With police stopping traffic in downtown Los Angeles, lifelong equestrian Brianna Noble—who took to the streets of Oakland, California, in May to protest police brutality on horseback—made her Hollywood debut for the newly released Xfinity Mobile “My World” ad campaign.
On a black horse, Noble posted the trot with a phone in hand for one of her two takes in the commercial shot mid-July following a week of preparation, COVID-19 testing and wardrobe.
“I opened an email one day from a casting company, and they said, ‘Hey, our client really wants you,’ ” said Noble, 25. “Not knowing anything about the industry when I got on the call, I thought they were jerking me around a little bit. I almost hung up because the questions they were asking me in the interview were really weird.”
Noble, founder of the grassroots program the Humble Project, which seeks to get underprivileged youth on horses, had a busy day planned with her horses and students. She wasn’t game for small-talk questions like, “What did you eat for breakfast?” and “Can you think of a funny joke?” to which she responded, “The state of the world and this interview.”
“I guess that’s the reason why I got the job,” said Noble. “After they kind of jerked me around, I wasn’t too nice to the people that were interviewing. I was like, ‘Look, I have stuff to do at the barn. I’ve got kids to work with. I really don’t have time for this.’ They’re like, ‘Wow, you’re the realest person I’ve ever met.’”
Noble hired an agent to help her navigate the hire, which made the experience seamless and enjoyable. Still, experiencing Hollywood in real time was an eye-opener.
“I never thought that Hollywood was like you see on TV,” said Noble. “I always used to watch ‘America’s Next Top Model’ when I was a little kid, and it would be like, ‘You have five minutes to pack up all your stuff and get on a plane,’ and I’d be like, ‘Whoa, that’s crazy. Why would anybody do that?’
“It was just like that,” she added. “I got a phone call; they were like, ‘We need you in LA now.’ I pack up all my stuff, drop what I’m doing and just drive to LA.”
Initially, they asked Noble to use her own horse in the commercial, but she declined.
“They’re like, ‘Does your horse do the thing where they stand on their back paws? You know, the thing where they’re standing on their back paws, and they’re super majestic?’ ” she said.
For Noble, no Hollywood gig was worth asking her horse to rear in downtown Los Angeles or gallop down the pavement in the name of television. As a Plan B, production hired trick horses belonging to stunt performer Tad Griffith.
“You basically just sit there,” Noble said on riding the two trick horses that were on set. “For the scene that’s in the commercial, [Tad] was on a little scooter, so he’d ride with me down the street, and then we’d just walk back and forth, over and over again for that shot.
“You just sit there and pretend to lift your hands, but the horse is not listening to you whatsoever,” she added. “[Tad] teaches all of those horses to ride at liberty, so basically, you just sit there and do what they want you to do with your face, and then he cues the horse to rear; he cues the horse to back up or come forward. It was definitely really interesting to sit on a horse that you’re not controlling.”
While the final shots used in the commercial are brief, the shoot itself required multiple takes.
“We probably did 10 or 15 takes, and apparently, that’s not that many,” said Noble. “A lot of it is, OK, I can ride, but we’re dealing with people who don’t know anything about horses that want a certain look or image. First, I walked down the street, and they’re like, ‘Oh, we want some action to it.’ So then I’d sit the trot, and they’re like, ‘Oh, we want you to come forward,’ and I’d post the trot, and then they’re like, ‘No, no, we want you to do this sort of thing.’ I’m like, ‘That’s not really how we ride.’ As a rider, you know how to ride, you know what you do, but you’re not really used to having to switch that up to make it look good for TV.”
Since the Chronicle last caught up with Noble in June, the GoFundMe account for the Humble Project is over halfway to the $100,000 goal. With the addition of private PayPal donations, the project, which saw its first 20 students at the beginning of September, has amassed over $120,000.
“We’ve just been raising a lot of money, making sure that our i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed behind the scenes,” said Noble. “It’s really good to see some of the faces of the kids that are coming through Humble that wouldn’t have chances to ride otherwise.”
With the addition of two instructors and a growing herd of six horses, Noble hopes to make Humble a full-time program.
“We’ve had a phenomenal outpouring of people who want to free-lease us horses,” said Noble. “I’m very fortunate that one of my clients gave us back a horse. I sold this colt that I started, probably six years ago, to her, and she reached out to me. He was one of the first horses I did after I quit my job and decided to do horses full time. It’s really cool to now see all of these years later, he’s back in my barn and going to be a lesson horse. Everything is really coming around full circle.”
Noble’s Mulatto Meadows operation, which bases out of a boarding facility in Martinez, California, has also been approved as a Pony Club riding center.
“The owner [of the facility] is great, but we have boarders complaining about seeing brown faces park in front of their [horse’s] barn,” said Noble. “They come up with complaints left and right to sort of make issues for us.
“The work that I’m picking up on the side, this commercial work—that’s a new world that I’d like to explore as much as I can because the money is good,” she added. “So, it would be my goal to use that sort of thing and hopefully be able to afford a little piece of land for myself one day so that I can have something that’s just for these kids where everybody is comfortable. Where we don’t bother anyone, which is absolutely crazy to say that something like this could be bothersome to some groups of people. I have a lot of work to do to get to that goal, so it’s going to be a while before I get to sit down and breathe, but I’m all for the challenge.”
The Humble Project is developing a partnership with an East Bay agency that helps low-income families and provides at-risk youth with program opportunities. The agency works with upwards of 7,000 adolescents, some of which will begin riding at Mulatto Meadows in the coming months.
“Most of them have social workers, so we are working to create a research study to create some metrics around the impact that this sort of programming has for children,” said Noble. “There are lots of studies out there that follow therapeutic riding and how it affects kids with autism and that sort of thing, but there aren’t any really good case studies out there to show the impact they have on communities like this. We’re hoping, as we go forward through this next year, that we’re going to come up with a fairly large metrics around it and hopefully be able to share those with other programs doing the same thing that we’re looking to do.”