The former child actor and now president of TriStar Pictures reveals a love of musicals, what she learned from Viola Davis’s memoir, and never giving up on Edgar Wright.
Nicole Brown is president of Sony Pictures Entertainment label TriStar Pictures. She stepped up to the role in 2020, having already become the first Black woman to run a live-action label at a major studio when she took over as TriStar executive vice president the previous year.
Her credits at TriStar include Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver (2017), plus a trio spanning diverse genres in the past six months: Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Woman King, Matthew Warchus’s Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical and Kasi Lemmons’ Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
What is your office like?
My working space overlooks the rainbow sculpture on the Sony lot. It’s filled with light — there’s a lot of joy and optimism when I get to my office. It’s organised and designed because I like it to look nice. I’ve got this diffuser — we alternate between lavender and eucalyptus because I need a little calm energy in the midst of all my storms to centre myself and stay aligned.
What’s the first thing you do at work each day?
Greet everyone, grab that coffee, sit down, and then I do the hard things first. I know what the challenges are, I’ve thought about them the night before, and I attack the hard things. It’s better just to get them out of the way and deal with it, and then the rest of my day can be creative and curious.
What was your first job in the industry?
My first real job was being a child actor. I was always curious about what was happening behind the camera — what were they talking about? What was the thought process that got us here? There was a lot of buzzing in my brain. I figured out to channel that curiosity into opportunities behind the camera. Once I got to college, I had an internship at Miramax, then my first job [behind the camera] was with Marc Platt Productions.
Who helped you most when you were first starting out?
Marc Platt was so inclusive. His philosophy was that a good idea can come from anywhere. Being a baby executive with a producer who thought you were as valuable as anyone else at the company gave me incredible experience and confidence at such a young age.
What was your favourite film growing up?
I like everything! I’d see Jaws and be like, ‘Oh my god, my mind is blown!’ Or I’d see A Clockwork Orange and be, ‘Oh my god, film can do this?’ Or I’d see Do The Right Thing and I’m like, ‘Holy shit!’ Every film would constantly rock my world. If I had to pick three favourite films that I watched a lot, it was The Wizard Of Oz, West Side Story and The Wiz — I was a musical junkie.
What job would you do if you didn’t work in the film industry?
I’d be a high school or college counsellor helping students figure out what they want to do, and how to get [them] there.
What book are you reading at the moment?
I recently read Finding Me, Viola Davis’s memoir. It is so beautiful, honest and inspiring, and a testament to where all her brilliant performances come from.
Where do you go to unwind?
I don’t know how relaxing it is, but when I get moments off, it’s all about my family — shifting into that mom role, enjoying it and giving my kids [aged five and three] as much attention as I can. It was so fun to finally make a film [Matilda] that could be for them.
Where do you want to be five years from now?
Continuing to make great, big theatrical movies. I want to stay the course.
What are you working on now?
Another musical, Guys And Dolls [which will be directed by Bill Condon]; Troop Beverly Hills, which is a comedy all about female empowerment and sisterhood in its own funny ways. I picked up this book, The Broken Earth Trilogy by NK Jemisin, and I’m really excited about it. It’s huge world creation — it’s got rich, powerful themes and it will create an epic film. We are never giving up on Baby Driver 2, it’s always cooking. Edgar is an artist and I move at his pace.
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