I recently got the chance to talk to web series guru and actor Brendan A. Bradley about his role in new YouTube phenomenon, ‘School Of Thrones’. Here, Brendan talks about how he got involved in the project and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
Thank YOU! I absolutely love working in the digital space because you get to have direct interaction and dialogue with the audience!
For anyone who has yet to see it, what’s the general plotline surrounding ‘School Of Thrones’?
‘School Of Thrones’ is a parody of the HBO hit series ‘Game Of Thrones’ set in the universe of ‘The Breakfast Club’ and ‘Mean Girls’. The infamous families from George Martin’s novels are portrayed as rival cliques at Westros High School.
Tell us a bit about your character and what viewers can expect in terms of progression…
My character, Renly Baratheon, is a complete spoof and departure from Gethin Anthony’s incredible work on the HBO series. Show creators Zach Grafton and Matthew Mercer from ‘There Will Be Brawl’ pulled a lot of inspiration from the original books to portray his Renly as the All-American quarterback for The Fighting Stags who bullies his evangelical brother, Stannis (played by Maxwell Glick). But there is still the hot headedness of the Renly we all know and love from the show as well as the somewhat ambiguous relationship/bromance with Loras (played by Matthew Boehm) offering a ton of comedic potential. We’ve only shot three episodes, so I am just as curious as the audience where the creators will take Renly in the future. Fingers crossed I don’t get killed off too quickly by a shadow baby.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
The greatest lesson I learned at New York University was “work gets work” and the online community is surprisingly small when it comes to high-concept, scripted series. As luck would have it, I was directing Marisha Ray (who plays Melisandre in SOT) in my ‘Walk Of Shame‘ series when her boyfriend Matthew Mercer (the director of SOT) asked me if I’d be interested in “a fun little video we’re making about ‘Game Of Thrones’.” I said yes and the rest is history. To offer some perspective, I think more people watched ‘School Of Thrones’ in the first hour than have watched the entire ‘Walk Of Shame’ series. You just never know, so you have to stay positive and collaborate with as many talented people as you can.
As a first episode release, what has the reception been like for you and the cast?
The reception has been overwhelmingly positive. As I said before, you never know how the internet is going to react and we honestly didn’t expect the show to do this well, especially this quickly. I’m not privy to the behind the scenes murmurs, but it sounds like we’re already talking about making more episodes so the response must be good. The real joy for me has been the fan reaction and support. As a fanboy of ‘Game Of Thrones’ myself, I’m delighted to engage with fellow fans who want to argue about character discrepancies or send me GIF’s with hilarious screen grabs. It’s a wild ride!
The web series stars Mary Kate Wiles, Nick Palatas, Austin Rogers, Ashly Burch, Luke Morgan, your good self, Maxwell Glick and a whole heap of others – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
We had an exceptional cast and crew and I was honestly just honored to be included among such a stellar line up. The team was such a mishmash of so many incredible digital franchises that filming actually felt like a networking event. Background performers were taking pictures with the Lizzie Bennett stars, Whitney Milam and Joey Richter were leaking photos to the world and I got to meet and talk to some exceptionally talented artists I had never even heard of and hope to collaborate with soon, particularly Ashly Burch and Matthew Boehm. My absolute favourite experience on set was working with Maxwell Glick. As friends, we have supported each other’s work for many years but had never had the opportunity to work together in a full series. I hope we get to keep on fighting and dancing – (spoiler alert).
Let’s talk a bit about you Brendan – what made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
Do you mean acting or web series? I started acting when I was 15 because honestly I wasn’t particularly good at anything else and had trouble making friends. My mother suggested I try out for our local community theatre and I booked the lead role in a children’s play. For the first time in my life, I felt confident and passionate and got to see my work make a difference in people’s lives. I’ve been hooked ever since. In 2007, I was producing independent theatre in New York City when people began talking about “online video” and “new media.” For some reason, it all made sense me. Everything I was doing to create low-budget theatre could be profitable and more successful by simply introducing a camera to mix. I won a few online short video contests and then created my first series ‘Squatters‘, which became my calling card to the online community.
I heard about this story and I thought I’d delve a bit deeper – is it true you moved cross-country to Los Angeles in a Prius and booked your first gig in an hour?
It’s a great story and it’s actually true! Before I moved to Los Angeles, I moved back home to North Carolina for a few months to save up money. To get a head start, I began submitting myself to projects on the west coast and a few of them asked me to put myself on tape. I submitted for a film called ‘September 12th’ and Skyped with Matthew Lewis and Aaron Sherry, the director and producer. They told me they couldn’t offer me the role unless I came for a callback in L.A. so my father and I jumped in the car and drove cross-country. When we arrived, I dropped my Dad at the airport and immediately went to the production office and performed the film’s ten-page monologue in a small editing bay. When I was done, Matthew Lewis smiled and simply said, “Do you want the part?”. I said I did. He said, “Good. Don’t go back to North Carolina”. A few months later the film won me the Methodfest Best Actor Award for short film. The creative team and I stayed close friends and we all worked together again on the Comedy Central web series ‘Video Game Reunion’ three years later.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry? Obviously YouTube’s a given here…
Like I said before, “Work gets work.” I have done literally hundreds of plays, readings, workshops, student films, sketches, podcasts…you name it. You never know who is going to see your work and you can never stop growing or learning as an artist. My suggestion is to find local people making work you believe in and just ask them if you can help out. I started my journey as a devout stage actor, swearing I’d never work outside of theatre. Since then I’ve worked in practically every job and every format in the entertainment industry. I’ve written, directed, produced, built sets, edited, even held a boom! Just get involved and see if it’s for you. A lot of people are attracted to fame and celebrity. But most of entertainment is about hard work and collaboration just like any other job. I say get your hands dirty in your own community and see if you like it before you make any big life changes.
You’ve also made your name as a creative junkie and digital transmedia showrunner as well, with over 100 webisodes to your name and a whole heap of credits. Honestly, I could happily spend years going through the vast library of fantastic content and web series’ you’ve produced. But, I’m sure anybody who’s having trouble thinking up, producing or marketing their online releases will want me to ask this and I imagine it’s probably been asked to you in interviews before. What’s the secret to any successful web series? Is it the technology used? The idea? The marketing?
If I knew the secret, I’d be a very rich man. Honestly, what’s so thrilling about the digital space is there really is no formula. A cat video goes viral while a dynamic, scripted masterpiece struggles to find 100 views. There’s a lot of marketing strategies that can certainly help a video’s exposure, but I personally believe “success” has nothing to do with the number on that hit counter. You have to imagine these videos will be online forever. Who knows what audience will stumble across them in a month, a year, a decade. My formula is to focus on telling deeply personal stories with rich characters and surrounding myself with talented people who excel at my shortcomings. I’d rather have 100 die-hard, engaged fans of a show than one million “clicks” on a video with no substance.
Which inspires you more as a writer? The world around you, or old/newly released TV and films?
Truth is stranger than fiction, I say. As a writer I love pulling from my own bizarre experiences and allowing a little embellishment and revisionist’s history. But as a director, I think it is very important to respect and pay homage to the masters. Most of my work has nods or re-imagining of classic films and TV shows. For example, the script for ‘Squatters’ is inspired by my own real-life experience being “between places” in New York City. But scenes like Ramira catching Alex in the bathroom in Episode 3 are lovingly pulled from Mike Nichols’ ‘The Graduate’.
Looking at your IMDB credits, you’ve been in tons of online, TV and film projects – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with so far and why? Any good stories?
There are a lot of stories I probably should (and shouldn’t) tell about high-profile actors I’ve been fortunate enough to work opposite. But honestly the most rewarding projects have been those that have resulted in lasting friendships after the wrap party. With the sporadic nature of the entertainment business, it can be really tough to form meaningful relationships. So my fondest memories are actually odd little projects like Comedy Central’s ‘Video Game Reunion’, where I met my girlfriend or the student film ‘Weak Species’, where I met my best friend. Acting is the best job in the world, but sometimes we need to be reminded that it is a job. It’s important to create family and friends who can help you with the unscripted parts of life.
What’s coming up for you in 2013?
I’ve been blessed to have a great start to the year! Currently, I host a weekly live show for The CW and Machinima.com about their new series ‘Cult’. Yesterday, I was on set filming Season 2 of the web series, ‘Hipsterhood’ and then went to the wrap party celebrating the season finale of ‘School of Thrones’! This past month, I also released my own series, ‘Walk Of Shame’ and had the honour of doing an audio recording of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ for L.A. TheatreWorks and NPR with Hollywood legends like Stacy Keach. If you want to know what’s next, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook and more by searching: BrendanABradley.
Thanks for the interview!