LOS ANGELES — Not many songs can get Chris Brown into the holiday season quite like the late Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas.”
So when he was asked to perform it (as well as Otis Redding’s R&B classic “Try a Little Tenderness”) in the new romantic comedy “This Christmas,” which opens Wednesday, Brown was absolutely “thrilled.”
“Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke are my idols and biggest musical influences,” Brown said in a recent interview, flashing a smile as bright as his diamond earrings.
“With the song ‘This Christmas’ I wanted to do something that was kind of different,” the 18-year-old singer says. “I mean, Donny Hathaway is an amazing artist. “So I wanted to bring my flavor to the song so when people over the age of 45 or 50 hear it they’ll be like ‘OK, he did his thing with that record.’ It’s like I can appeal to everybody and not just a younger demographic.”
The multi-platinum, award-winning singer is also scoring points for his acting in “This Christmas.” He made his film debut in the box-office hit “Stomp the Yard” and also had a recurring guest role on TV’s”The OC.”
“Chris Brown is the real thing and such an incredible talent,” says Loretta Devine, who plays Brown’s mother in the movie. “What’s funny is I had been listening to and enjoying his music for a while without knowing who he was. But my 3-year-old nephew sure knew about him. Chris just has that ‘it’ factor and has such a following with young and older audiences. He’s so good.”
“This Christmas” star Regina King and writer-director-producer Preston A. Whitmore II were equally taken by Brown’s work ethic.
“This movie had such a large cast of veteran and new actors, it would have been easy for everyone’s egos to get in the way,” King says. “But they didn’t. We checked them all in at the door to make this movie. It’s really a heartwarming depiction of anAfrican-American family.”
“There are a lot of people out there that are in the music profession that can’t necessarily make the transition to film,” Whitmore says. “Chris Brown was not late one day for filming. And even though he is an international phenom, he could have brought an entourage to the set but didn’t. And to be so focused at such a young age is remarkable.”
At the rate Brown is going, he’s proving his flavor is everlasting. He recently released the album “Exclusive”; his concert tour with Bow Wow comes to Oakland’s Oracle Arena on Dec. 29.
Brown credits his mother — who travels with him on press and tour stops — for keeping him so grounded.
“Having the right people around you all the time is important,” he says. “I do take the acting seriously. But this is all fun. I look at it like smoke and mirrors. I still think it’s a dream, but I ain’t pinching myself yet.”