“I’ve been running around doing social-distanced shoots,” Brittany says while running a hand over her sleekly laid bun before pausing to playfully make an exasperated face at the camera for our Zoom interview. Seated in front of a simple white orchid arrangement and wearing a bright multi-colored printed halter top, Brittany flashed a smile. “I tried to slick back my hair as best I could, my curl pattern was just not having it anymore so I just had to put it somewhere,” she added with a shrug.
Having just celebrated her 24th birthday this past June (in quarantine fashion donning a face-mask amongst a small gathering with family and friends), amidst premiering her very first solo lead role, it seems Brittany has quite a bit to celebrate – and yet, appears as laid back as her edges. “I’m just very, very blessed, and happy to be here,” Brittany says with a smile.
In taking time to reconnect with those closest to her, Brittany also took to her Instagram account to speak out against racial injustice and police brutality within the black community following the viral horrific murder of George Floyd last May by Minnesota police officers abusing their power.
“I think it’s super important for humans to acknowledge human pain, Brittany says somberly. “I’ve always been someone that’s been empathetic and cares a lot about people and as a black person, a bi-racial black girl I’ve seen racism affect my family, the generations before me, my peers – I think we all have to stick up with one another.”
The willingness to express herself to a wide audience especially when it comes to something that she is passionate about may have begun at an early age.
The soulful-singer and actress first took to the stage at age 3, recounting her first role as an angel in her Church’s Christmas pageant when speaking with Encore Stage & Studio, a production company based out of her hometown in Arlington, Virginia. In a combination of hilarious and adorable, Brittany recounted falling asleep on stage and having the director pick her up and bring her to her mother once the scene ended, adding “I guess you could say my first role was a comedic one.”
Brittany would soon go on to star in a star in several commercials, and campaign adds before eventually booking her break-out role as Simone in FOX’s 2016 hit show, Star. Acting alongside the likes of Queen Latifah, Naomi Campbell, and Lenny Kravitz, one would assume the budding starlet’s confidence would be through the roof, but according to Brittany herself, it’s the opposite.
“I feel like as I get older I think I get more insecure,” Brittany says with a knowing smile. Pausing for a moment, Brittany continued, “when I was a kid, I felt like expressing myself came so naturally to me, it was something that was apart of me… and when I started to really pursue my career full-on, I think that’s when it became a little bit harder to be myself at times. It seems like the opportunities get bigger and you want to be able to fit the bill, so it’s been an interesting journey in continuing to find that inner child… and not letting the outside noise get in the way of that.”
In a case of life imitating art and the occasional experiences with insecurity we can all be privy to, Brittany’s feelings almost align with that of her character Bess in Little Voice. An aspiring singer and songwriter lost in the hustle and bustle of New York City, Bess struggles with showing the world exactly who she is.
“When I got the audition for Bess on Little Voice, I really identified with how awkward she was and how genuine she was,” Brittany says. “I had moments where I feel like people were laughing at me – not with me so I really loved that human experience that she had that’s in the pilot,” Brittany says with a laugh. Brittany also found help in getting into character by speaking with series creator Jessie Nelson and songwriting aficionado, Sara Bareilles whose own career start-up and 2007 album Little Voice inspired the show.
“[There were] a lot of conversations with Jessie Nelson who created the show even with Sara and her musicality and where her music comes from and how it inspires her and her journey, Brittany says with a nod before adding, “I don’t really know who the character is on the outside until I watched the work finished.”
The same can be said for Brittany’s previous role as Simone in Star, a role that she felt she had to “create” through an internal vulnerability her character expressed. “There were so many ways I identified with [Simone] as well… she in ways wore her heart on her sleeve but handled it differently to the outside world with her ‘I don’t give a ****’ attitude – which I love!” Brittany added with a smirk.
While full of angst, playing Simone provided Brittany with yet another career first for her – the opportunity to play a character reflective of her bi-racial background. “I was super excited about that because growing up I didn’t really see interracial parents,” Brittany says before referencing Raven-Symoné and Tia and Tamera Mowry as her role models on-screen growing up. “That was super important for me playing Simone and just being able to be acknowledged in my own community and just around the world as who I actually am and what my background is… it felt really good.”
Unfortunately, as the proverb goes, ‘all good things must come to an end’, as did the third and final season of Star in May of 2019. On the positive side, having the series cut short did not deter Brittany, rather it ignited the fire inside of her. “I love to do what I do and I love to do it well and I feel really dedicated to the art,” Brittany says before stopping herself and scrunching up her face. “I don’t know if that sounds too pretentious like, ‘I’m dedicated to the art,'” she says mockingly while turning her nose up towards the ceiling.
“I really take my craft seriously, I love meeting people ….creating with people and I love telling stories; I love to be in my imagination and….to be able to support myself and the people around me and boost people up,” Brittany says with a beaming smile.
And to what she attributes her perseverance in continuing to land worthwhile roles? “I just count my lucky stars, Brittany says before adding, “I’m really, really grateful for the opportunities I have had.”
While Brittany’s current role as Bess offers her the opportunity to expand her repertoire, is also allows its viewers to hear a ton of original music from Sara Bareilles written especially for the series. The series theme song, “Little Voice” written by Bareilles was originally penned as an unofficial, unreleased song performed live by the songstress in 2008 at Syracuse University.
Singing the song herself throughout the series, Brittany reflects on how meaningful “Little Voice” is to her. “When I had the final call-back for the official test for the role of Bess I had to learn [“Little Voice”] and when I first heard it I literally got goosebumps because I identify so much,” Brittany says thoughtfully. “The journey of finding your authentic truth and having the courage to speak out even when people discourage you or say you’re wrong … that was why I resonated with the song so much and the character.”
While Brittany recounts having to learn several original songs from Bareilles, working with the uber-talented singer and songwriter made for a “dope” collaborative experience. “[Sara and I] worked together to find the right key for me, Brittany says reflectively; “she was right by my side every time I was in the studio, she gave me notes, and gave me advice and guidance…. I thought that was super cool.”
Another ‘super cool’ aspect of working with Sara Bareilles and her Little Voice castmates? According to Brittany: filming with them in the heart of New York City.
“I felt like New York is a magical big place with a lot of opportunities and I think that it’s also hard,” Brittany says recalling traveling to New Yor City for auditions as a child. “Bess embodies the struggle,” Brittany says before adding, “but also the opportunity at the same time.”
In speaking of new opportunities, what kinds are this rising starlet looking towards in the near future?