There were no BRUHs during Barry Brewer’s real-life upbringing.
The South Side Chicago native plays one of four close, longtime friends on Tyler Perry’s BRUH, the new original series on BET+, but Brewer is a self-described loner with a few friends who have not quite formed the same unit as featured in the show. Fortunately, the actor/stand-up comedian developed an off-camera bond and friendship with his fellow actors that he feels may have longevity past the show.
Brewer has worked the stand-up circuit his entire career, knowing he would eventually weave acting into his repertoire. You can find him in several YouTube shorts, the web series The Perfect Plan, and on BET’s Games People Play.
Brewer talks to BET.com about how his character, John, navigates a fraught, but hilarious, relationship with his mother, Miss Alice (played by actress Chandra Currelley-Young), and how playing this role has inspired reflection about interactions with his own mother.
BET.com: How are you managing during the quarantine?
Barry Brewer: I'm missing out on eating out at restaurants and being able to go into stores and comedy clubs, but I’m doing well. It’s definitely affected me financially; college shows and things like that have been canceled. I was also about to start filming Games People Play again. I hope everything comes together soon.
BET.com: Tell us about your transition from stand-up comedy to acting.
Barry Brewer: I always had the mindset to do both. I was always a big fan of Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy’s careers, and I think acting and stand-up work hand in hand. I wrote my first short film when I was 21, so I started early in my career. Games People Play was my first, real television role.
BET.com: John has a testy relationship with his mother, Miss Alice. Have you seen a similar mother-son dynamic in real life?
Barry Brewer: I have. It’s actually a friend of mine, Chris, from Los Angeles. He’s always living with his mother and she always talks about him. She isn't as vulgar and nasty as Miss Alice, but she’d say things like ‘Chris, you should be more like Barry. You live with your mama and you’re just kinda stupid.’ She’d stay stuff like this in front of me.
My mom was kinda like Miss Alice too…she would drink a lot and do drugs when I was younger, and she was mean while under the influence. I'm definitely a little connected to that. The thing I like about how John is written is when you have a mother who's disrespectful, as a Black man you still maintain a level of respect because that's still your mama. John might say stuff under his breath, but he never really goes in on her.
BET.com: What would John get his mother for Mother’s Day?
Barry Brewer: That’s a funny question! John would give his mother a card, balloon or flowers -- something simple because he wouldn’t spend a lot of money on her. He loves his mom, but anything he got her she wouldn’t appreciate or feel is what she deserves. No matter what, she would have something to say about it.
BET.com: John approaches his friends to borrow money for a business venture. Would you ever do such a thing?
Barry Brewer: If I had a group of guys who are successful and have money, I could see myself borrowing from them to open up a business because I have borrowed money to do projects. I don't think I would go back to ask them if I didn’t pay off the money first. But I do kind of empathize with John because if I felt like I had a winning jackpot of an idea, I probably would go back to the bank [of my friends] again. Obviously, I'm a lot more mature than my character, so I wouldn't have been offended if they said ‘nah, we can't do that.’ I think my little brother is my character in real life. He never pays you back, but he just doesn't understand what it means to be responsible. He just asks for things because his perspective is, if you got it, I should have it.
BET.com: What do you think about how BRUH represents Black male relationships on television?
Barry Brewer: I don’t think we’ve seen anything with four successful Black men outside of the Brothers film. We’re always put in roles as drug dealers and gangsters; these are four successful men who are not selling drugs, navigating relationships, dealing with love, loss and trying to give back; existing as regular people. You get to see the sensitive side of the Black man. BRUH takes you on a journey that way and its place is unique in television.
The first three episodes of the 24-episode season of Tyler Perry’s BRUH are currently available to stream on BET+. Look for new episodes every week.
Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET