NEWBERRY – It’s a feeling that every aspiring actor dreams of but precious few get to experience.
But for Newberry freshman Copeland Brown, a main base on Newberry’s competition cheerleading team, his dream became a reality earlier this month when he landed roles in two films set for release later this year.
Visiting family in West Point, Virginia during Spring Break’s opening weekend, Brown received a call summoning him to Atlanta in less than 36 hours for filming on Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. He raced home to Anderson, picked up a few changes of clothes, and arrived on set for a 5:00 a.m. casting call on Tuesday morning.
“They told us to come dressed in our high school clothes,” Brown said. “So I wore something typical for me in high school: duck boots, a bright-colored shirt, jeans, and a vest.”
His attire helped him stand out, attracting the attention of the director. He was bumped to a “featured extra” role, a minor character named Tyler, and was able to interact with two of the lead actors in the scene shot that day.
“The scene was about two minutes long and it took us four-and-a-half hours to film it,” he recalled. “They made sure to get several different angles and close shots of characters’ faces.”
The following day, he returned to the set at 4:30 a.m. and began filming for another scene later that morning. A far cry from the day before, where he entered the process changing clothes as quickly as possible to beat the other extras onto the set and jockey for position near the lead actors, Brown was strategically placed near the leads in his new role as Tyler.
He also was selected for a part in the upcoming Pitch Perfect 3, in which he performed in Newberry Cheerleading apparel in multiple scenes. Like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the movie shoots in Atlanta and requires Brown to be on set for multiple days. He can’t say much about his role but is thrilled to receive two chances in quick succession to pursue what could become a new career path.
The T.L. Hanna High School product has long had an interest in Broadway and is minoring in Musical Theater in addition to his Elementary Education major. Considering whether his future could lie in performance arts, Brown typed the phrase, “Ways to be famous in South Carolina,” into a search engine on a recent evening.
The results included a Facebook ad for an agency looking for high school students to cast as extras in films. As a freshman, Brown figured he didn’t have anything to lose by submitting his information—he still looked young enough, and besides, most actors portraying high school students are in their 20s, anyway. His age may even give him a leg up, or so his thinking went.
Several weeks went by before he got the call to come to Atlanta. Being cast in multiple roles has opened up other opportunities for Brown, but he’s more concerned with continuing to pursue his education and being selective about potential filming roles than jumping at any opportunity.
“I definitely want to continue pursuing this,” he said. “Everyone has limited opportunities before they turn 18 because of child labor laws, but now that I’m an adult it opens up so many more roles. I want to take these chances, but at the same time I know I’ve got to be realistic and have a back-up plan.”
That plan, of course, entails earning his degree from Newberry while continuing as a member of the cheerleading team. He had never cheered before, but head coach Lindsey Swygert’s eye for talent landed on Brown. Her mentorship has turned Brown into a key member of the squad on both gamedays and at competitions.
“She took a risk on me and has given me every opportunity to prove myself,” Brown said of Swygert. “She’s very supportive of musical theater and film. Every coach should be as supportive of their team’s dreams as she is.”