Monday, February 25, 2013

And Where Do You “Where To?”: Actor Brandon Bell

Late one weekend night, I had a few friends from college over to catch up. Sipping our wine and flipping through TV channels, we did a double take when we landed on Nickelodeon’s "Hollywood Heights."

Wait a minute.

Who was that guy?

Was that Brandon Bell? The same Brandon Bell who we went to college with? 

It was!

Clearly, a lot had happened since our dorm days, so being my inquisitive self, I reached out to him to find out what he had been up to.

And, it’s been a lot. Not only was there his reoccurring role as Jake Madsen on "Hollywood Heights," but there’s been national commercials with companies like Coors and Samsung, and tons of appearances on shows like "Switched at Birth," "The Family Tools," "2 Broke Girls" and "Revenge." He was kind enough to share what having a career in Hollywood has been like, and of course, his favorite “where to” destination right here in L.A.

Read on to hear what he had to say!

Miss Wilson: How did you first get into acting professionally – what launched your career?

Mr. Bell: Although I’ve been doing theater since I was about 10 or 12, I got my first paid acting gig in high school. I played Walter Lee Younger at this community college’s (MCTC) portrayal of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and was a Shepherd Boy in Pebumbra theater’s annual “Nativity” story starring Jennifer Holliday. The money wasn’t great but it definitely felt good to get paid for doing what I love the most, which was motivation in my desire to take it to the next step via moving to L.A. to pursue a Bachelor of Art in theater at USC [University of Southern California].

I was also surrounded by professional adult actors who gave me so much advice and insight about what it takes to be successful in such a fickle industry. I give all credit to my incredibly supportive parents as far as launching my career goes. They wanted my siblings and I to be exposed to the arts, sports, etc. so we could make an informed decision as to what interested us and what to pursue later in life. I was always told to do what I love and the money would follow.

Miss Wilson: What is the most challenging aspect of working in Hollywood?

Mr. Bell: The most challenging aspect is the constant rejection, which is a big part of this industry. You’ve got to be patient and know that your time will come when it comes. If you don’t have faith in yourself and your purpose, you can get easily overwhelmed and intimidated. A friend once said it best in that “It only takes one decision in this industry to change your life forever.” This is something I’ve always kept in my front pocket no matter how slow or down or distracted I’ve gotten.

Miss Wilson: You currently have worked on a lot of television series; do you have any interest to get more into theater or feature films?
Mr. Bell: I would definitely love to transition into film. Films can allow an actor to evolve from role to role versus playing one role for a period of time, although that perspective can easily change when one hasn’t worked often. Theater is my first love and I can’t wait until the right opportunity presents itself. There’s absolutely nothing like performing live for an audience. It’s a breathing organism that is so delicate and exhilarating because there are no "take 2"s.

Miss Wilson: What’s a typical day like on set when you have a recurring role?
Mr. Bell: Show up early, eat something – which is funny because when I first started and as a lover of food I’d try EVERYTHING that one could eat! Then you go to hair/make-up, change into your wardrobe in your trailer or room depending on your set up, run lines and sign contracts. Then, you’re called to set for a rehearsal where you meet the other actors in your scene(s). After rehearsal you wait until your scene is up, which could be right away or take hours. Hitting up the craft service table for snacks is fun too!

Miss Wilson: On your website, you have a quote from Marlon Brando: “To grasp the full significance of life is the actor’s duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it, his dedication.” What’s the significance to you behind it? 
Mr. Bell: Such a profound quote and one of my acting heroes. He was almost mad in his approach, but he wanted to truly do what the quote says, which takes so much dedication, yet the good actors/actresses make seem easy. It’s a reminder to me that amidst the rewards and challenges I do this art for that reason. It sums up my philosophy on acting and couldn’t have been said more eloquently by one of the most revered actors of the past generation.

Miss Wilson: What's an accomplishment you want to achieve during your career?
Mr. Bell: To have someone say that my performance changed their life or made them a better more open person or understand/appreciate my character’s life journey is the ultimate goal.

Miss Wilson: I understand that you played soccer for seven years, traveling to France and winning the USA Cup Gold Medal…did you ever consider pursuing a professional soccer career?
Mr. Bell: I did. It was a huge part of my life for most of my adolescence and high school life. I met life-long friends and truly learned the value of competition. But I think God had another plan because I eventually and literally left it all behind one day. I still enjoy watching and playing occasionally and have so much respect for the game and professional athletes of all sports.

Miss Wilson: Do you have any words of encouragement for aspiring actors trying to make it in Hollywood?
Mr. Bell: First be clear on your goals and why you want to act. If it’s just for fame and money...I’d choose a different/easier route. Patience and persistence along with hard work and dedication seem to be the necessary ingredients to create opportunities to work, at least for me. Luck is key too, but longevity requires the above qualities, which can create its own type of luck. Also, never compromise who you are.

Miss Wilson: Where is your favorite “Where To” destination in L.A. (i.e., your favorite restaurant, lounge, museum, nightlife or social destination, etc.)?
Mr. Bell: So many great places to find good, healthy food in L.A. Recently I’ve been exploring places in downtown L.A. like Perch and Bottega Louie with friends. I’m a homebody at heart so good music, getting food or seeing a movie with close friends is always a better alternative to me. I love museums and highly recommend the Cleopatra exhibit at the Science museum by USC. LACMA, the Getty and Grammy museums are candy for the soul if you appreciate all art. I’ve finally started traveling to beaches more in Malibu and Hermosa and enjoy a good hike or bike ride too.

For more information:
Brandon Bell, @HerculesBell

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