Thirty-three years have passed since Bobby Brown released the hit single Every Little Step that helped to catapult Bobby Brown’s career into the stratosphere. Coincidentally, this year marks the 35th anniversary of the Emmy Award-winning Biography franchise, which has been one of the cornerstones of the A&E brand, presenting comprehensive stories about fascinating people in our culture. What once ran as a weekly series for about 25 years has evolved into eventized documentaries presented by accomplished, nonfiction storytellers with unique points of view.
Adding to that tradition was the two-night Biography event that focuses on the life of R&B megastar and Grammy Award-winner Bobby Brown. With more than 20 million records sold as a member of New Edition, and a solo career of selling more than 12 million records, Bobby Brown has lived his life in front of the cameras. His meteoric rise and very-public struggles have played out in tabloids for decades. Now he’s ready to give viewers a very real and very honest look at the man behind the headlines; from a perspective you don’t see very often, his very own.
Through his honesty and openness, Bobby Brown: Every Little Step focuses on Bobby, his incredible wife, Alicia Etheredge-Brown, who, along with Bobby, are the Executive Producers on both Biography: Bobby Brown and Every Little Step. Along on the journey are their whole family in the next chapter of his life as they embark on new adventures together, raising a family, and embarking on a new New Edition tour, but also dealing with loss and a renewed sense of focus on his sobriety and health.
The Koalition had the opportunity to speak to Bobby Brown about his openness, his experience filming both programs, the importance of his fans, visiting the gravesites of his ex-wife and daughter and more.
“[Being part of both] productions were mainly therapeutic. Being able to look back on all of the good times and all of the bad times gave me a sense of comfort. So, it was really therapeutic for me. I started this business at the age of 14. I’m 53 now. So, there’s been so much, almost 40 years of entertainment that I’ve been a part of and I’m proud of it. I’m proud of all of the ups and all of the downs.”
Aside from his marriage to Whitney Houston, one of Bobby Brown’s most talked about decisions in his career was his Bravo reality series Being Bobby Brown. Even though the show lasted only one season, it featured several eyebrow-raising moments in reality TV history, making Bobby probably one of the first celebrities to embrace the reality show format.
The show was the highest rated on Bravo at the time it aired, but it was not renewed for a second season. In an interview with The Breakfast Club, Brown hinted at tension with Cohen. “I can say money, I can say, me and Andy [Cohen] didn’t get along, I’ll simply just say it ran its course.”
Reflected on his journey doing Being Bobby Brown and the journey it took to film Every Little Step, “the format has changed in a way where when I did Being Bobby Brown. That [period] was during a time in my life when I was going through a lot of troubles. Right now, I’m living a life I could only dream of with my beautiful wife and my kids. It’s just been a wonderful time and I’m really proud of the direction my life is going. I feel I have a lot more control. We work really well together; Kevin [J. Kevin Swain, Executive Producer], myself, Lauren [Lauren Lazin, Executive Producer] and my wife. So, it just makes it easy.
“I’m older. I’m more mature. I’m definitely a lot wiser. My wife can attest to that. [I’m] way more patient now, which I appreciate, especially with having young children. [I’m a] hands-on father, [which you’re going to see] a lot in the series and in the documentary as well. It’s definitely a different world for [me]. [I] was younger then, traveling a lot more. Now we kind of travel as a pack.”
“This is more of a therapeutic thing for me. It helps me maintain my sobriety. It helps me with everything that I want to do in the future. This is not the end of us executive-producing things. I will be doing a whole lot more as far as productions are concerned.”
When he was tapped by A+E to tell his story on his own terms, fans, followers and the Executive Producers couldn’t wait to peel back the layers of the renowned, former Bad Boy of R&B.
The documentary opens with Brown declaring the biggest misconception about him: “I really give a fuck about what other people feel.” We’ve all heard his Grammy-nominated, new jack swing chart-topper, “My Prerogative” where he sings, ‘Everybody’s talkin’ all this stuff about me/ Why don’t they just let me live? (Tell me why)/ I don’t need permission, make my own decisions…’
While the four-episode journey is more of a retrospective of his past life as it eases into the newness of his current one. It digs deep into his Roxbury, Md. upbringing, the formation of New Edition, his struggles with sobriety, a brief romance with Janet Jackson, his life with Whitney Houston and current wife, Alicia Etheredge, the crippling losses of Houston, their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and his son, Bobby Brown Jr. while also providing insight from those closest to the singer.
One of the pleasures of this film is Bobby’s determination to remain honest. “There was never a moment where it was ‘I’m not talking about that. I’m not going to do that.’ I was just really open and very giving and it was just a great [experience]. It made the whole filmmaking process easy. [I hope people] start to relate to [me] and [my] story on a very personal level, even though you may come from a different place.”
“[I] was able to talk about things straight up from the very beginning. [They discussed] this is what we’re doing. ‘We have four hours to do this. What is our story and how can we get it?’ [They had] a relationship with [my] entire family, [including my] brother Tommy [and my] kids. [They] made this journey a pleasurable one. It wasn’t very difficult to get this done.”
“It was a very emotional experience making this film. There were a lot of times where I saw rough cuts and just cried and laughed. There’s a lot of nostalgia and a lot of memory when you start to remember how much [I] influenced pop culture. So much of it is from the heart. They made it very comfortable for us to unlock those doors and to be myself and to be proud of walking through where I am today.”
Proving Bobby has nothing to hide from viewers, this included a rare visit to the gravesite of Whitney Houston and their daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. Houston tragically passed away on Feb. 11, 2012, and Bobbi Kristina died on Jul. 26, 2015, which Bobby called an “emotional” experience in Every Little Step.
“When the cameras were following me, I didn’t want to let anything get in between my life and what I was doing,” Brown shared. “I just wanted the cameras to follow me wherever I was going, and that day I happened to be going to the gravesite. We had some really tough scenes. [I visited] [their] gravesite for the first time. I had never been there before, and we filmed that. That is a very vulnerable moment. It was very emotional. Obviously, there’s a camera that you just completely forget is there anyway, so [I’m] having this moment and I didn’t see any cameras.”
“[They] treated all of that with respect. [They] treated the cemetery itself with respect, and Bobbi Kristina and Whitney’s space where they are with respect, and me with respect. [They] gave [me] room. [They] could’ve been a typical reality show but, no, this [was] special, this is real. This isn’t made-up. This isn’t scripted.”
Every Little Step is littered with deeply personal moments and reflection, but Bobby credits his fans for helping him get through it all. “I love it. It’s a part of what I got into this industry for. You get into the industry for attention and, for the most part, that’s how you get attention is through the paparazzi and through doing the things that I’ve done. So, I appreciate it, and I love it.”
The fans make their presence known in Every Little Step, as they are seen interrupting scenes or jumping in between Bobby, wanting to see him, and wanting to be with him. And of course, Bobby wants to talk to everybody, which can be challenging when filming. “People have such a love in their heart for [me], and I think a lot of people are going to love this program. Moments like that are great because it keeps the story authentic.
You’re seeing [me] in [my] true essence, the people, the fans that came to the street. It was great for us to capture as well, because this is a day in my life. I hope [people] take away the fact I’ve gone through rough patches in my life and I’m living my life in a clean and honest way. It’s all real. It’s all real.”
Every Little Step and Biography: Bobby Brown are available now on A&E.