The Universe Opens Up: Les Brandt goes big in Hollywood
You've seen him on Days of Our Lives, Another World, The Magnificent Seven, CSI: Miami and tens of TV commercials. Our jury member, Les Brandt, is a versatile actor with credits spanning over drama, comedy, action and westerners.
Between being on set, acting opposite Oscar-winning actresses, callbacks, and workouts, Les Brandt lent us his talent and experience as the lead judge for the Los Angeles Film Awards.
In the following interview, Les takes us on the journey of his career and shares useful insights about acting and the Hollywood industry.
Les Brandt! The Man and The Legend! Thank you so much for being part of LAFA. It's been such an honor to have you as the lead judge! What was the best part about this experience?
First, I would like to say, thank you, Nami, for connecting me to and with the LA Film Awards experience. The coolest part of the judging process was being able to share insight and advice to these writers, directors and actors not only for their current project but for anything they may have down the road on other projects as well.
Most recently, you worked with three highly acclaimed Oscar-winning actresses. Do you get nervous acting in front of such talent, when the bar is super high?
Not at all... It's not nervousness... it's more EXCITEMENT... all of my work experience and training prepares you for moments like this..and I observed between takes that the 'energy' that I was feeling was MORE intense and adrenaline thick 'realizing' that I'm working opposite this super high caliber actress in that moment... and the energy that she was giving me was 10 times more incredible. A very special friend told me once, in order to make it in Hollywood, you need to 1. Be Nice 2. Work Hard. 3. Get Lucky. She couldn't be more right! When those 3 basic yet essential things come together... The Universe simply opens up.
On set working with three Oscar winners
Let's rewind back to the beginning. You grew up in the Texas wilderness (The small town of Amarillo)... When did you know you wanted to be an actor? What inspired you to go on that journey?
Well, I grew up in a family of 7 children in the late 60’s and we unfortunately didn’t have money for things such as toys, TV, radio or anything much else. So ‘play time’ really consisted of our ‘creative imagination.’ I remember the exact moment that I realized I was a perfectionist and that I could basically do anything I set my mind to do and WELL. I was maybe 5 or 6 years old playing in the dirt… making race tracks for my ‘imaginary race cars’ (tree bark & whatever else I could find) and the track was very well designed and constructed… it had a bridge, small tunnels, slight pitch in certain areas than on other areas of the track, obstacles like boulders and tree logs to challenge the driver, etc. I remember stepping back from my creation and thinking to myself, wow…I did this with DIRT! The perfect race track that was ‘imagined’ in my mind’s eye came to life by my own two hands and my creative will. I remember seeing how well I could ‘create’ from nothing that maybe I could possibly do it with ‘anything’…and I felt it was music or acting. We didn’t have tangibles or things monetarily…but we learned how to WILL, to create, how to solve, I learned the power of imagination. We had a Charlie from Willy Wonka type young life, ha. We had NO’thing… but everything in each other. I’m still much of the same now, a minimalist and just an older version of me then. Always READY to ‘visualize’ something new and challenging.
You've gone through much acting training: The Film Actors Lab (Dallas), the American Musical & Dramatic Academy (NYC), Larry Moss/Edgemar Studio as well as The Groundlings (Los Angeles, CA). When you act these days, after appearing in numerous movies and shows, do you actively apply any pre-learned acting methods or just play your character intuitively?
I give the credit to what I do and the technique I use the most in my acting arsenal to, Adam Roarke, who was my first acting mentor when I was 19 years old and beginning in Dallas, TX.
Adam Roarke and Peter O'Toole, The Stunt Man
He would always whisper in my ear to ‘simply rely on your instincts, what you would do or feel’ and he had a way of bringing out confidence while setting a young actor at ease in various situations. Adam used to tell me ‘you have the savvy of an old pro.’ I miss that man… Adam passed in 1996. I’ve been told and critiqued time and time again on how real, simple and truthful my characters are received and the term used the most is, instinctual. I do use a LOT of Meisner in my work and as Sanford Meisner says the focus is “on the reality of doing’ and I just always try to keep it simple.
Adam Roarke, Hells Angels On Wheels
You recently had a call back for a very famous TV show (fingers crossed!). How do you prepare for a callback? Is it different from prepping to an initial audition, and if so - in what way?
Actually, for me the only difference is the excitement level…it’s great to get the initial call…then you delve into the character development, etc …and the call back is just another opportunity to give them what you’ve created the first round…just tighten the screws all around with a little more amp… because you now know you’re one of a handful for the final round.
Behind The Blinds
From Leonardo's comedic character in Behind The Blinds, to your sexy Old Spice Commercial role, and your role in Days of Our Lives... You're played quite a huge arch of different characters. If you could choose your next gig, what genre would it be and why?
Crime, Drama and Mystery. I feel that a Detective role is definitely near & in the future…similar to a Law and Order, Ice T type of role, perhaps. Possibly even an old school (Hill Street Blues) really deep undercover type role would be awesome. A character void of concerns for the way he ‘looks’… a man’s man type, no nonsense, good at what he does role…gets his man, Detective. True Detective, The Night Of. The Night Stalker, Vegas. Here’s why… the emotional and intellectual shifts that I feel a Detective or Law Enforcement Officer must make are night and day than most characters. They exist on a different plane in reality. I would like the challenge of a Crime/Drama but if not…COMEDY!!!
Days of Our Lives
What do YOU think is the Best Les Brandt Performance ever?
A film called Andre Foster. The emotional work on that film was deep for me & I trained super hard for that film. Speed bag, rope work, boxing choreo/technique, heavy bag etc. all compressed in 14 days! It was a rush. Vincenzo Lucciola, the writer/director was impressive. The unfortunate part of this film was I lost a great friend to a motorcycle accident during the shoot and it wasn’t easy getting through some of those emotional scenes with him on my mind/heart.
Last year you booked an amazing role: The Old Spice Commercial... Did you drive your own motorcycle?
Ha, no… I was riding a production bike… a vintage dirt bike… I’ve only owned race bikes and cruisers. And talking about character arcs in the above question… I booked the job looking like this…
Old Spice Motorcycle
and then the final spot looked like this.
Old Spice Motorcycle
Is Les the movie/TV actor, who performed countless roles, most recently "The Second Coming of Christ" and "David and Goliath", any different than Les the commercial actor whose work includes highly recognizable brands like Coca Cola, McDonald's, Toyota, Nissan?
There is no difference…they all possess the same level of truth and commitment to their objectives but some commercials can have a more over the top element to them that is not commonly used in mainstream TV and film unless that’s their style. Like last year’s Yoplait GoGurt and Nissan (Blake Shelton) commercials were subtle yet over the top in the same vein so an actor must know when and where to shift those gears.
David & Goliath
Les Brandt and Maria Julieta Georoiu Second Coming Of Christ
Nissan Blake Shelton
David & Goliath
How was your experience working with Oscar winner John Mathieson (Gladiator) and dir. Daniel Kleinman? What did you take away from that experience? / What are some of the memorable moments from that set?
A Daniel Kleinman and John Mathieson production is and will always be a MA$$IVE one! Daniel Kleinman is the commercial world Michael Bay! What I took from it was confirmation that being PREPARED and ready for anything under pressure pays off…here’s why. We spent 3 days with the super talented stunt man, Andy Dylan, up in Chatsworth for our sword fighting choreo and on the day of the shoot Daniel decided that the fight didn’t work well with the riverbed that the fight was supposed to take place in…so he asks us…’are you okay with learning a new fight sequence from scratch, NOW?’ 3 days to learn 1 fight…so me and the other actor had to learn it a different way and on the spot? Sure, no problem…I got this!
Monster Daniel John
Let's get a bit personal. It's hard not to notice your amazing figure.... How do you maintain your amazing figure? Do you think your lifestyle (vegan, constant workout, being a cat-dad) has anything to do with your career achievements?
June 2017 marked my 30 year anniversary of my training ritual. 30 years of 2 to 3 days a week… sometimes 4 times a week. Every week, every month, every year for 30 years. I’ve trained from Dallas, New York City, to the Mecca G Gym in Venice to even having my own equipment ‘inside’ my apartment. I made a commitment to myself in ’87 to be an actor, to take the best care of myself and those around me, and to NEVER STOP pursuing my dream no matter what obstacles get thrown in my path! I won’t back down.
1996 New York City
My physical life represents my Dedication, WILL POWER, Concentration, Belief Against All Odds, Strength, Discipline and Strong Work Ethics. I attached one photo of me 21 years ago… and another from 5 days ago. My physical abilities and condition have certainly been responsible for many of the jobs I’ve booked along the way. Because certain characters just have to have that believability factor to them, physically. My kittens certainly help in my internal work that I do while with them. They help cultivate my non sensory communicative skills…my ability to focus on the heart language and not so much the alphabetical one that we use most. Sometimes it’s important to ‘heart talk’ on a soulular level and not so much ‘vocally’ and then one understands a different way of affecting another being. Affecting one as an actor, vocally and visually is great…but it’s the unique ability to do it ‘silently’. One of my favorite actors, Lon Chaney, was THE MASTER at it.
2017 Los Angeles
And for the lady fans... aside from your beloved cats, is there anyone special in your life?
I have been dating a once in a lifetime girl and January 25, 2019 will be our 8 month anniversary...She has been putting all kind of laugh lines on my face, daily...we just laugh, laugh and laugh. A true beauty she is. Again, you can't spell bLESsed without my name in the middle!!
Tell us about your recent projects.
I’ve recently signed with an amazing new theatrical agent and manager and am now back in the cycle of Network castings for the hit shows and have already come so close on a few huge projects. So now, it’s just a matter of me keeping pace with what I’ve always done but now with the push from some of the most respected and talented guidance and direction from my team. Also, my David & Goliath was recently released on Blue Ray and DVD and NETFLIX. Watch IT, Love IT, Rate IT!! I also have a film (Compass Rose) that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival Short Corner in May 2017. I loved that project as I played a Harley Davidson bad ass who ends up being more of a spiritual Sifu, Master Guru. Anything with motorcycles, animals and the esoteric…I’m all smiles.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
Yes, there have been so many great people along my way from Dallas, New York and Los Angeles that are responsible for so many great things in my life, and you know who you are but…one very special person is my sister, CARLA! Without her…I don’t even want to know what my life would be like. If anyone has someone like this in their life…that guides them, directs them, inspires them and protects them…don’t let a second of your life go by without telling them how much you appreciate them and how grateful you are for them BEING in your life.
Les Brandt on IMDb
Interviewer for LAFA: Nami Melumad