We recently caught up with Michael Brandon, the American actor who has worked in the UK for much of his career.
Michael is best-known as one-half of Dempsey & Makepeace, which he starred in along side his wife Glynis Barber. He is following considerable success on stage to take on a part in The Long Road South at the Hope Theatre.
We asked him for his thoughts on taking on the role of Jake Price, as well as on career highlights such as originating the title role in Jerry Springer The Opera, and his part in the recent superhero movie Captain America: The First Avenger.
Tell us about The Long Road South, and what audiences can expect.
The audience can expect a different kind of experience than the usual because this play causes a lot of interior feelings to surface by a more visceral route. You watch and you are entertained, but you feel angry, and then you’re laughing: but you feel for each character in their different situations.
You’re playing Jake Price. What sort of man is he?
Jake is a man holding onto the cliff like the Wile E. Coyote in Roadrunner cartoons. When he thinks he’s in control he finds the other end of the branch sawed off. He moves to another branch and finds dynamite about to go off. It’s all falling apart for a basically good guy in a bad set of circumstances.
What was it about Paul Minx’s play that persuaded you to take on the part?
I always found Wile E. Coyote more interesting than the Roadrunner, and I’m a meat eater. It’s a juicy part.
It’s set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement. Is it an overtly political piece?
No, it’s dream in a mist for the characters of Andre and Grace, and not a concern of me or my family. Our world is the world we live in. It’s as far as we know. Jake doesn’t believe it exists.
The Long Road South will be performed at the Hope Theatre. How does intimate live performance compare to film and television work, or even to a big space like the National?
Truthfully? It’s gorilla time. No dressing rooms, no comforts, no cooling, no space between you and the legs you climb over from the audience. I was standing outside the door going on to the centre stage and noticed two guys queuing behind me from the pub downstairs thinking I was in line to the loo. However, it is in your face, close up, no disguises, no faking: people are there looking right at you. You must sustain your role and focus and carry on no matter what. It’s a very exciting experience.
You’ve worked a lot in Britain throughout your career. How did that come about, and how does it compare to the US?
Yes, I have been here almost thirty years, and been British a great deal of that time. It’s a fine niche for me and has given me vast opportunities to explore various and diversified working situations. I love change, and working in Chichester for a summer on Singing in the Rain was a wonderful summer leading to the West End. I love working on TV films like Stephen Hawking with Benedict Cumberbatch; and features in Italy, France, Romania, and Hungary to name a few. More and more productions are coming to the UK and I have been enjoying broadening the base. Selfridge brought me the role of Woolworth, Episodes the funny role of Elliot Salad and now Galavant is being made here.
You’re probably best-known in the UK as one half of the fondly-remembered Dempsey and Makepeace. What are your thoughts on the series now?
It was one of the greats! It was more popular in some other countries than here. It opened a whole world and made many friends for Glynis [Barber] and I. Glynis and I have been married and are now in our 25th year! That’s one of the most amazing things I can thank the series for. Our fans are loyal and are wonderful people who continue to follow our work and support our efforts. There is rarely a job I work on that doesn’t reveal some member from the business who acted or crewed on D & M. It’s like old family members.
You played the title part in the inaugural production of Jerry Springer the Opera at the National, which had rave reviews. What was that experience like? Did you enjoy being part of such a contentious show?
Jerry Springer was a phenomenon that I am honoured to have been a part of. I wish it would have gone to Broadway after winning every award as best musical play here. I was nominated for the Olivier-award for best actor. A truly ground-breaking, inspired, genius of a show.
More recently you appeared on film in Captain America: The First Avenger. Are you a fan of superhero genre, and what was it like making the movie?
I grew up on comics. First thing I ever won was a football for writing a comic book jingle contest when I 12. I loved my super heroes and they gave me hope as a young kid. I go with my son to see them now. It was a dream come true to play Senator Brandt. I hope Marvel will use me again.
What do you have coming up for the rest of 2014?
Well, let’s see what happens with Long Road South: I was just nominated best supporting actor for an Off West End award. I am working simultaneously on Galavant, the Medieval musical, and then begin Episodes 4 as Elliot Salad. The rest is unknown and still exciting. I believe the best is yet to come.
You can see Michael Brandon in The Long Road South at the Hope Theatre until the 30th August. Tickets are available now.