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Interview: Yvette Nicole Brown Talks ‘Lady and the Tramp’

November 19, 2019Ben MK

Best known for playing Shirley Bennett on Community, the multitalented Yvette Nicole Brown has appeared in everything from Family Guy to Avengers: Endgame. For her latest role, however, Brown is realizing a dream — starring in a live-action reimagining of Disney's beloved classic, Lady and the Tramp, where she joins a cast that includes Kiersey Clemons and Thomas Mann as Darling and Jim Dear, not to mention Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux as the voices of Lady and the Tramp.

I sat down with Yvette Nicole Brown to chat about Lady and the Tramp, and to find out more about the recent Community reunion, as well as her upcoming projects on Disney+.

One of the things I enjoyed about Lady and the Tramp was how it modernized the story by having a more diverse cast, but still retained the period look and feel. Was that what drew you to the film?

Brown: What drew me to the movie was just the name Disney. Everything about this film and that it's Lady and the Tramp was amazing. I didn't even know it was going to be as diverse as it was until I got on set. It wasn't just diverse in the leads — in the voices and the actors — the background was diverse. Everywhere you looked you saw a rainbow of people, which is what we're all supposed to do and be. So I was so excited when I got there and was like, "We really gonna do this." It was awesome.

Are you a big fan of the original?

Brown: Yes! I wasn't born when it came out, but of course when everything came out on VHS it was one of the first Disney films I saw. Because it was one of the first 15, I think, they made. I was a big fan. I've always loved dogs. I've always loved love stories. So this is like the mother ship calling me home, being a part of this one.

What was it like working with the dogs on the set?

Brown: Working with the dogs was unique and special, and they were so well trained. And they were just little thespians as well. They hit their mark, they barked when they were supposed to. There's the big scene in the pet store when Lady escapes — we shot that for two days. Rose [who played Lady] had three of four different doubles — one could jump, one could run well, one could navigate — so we had different dogs jumping out of that thing every time, and all of them were amazing. So that was the most memorable day I had on set, where I was the most impressed with what the dogs could do and what the trainers could do. It was a great experience.

And I believe they're all rescue dogs as well?

Brown: All rescue dogs. And all of them have found forever homes since the movie. And one of them is with me. I rescued Harley, who was one of Rose's doubles. So he's been with me almost a year. December 4th, it'll be a year now.

It sounds like the dogs were a genuine joy to be around. How about the human cast?

Brown: The human cast is great. I worked mostly with Kiersey [Clemons] and Tom [Mann], who play Jim Dear and Darling. And then also Parvesh Cheena, [who] played the pet store employee. So those were the main people that I got to work with. And then just hearing the voices of Janelle Monáe and Justin Theroux throughout the day was awesome.

You also recently reunited with your fellow castmates from Community. How much fun was that for you?

Brown: I did! It was so great to see everybody. We all text — we have a text chain — and we run into each other randomly, have lunch here and there. But that was the first time in a very long time that we all were in the same space at the same time. And with Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna. It was wonderful, and just a wonderful thing to be able to do that for the fans. Because we know the fans love the show. It was really great.

Last but not least, you also have a couple of shows upcoming on Disney+. Can you tell me more about them?

Brown: I have two new shows coming up on Disney+. I have The Big Fib, which is a kids game show where a kid speaks to an expert and a fibber and has to figure out which is the fibber. And then I also have Big Shot, which is a dramedy created by David E. Kelley starring John Stamos, where I play the dean of a girls school and John Stamos plays the basketball coach.

Lady and the Tramp is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.

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