ANGELES, CA - Recently, Maestro Arts & Reviews correspondent,
Michael Upward, sat
down with Brandon Karrer (IMDB
listing) for a one on one interview about his
budding career as an actor, writer and director.
Brandon, thanks so much for taking the time to meet for
Michael: I understand that you are currently playing the character of Johnny 3:16 in Taking the Jesus Pill at the King King Theatre in Hollywood. How did you come about getting this part?
Well, the writer and creator, Charlie Terrell
found me in a bar one night, and we started talking.
Iím not sure if he realized that there was something
in me that reminded him of a younger ďCharlieĒ or it was
something that tipped him off to the character, but he said to
me: ďYou have this kind of aura like this character that I
wrote. Would you like to come in and audition for it? Are you
an actor?Ē I said
that I was, but I didnít lead on that it was what I actually
did. I downplayed it, and said ďsure, Iíll come in a read
for it.Ē So I auditioned along with some other guys, and I
got the part. It wasnít like the traditional audition
process. He just ran into me that night.
It sounds like it was meant happen.
Yeah, it feels that way too.
Have you done a lot of live theater?
Yeah, I have...Iíve done quite a bit of theater. But I got a
little disenchanted with theater in Los Angeles because itís really
hard to get people to come out to see theater unless youíre down at
the Ahmanson or the Taper. Little theaters in L.A. struggle to get
people out to watch them. They struggle to find an audience. Itís
not like a San Francisco, or a New York, or even European cities where
theater is just something that people do. Itís not like that so much in L.A. because the
entertainment business draws so much focus away from it.
In the past I had done plays in L.A., but had really been
disappointed with the turnout. When
youíre doing a play, and you believe in the play, and everyone in
the play believes in it, and yet only 10 people show up, itís really
hard to get behind it. I mean, you want people to show up. Like any
artist, when youíre doing something, and you love it, a little
validation goes a long way. But, you can only get your friends to come
see the play only so many times. Now, I had done equity plays in
Berkeley and prior to that, and I really enjoy performing in theater.
I love the audience and the feel.
Yes, itís nice to get feedback right away rather than waiting
for a year for the release of the movie you are working.
Right, like film, you have to wait so long. I think about these
people in these award ceremonies winning awards for parts they did 12
months ago. How odd that must feel. With theater, you get instant
gratification. You get to touch the people right there: you move them.
Thereís also an intimacy with theater that I think if you create
itís really magical. But with movies, with directing,
cinematography, and so many other things that need to come together to
get that magical feeling with the acting. But, movies are great,
because you if you get a little recognition, you get a lot of
opportunity. With opportunity, your options become open, when bigger
theaters will ask you to do bigger plays.
Speaking of movies, I recently the USA film called Focus
(aka Shot) that you starred in.
Oh right. (chuckling) That was done so long ago. As any
artist looking back over their earlier work, I am totally susceptible
to critiquing myself. Itís so difficult to watch my performance in
that. If Iíd known then what I know now, I would have done the part
Well, the character in the movie seemed quite innocent about
the violence and the world of gangs, that maybe it fit that you
didnít analyze your performance too much at the time.
Yeah, it worked for that. But in the years since that movie, I
have really strived to hone my craft. I feel like a rookie baseball
player looking back to the time when he stepped up to the plate for
his first game in the major leagues. I have a lot more confidence in
myself as an actor now. When I watch that film, I see myself as an
actor who has talent, but doesnít have much confidence. And
confidence goes a long way when you just let go, believing in
yourself, whether you hit or miss.
Well, it seems that it was good experience for you.
Oh yeah, it was a great experience. It was fantastic: to be the
lead in the first film Iíd ever done, it was nice. And Iíve always
been such a fan a movie making that I was never in my trailer. I was
on the set watching what everyone was doing. I became a real fan of
all the departments.
Whatís the role that has had the most impact on your life or
Looking back on it.. Iíd have to say it was first [role]
Iíd ever done. A little back story: I was 19 years old, living in a
house with a bunch of drug dealers, and on my way to work one night,
I walked past this little theater house about 10 at night. I
noticed that the back door was open. I walked in the door and asked
the guy who was setting up the stage what they were doing, and I told
him that I had always been interested in being in actor. He said they
were doing Little Women and that they were auditioning
tomorrow. So, I found a copy of it, looked over the part of the main
character, auditioned, and actually got the part. The part itself
didnít bring me a lot of recognition. There really hasnít been a
role that has impacted my career, as of yet.
I did a small part in the Cameron Diaz film last year, and I
got a lot of attention in People magazine and the Enquirer and my
photo was all over for a couple weeks. But, even though this first
part didnít do a lot for my career, it impacted me more than
anything, because it validated what I wanted to do for the rest of my
life. It changed everything for me. Here I was living there with a
bunch of drug dealers wanting a different way of
life. I realized that thereís more to life out there, and I
wanted to start wrangling my dreams instead of sitting back and
daydreaming about what I want. This play helped me realize that ďI
can do this. It doesnít just have to a daydream.Ē So from that
point on, I kept auditioning for plays, moved to L.A., and found a
better place to live.
I take it that you didnít have any formal training before
No, I didnít. Itís kinda weird. My upbringing was sort of
like the Outsiders. I was out on my own very early on, living
with my older brothers. They were eighteen and nineteen and I was
around fifteen. There were women, drugs and booze, and no parental
figure. Everyone was looking out for themselves, and your friends are
your family. So, at that point there was no formal training. Where was
I going to get it? I was just trying to survive. When I did this play,
it was based solely on instincts. Whatever raw talent I had, I guess
the director saw something in me. She really took a chance on me. I
had never taking an acting class or a drama class. It was want I
wanted to do, but there hadnít been chance for me to pursue it.
Have you studied acting or had any musical training since then?
Oh yeah, I have been studying at Ivana
Chubbuck Studios for the past five years. I study with Ivana in
her master class each week. Iíve tried to take those instincts that
I believed in and that raw talent that Iíd been given and have tried
to hone it, and to find freedom within the discipline. Not only did it
build my confidence, but it also gave me the freedom to try new
things. Itís not good enough to just learn your lines, you need to
know what to achieve, your objectives and what the director is looking
for. I really wanted to elevate everything to the next level. Being in
this class for the past five years is part of the reason that I look
back on that movie (Shot, USA) the way I do. I see so much
growth as an artist and actor [since then], I see a man who can break
down the script and see what the character wants, as opposed to just
memorizing my lines.
It does seem, though, that the instinct is a big part of this. I have seen actors who have studied for years, following a
set of rules, reading books and analyzing other actors, but still
donít achieve true success.
I agree with you completely. Instincts are a huge part. People
often say that you got ďit.Ē But, you donít know what that
ďitĒ is. What is that? There are a lot of people who just donít
have those instincts, but they train their asses off. Thereís just
something missing. Then there are those people who have a lot of
talent and instincts, but they donít take the time to take that
talent and hone it, and discipline it, and to give it an opportunity
to soar. But, I think of the actors who have both: actors like Gary
Oldman or Chris
Cooper or De
Niro. These guys have great instincts, but at the same time they
have studied their asses off. Itís not one or the other. I think
You mentioned a couple of actors already, but I was wondering
what actor or performer has influenced you the most.
I would probably say Sean
Penn. I look at Sean Penn, and I see what you strive for.
I watch him in Dead
Man Walking and other roles, and though I donít try to
emulate him, I think that this is the kind of work that I want to do.
I heard him say once that at the beginning you try to do whatever part
you can get, but when you get to a certain level, there is a
responsibility to pick projects that you can stand behind. I look at
an actor like that, who sees his position and takes those
opportunities. Instead of just taking a part that he can get a lot of
money for, he looks for opportunities to actually say something. Also,
he writes and directs, taking matters into his hands.
Is that something you are interesting doing?
Sure. Actually, I have been writing in the past two years, and
just finished up this short film that I wrote and directed and raised
the money for. I have written a couple of movies and pilots that I am
trying to get out there right now. What interests me is all facets of
the movie business. I am
a huge fan of the entertainment business. Iím not just in it to be
an actor so I can be famous and have money. No, I love story telling.
As I get older, I want to tell stories as well. So, I took the
opportunity to go out, raise some money, and shoot a short film.
What was it called?
Itís Like Horse Racing. Just this week, we started
sending it out to film festivals. We had a screening for it last
month. I invited just a few people, but we ended up packing the place
out. Tons of people were there. The reception was great.
Thatís wonderful. What
projects do you have coming up next.
I have a short film that Iíll be shooting after to holidays
called The Late Bloomer. Iíve also been writing some pilots,
and I just started working on an independent feature with a production
company that I pitched it to.
Do you have any acting roles coming up?
Well, right now, Iím writing a script about a guy who is in
his mid thirties, but by the time it gets done, Iíll probably be
about that age. So the timing might just work out for me to do it. (laugh)
Do you have any advice to give people who are just starting
out, trying to ďbreakĒ into the entertainment world?
I would say that...this town is made for dreamers. And,
if you stick around long enough, youíll get a shot to make
your [dreams] come true. I truly believe that. You hear
about people quitting or dropping out all the time.
But I canít do that. This is what I have to do.
I canít think about doing anything else. Also, take chances.
Try to put a little bit of power back in your own hands by
writing stuff and making stuff. My advice to a lot of friends
that come to town saying ďI want to try acting,Ē or ďI
want to give it a shotĒ is to study and
work at your craft. Acting is something that you need to
respect, just like these guys who go to school to learn
cinematography or directing. Respect the art of acting enough to
take time to put something into it. Because what you put into is
what you are going to get out of it. If you sit in acting
classes year after year, slugging it out, doing scene work,
paying the money week after week, then when you get your shot,
youíre going to know what to do with it.
We are sending one our reviewers to review your new show,
Taking the Jesus Pill.
Itís a fun show. Itís really hard to describe, but
when people see it, theyíre say ďwow, I had no idea...Ē
It sounds like a part you can really pour yourself into.
Brandon: Yeah, when they gave me the part, and I took it on, they really let me do whatever I wanted to do. They really opened up the door for me. They allowed me the freedom to discover a lot of things, and to play. Thatís what my character is. He plays a lot. Itís a blast. Itís almost like a workout (laughing).
Well, Brandon, itís been a pleasure meeting with you.
You too, Iím glad we were able to do this. Thanks.
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