it’s really messing up a lot of kids and it’s messing up a lot of communities. So I want to try and help out a lot of communities, reach out to some kids that are either going in the wrong direction and try to bring them back by a motivational talk or even bring it through my art. Because I know a lot of kids are listening to rap music now.” Dante laughs shortly as he explains his rap music, what he makes, applies to kids his age. “I think it’ll be a good avenue to show kids that you don’t need drugs. You can live drug free. You know, life can still be great without it. Because it just brings you down.”
There’s a tint to Dante’s voice, almost a laugh, as he admits there’s been a lot of times that he has thought about speaking out through his platform. He sobers though, as he explains the harsh reality of America.
“A lot of times that I want to say something, and every time that I start get going, another incident happens. So to me, it’s all about catching the right moment for me to actually say something and speak up for my people and speak up for the ones that have fallen.”
Dante once again extends his thinking towards drugs and to those one them, and how he wants to be one of those people that “makes music to save other teens,” or even help through a heartbreak. “There’s so many things that teens go through, and I want to be that person that teens can listen to and I hope it, quote unquote, saves lives.”
With a strong head on his shoulders, a large heart, and a bright future ahead, it’s no wonder that at only 16, Dante has words of wisdom for his fans. His words were spoken with such passion and conviction.
“Don’t give up on what you believe,” Dante says to his fans. “Don’t give up on your dream. Strive for your dream, any way you can. Don’t stop doing what you like doing, because once you do it and you keep doing it, you get good enough that it becomes your job. And you won’t ever have to work, ever in your life, because you’re doing something that you love. So don’t give up on what you believe in.”
“Lethal Weapon” premieres this Wednesday on FOX at 8PM ET/PT.
**ABOVE PHOTO CREDIT TO ISAAC STERLING