Artist Spotlight: Actor Jonathan Bray
LOS ANGELES - Jonathan Bray is a busy actor these days. With credits like "House of Lies," "Perception," "Big Time Rush," "Days of Our Lives," and others, Bray is becoming a favorite of casting directors and show runners alike. With his growing success, Bray has also taken his talents behind the camera as writer/producer and star of the new film "The Walkaround," a satirical look at the world auto salesmen.
The film shot over several years, left a lot of footage and little time to edit and work on it, but Bray and his team have finally completed it and have now released it. Today, we feature our recent chat with the talented performer.
Question: Where are you from originally?
Answer: I mostly grew up in Natick, MA, a suburb of Boston.
Q: Where did you attend school and college?
A: I attended high school in Natick where my mother was an English teacher and college at Boston College.
Q: What inspired you to get into acting?
A: It was something I always felt I should try, but growing up playing three sports (baseball, basketball and football) didn't allow any time for it. When I got to Boston College, I had a little more time on my hands, so I wandered into the theatre department, took a class and knew instantly, in an epiphany really, who I was and what I would be doing for the rest of my life. It wasn't a good feeling or a bad feeling, just a very powerful feeling of discovery. And though inspiring, it was also frightening because I thought, "what if I'm not any good?"
Q: Who inspired you and who were your idols growing up?
A: Both of my parents were English teachers so a lot of my early heroes were literary figures. My father used to read an illustrated, abridged version of "Moby Dick" to me as a bedtime story. I loved it. As I got older I really felt moved by the vision and rhetoric of political leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy. They dreamt of a more ideal world that I very much believe we can realize.
In terms of acting, my heroes are fairly typical; Brando, Pacino, Meryl Streep, etc. I think Dustin Hoffman is the Sugar Ray Robinson of acting. Pound for pound, the best ever. And DeNiro is probably the actor I most admire and identify with, based on how hard he works, how he approaches a role and his fervent pursuit of excellence.
Q: When did you arrive in Los Angeles what was a pivotal role that showcased your talents?
A: I moved to Los Angeles in 1999 and not long after was cast as Lee in Sam Shepard's play, "True West." It is a very intense role and I was really well received in it. A top casting director who came to see it came up to me afterward and said I gave a Sean Penn like performance. That meant a lot. I actually did a scene from it when I was auditioning for The Actors' Studio and was made a working finalist. I've been fortunate to land a lot of great roles though, including recently originating the role of Jack in Sideways the Play which ran for 9 sold-out months and opened some great doors for me.
Q: Talk about your movie "The Walkaround." How did you come up with the idea for it?
A: My friends and I got jobs working as narrators at auto shows and were introduced to this wild world of the auto show circuit. I instantly felt would make for an ideal mockumentary. It started when a friend, Matt Miller the co-director, was able to borrow a camera. The story evolved over time but it was always essentially about my character taking auto shows way too seriously and thinking he can use them as a launching pad for his acting career. At the same time he takes a newbie under his wing and watches him attain everything my character had ever sought. There are also some hysterical supporting characters and the auto show provides this amazing backdrop.
Q: What was it like to be producer/writer/performer in the movie?
A: We shot this movie at actual auto shows, while we were working at them. We literally would grab the camera, leave the display for 5 minutes and shoot a scene. No lights, no external sound. It was guerrilla style all the way. We never really thought of ourselves as producers, or directors. We were just guys with an idea and a camera. We thought of scenes that made us laugh and then shot them. Mostly improvised, we'd shoot the scene a few times, honing it as we went. But it was done at warp speed since we were often on break from work. No time for multiple takes. It took years. I spent hundreds of hours in the editing bay with the editor, trying to shape the story from the raw footage, discussing story ideas and then ultimately shooting a new scene at the next auto show. Shooting began in 2003 and I was still shooting footage as late as 2009.
Q: What were the biggest challenges to make the movie?
A: As we had no script and absolutely no budget, the whole process was extremely challenging. But also very freeing. Bill Berry, our editor, would always encourage me to shoot whatever idea came into my head or whatever looked interesting. We shot on mini-DV tapes so there wasn't a huge cost associated with shooting more footage, and we got to play around with ideas but of course ended up with far more footage than we could ever need. The other big challenge was just finishing it. People lose interest and after the first couple of years, it was really just Bill and me left to forge ahead. It became, largely, a labor of love.
Q: When can we see the movie?
A: The movie was just released on Amazon and can also be purchased through our website: http://thewalkaroundmovie.com
Q: What your next plans and will you produce another movie soon?
A: So much has changed since we began shooting this movie. It's easier than ever to create your own content and find an audience for it. I'm really excited to be a part of this rapidly changing landscape for content. I'm currently developing a couple of different ideas for features, and one for a web-series. I'd also like to shoot some shorts for FunnyorDie. Fortunately I've been so busy acting in other projects I haven't had time. Soon though. Very soon.