Brandon Thane Wilson began his professional career at the age of fifteen when he was cast in performances at two of the Washington Metropolitan Area’s finest theaters — Arena Stage and The Shakespeare Theatre. From there his career turned towards film and television, landing him roles on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Damages, and Orange is the New Black.
2020 is shaping up to be a big year for Wilson with four upcoming film premieres. The Dead Ones (directed by Jeremy Kasten) will be released soon; Fishbowl (directed by Steven and Alexis Kinnigopolus) will premiere on AppleTV, Star Trek: First Frontier (directed by Kenny Smith) will premiere on YouTube; and most notably Warner Bros.’ upcoming film Wonder Woman: 1984 (directed by Patty Jenkins) will premiere this year in theaters.
Brandon Thane Wilson Talks ‘Wonder Woman: 1984', Working with Patty Jenkins, and His Upcoming Projects
Maggie Lovitt (ML): How has quarantine been going?
Brandon Thane Wilson (BTW): Ha, funny thing actually. I thought it would be a great time to move across the country during a global pandemic. So that was basically a lot of N95 masks and tons of hand sanitizer. I’m not known for making quality life choices. I got a COVID test when I got to the west coast and I was negative.
ML: Have you been working on anything during quarantine?
BTW: I have actually. I’m very fortunate and grateful that I booked a project before shutdown, which will be shooting next week in New York. I’ve actually been quarantining upstate the past week. During the shutdown I’ve also been writing quite a bit and I’m in early pre-production for a project of my own.
ML: The film industry is hurting due to the pandemic, what do you think the future holds?
BTW: My great-grandmother used to tell stories about the 1918 pandemic, but the cinema wasn’t really as much of a thing and ‘Hollywood' was still in New Jersey.
There’s definitely going to be some changes. I don’t pretend to be able to see anything specific. But I’m not as fearful as I initially was. We’ve always had our stories. Whether they’re sagas in Sanskrit, Shakespeare, or blockbuster hits, we’re storytellers as a species. From our music to our paintings to our films, we have a need to communicate something deep inside of us. I’m not too worried for our industry, I think it'll bounce back.
ML: How did you get into acting?
BTW: I had done the fifth-grade play, some sketches for [Boy] Scouts, and a play for the library. But I had never said anything about wanting to really pursue it. Then, just before I turned thirteen, Peter Sklar from Beginnings Workshop came to town. I went and auditioned for his summer program and out of fifty kids, he invited three of us up to the workshop. I mowed lawns all summer and my parents matched the difference. I went up to NY and when I was done I had a monologue, a headshot, and a skimpy resume. My mom had found a couple of auditions in the local newspaper and I booked both.
ML: How long have you been in the industry?
BTW: My first paid gig was in, I think, 2002.
ML: What is the best piece of acting advice you’ve ever received?
BTW: The best piece of advice I ever got was from a guy I met in an audition room. He said, “Keep your head up kid, it’s more about the stomach than the heart. Just keep going.” Actors of yesteryear, Brando and Olivier, the common saying was that it takes twenty years to make an actor. I don’t think they meant to perfect your craft, but rather to get to the point where you’re recognized in the industry and making your living off of it. That’s the dream, right? To make a living off of playing make-believe.
ML: Outside of acting, you are also a writer and director. Would you like to talk about any of your past or upcoming projects?
BTW: I was very fortunate that one film that I had written, as part of a trilogy, was shot last year and it will be going to film festivals at the beginning of 2021. I had some very incredible people, who mean the world to me, that all came together to film it. This December, we’re actually getting together again — most of the same crew and cast actually — and we’re going to shoot the next installment. I really hope it makes a positive impact on a social issue that’s very near to my heart.
ML: When you start writing a new script, what inspires you?
BTW: Normally I’ll ditch my phone and go for a walk. I'll chase a feeling. I’ll have this feeling first and then let that feeling just totally consume me as the pen starts to move. The best piece of writing advice I ever got was from a very dear friend of mine who is a brilliant writer for Stage and Screen. Howard Emanuel took away so many blocks that I had. He told me that writing is just improv with a pen. That gave me the freedom to let the pen do the work. All of these characters and concepts just start writing themselves. It’s surreal.
ML: Just looking at your Instagram, you’re very in-tune with nature. How do you cope with stressful filming schedules and being trapped in a city?
BTW: I’m fortunate that when I was living in New York I had Prospect Park when I was living in Brooklyn. When I was across the river in Weehawken, I would just go out and climb on the palisades. Nature helps to keep my head straight. It’s where I try to find my peace. Like Tennyson and Byron, and so many others that fancy themselves artists, going for a walk in nature feeds and grounds me. Like a little kid watching ants for hours. Or [how] older folks stare at the birds and find peace in the sky. I think time outside is necessary for folks to remember how to be, and how to be well.
ML: Now that you’ve lived in three major film markets, what advice would you give an aspiring actor?
BTW: All I can share is my own experience. Anything else I'd say would be speculative. I was very fortunate to start off in the D.C. market, where there’s a ton of theaters. Starting out I had opportunities that wouldn’t necessarily have been afforded to me in New York or LA. Starting in smaller theater Productions and student films then building up those co-star credits and guest star roles. Being able to commute from the D.C. area to Baltimore, New York, or Richmond. Starting out it was lower risk, with a higher reward. And then I was able to transition to New York. You know, every city has its pros and cons. But it's an incredible time to be an actor, where you and your friends can shoot something on a weekend, edit it in your basement, and distribute it. It's incredible what’s possible to promote yourself. I think that answered the question?
ML: What is your process for getting into the minds of the different characters you’ve played?
BTW: I wish I thought about that and had a sane way to explain it. When I read a book, I’m this character and that character. It's the same with scripts. I read the sides, and it just fits like a second skin. I slide right in. When I’m done with the scene, I pop right out and I’m back to talking about hawks and trees again.
ML: Who has been your #1 “I can’t believe I’m working with them” encounter on a set?
BTW: As odd as it is, it hasn’t been any of the actors or well-known directors. What floored me and made me geek out was when I was living in New York doing a day of production work. I believe it was Iron Fist, before we knew what it was. I’m standing there in a kitchen and before I know it, RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan walked up and asked me to do something. I think I just stammered. I was blown away. His lyrics, his beats — everything he’s done. I never thought I’d meet Bobby Digital or share a set with him.
ML: You have appeared in a lot of network series and films, but I think your biggest upcoming project is Wonder Woman: 1984. Let’s talk about your experience. When you got the audition did you know what you were going out for?
BTW: I had absolutely no idea. My manager at the time was only able to tell me that it was a very big thing and a secret. Even they didn’t have the info. I can’t even remember if we got the sides ahead of time, but I initially auditioned for five one-line roles. I did all of that and then I didn’t hear anything for a month and a half. I went back down to Pat Moran’s casting office in Baltimore for another audition in that month and a half for a commercial and I just assumed I didn’t book whatever the mystery movie was.
Then, out of nowhere, I got a call for a callback for that super-secret movie. I was actually twenty feet up a pine tree when I got the call. This time they had me reading lines from George Clooney’s bank robber movie, Out of Sight. At that point, I’m thinking that it has to be a Marvel or Disney thing. I was so broke at the time of the audition that I had just enough frequent flier miles at two different bus companies to get a ride from New York to Baltimore and back.
I was so broke, I walked the five miles from where the bus dropped me off and freshened up in a Panera bathroom. Went in for the audition and somehow nailed it, even though they told me, “The director wants to see it as a comedy, not a drama. And go!” I had two seconds to change everything I had prepared. I walked out, feeling like I had an out of body experience. I had thirty minutes to make it eleven miles across Baltimore, to where the bus was going to pick me up, so I made new friends with some people at a gas station and hitchhiked across town.
That was the audition process. Another month goes by and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The week I found out, both of my parent’s cars had been totaled in accidents and summer wasn't off to a good start for them. Then I was able to share this incredible news with my family.
ML: Did you ever think that 45-minutes from your childhood home, you’d be a principal in a major motion picture?
BTW: Never! I always thought I’d have to go to Timbuktu. It was the wildest experience. As a kid, I went to malls not far from there. And as I understand it, that mall was Patty’s mall of choice when she was coming up. It was the most surreal thing.
ML: What can you tease about your character, “Scowler”?
BTW: Have you ever seen the Three Stooges? Have you ever seen Ocean’s Eleven? Imagine if those two films had a lovechild and it had a massive curly ‘fro coming off their head.
ML: That is a great description of your character.
ML: Lindy Hemming has created some incredible costume designs for the film, what can you tell us about your costume?
BTW: First off, Lindy is an absolute treat. She’s a gem of a human being and so much fun to work with. She’s old school film and theater. I can’t speak highly enough about her. Her design was brilliant. In his own mind, Scowler was quite slick. But anyone watching him would probably disagree. Definitely eighties to a tee.
ML: First day on set, what were you feeling?
BTW: I don't know how to describe the giddiness and butterflies. We had two weeks of stunt rehearsal beforehand. I got to see this set every day for five days a week during rehearsals. Just walking through all of it was incredible. I’ve been on so many sets over the years. I sound like an old fart, but when I was starting out we shot on film and the fact that we shot Wonder Woman: 1984 on film was just so magical.
Everything was practical. We had the wirework. We had FAO Schwarz, Spencer’s, Tape Deck. This really was a mall in the eighties. One of the other actors, Vickie [Warehime], found some of her records at the record shop from when she was a DJ. Her name was still on the inside jacket! Things that will never in a million years be seen by audiences, but it was all there. It was so authentic. Lenny and his team did such an amazing job.
This is exactly why I got into acting as a kid. It was an absolute joy and totally mind-blowing. Hands down, the greatest experience of my life.
ML: Going off what you just said about stunts, what was your stunt training process?
BTW: It was a full two weeks, five days a week, for four or five hours a day. The fight coordinator, Liang Yang, who is brilliant and one of the kindest guys, would take my three co-workers and me through the paces of our scenes. I worked with Gal’s stunt double Jesse Graff, who is an incredible human being. I had a stunt double named David Mattz, who is a brilliant acrobat and circus performer. Talking with Liang, I got him to talk to the producers and I got to do some of my own stunts and wirework. They had me flying through the air! It was a childhood dream come true.
ML: Most memorable moment on set?
BTW: (Laughs) Some of my favorite moments were the moments in between scenes. Working with Ryan Watson, the stunt coordinator from the first film and for The Mandalorian. Ryan and I were cracking each other up and really playing off each other. Lyon Beckwith and I were constantly playing and joking. I can neither confirm nor deny whether or not Spider-Man showed up on certain days after I wrapped. Spider-Man was there, pranking people on set and wandering the halls. But I disavow any knowledge of the situation.
ML: I think there are quite a few pictures of that.
BTW: I'm worried they might get leaked soon.
ML: Did you make any cool friends on set?
BTW: I did! There was this incredible young lady who I met. Somehow we grew up in the same small town and never met. We also worked together on the film I wrote, which I mentioned earlier. I couldn’t have gotten it done without her. Am I allowed to say your name?
ML: I feel like you can. It’s obviously me!
BTW: I've kept up with about a dozen people on a very regular basis from Wonder Woman. It's probably a good two dozen more who I talk to every couple of months. Lyon and I actually just did a project together in January.
And the crew! I worked with so much of the crew again in Richmond and in New York. It was like old home week. Out of three hundred extras and three hundred crew, it was a family. I credit that so much to Patty. She was an absolute freaking legend.
ML: Patty Jenkins is arguably one of the best directors currently working, did you take anything away from her direction that has inspired your own directing work?
BTW: I really can’t speak highly enough about her. She was an inspiration and joy. She led from the front, acting out everything. She was able to seemingly effortlessly communicate her vision and Inspire everyone from the child actors, to Gal, the crew, and background. Her energy was infectious.
Patty has this sort of presence that lifted everyone up. She was never too busy to share a kind word or talk to someone. She was absolutely masterful and mindblowing to watch work. She’s so easy to work with. She created a space where everyone could do their utmost best. And inspired everyone to do their absolute best. She let us play. Total legend.
ML: What was your first thought when you saw that picture of you being held by Gal in magazines and articles?
BTW: This may sound really corny, but my first thought was that I needed to buy a copy to give to my grandmother. I ran out and bought a copy of Entertainment Weekly to give to her. I’m very fortunate to have my family and she means the world to me.
ML: Were there any challenges during filming you weren’t expecting?
BTW: (Laughs) Did I mention how broke I was at the start of this? I had to borrow a vehicle to get to set, which broke down going and coming from set. I was couch surfing for the duration of the shoot. Some interesting logistical challenges. I also learned that eating vindaloo the night before you have to do stunt scenes involving someone holding you upside down by your ankle is not a good choice.
ML: I also got a handful of questions from Wonder Woman fans who had questions for you. Were you a fan of Wonder Woman or DC before working on the project?
BTW: Very much so! I had a couple choice DC Comics growing up. I was a huge Xena fan growing up and Xena was my backdoor into Wonder Woman when I was a middle schooler. I grew up on Dark Horse, Boom, Image, and CrossGen comics. Batman: The Animated Series and The Justice League. I was hip.
ML: Did working on Wonder Woman: 1984 change the way that you viewed the characters since you got to interact with the actors who played them?
BTW: I have even more love and appreciation for that character. Gal really is that earnest and genuine. She’s a brilliant actress, but there’s so much of her heart that just is Wonder Woman. Her compassion, courage. I’m an actor so I understand that acting is acting, but I felt like I met Wonder Woman. She is Wonder Woman.
ML: Was it intimidating to work with someone like Gal Gadot?
BTW: Not especially. She's one of the kindest people I've ever met. I grew up on set and I’m very accustomed to being around actors. Maybe if it was a Spice Girl or the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan I would’ve lost my mind.
ML: Was there anything new or surprising on this particular set? Anything new that you learned about your craft?
BTW: Yes! I didn’t get to see the script before the day we started rolling. I had no idea what the scene would be during stunt rehearsal. The day of filming, you get part of the scene, it’s watermarked, you have to sign it in and out. Super secret hush-hush. They also had these giant inflatable lighting blimps. I had never seen them before. I also got a 3D body scan All sorts of new things.
ML: You also have another upcoming premiere. What can you tell us about your character in The Dead Ones?
BTW: I play Scotty French. I play arguably three characters, which was an incredible opportunity and an incredible challenge. We filmed it eleven years ago and it handles the subject of the atrocity and tragedy of school shootings.
Too many times I’ll be online reading how this subject has become an international trope of American culture. It’s terrible how desensitized we’ve become to school shootings. The hope is that this will shock and disturb to the point that an actual travesty would, without anyone dying. Maybe we can make a change before another tragedy takes place.
The weirdest part was attending the San Francisco premiere before the shutdown and seeing it on screen for the first time. It messed me up. It will hopefully be an instrument for positive change.
ML: Are there any franchises or series that you would love to be part of? Let’s manifest that into existence.
BTW: I can’t tell you how much of a fan I am of the X-Men! That was my jam. Bobby Drake is definitely a dream role. Beyond that, so many of the old CrossGen comics. Check out Sigil. There were amazing things like that. Isaac Asimov’s work. Anything by Tolkien. Come on guys, I’ve got the Hobbit hair already.
ML: It’s true. You are a Hobbit.
BTW: Yeah, but a Fallohide Hobbit.
ML: What is something you always have to have in your trailer?
BTW: Pen and paper. There’s always an amazing experience I want to jot down. I carry a little set journal. I’ll go back and read it and, whether it’s a one day co-star gig or seven weeks on Wonder Woman, I don’t want to forget these incredible experiences. I try to put it all down so I can remember it.
ML: I have always joked that I got into acting because I love set catering. What’s the best meal you’ve ever had on a set?
BTW: I never thought it would be this, but Chef Ania's Gourmet Cuisine in New York makes this incredible mushroom gnocchi. I don’t know how I fell in love with gnocchi. In a broader sense — breakfast burritos. At lunch I’ll just want another breakfast burrito.
ML: What do you always have to grab at crafty?
BTW: Someone to hold me back. Crafty is a dangerous trap! I love my crafty. Crafty is life. Coffee is mostly my jam, otherwise wardrobe will be mad at me for gaining three sizes.
ML: La Croix, Bubbly, or non-sparkling water?
BTW: Eau plate dude! That’s French for flat water. If you’ve never had water from the headwaters of a mountain stream. It’s the best.
ML: Alright nature boy.
BTW: It’s the Hobbit thing!
To stay up-to-date with Brandon Thane Wilson's career, check out his IMDb.