By Malcolm Fraser
During reading week, in between catching up on your course readings, writing essays and generally studying your brains out, perhaps you caught the premiere of the second season of Straight Up, a television show featuring ordinary people in real life situations.
Among the cast is one-time Ryerson student Michael Brown, who studied business and computer science for a semester at our beloved institution last year before financial difficulties forced him to drop out.
Straight Up is CBC-TVs latest attempt to capture the youth market. Its creators, Adrienne Mitchell and Janis Lundman, also made the acclaimed documentary Talk 16 and have been dramatizing adolescent years for two decades.
As one might expect from a pair of documentary makers, Mitchell and Lundman sought realism in every facet of their production, including casting. Rather than take the usual route of going through casting agencies, the producers visited high schools in the Toronto area to seek out raw, unfettered talent.
As luck would have it, Brown attended one of the schools on the list, Westwood Secondary School, and jumped at the chance. Brown, 22, had only acted in high school plays, but he had a gripping story: an injury had prematurely ended his dream of a basketball career. Mitchell and Lundman cast him as Sid, a character in the same predicament. This is his second season on the show.
While Sid deals with his injury by throwing himself into his job as a restaurant manager, Brown has devoted himself not only to his acting career but to Brown Boy, a home-based computer company. His other passion if the Baby Blue Sound crew, a DJ enterprise he manages and does bookings for.
He plans to continue working on all three activities until one of them takes off.
Unless you attended Westwood in Malton, you wouldn’t have seen much of Brown’s earlier acting work, but you can catch him in CBS’ upcoming Ghostwriter as well as Free of Eden, an HBO film starring Sydney Poitier.
What was it like working the the venerable Poitier? “He wasn’t on set any of the days I was there! I saw his daughter though,” laughs Brown.
Brown hasn’t let his lack of higher education get in the way of his ambitions. If he isn’t on your TV screen or orchestrating a Baby Blue event at your local nightclub, he might be able to help you upgrade your computer. The outgoing and enthusiastic Brown seems destined to go far in one of his endeavours. Those of us still slugging it out at Ryerson should consider tuning into Straight Up, if only to watch this star on the rise.