by Len Lear
Phillip Sean Brown, 42, of Flourtown, who has a long resume as a professional actor, is also co-director of the upper school theater department at the exclusive Shipley School in Bryn Mawr. In addition, he wrote a hip-hop musical, “The Last Jimmy,” that played at the Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut St., Feb. 25 to 28. The play, according to its creators, is “a powerful indictment of the for-profit mass incarceration industry … that was particularly relevant coinciding as it did with Black History Month.”
Several of Brown’s students have gone on to study at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York and acting conservatories in the U.S. and abroad. Before starting his own studio, the Ambler Actors Studio, in 2008, he was the dialogue coach and a writer for the Disney Channel shows, “That’s So Raven” and “Cory in the House,” two of the highest rated shows ever on that cable TV network.
Brown previously wrote “Beat Down the Negative,” his first play to be performed. It toured the Philadelphia School District, spreading the message that “If you can dream it, you can do it.” A firm believer that “Art should reflect society and point out its imperfections and flaws; it should lift society up,” Brown felt torn when he moved to Los Angeles to pursue more commercial interests in screenwriting and acting.
After a trip to Thailand, Brown’s Urban Artists, a non-profit theatre company he founded for a group of young actors who perform street plays, became the Salt World Theater Company, which reached out to communities in need by working with local churches and spreading positive messages through theater. Both of Brown’s theater troupes toured with his original one-act plays in prisons, schools and even neighborhood streets promoting the gospel of non-violence, education and faith.
Since then, Brown has enjoyed great commercial success, working for Viacom as well as the Disney Channel. However, he has always managed to balance his commercial pursuits with outreach work, which has taken him to many cities across the U.S. and foreign destinations such as Costa Rica, Malaysia, Mexico and Southeast Asia, where he has brought theater to young people who might not otherwise have been exposed to it.
“I am so proud of Phillip,” said Annie Brown, Phil’s mother, in an earlier interview. Annie, who lives in Flourtown, previously worked in the Chestnut Hill Local classified advertising department. “I was just as proud of my other son, Sherrod.
“The three of us were best friends. I never had any problems with them. They are such beautiful sons, and they were best buddies. Sherrod was Phillip’s biggest fan. I never imposed my desires on them, but I always supported them in whatever they wanted to do. Phillip is on a wonderful journey.”
Sherrod, who also lived in Flourtown with his wife and three sons, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 36 on Oct. 18, 2007. “He called me right before it happened,” said his mom. “I believe he had a premonition that it was going to happen.”
“God blessed us to have time together right before he died,” said Phillip. “Sherrod stayed on the set with me in Chester County when we were shooting the movie ‘The Happening,’ directed by M. Night Shayamalan. He said, ‘It (stardom) is going to happen for you.’ He was always 100 percent supportive. He died two weeks after that. He still inspires me every single day.”
Brown attended elementary school in Jenkintown but spent one year only — 7th grade — at Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill. He then went to Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, where he was a football star and had college football programs very much interested in him, but by that time he had fallen in love with the theater, so he attended the University of the Arts in center city.
Eventually Phillip landed roles in three Disney shows, two of them on ABC-TV, as well as on “Hack,” the CBS-TV show that starred Chestnut Hill resident David Morse; “The Jamie Foxx Show” and “Living Single,” both on the WB Network, and others.
Brown also has numerous theater credits in Philadelphia and New York, among others. And he has been a dialogue coach for TV shows, a personal acting coach for several celebrities and a screenwriter.
“But this is a tough career,” said Phillip. “You have to look as young as possible for as long as possible.”