There comes a time in every man’s life, if we’re lucky, when opportunity calls and you get your shot, and you need to be ready to step up.
Over the past year, Sterling K. Brown has heard the call. The actor is riding a double wave of success, coming off an Emmy win for his role as prosecutor Christopher Darden in The People vs. OJ Simpson and starring in this fall’s most talked-about drama, This Is Us—and today, he scored a Screen Actors Guild nomination for each. It’s a lot at once, but it reflects a decade-and-a-half of hard work, from dozens of TV guest roles to seven seasons as a supporting part on Army Wives. He talked with us about the principles that have made him one of our BestLife’s Men Who Set the Time, inspired by the Tiffany & Co. CT60.
Best Life: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
SKB: Be careful how you use your time! It’s the one thing you can never get back.
What do you wish your 21-year-old self knew?
You’re not the only person that fears the unknown. Push through it and give yourself the fullest experience of life possible. I should have gone abroad when I was in undergrad!
What do you do when you need to feel inspired?
I pray. I meditate. I get quiet and feel the presence of the eternal. I look at my wife and children. I watch a great movie or television show. I listen to music and sing and dance! I exercise. I talk to my friends. Regular things.
What’s the most important thing in life?
I want to be an ambassador for love in the world. Unconditional love, regardless of any distinguishing factor. The love I wish to exemplify is not excluded from anyone. It has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with God.
What’s one moment where your life changed?
When I became a father. I delivered my first child at home at 2:23 in the morning. It was pure magic! Fatherhood is the greatest role I’ve had to date. I’m so happy I get to play it for the rest of my life.
What drives you?
I’m driven by the truth. A desire to get the story right. Knowing that there are people out there who may be affected by the stories that I have an opportunity to tell. I don’t want to let them down.
“My job for the past 15 years has been showing up, saying lines and going home,” continues Brown. “Now, the fact that people care what I have to say about anything . . . well, that’s something I’m still getting used to.”
His humbleness is part of what’s made him so successful. Brown changed his name from Kelby to Sterling as a teen in tribute to his father, who died when the future actor was 10. His Emmy acceptance speech was likewise dedicated to the man who taught him valuable lessons in their short time together. “There have been milestones, which have been greatly satisfying,” he says of the win. “But does any one of them mean I’m successful, that I’ve made it? I don’t know. Nothing is guaranteed in this business. I do my best to enjoy each moment as it comes, and hope for the best as I move into the future.”