TORONTO — Ever since they met 11 years ago, Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry have longed to star in a film together.
Although they’ve shared the stage in theatre projects and Henry had a guest role on Brown’s hit TV series “This Is Us,” the actors didn’t have significant scenes with one another.
So when the new dystopian film “Hotel Artemis” offered them a chance to play brothers, their collective thought was: “Finally, finally, finally,” says Henry.
In theatres Friday, the thriller sees them playing sibling bank robbers whose latest heist with two others goes down during a violent riot over clean water in Los Angeles.
When the robbery goes awry, they seek refuge in a hotel for criminals that’s run by The Nurse (Jodie Foster) and owned by a Malibu mobster (Jeff Goldblum).
“I don’t necessarily mean Sterling and I, but when it comes to this industry, with people of colour, it can be very competitive,” said New York-based Henry in a recent phone interview. The Emmy and Tony nominee also plays rapper Alfred (Paper Boi) Miles on the series ”Atlanta.”
“But I feel like the camaraderie of what we share with each other is more about uplifting and waiting to see what the next move is and to celebrate it.”
That competitiveness others have felt in the past stems from a systemic problem in Hollywood, said L.A.-based Sterling, who’s won a Golden Globe and Emmy.
“It seems to have been, for a very long period of time with regards to black actors, et cetera, that there was only one at a time who could actually prosper,” he said.
“Whether it was Morgan Freeman or Denzel Washington or Will Smith, it seemed as if there was one that was held up and everybody else looked down from below and was like, ‘Maybe one day that’ll happen.’”
But that trend seems to be changing with the rise of actors including Brown, Henry, Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman, Daniel Kaluuya, and Donald Glover, he added.
“It seems as if the landscape is permitting for a greater variety and that there is room for more than just one to prosper — and that there is a wealth of stories to be told and that you can’t just have one actor telling all of them,” Sterling said.
“You kind of need all of us in order to service the amount of story that is out there and that people are hungry for and that now the industry is seeing as economically viable.
“So where once upon a time it was like crabs in a barrel — everybody was trying to get to the top of that barrel and you had other people trying to pull them back so that they could be the person to make it to the top — now it’s like we’re all climbing up at the same time, supporting one another on this mutual rise.
“And that’s something that just feel so good — to know that I can exist in a landscape where I don’t have to be so nervous or protective of what I’m going to get; that I can celebrate the successes of my fellow brothers in this industry knowing that what’s mine is mine and what’s theirs is theirs and we can all prosper together.”
Henry and Brown seem to be having a blast on the promotional circuit for “Hotel Artemis,” which was written and directed by Drew Pearce.
The two have appeared in comedic bits on late-night TV together and heap praise on each other during interviews.
“You don’t get to see a lot of images of two brothers doing the same kind of thing and being next to each other and actually holding each other up and accountable,” Brown said.
“Most of the time it’s like they try to pin us against each other and there’s this competition. With Sterling, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen and experienced and I’m just really grateful.”