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Why Sherilyn From Big Shot Looks So Familiar

Disney+ is going all-in on original scripted series in 2021. In addition to Marvel Cinematic Universe entries WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki, Disney's streaming platform is debuting eagerly anticipated franchise extensions like The Mighty Ducks and Turner & Hooch sequel series, as well as Pixar's Monsters, Inc. spin-off Monsters at Work.

One 2021 Disney+ series stands out from the pack, however, for having a wholly new story, not based on any preexisting properties. Developed by Big Little Lies' David E. Kelley and Harley Quinn's Dean Lorey from an original idea by Brad Garrett, Big Shot is a welcome foray into grounded comedy-drama for the streaming service, following hot-tempered basketball coach Marvyn Korn (John Stamos) as he gets a new start as a teacher at a private girls-only high school.

As casting goes, Stamos himself is the main attraction as the Full House and Fuller House star continues his comeback. But attention must be paid to the scene-stealing actress who plays Westbrook School's tough-as-nails dean, Sherilyn Thomas. If you think you've seen her somewhere before, you'd most likely be right: this actress has been working steadily on TV shows of all kinds for the better part of two decades. Here's why she looks so familiar.

Yvette Nicole Brown started out as a highly prolific commercial actress

If you were watching TV between 2001 and 2009, you almost certainly saw Yvette Nicole Brown at some point. The actress appeared in over 40 television ads for brands ranging from Citibank to Pine-Sol to Dairy Queen, as noted on her website. At a certain point, her presence in commercial breaks was so ubiquitous that she became the unwitting subject of a New York Times piece critiquing the "sassy Black woman" media archetype, which in turn prompted a Washington Post interview where she was given the opportunity to speak for herself and discuss her roles.

"Most of the commercials that I book are not written for black people," she revealed in the interview. "At auditions I'm often the only Black person in a sea of white people. I have been on sets before when a director says 'can you make it more ethnic?' I always say 'can you demonstrate to me how you want it done?' That usually ends it." Additionally, Brown revealed to the Post that she almost became a singer before pivoting to commercial acting, and then to roles in TV series and films, including her first gig as a series regular.

Yvette Nicole Brown starred on a short-lived Kevin Hart sitcom

Sitcoms starring fictionalized versions of celebrity funnymen were practically an institution unto itself in the '90s and 2000s, but some were more successful than others. Where NBC's The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran for six seasons and launched Will Smith's acting career, a 2004 ABC "mirror-opposite" take on the same premise, with a rich man forced to move in with his working-class Black family, was less successful. Despite the best efforts of then-breakout star Kevin Hart, The Big House was canceled after only six episodes.

Still, it marked a turning point for Yvette Nicole Brown, who starred in all six episodes as Eartha Cleveland, Kevin's perky college student cousin. In addition to the series regular billing, The Big House gave Brown the opportunity to share the screen with a talented ensemble that included Keith David and a pre-fame Leslie Odom, Jr., and to flex her pipes in scenes where Eartha sang as part of the church choir. Per her website, it was during a hiatus from The Big House that she landed the first role she'd become widely known for.

Brown played the iconic movie theater manager Helen Dubois on Drake & Josh

One of the most popular titles in Nickelodeon's storied history of live-action kids' sitcoms, Drake & Josh continues to be fondly remembered to this day by those who grew up with it. And one of fans' most cherished memories is undoubtedly the character of Helen Dubois, played by Yvette Nicole Brown on a total of 15 episodes.

The tough manager of the Premiere Theater where Josh (Josh Peck) worked, Helen started out as a minor character before her eccentric personality and Brown's effervescent charisma endeared her to audiences, who couldn't get enough of her inexplicable distrust of Josh and equally inexplicable affection towards Drake (Drake Bell). By the final season, Helen had become a mainstay in the show's colorful bench of recurring players, with a rich backstory of her own (including a past life as a child TV star) and entire episodes where she was the plot's main driving force.

Even after Drake & Josh ended, Helen remained so popular that Brown returned to Nickelodeon for a special guest spot on Victorious three years later, on an episode appropriately titled "Helen Back Again," and then for a cameo on Game Shakers that revealed Helen had gone on to become a talk show host.

Yvette Nicole Brown got her biggest role yet as Community's Shirley Bennett

Though its ratings at the time were less than stellar, Community has endured as one of the most beloved and culturally impactful sitcoms of our time, and we can chalk that up to its flawless ensemble cast as much as to the envelope-pushing writing. A somewhat underrated character among fans, Shirley Bennett was in many ways the show's anchor, the divorced mother trying to start her own business keeping Community tethered to the real world even as its "high concepts" got higher and higher.

Shirley was a main protagonist in countless episodes, which gave Yvette Nicole Brown the opportunity to go deep as an actress into such nuances as her character's lifelong professional frustration, her compulsive gossiping, her repressed anger issues, her overbearing "mothering" of the rest of the group and the religious self-righteousness behind it, her past history with alcoholism, and her frequent bouts of snarkiness. Like every other character on Community, however, Shirley's complexity didn't subtract from her entertainment value, as her exaggeratedly cheerful attitude and singular perspective as a middle-aged mother of three put her at the center of some of the funniest moments on the show and made for incredibly compelling relationships with characters like Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) and Annie Edison (Alison Brie).

Eventually, Brown had to cut her commitments to the show on season 6 to care for her sick father. But it didn't take long for her to find steady work again.

Brown was part of the main cast on two more short-lived sitcoms

After leaving Community, Yvette Nicole Brown signed on for a series regular role on The Odd Couple. CBS's adaptation of the 1965 play of the same name centered on the friendship between a lazy sportscaster, Oscar Madison (Matthew Perry), and his cleaning-obsessed best friend Felix Unger (Thomas Lennon). Brown played Dani Duncan, Oscar's highly competent personal assistant and eventual producer. The show was popular enough to last for three seasons before being canceled in early 2017.

A few months later, Brown had already nabbed another regular role on a very different sitcom, ABC's The Mayor. She played Dina Rose, the mother of protagonist Courtney Rose (Brandon Micheal Hall), a struggling rapper who unexpectedly becomes mayor of the fictional town of Fort Grey, California. Dina was a nosy post office worker and a fiercely protective mother to Courtney — a role that fit Brown's comedic sensibility like a glove. Despite getting strong critical reviews, The Mayor was canceled after a single season, per Deadline.

From then on, Brown kept doing guest spots on various TV shows, including an important role as Christy's (Anna Faris) AA sponsor on Mom. Big Shot is her first top-billed live-action TV role in three years.