"Life of a King" Premieres Jan. 18

Academy Award Winner Cuba Gooding Jr. Stars in "Life of a King" Based on the Powerful True Story of Eugene Brown and His Big Chair Chess Club
by VERGE Staff | Entertainment and Culture | Saturday, January 10, 2015


LifeofaKing MarkSchwartzbard

UP presents the exclusive television premiere of the NAACP Image Award-nominated film Life of a King, the inspiring, unlikely true story of Eugene Brown and his one-man mission to give the inner-city kids of Washington D.C. something he never had – a future. Starring Academy Award® winner Cuba Gooding Jr. (Selma, Jerry Maguire), the UP Premiere Movie Life of a King will make its television debut on Sunday, January 18 at 7:00 p.m. EST / 6:00 p.m. PST. A special encore of the film will air the following night on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 19 at 9 p.m. EST / 8 p.m. PST.  

During his 18-year incarceration for bank robbery, Eugene discovered a multitude of life lessons through the game of chess. After his release and re-entry into the workforce, Eugene developed and founded the Big Chair Chess Club to get kids off the streets and working towards lives they never believed they were capable of due to their circumstances. From his daring introductory chess lessons to a group of unruly high school students in detention to the development of the Club and the teens’ first local chess competitions, this movie reveals his difficult, inspirational journey and how he changed the lives of a group of teens with no endgame. 

“We are proud to share the powerful, real-life story of Eugene Brown’s Life of a King with our viewers,” said Sophia Kelley in a statement to the press, senior vice president of programming, UP. “Eugene’s difficult personal journey and generous spirit led him to found The Big Chair Chess Club. His life dramatically illustrates how simple acts of kindness – like teaching someone chess – can change lives and inspire communities."

Brown uses chess to teach inner-city children a lesson of life he learned the hard way: "To Always Think Before You Move." This has become the mantra for Eugene Brown's philosophy, and a way of life.  

“When I teach chess, I always get the kids to identify themselves as the king. One thing about being the king: You are the thinker – male or female…Because when the game was first explained to me, and I really had to accept all of the blame, and I couldn’t really blame anybody else. I had kind of ran out of excuses. And when I accepted my kingship for all the moves I made, then my life changed dramatically. Life of a King is the life of a thinker.” - Eugene Brown 


Life of a King cuba gooding jr.

Brown started playing chess while he was incarcerated in federal prison following a botched bank robbery. Chess was a good distraction from the dreary routine and depressing world around him. Born in Washington, D.C., Brown attended the inner city, District of Columbia Public Schools, where he was diagnosed as requiring social adjustment classes. His anti-social behavior lead to early brushes with Juvenile Justice Law Enforcement, resulting in early incarceration at correctional youth institutions as a teen, and prison time as an adult.  

Today, Brown (now 60 years old), is the Founder and CEO of The Big Chair Chess Club (bigchairchessclub.org) is a father, grandfather, a real estate agent, and mentor to D.C. youths who stop by The Deanwood Chess House as a way to avoid the "Big House" later in life. Brown believes that having 6 and 7 year olds learn to play chess is one way to set them on the right course. The Organization teaches chess to inner-city children and adults not just as a board game, but also as an application to life skills, such as improving one's concentration and self-discipline. 

Members of The Big Chair Chess Club, Inc. team have competed in the National Scholastic Tournament in Nashville, TN and Charlotte, NC, as well as the Super National Tournament in Kansas City, MO and won trophies. The Big Chair Chess Club, Inc. has trained elementary school students at several schools, including the Kimball Elementary School where they trained and coached the students through seven years of city championships.

A community activist, Brown is planning to extend and expand services provided by the organization to include job training and placement, apprenticeship programs for the youth and adults, computer literacy skills, life skills, and after school tutoring. He is presently involved with developing and implementing re-entry programs for youths and adults who are poised for release from prison.

The real-life Eugene Brown (wearing his checkerboard hat) makes a cameo in the film, Life of a King. The movie’s ensemble cast also includes: Malcolm M. Mays (Glorious, On the Run), Richard T. Jones (UP’s Lyfe’s Journey, Judging Amy), Paula Jai Parker (Pastor Shirley, The Proud Family), Carlton Byrd (The Last/First Kiss, Castle) with LisaGay Hamilton (Men of a Certain Age, The Practice) and Dennis Haysbert (Backstrom, The Unit, "24"), newcomer Kevin Hendricks, Pepi Sonuga (General Hospital), Jordan Calloway (Drumline: A New Beat, Unfabulous) and Rachae Thomas (Laps).   

Photo captions: (from top to bottom) Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Eugene Brown in Life of a King; Eugene (Cuba Gooding Jr.) with Tahime (Malcolm M. Mays); The real-life Eugene Brown makes an appearance in Life of a King. Photo credits: Courtesy UP Entertainment  


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