The year 2015 has proven to be a phenomenal year for Blacks on television, with the success of runaway hit “Empire,” a musical drama about a father who has to decide which one of his three sons will be heir to his throne when he dies. As well as the legal thriller “How to Get Away With Murder” and the family sitcom “black-ish,” which both debuted last fall. Each of these shows proves there is an audience for programming that features Black characters.
Writer and director Jamal Hill’s Brotherly Love, which hits theaters on Friday, April 24, falls right in line and brings us the drama we crave. Cast with a combination of fresh and seasoned, young faces, this coming-of-age film is set in the rough streets of West Philadelphia and chronicles the path to stardom for a talented high school basketball star, Sergio Taylor (played by Eric D. Hill Jr.), and how he deals with the pressures of fame, survival and trying to achieve his dream.
“My character Sergio is the younger sibling of June (Cory Hardrict) and the twin sibling of Jackie (Keke Palmer). He is the No. 1 high school prospect in the nation mostly likely to go to the NBA,” says Hill, who in real life dominated the courts in his Parkchester (Bronx), New York, neighborhood.
June, the father figure, is played by Hardrict who can relate all too well about living as a young Black man in an inner city with a plethora of diversions and distractions. “Our father isn’t in our lives anymore and I have to step in out into the streets to provide for my family by any means necessary. I wouldn’t consider June a criminal because of his involvement with the drug game since he was doing it from a place of survival. He does what he has to do so that he can help support his siblings in having a successful future and in achieving their dreams,” offers Hardrict, a native of Chicago who arrived in Los Angeles with only $75 in his pocket 14 years ago.
“Brotherly Love is an important film because there haven’t been any generational films like this since The Wood  and Love & Basketball , not to discount any other films or to say we haven’t enjoyed others in different genres,” avers Palmer. “We talk about real issues in Brotherly Love; we don’t tiptoe around them. It’s as genuine as if you are with your friends and you discuss violence, or talk about your future and what paths to travel to reach your [destiny]. It’s good to see films that make you think and ask yourself, ‘How can I apply that to my life?’ Brotherly Love definitely did that for me when I read the script.”
Newcomer to the big screen, Quincy Brown, son of model Kim Porter, R&B legend Al B. Sure and hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, plays Palmer’s love interest in the film. “I play Chris, who is loving and genuine. I fall in love with Keke’s character, Jackie. The character is similar to me because of his smooth approach on things. He is someone you will become attracted to through his demeanor and charming personality,” says the 23-year-old heartthrob.
How did Brown prepare for his big screen debut?
“Being in Philadelphia was already mental preparation since we were filming in a street environment. Once I read the script multiple times, I’d find myself in character. I had to really dissect everything around me before I added up the little things that would characterize my role,” he says.
While Hill didn’t require acting lessons for playing basketball on-screen, he offered insight on how he prepared for his role in the film overall. “Honestly, I spoke with the director a lot because this is his brainchild. I wanted to make sure the character I played was in tune with what he wanted. I took things scene by scene and tried to get the most out of every opportunity in which Sergio shared the camera with family or a friend,” he says.
“Brotherly Love is an important film because there haven’t been any generational films like this since The Wood  and Love & Basketball .”
The feature was filmed in less than a month, which Hill mentioned can be extremely stressful. The upside for him was working with such a brilliant cast that he was already acquainted with prior to filming. The star even got the opportunity play alongside a few of his childhood friends. “The beauty of this cast is that there is a certain element of professionalism that everyone brought to the table. The fact that we were all genuine people who wanted to make sure we put our best foot forward and give our all made us all connect and gravitate toward we each other,” offers Hill.
“Everyone on the crew is a true professional who gave their heart and soul to the work,” adds Hardrict.
Palmer chimes in, “Being on the set with these guys, I learned a lot. I grew. I love these guys. I have known Cory since I was 10 and Quincy since I was 14. I met Eric during filming and immediately fell in love with him. We had fun together and truly made it a good time.”
The cast sings praises to Jamal Hill, Flavor Unit’s Shakim Compere, and Queen Latifah. “For Queen Latifah to be compelled and to care enough to give our generation this movie and give Jamal the chance to finally showcase his baby, his second script, is a testament to the type of person she is. I’ve known her since I was 9 years old, I did my first project with her [Barbershop 2: Back in Business] and she continues to be a part of my career growth. She knows I love her,” closes Palmer.