The polished voice, the ridiculous dance skills, the ability to totally captivate an audience — it's easy to forget because of his man-size talent, but R&B sensation Chris Brown is still just 18 years old. In fact, the soon-to-be-released "This Christmas" is only his second movie role ever. And it might well be the first time he's ever been asked to act his age, onscreen or off.
"I play Baby, the runt of the family," Brown said of his role inthe flick, which centers on a family's turbulent reunion over the Christmas holidays. "He's the one that everybody loves, [but I also] have secrets. I want to pursue my dream as a musical artist, but I don't want to express it to my mom because she has different views."
A secret that good, though, can't be hidden for long, Brown laughed. In one of the movie's more memorable scenes, Baby is outed by his brothers and sisters when they accidentally run into him at a nightclub's open-mic night, forcing Brown to sing in a way he's not used to: awkwardly.
"The stage scene is funny, because I had to really challenge myself to play nervous," Brown said. "I think that was the funniest part. Everybody, the extras that were in there were like, 'Yeah right, you ain't nervous.' It was a challenge."
Viewers unaware of Brown's prominence in the music world might be forgiven for being surprised by his voice, especially considering that he spends the first chunk of the movie stuttering and stammering his way through family dinners. But surprise is good, thinks Brown, who hopes the movie will help him reinvent himself as a serious singer.
"With 'This Christmas,' let me just try to show people me singing — showing all the artists who maybe think I'm a mediocre singer or [think I] just do those catchy records, don't really sing and challenge [myself]," he said of his motivations for accepting the role. "I really wanted to show people that I'm a singer. I might dance to enhance your visual entertainment, but I'm really going to show you that I can vocalize."
And now that he's made a mark in both the film and music worlds, his talents are only going to improve, Brown declared, explaining that acting and singing feed off each other to add up to more than the sum of their parts.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to focus on my music first," he insisted. "[But] me being onstage enhances me being in the movie, and then me being in the movie acting — catching characters gives me time to transform into a different character onstage."
What will be his next transformation? "This one is a good acting role for my first time," he said. "[But I want] something to challenge me even more."
Grown-up words from an 18-year-old. But then, Chris Brown isn't a baby — he just plays one in the movies.
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