A Fresh Start and Fresh Air for NYC Actors
You might recognize these two, and not just from the supermarket. Jenna Stern and Brennan Brown are successful actors working on popular network- and cable-television programs.
Photo Ryan Lavine
When New York City based actors Jenna Stern and Brennan Brown decided it was time to search for a new town to call home last year, their primary consideration wasn’t quick proximity to Manhattan.
Sure, that was important to them, since they currently appear on television shows that film in the city, such as NBC’s long-running drama “Law & Order: SVU,” and Amazon’s new hit comedy-drama “Mozart in the Jungle.”
Instead, their reason for moving was actually much simpler—their growing 12-year-old daughter craved more space. “The first ten years of her life in Brooklyn were great,” says Stern about their tween daughter. “It just became apparent that she needed some grass under her feet, some trees, and some fresh air.”
The family initially cast a wide net around the tri-state area during their home search, with communities in New Jersey, Westchester County, and Pennsylvania strongly considered. However, Brown’s studies at the Yale School of Drama brought back familiar feelings about days riding on the New Haven train line and visiting the Connecticut coast. And the fact that they are not nine-to-fivers who have to travel to Manhattan Monday through Friday coupled with the town’s strong school system made Fairfield very appealing.
“Twenty years in the city is a pretty long run,” says Stern.“ A lot of our friends had left the city earlier or decided that they were going to tough it out. Brooklyn, to me, was a suburb when I first came to New York. But more and more, Brooklyn became more like Manhattan, and it felt less community minded.”
Now happily settled in Fairfield for just over a year, both Stern and Brown are busy juggling their lives as parents, as new homeowners, and as in-demand actors.
While acting runs in Stern’s family—her mother, Samantha Eggar, is an Academy-Award nominated actress, father Tom Stern is a producer, and her brother is in the business—Brown started acting as a child in regional productions in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The couple met while performing in a small theater production in New York City in 1995.
Fast forward to today, Brown just finished filming season two of Amazon’s critically-acclaimed “The Man in the High Castle” drama series (premiering mid-December 2016), which The New York Times calls an “unsettling … alternative-history thriller.” He is also a recurring cast member on NBC’s Thursday night drama “Chicago Med.”
Stern periodically plays Judge Elena Barth on “Law and Order: SVU,” and has also appeared on “House of Cards,” “Blue Bloods,” and “Person of Interest” (a show Brown starred in for several years as well). While she counts theater as her first love, Stern reveals that “the acting business has changed a lot. In order to make a living, you have to be able to do everything—film, TV, commercials, voice-overs, and books on tape.” In fact, Stern and Brown converted a room in their new home into a voice-over studio, which allows them the flexibility to work from Fairfield when projects allow.
When they do get to spend quality time as a family at home in Fairfield, both Stern and Brown say they like to keep it simple, by hiking the trails at Lake Mohegan or at the Audubon Society, sitting on Jennings Beach, or eating at Fairfield’s many excellent restaurants.
Thinking back to their time in Brooklyn, Brown reports that their daily routine in Fairfield is actually not that much different from life in their former NYC neighborhood. “Fewer sirens and more wild turkeys,” he quips. “The amount of wildlife in our backyard has certainly been a surprise. It’s like a National Geographic documentary back there.”
As for their daughter? “To see her running around our backyard is amazing,” says Stern. “To see her with her new friends—she’s adapted beautifully.”
“I had no idea the level of support that could come from a community. Our immediate family is either 1,500 or 3,000 miles away. I love the fact that the women I’ve met here are so down to earth. They all shoot straight from the hip!”
“The general vibe definitely suits us,” says Brown. “Fairfield is a friendly, supportive, welcoming environment. We had certainly hoped it would be so, but after moving here, we’ve been delighted to find that the neighborhood exceeded our most optimistic expectations.”