Actress Novi Brown describes herself as a visual learner when explaining how she first got fascinated with the idea of acting as a child. One of her earliest memories of being inspired by storytelling comes from watching The Little Mermaid.
“I think that's the first movie I had ever seen in the theater, and I had all these emotions around it and I was just like, whoa, that's weird,” Brown tells Her Agenda. “But then I became a young adolescent and I realized that these pictures, these images I'm seeing, are teaching people things.”
Novi, a natural teacher and connector, was inspired by those powerful feelings to pursue her own career as an actress. Today, most people likely recognize her from a variety of hair-care commercials, but most popularly as Sabrina from Tyler Perry’s Sistas, which premieres a new season on BET in October. The German and American actress is constantly working, planning and growing.
Here, in this Her Agenda exclusive, we chat with the polyglot about her current projects, starring in a horror film, and how astrology influenced her to create a talk show.
Her Agenda: I see that you were born in Germany, but you’re visiting your mom in New York as we speak. What's the story around where you were born and how you ended up back in the United States?
Novi Brown: I was born in Berlin. My mom moved out there when she was 18. She was a model and just broke away and was doing her own thing, and my dad, his father was military, African-American, but I never met him, and his mother is German. So my father is biracial. He still lives in Germany, his birthplace. That's where he lived all the time.
My parents met in a discoteque on a night out. And then they got into a relationship and decided to have a child. I lived there for a while, like about six years for the first part of life, and then my mother moved us to Pittsburgh, and then we lived there for about a year, and then I moved back to Germany by myself to my dad's house.
I stayed there for a year but then I moved back to America. It was back and forth, back and forth, and I spent all my summers there, but then I did my high school, middle school, and college in America. I was very blessed with that kind of upbringing. I know it sounds a little chaotic, and sometimes maybe it was, but in hindsight, I just feel like living in so many different places and learning different languages and having a different lifestyle really helped me in a way that is awesome.
Her Agenda: And you have your movie Spider that’s out now. Tell me about it.
NB: It took a good five years to make it, and it's an indie. Desmon Heck is the writer and director. I met him through Backstage.com. He found me and I auditioned for it years ago. I was wearing all my own clothes. I was doing all my own hair. I didn't have to wear makeup in it and it's a psychological thriller. It's a little bit of a horror too. It’s like Get Out and we started making it before Get Out came out, which I think is just so interesting. It's a story about what beauty is when it comes to Black women. How do we see ourselves aesthetically? What are we trying to attain when it comes to being desirable? And I think that's such a huge topic, especially now with everything high-value, low value, all that, and I was really happy to play it. My character’s name is Roshanda. She uses pills and potions and magic to make herself desirable to men and it’s kind of trippy.
Her Agenda: And then I noticed from the trailer that it seems to be all white men that she goes after so that's definitely something deeper going on.
NB: Yes, it's layered, and that's why I think it's really interesting. I play a very offbeat character because I want my portfolio to be diverse. I don't want people to really know what's coming next. I just want you guys to be entertained and surprised like, “Hey she really did that, that's crazy!” So yeah that's on Tubi right now.
Her Agenda: There has been this ongoing discussion about Black people in horror or in speculative type roles—roles that are different from what you normally see Black people do. I guess Jordan Peele can take credit for re-sparking that dialog, but it has been an off-and-on conversation.
NB: Especially for Black creatives! Like, yeah, we love anime. We love science just as much as anyone else. It just speaks to how we are not a monolith. There are a lot of people, a lot of creatives that have been making Black horror for years. It's just that we finally have a lot of eyes on it now. Now people are starting to pay attention, and we love Jordan Peele for that because we need someone to showcase the level of what we can deliver. And that's the amazing thing about his art, and now there's going to be more Black creators who are going to get chances to write that for us, or to direct. It's our time. I really feel like there’s a renaissance going on.
Her Agenda: Speaking of creatives, Sistas has a new season coming. What do you want to see happen for Sabrina and the other characters moving forward?
NB: Personally, I just want Sabrina to be happy and mind her business and live her life. I want her to make a decision about Calvin once and for all. It would also be cool as one of the sisters was single in my personal opinion because where’s that respective to write. Like, where's that friend who doesn't always need a man, right? So I think Sabrina could totally be that girl since a lot of people feel she has the confidence.
Her Agenda: And another project you have is Conversation and Constellations. Tell me about the concept and how you got into astrology.
NB: Personally, astrology is a spiritual practice and I believe that God, the universe or whatever you want to call it, has a plan for all of us, and there's a reason why you and I met. You're a reporter out of millions. I'm an actor out of millions. Why are you and I connecting? And then we're talking about the same symbolism over and over again in this short conversation we're having. So, for me, it's spiritual and it's what our ancestors believed in, which I also think is extremely interesting. It's in the tombs of the pyramids. It's in clocks around the world and banks around the world. It means something, and everybody celebrates a birthday. So for me, it's the ability to accept what my energy is, and who I am, and how I show up in the world, what my purpose is.
And then once I started teaching myself that, I wanted to teach other people because I like to talk to people. I'm a conversationalist. I need feedback, and so I started doing that, and then merging it with the way that I give advice, and people were really into it and wanted to know more. So it's me diving into that energy.
It’s on YouTube right now but I want a network to pick it up and make it go big because it's the first of its kind. If I'm not mistaken, there’s nothing like it as far as the conversational aspect of it. I just want to talk to as many people around the world and do as many episodes as possible.
Her Agenda: Being that you’re into being a conversationalist but also being surrounded by the right energy, how does your tribe help you thrive? Have you found those people yet?
NB: I'm building that. I'm literally in the building phase right now because of covid. That's slowed it down a lot, but I'm building my network. I'm looking where I’m lined up. I want to produce things. I have shows that I've written, movies that I've written. I wrote a book and I want to really stretch myself in this lifetime and see what I have to offer. I've been finding a couple of mentors. Thank you to the few that are in my life right now.
I'm very, very grateful for you guys. I'm just slowly building my community. I'm really excited to see who I'm going to come up with. I'm looking for my group of Judd Apatows, and Spike Lee or whomever. And there are so many new creators out right now, so I'm growing. I'm in the meeting phase. God got it.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.