O Canada Blogathon: Brendan Meyer, Part Three (In Search of Other Dimensions)
Another thing that seems to be happening with younger actors these days is increased career longevity. This is not just due to changes in training and surplus of media, but also the myriad approaches that exist to extending a career, and transitioning to more mature roles.
Some actors who go through dramatic growth spurts go on hiatus due to it, others take their time to pursue educational opportunities. For a fortunate few they can work continuously, toe the line while playing teenage characters with a high degree of believability, finding increasingly complex parts all while being of age and not constraining the production with the need to adhere to child labor laws.
Brendan has found a good balance in this regard as of late. Typically the subject matter and the depths he’s asked to plunge are vaster and more varied than he was previously allowed.
That chronological flexibility he possesses and geography are two things he’s used to great advantage.
Garage Sale Mystery (2013), Garage Sale Mystery: All That Glitters (2014) and Garage Sale Mystery: The Secret Room (2015)
A lot of fare on either Hallmark or Lifetime is produced in Canada. Brendan has frequently been the “leading Canadian” in a number of these project, which I’ll go through more. So, if you’re ever watching something and say to yourself “Hey, they’re good, who are they?” that’s likely one of the Canadians in the cast.
Lori Loughlin (Full House, Summerland) decided to bring the Garage Sale Mystery books to the screen as the lead and Executive producer. Brendan played her son in the first three installments, he was usually an unwilling but tech-savvy assistant to mom’s research. His scenes were few and had but one he could really sink his teeth into, and naturally he delivered. The series continues but his part has been recast.
The Christmas Ornament (2013)
Naturally, Hallmark’s Christmas fare finds itself in Canada quite a bit. In this one Brendan plays an enthusiastic and knowledgable tree salesman whose facts on disparate species of trees helped me sort my own preferences in trees (science comes back again). The good thing about the holiday movies for actors is that they re-air and go into production yearly, so it’s a bit like a mini-addition to pilot season.
The Virginian (2014)
Lest you think Canada’s utility as a filming location only shows itself in the metropolitan malleability of Vancouver and Toronto, here is Brendan Meyer (facing Ron Perlman) in a 2014 straight-to-video remake of The Virginian. This image being all I could find is indicative of the size of his role in this film.
Starving in Suburbia (2014)
Perhaps most impressive in terms of his performance and the film itself is Starving in Suburbia. He seems secondary to the tale but his involvement grows as things progress. In examining the mental illness that anorexia is it plays the story like psychological horror and features quite a few moments for Brendan, but is actually worth watching as a whole for sure.
Offering glimmers in smaller parts is great but there have been some recent roles where Brendan has gotten a chance to shine front and center. The depth and complexity of these parts leads to this question…
The Movie Rat: How do you approach a role?
Brendan Meyer: I read the script to learn what my character’s motivations are and how other people react to my character. Then I try to get an overall sense of the character and then take it day by day on set.
Two parts of that statement are huge. Firstly, considering how other characters react to one’s character is not something I’d consciously considered, but it is very important, so I learned something there. Even if an actor is working inside-out the perceptions others have of you can influence self-perception and it’s an important factor to consider for a character. This allows him to consider both motives and ulterior motives. Secondly, “then take it day by day on set” implies openness to collaboration and an innate understanding of the nature of physical production wherein things are bound to change.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Fallen (2014) and Motive: Fallen (2015)
I watched both the episode of CSI and Motive close together, and if you’re willing to be put through the ringer for 86 minutes I’d suggest you watch them back-to-back. You certainly can as they share much in common, even the titles of the episodes are similar. Should you do so you’d witness Meyer deliver tour-de-force performances where he is angry, confused, vulnerable, seemingly malicious, at other times innocent, fractured, and hurt.
Both these episodes are award-nominated. He won a Joey Award for both and was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Motive, which is just cited to show that others recognized his work in these episodes as well.
It is in these shows that you see best exemplified his process as not only does he make the characters identifiable and interesting but how he feels he is perceived factors into to decisions he makes.
The Guest (2014)
The Movie Rat: In 2014, I nominated you for Best Supporting Actor in the BAM Awards (my year-end bests) for The Guest. What was that production like?
Brendan Meyer: It was a great production. The entire cast and crew was terrific and I loved filming in New Mexico.
Here is what I wrote about The Guest at the end of 2014 with regard to Meyer’s nomination…
With the young actor categories there was parity not only in the categories but I did not single out any fields for the six-nominee maximum. With the open categories I only went with one. In terms of the nominations threshold there was an unbreakable flatfooted tie. Ultimately, I couldn’t penalize any actor for the size of their supporting turn. Similarly, Brendan Meyer who was playing quite a few years younger than his actual age is so spot-on in The Guest that that fact could not be used against him.
The Guest is a film that plays with many action and thriller tropes with tongue planted firmly in cheek. As such most of the characters need to play their parts with a high degree of straightness even as things get odd. Brendan’s second only to Dan Stevens in how close to the vest he has to be with regard to his thoughts and intentions. Furthermore, his character Luke in many ways plays our eyes into the world of this story. He sees and learns things about the guest as we do, but his thoughts on him are a bit different.
He also plays a tremendous amount of subtext in this film such that his opinions and decisions may catch us off-guard but they always make sense, and they do because of the way Brendan is able to convey thoughts an emotions visually, he only later confirms his thoughts in a sincere confessional scene that still leaves some things unsaid but says enough.
His arc is deft and he is pivotal to bringing the emotion to the audience at the start.
Another theme of some of his recent works have been post-apocalyptic titles. We will look at a few of those now.
Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462 and Fear the Walking Dead (2015-2016)
If you’re like me then you watch The Walking Dead and gave Fear the Walking Dead a chance. If you did that and didn’t scan past this interstitial series embedded in commercial breaks you caught a treat. This series of webisodes is tantamount to a short film, and a reminder that fractional storytelling as Ridley Scott discusses regarding his commercial work, is a great stepping stone.
Brendan here plays a lead in perhaps the most straightest horror work he’s done and it’s a great set-up that ties into the main series later on.
It may not give you the answer you awaited, that comes in the episode of the main show pictured below, which streams on Netflix and Hulu.
Prior to that he featured in two episodes of the first season of The 100. Here he played the eager to tag along guy who is looking to make friends and tell his story but not necessarily cut out for this world.
He also had a guest appearance one a show, which by chance I had just binged-to-get-current-on…
Falling Skies: Respite (2015)
In this episode again was a thwarted promise of his finishing the final season as a recurring player, however, there was good material for him to work with in terms of being sheltered, and scared, yet knowledgeable, angry about being in the dark and wanting to fight the alien invaders when he learned about them. Really good character stuff aside from the affectations of underage (the character is 15) drinking and smoking.
The Movie Rat: Can you briefly describe the experience of writing and directing your short film A Job?
Brendan Meyer: It was tremendously fun and educational. A lot of the professional crew from Mr. Young helped out so it really felt like I had a ton of support. They were amazing and made sure we had a great finished product. Also, my actor friends all worked in the show and they are super talented so that helped.
A Job (2015)
Note: Should either A Job or Wolff’s Law become readily available online, I’ll feature them here.
The Movie Rat: Do you feel that directing and writing have had an affect on your acting work. How so?
Brendan Meyer: Definitely. I feel I’m better able to understand character development and even blocking by having to think those things out for the projects I create.
Wolff’s Law (2015)
I can’t be 100% that the short film Wolff’s Law was Brendan’s first project after writing an directing his own short film, but it is the performance that most stands up as having occurred following his writing and directing a film. In this film Brendan has to work physically, usually within tight frames with facial expressions and with subtext far more frequently than through text. Very little is said and he is typically the only character on screen. The film gets its protagonist alone, and silent and yet there is nothing that feels as if it is left unsaid. It communicates volumes due to clarity of the films vision and the singular sincerity Meyer brings to the role.
Before discussing his two most recent dramtic turns here are his two latest comedic participations that have allowed him to broaden his horizons some…
iZombie: Zombie Bro (2015) and iZombie: Reflections on the Way Liv Used to Be (2016)
In a two disconnected episodes of the CW’s iZombie Brendan plays a frat brother. Aside from the refreshing nature of playing a college student for a change, he does get to do some varied work here like dropping his voice an octave, getting emotional saying the word “chug,” and flailing through a beer pong mime. These episodes are good to have in his repertoire as he seeks to demonstrate expansive range.
This potent comedic punch was also on display in an episode of the short-lived Fox show Backstrom, which stars Rainn Wilson. In that Meyer is back in his teen persona but his comedic timing is as impeccable as ever and got the biggest laugh out of me in the whole episode.
This was the first new-to-me work I watched for this blogathon. I was intrigued by its being on a new media platform (Go90 a streaming app developed by Verizon), the variable running times of the episodes, the incorporation of technology, and the mystery/thriller plot.
Typically Brendan had one scene an episode when he appeared before being heavily involved in the finale. Without giving too much away he really makes his presence known there, and despite the fact that I figured where it was going, despite some second guessing, the journey is still worth it. A little bit more on this a little later…
The OA (2016)
The Movie Rat: The OA was written entirely by Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, and directed by the former. Do auteur cinema and television hold a special appeal for you?
Brendan Meyer: Yes, I do enjoy working with writers and directors who have a lot of control over the overall direction of the show because then the vision of the show is often more clear and focussed.
I raced to finish T@gged before The OA came out, which was good because the former frequently left me drained and/or in tears and I needed recovery time. In a similar vein to T@gged this show saw Brendan part of an ensemble, and like everyone in the cast, he has his moments and an episode wherein he appears more than in others where we learn more of him and his life, but its piecemeal scenework which puts an onus on ability to absorb and interpret material and access previous moments to maintain the dramatic unity of the piece.
It’s clear that Meyer and everyone in the cast responded to the limits this show was testing and it’s exciting to see him involved in something like this. This is the kind of project you just want to be involved with regardless of the extent of your involvement.
Most of his participation in this show hinges on physicality, especially in the multiplied mirror routines as the characters work on their “moves” (watch the show to know what that means), and that acting is reacting as his listening to Marling’s dialogue in a scene is likely his best moment of the series. Below you can view a similar scene where he and Betty (Phyllis Smith) bond.
Ones that Got Away and Ones to Come
As with any actor, or any artist for that matter, there are those projects that got away. I knew he’d been cast in Ender’s Game, and was going to be one of the recruits who gave Ender a hard time, but had to dropout because of scheduling conflicts. However, I didn’t know that he’d done some promotional appearances with his would-be castmates.
There’s also a 2014 pilot for Fox that didn’t air and wasn’t picked up.
But it was a project that never happened that lead to Mr. Young, so that’s an example of a proverbial door closing and window opening.
Don’t be surprised if one of those future endeavors is Shakespeare related. On his page both in his theatre experience and on the home page the Shakespeare titles are evident, including the fact that he’s written some adaptations for the stage.
The Movie Rat: How did your Shakespeare fandom begin?
Brendan Meyer: My parents took me to Shakespeare plays when I was young. Our local Shakespeare festival, the Freewill Shakespeare Festival, had an amazing group of actors and they did awesome plays.
The Movie Rat: What’s your dream role, Shakespeare or otherwise?
Brendan Meyer: Richard III definitely. There are a ton of other roles in many other plays, Shakespeare and non, too numerous to mention. I’d love to do more theatre.
This fandom has manifested itself on Mr. Young on the episode “Mr. Shakespeare” where he plays a few variations of the of the death scene in Romeo and Juliet. Due to the awkwardness of that scenario his most Shakespearean moment on the show was probably on “Mr. Poet” when his sudden burst of inspiration gets him past his writer’s block and he improvises a poem about Echo. However, in a pleasant surprised there is a Shakespearean element in T@gged also that fits in well with its themes.
If you didn’t know of his work before I should hope you have a desire to see some of it now both dramatic and comedic. What I had not yet seen and discovered was illuminating and I hope there is plenty more to come.
In the tradition of my exhaustive but incomplete Bergman list here are Meyer’s titles that I’ve not yet seen: For the Love of a Child (TV Movie, 2006), A Pickle (Short Film, 2009), The Assistants (TV Guest Appearance, 2009), Everyday Kid (2010, TV Movie), Closures (Short Film, 2011), Birthday Boy (Short, 2015), Code Blue: A Love Story (Short, 2015), Camp (TV Movie, 2016)