Last November, Emmanuel “Manny” Brown nabbed two awards at The Urban Action Showcase International Action Film Festival for his fight choreography on the short film Junkyard a.k.a. Stuntmen – a 2015 UAS IAFF Award for Best Action Sequence and 2015 UAS IAFF Award for Best Action in the 2 Min Warning Action Scene Contest.
The UASE also celebrated the 30th anniversary of my first film, The Last Dragon last year, and will continues it’s Diversity in Action initiative of honing the past, present and future multicultural achievements in the genre of Heroes, by celebrating my second film, the 30th Anniversary of the Martial Arts Cult Classics Big Trouble in Little China, in which I played a Wing Kong Guard.
The Urban Action Showcase International Action Film Festival (UAS IAFF) will screen both competition films as well as showcase main stream action cinema over two days, November 11-12, 2016, in New York. Click here for more information.
In addition to being an award-winning fight choreographer, Brown is also an actor, a champion martial artist, an acrobat/tricker, a singer, and a dancer. He played Spider-man and Electro in the original Broadway cast of Spider-man:Turn Off the Dark, and has worked on the TV shows “Elementary”(CBS), “Taxi Brooklyn” (NBC), and “Forever” (ABC).
I first met Brown in 2014 at The Pershing Square Signature Center, where he was acting in and serving as fight director for Signature Theatre Company’s Off-Broadway world premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu, and subsequently garnered a 2014 Village Voice Obie Award for his fight direction.
His other Off-Broadway credits include Charles Mee’s Big Love (Signature Theatre Company); Sweet Science Suite (BAM); and the Classical Theatre of Harlem productions of The Tempest as Stefano and Romeo N Juliet as Tybalt. In addition to Kung Fu, he has served as fight director for Sweet Science Suite, Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon! (La Mama), Coin Toss, World’s Finest, Under the Gun. His regional theater credits include Sucker Punch (Studio Theatre of DC) and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (La Jolla Playhouse). Brown holds a B.F.A from the University of Florida.
Below is my interview with Manny about his favorite martial arts films, his latest accolades and what he’s been up to lately.
Lia: How old were you when you developed your love of acting and martial arts?
Manny: I developed a love for martial arts after my first class as a 10-year-old. I had an appreciation for acting all my life and did some acting classes in middle school and high school, but I decided to get serious about it when I was 19.
Lia: The 2016 Urban Action Showcase will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Big Trouble in Little China in November this year. Does this mean anything to you?
Manny: Absolutely. Big Trouble in Little China was one of the first movies featuring the martial arts that I had ever seen because I have an older sister who was obsessed with it. It is a part of my youth.
Lia: What other films have inspired you?
Manny: Rumble in the Bronx, The Last Dragon, Lady Dragon, Legend of Drunken Master, Enter the Dragon, Fist of Legend, 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Fearless Hyena, Jackie Chan’s First Strike.
Lia: What did it mean for you to receive these awards?
Manny: These awards mean that I am one step closer to doing fight choreography on film and TV and that all of my studying of film fighting is paying off.
Click below to watch Junkyard.
Lia: How did you get hired for Spider-Man? What was your experience of working on the production and being on Broadway?
Manny: I got cast in Spider-man by attending an open dance call. I had a great experience working on the show despite all of the controversy/problems. Being on Broadway is an experience like no other. Such great, receptive and enthusiastic audiences.
Lia: What kind of adjustments do you make working on your fight direction on film, on television and on stage?
Manny: I usually find myself having to make more adjustments when working on stage, as I can’t rely on editing and complete control of audience sightlines. I always try to adjust to my performers abilities to make them look as good as possible. On stage I have to work harder to make each technique “sell” to the audience.
Lia: Do you have a preferred medium?
Manny: I don’t have a preferred medium as each poses its own set of challenges.
Lia: Tell me more about the Urban Action Showcase.
Manny: The Showcase has been terrific both times I attended. It has introduced me to other action artists and icons I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. Demetrius (Demetrius Angelo is the Founder and Executive Producer of the Urban Action Showcase and Expo) has done a lot to provide a platform for us, indie filmmakers and I am grateful for that.
Lia: Who have you been inspired by in the martial arts world?
Manny: Jackie Chan, Don Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Billy Blanks, Ted Jan Roberts, Bruce Lee, Jim Kelly.
Lia: Have you had mentors? If so, who have they been and in what capacity have you worked with them?
Manny: My martial arts teachers – Allen Abdul, Dean Butler, Dale Herring). My acting teachers – Harry O’Reilly, Mikell Pinkney, David Shelton). Also John Chung, who coached the karate team I competed for, and the late Fred Ho.
Lia: Who have been your acting role models?
Manny: Jeffrey Wright, Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Martin Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Sidney Poitier.
Lia: What did you do during your time with the New York Knicks and the New York Liberty at Madison Square Garden?
Manny: I was an acrobat for the Knicks Acroback Tumblers and a dancer/acrobat/cheerleader for the Liberty. It was a cool job working at the Garden.
Lia: What have been your three favorite projects?
Manny: A play I did in Washington DC called Sucker Punch, the episode of “Blindspot” that I was in, and the play Kung Fu I worked on in NY.
Lia: What are you working on now?
Manny: I am planning on working on a production this Summer with Classical Theatre of Harlem.
Lia: A fun fact that nobody know about you.
Manny: I am a cinephile and and learn how to say certain things in other languages from watching foreign films.
The 2016 Urban Action Showcase International Action Film Festival Featuring the Cinemax Action Short Film Competition Call for Entries is Now Open! Submit Now through Oct. 1 2016. Over $100,000 in Cash, Distribution and Prize Opportunities! Click here for details.
Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek, which will screen at the Disorient Film Festival in Eugene Oregon in April. She is profiled in Examiner.com, Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.
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