With Characters That I Play, I Love Them. Even if it’s Hard, I Find Something to Love. I Do That With Real People, Too by LET’S RAP Movie’s Brendan Gall
Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Brendan Gall: I was born in Halifax. Grew up around there until I was nine, then moved to the Toronto area.
Film Courage: What was life like at home?
Brendan: My folks split when I was four. So I said a lot more “goodbyes” than I would have chosen. But the flip side is, whichever parent you’re with, it’s all about you. I drove across Canada twice with my mom in her little Honda Civic, when I was nine and twelve. She credits my dad with all my good qualities, but she gave me my love of reading and writing,which I’d say has served me pretty well. I lived with my dad in a basement apartment all through high school. He’s a good guy. Although our vacuum broke and we never replaced it, and I didn’t know you had to rinse dishes after you washed them until I moved out and had roommates.
We’re both big fans of conflict-avoidance, so my teenage rebellion was completely silent.
Film Courage: What were your plans after high school?
Brendan: I went to theater school, then worked in a bookstore for eight years between acting and writing jobs, until eventually there was enough that I could live on those jobs alone. I started writing plays as a way of taking more control over my career, instead of just waiting for someone to hire me. The TV thing came from my friend Martin Gero — we met doing sketch comedy and improv, then started giving each other notes on things we were writing. He hired me on his first show The LA Complex, and then when Blindspot got picked up he hired me on that too, which meant my family moving to LA where the writers room is, and me traveling to New York a lot to produce episodes. I would definitely not have called any of this.
Film Courage: Your worst job ever?
Brendan: I got a job as a telemarketer once and lasted until my first break. Two hours.
Film Courage: What song best describes your personality?
Brendan: And So It Goes by Tom Waits.
Film Courage: How were you presented with the script for your character Bo Schnurr in Let’s Rap? Did you audition for it?
Brendan: No, this is one of the few (only?) things I didn’t have to audition for. Neil Huber, the director, knew me from this CBC comedy I was on for a season, so I met with him and Samantha Herman, one of the Herman siblings who wrote the script. We drank and bantered at a bar for acouple hours. So I guess that was my audition. My audition was bar banter.
“…In comedy, I think there are a lot of opportunities you can miss if you adhere strictly to the script. Being present and responding to what other actors are giving you, trying to surprise each other, a lot of funny things can emerge from that. But improvising works less well in say, a hardboiled noir. Or Shakespeare. I don’t recommend improvising Shakespeare.” Brendan Gall, Actor/Comic/Writer
Film Courage: Who is your character Bo Schnurr in Let’s Rap? Who is he, what are his motives, strength and weaknesses.
Brendan: Bo’s a disheveled, lanky slacker with a smart mouth and a heart of gold. One of my specialties.
Film Courage: Do you possess any similarities as Bo? Can you personally relate to any situations Bo find himself in?
Brendan: I am also lazy. And we look and sound similar. And I have certainly experienced what it’s like to be on stage trying to be funny and failing.
Film Courage: Once you received the script for Let’s Rap, how much time beforehand did you spend preparing for Bo?
Brendan: In some ways, my entire life. In other more literal ways, almost none.
Film Courage: Do you prefer a director that is extremely structured and does not stray from the script? Or do you prefer more freedom to improv?
Brendan: I think that’s dictated by the the circumstances. The director and writers on this gave me a lot of license to f*ck around. Or maybe I took it and they quietly hated me for it the whole time. In comedy, I think there are a lot of opportunities you can miss if you adhere strictly to the script. Being present and responding to what other actors are giving you, trying to surprise each other, a lot of funny things can emerge from that. But improvising works less well in say, a hardboiled noir. Or Shakespeare. I don’t recommend improvising Shakespeare.
Film Courage: Do you seek balance or go with whatever mood/pace each craft requires of you, even if it’s out of proportion? For instance, how do you combat the loneliness of writing? How do you reign in the extroverted energy of acting?
Brendan: I love the loneliness of writing. Until I don’t. Acting satisfies my social side. But now that I’m working in the States on a visa, I’m not allowed to act. So I guess the writer’s room has to satisfy that now. There is plenty of extroverted energy in a writers room. I’ve enjoyed going with the flow and letting fate dictate how my year was chopped up writing and acting-wise, but things are far more delineated for me and my family at present.
Film Courage: You have many television credits? Are many of those credits Canadian productions? How much are you traveling to the States and how much is local to you? Any differences?
Brendan: Blindspot’s my first American gig. Everything else has been produced in Canada. I live in LA with my family now. There’s less money in Canadian television. But there’s never enough money. Even with this big network show, everything feels like a sprint. There’s never enough time.
Film Courage: Do you have that “awful audition story” where you had so many obstacles working against you and then surprisingly you got the part?
Brendan: I auditioned for Twelfth Night, and the director asked me to try playing it as a preying mantis with a German accent. I felt like an idiot. Then he hired me and asked me to play it as a preying mantis with a German accent. Also, he added Geisha girl makeup. I did that for six months.
“I love the loneliness of writing. Until I don’t. Acting satisfies my social side.” Brendan Gall, Actor/Comic/Writer
Film Courage: Having a mix of acting, screenwriting and theatrical writing credits, in your opinion, how necessary is the role of the critic? How much weight do you give to artistic reviews, good or bad?
Brendan: I hate how much theater relies on critics to get people to come. Reviews can make or break a production, especially an independent one. But I don’t give any credence to them. It’s so much easier to knock down a sand castle than it is to build it. No one spends less time thinking about a piece of art than a reviewer, other than someone who hasn’t seen it at all. Film needs critics far less. And TV not at all. Which is the nice part.
Film Courage: Do you judge your characters? If not, how do you remain impartial?
Brendan: I love them. Even if it’s hard, I find something to love. I do that with real people too.
Film Courage: What is the most important aspect of building a great character — as an actor and as a writer? How is each process different?
Brendan: I basically approach acting and writing characters in the same way. I think about what they want, what stands in their way, and how they can try to overcome it. And then I do my best to make them sound like a human person.
Film Courage: What play would you currently like to adapt to film? Why? Would you play one of the characters?
Brendan: I was in a production of Lungs by Duncan MacMillan which was such a great script. It charts a couple’s relationship from the moment he suggests they have a baby, to the end of their lives. It jumps days or weeks or years seamlessly from one sentence to the next, and it is sad and hilarious and true. I think it’d make a great film. It’d be interesting to try and translate those “seamless” shifts of time and space to film. In theater you just do it with your imagination. I’d love to play the guy, but there would probably be a few people in front of me on that one.
Film Courage: Does having a huge group of friends/social circle help creativity or hinder productivity?
Brendan: I don’t really have a huge social circle that I see regularly. I have a few close friends who I love, but I’m bad at reaching out. I’m more reactive than I’d like to be. And now that we moved to LA, we see even fewer people. I never think about it in terms of productivity, but it certainly feels a bit lonely.
Film Courage: Since you’re a playwright, screenwriter and actor, what is your favorite fictionalized character of a writer from film?
Brendan: Barton Fink. I relate to his procrastination.
Film Courage: In acting, how much do you focus on body language versus tone of voice and presence of mood?
Brendan: I’m pretty language-centered. I don’t really make conscious choices about physicality unless they’re clearly asked for. I guess in film I think about eyes a lot. How and where and when you’re looking can change so much.
Film Courage: When inspiration is waning for whichever creative endeavor you’re a part of, when you feel creatively sapped, what do you do? How do you stay fresh and inspired?
Brendan: I don’t feel like I have a lot of good tools for that. Right now, I’m trying to be more protective of my home life. When you have work you love, the danger is that you never stop doing it. I’m trying harder to be more emotionally present and connected with myself and my family.
That probably does help to replenish the well creatively, but that’s not why I’m doing it.
Film Courage: What’s one thing in life you wish you could go back in time and change?
Brendan: I’m trying not to look back at things. I’m trying to focus on the things I can still do something about.
Film Courage: What is right with the world?
Brendan: My wife and my son. I just need to spend more time with them.
Film Courage: What’s next for you creatively?
Brendan: I have a play going up in New York at 59E59, January 14th — Feb 7th, called Wide Awake Hearts. It’s a relationship drama-as-nightmare about people in the film industry, structured in a palindrome. And my friend and writing partner Aaron Abrams and I have a feature called The Go-Getters that we’re crowdfunding with Jeremy LaLonde, who’s going to direct, and Jordan Walker, who’s producing. Aaron and I were supposed to play brothers in it, but I can’t do it because of Blindspot, so Kristian Bruun’s gonna play my part. He better not f*ck it up.
Brendan Gall has written four plays: A Quiet Place, Panhandled, Alias Godot and Wide Awake Hearts. He has also co-written or co-created works with Public Recordings, Convergence Theater, UnSpun Theater and Small Wooden Shoe. Brendan’s writing has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award and four Dora Mavor Moore Awards, translated into German and Italian, and produced in the United States and Italy. Brendan himself has also been nominated for the K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Theater twice. He is one of the founders and artistic directors of Toronto-based creation company The Room (www.thisistheroom.com) and is currently a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theater. In addition to theater, Brendan writes and produces for television and film. He is also an actor.
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ABOUT THE FILM:
Bo’s stand-up comedy act is a failure, and his sister Melanie’s advertising job stresses her out more than anything. Miserable, stagnating, and lacking skills other than quick wits and a thorough grip on pop culture, they pursue a career as hosts of their own talk show. Between Melanie’s stage fright and a hard-to-please studio executive judging their every move, things won’t be easy. Check the movie out on iTunes here!
CONNECT WITH LET’S RAP MOVIE:
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