REB BROWN - SUPERHERO FROM THE SOUTHLAND
By John Maholm
If you live in, or near, Los Angeles, CA, you may be aware that Camarillo, CA is a place where you can shop one of hundreds of premium outlet stores in search of a great deal on discontinued Nike shoes or this season's must-have Kate Spade handbag. What you might not know, is that it's also home to the affable, remarkably fit 63-year-old actor, Reb Brown, who's widely known for his portrayal of Captain America on TV during the late 70's. I stopped by to talk with him about his thoughts on the updated flick and where we will see him next...and afterward, I got a sweet new Nautica jacket!
Brown, who has amassed an impressive acting resume both in television and film during his 40 years in the industry, starred as Steve Rogers in two made-for-television movies, Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon. Both movies aired in 1979 and were produced by Universal Pictures. Their plan was to create a television series, but after losing the rights to Marvel Comics that never materialized. I recently visited with Brown to talk about his career and get his thoughts on playing the super strong, fleet-footed iconic superhero who sported not only a red, white and blue spandex suit and see-through bulletproof shield, but did so while riding a tricked out crime-fighting motorcycle.
Q: You grew up in LA and then played football at USC. How did you first get into acting?
A: I was waiting to get on the Sheriff's Department and working as a bouncer at a bar in Pasadena called the Handlebar Saloon. An agent, who had a client at the nearby Ice House, came in and saw me there while I was in the middle of throwing two people out. I had one in each hand and was banging them together to throw 'em out the door and he says to me, 'Hey, kid. Do you wanna be an actor?' I said, 'Just a moment.' and continued what I was doing. Then I came back in and said, 'I don't know. I don't know what I'd do.' And he says, 'That'll work.' So I connected with him and was on the Sheriff's Department for a period of time and then ended up doing a film called SSSSSSS with Dirk Benedict and Heather Menzies. They needed a football player that was kind of a big guy and could play a jerk. I went in and read at Universal, did a test for 'em and I got it. That day I had a job and that's how I got involved.
Q: You had parts on some of my favorite shows during the 70s and 80s - CHIPS, Happy Days, Fantasy Island, Three's Company and Love Boat to name a few. While I'm sure most roles are great, what was is like playing the original Captain America?
A: It was fun, John. It was a lotta fun. You know any time you could make believe and do stuff like that is great. And one of the things that's happened recently with the recognition I received again, is that the kids know who I am once again and it's fun. That's what I remember about it - the kids just loved it. The neat thing is that it's such a positive role model. It's all about just doing good, being honest and the American way. We need it today, believe me.
Q: You mentioned that the Captain America motorcycle you rode in the movie was stolen off the airplane while in Venezuela for a publicity event. Do you any other stories you'd like to share?
A: When I was filming the second Captain America, we were down in Venice Beach. I was in my motor home and was getting ready to come out in full regalia - the shield, the helmet, everything. And at the time there was this guy sitting on the wall there, right by the water on the strand, and he was drinking. I come out of my room and as I look across, he looks up at me and falls off the wall and says, 'Man, I gotta stop drinkin'.' So he's fallen off the wall and then I see these hands, almost like a cartoon, start to come back to the top of the wall - crawling their way up. And he looks over the wall again and sees that I'm actually real and he goes, 'Well, maybe not.' It kinda took me out of my frame of mind, my Captain America frame of mind. That was a hoot and a half. I'll never forget that as long as I live.
Q: What are your thoughts on the latest Captain America film?
A: It was excellent. I thought they did a wonderful job. They really brought out the character and the virtues of it. I mean that's what it's all about. It's about goodness and never giving up. Especially with the original one starting basically with physical handicaps and then overcoming them with this thing and then using them in a positive way. And never being a bully when you've been bullied your whole life.
Q: What are you currently working on and can we see you in any upcoming projects?
A: I recently shot a movie in Alabama called Night Claws. I play a sheriff and it was a lotta fun to make. They're also gonna be making another Bad News Bears movie - the idea being that the cast from the original has now grown-up and decides to hit the field once again. I'm playing the catcher and he's lost weight over the years since they first played ball together. I'm also trying to get into the sequel of Captain America and that's pretty exciting.
While it's commonplace for Hollywood marriages to end sooner than most, Brown is the exception and has been with his wife, Cisse Cameron, for 32 years. He's enjoyed all of the great roles he's played over the years, but doesn't regard any of them, including Captain America, as his biggest accomplishment, instead saying, "The best thing for me, as far as I'm concerned, in my whole career is that I met my wife doing this. If nothing else I ever did as far as show business is concerned - If I met my wife, I consider my career a success. We met on a television show at the time when I was a guest star. The first day I told her I loved her. The second day I told her I was going to marry her, and we've been together quite awhile. She's my soul mate."
Well, I for one hope to see more of Reb Brown in the coming years and think he'd be a great addition to the next installment of the Captain America franchise in any capacity. Not only would this give me a reason to speak with him again, but also provide another chance to ask the one question I bet most of you were dying to have answered. That being whether or not he and Lou Ferrigno ever hang out and swap 70's superhero stories?