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Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview that took place on June 19, 2014 with Brandon Jay McLaren from Graceland.

Graceland

Brandon Jay McLaren:
Hi everyone! At the beginning of Season 2 we find everybody in different positions than where we left off in the finale of Season 1. Briggs is trying to change his life and gains some redemption for the things that he did in the first season. Jakes is a lot happier. He's in a very good place mainly because he has a plan to leave the house and get his son back and so he kind of wants to make a sharp pivot and change his life for the better. So you find out that he gets his own apartment and he does this own secretly behind everybody's back, and plans to get the house and be with his son. And as we saw last night, his plan kind of goes awry and that sort of pain will kind of drive him through the rest of the second season and we'll see that it kind of goes to a dark place.

Question:
I wanted to ask you about last night's episode because your performance was just so great. How did it feel filming this when you weren't allowed to see your son after all of that build-up?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
I feel like the way Jeff wrote it, he wrote it in such a great way sort of building you could sort of see the excitement that was building inside of Jakes in terms of his getting his son back and putting his place together. And so all the pieces were coming together. So on the day we shot the scene where I showed up at the door, I've got to say first of all it was extremely hot that day so being in the suit wasn't fantastic. But Ciera Payton who plays Cassie was so great and they really sort of, everybody just sort of committed to the moment and to what was going on in the scene. So it was a really, really fun scene to shoot. Raheem Babalola who plays Derek was also fantastic and even with the police officers taking me away, we did it a few times and we were really wrestling because you want to give it a sense of realness and authenticity.

Question:
Is Jakes going to be any closer to the people in the house because it always feels like he's the one that kind of keeps this emotional distance from the other group now that he kind of needs distance more?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
Well that's the thing about Jakes this season is you're right. He's sort of, he's sort of like the last person to add the kid for what the house represents and what it stands for. But now that his plan has been spoiled, he really needs the house now more than anybody else which is interesting. So throughout the season we kind of see how he comes to terms with that and that's definitely like part of the ride that he's on for Season 2.

Question:
There are so many cop, SBI undercover shows out there. What do you think sets Graceland apart and makes it so loved by the fans?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
I think that with a lot, a lot of cop, a lot of cop shows out there once the crime is solved the show, that's the end of the episode. What's good about our show is that's only half if it, if that. It might only be 25% of it and what's interesting is you get to go home with these people after, after the crime is solved and see how it affects their lives. And I think that's what sets it apart. I think the serialized nature of our show with all the characters and all the layering is what fans, I think, really, really appreciate about it and what make is, what makes it different.

Question:
The show's so physical. What was the audition process like for Graceland? Was there any physical aspect to it?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
There was no physical aspect, no, for the audition process. However, when we shot the pilot, there was definitely a physical aspect. We trained with the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department in terms, and did a lot of sort of SWAT kind of training. So we went onsite with them until, their fake house that they have set up where they do all their actual training, and we learned how to clear houses the right way and shoot. And then, so we want to try to make it as authentic as we can.

Question:
I felt that for much of the middle of the Season 1 that you were kind of the off man out and I don't know if it was because of the writing or your character but I'm looking very forward to seeing Jakes get a much larger kind of storyline of his own this season. Without giving away too much, can you tell us about an upcoming scene that you're particular excited for your fans to see?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
There's a scene with Paige. I don't remember what episode exactly but it's coming up and I think it sort of, it sort of represents a major shift in Jakes in terms of where he's at emotionally and also how he views his place in the house. And it was just a great scene to work on and one of those great men. And, yes, I'm looking forward to that one.

Question:
Growing up in Vancouver, how did you adjust to living in L.A. and was there anyone in particular that helped you?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
Yes, I mean it was definitely an eye-opener coming down to L.A. there's a lot of actors down here and so moving from Vancouver, you know you see that right away. Every restaurant. Every coffee shop. You get a sense of the magnitude of the size of the city and that the film and T.V. industry is paramount. So that was an adjustment and it took some getting used to.

But I relied on a lot of great people. I had a lot of people help me out. You know people who'd I worked with up in Vancouver who, when I came down they let me stay in, it's a place a little way or what have you. So I had a lot of, a lot of support and positivity and it made the transition a lot easier.

Question:
Was it the same for the trip down to Florida too?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
No, Florida was a little different. I mean I'm, before I was just there, just, I'm just there to do Graceland. But I do love shooting in Miami and I spend a considerable amount of time there now. So, yes, it's a great, it's a great thing to be there for extended periods of time actually.

Question:
During this season, how will Jakes personal life affect his professional life?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
Very directly and not only his professional life but you'll see that issues that arise in his personal life will also start to affect other people in the house professional life. That causes some serious conflict and it also cause Jakes to sort of step back and take a hard look at where his life is going. And if he continues on the path that he is on he might end up in a place where there's no coming back from. So yes, the two lives definitely collide this year and the result is not always positive.

Question:
What is your character's journey going to be this year?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
After last month's episode, you see that he's in a really bad place. Probably, well not the lowest place but he's definitely on a downward spiral after being essentially arrested by the, by the police. So he needs to sort of, as I was saying earlier the funny thing about Jakes is that he probably believes least in what the house represents but at this moment, he really has nothing else. So he needs the house more than anybody else. So in the next few episodes you'll really, you'll really see that.

Question:
Is there anything that you added to this role that wasn't originally scripted for you? Maybe something that wasn't on that page, that is a backstory or a little bit of edge or something that you gave to him that you felt wasn't really on the page but you gave a spin to it?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
That's the great thing about working with Jeff Eastin. He's sort of, he sort of lets you sort of fill in the blanks. So I mean there is nothing consciously that I did but I do try to bring an element of myself to every role I play. I think that that's how the role becomes grounded in some sort of truth is bringing part of yourself into it. So that's something that I do with every role, not just, not just this one.

Question:
And can you talk about the capture? In Season 2 right now, how have you guys continued to maintain such great chemistry between all of you?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
I think it's because all just really enjoy the job. that first scene when we're in the first episode of this season where we're all in the, in the, in the living room playing the game with De Gannes and Mike comes in. That was actually the first thing that we shot when we all got back and it was just such a, everybody just was so happy to be back and be together again. And I think that's the secret, you know. We just like coming to work and playing around with each other and hopefully that shows up on screen.

Question:
We had learned in this episode that Jakes actually followed his son to, that's why he went to Graceland. Do you think the events of last season accelerated Jake' desire reunite with his son? Or was that his plan all the way along?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
That was his plan all the way along. That's the only reason why he actually moved to California was to be closer to the, to his son. I don't think he had like sort of a detail plan moving forward. I think he was just like, let me just go out there, be closer to him and once I get out there I'll figure out what the next step is. And, but no, that was definitely the one and only driving force for him being in Graceland to begin with.

Question:
And what housemate would you like to see Jakes interact a little bit more with?

Brandon Jay McLaren:Question:
Who does Jakes turn to in the house as the season continues?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
I don't feel like he really turns to anybody. What he does however is he doesn't realize that he needs to step up and maybe be better coworker/house mate/maybe friend. And so, yes, that happens. But I don't know if he really turns to anybody. He's still, he's still keeps his private life private for the most part.

Question:
And also, how much does Jakes get pulled into Briggs' story because you guys, there's something going on. You know he knows a lot about Briggs' life.

Brandon Jay McLaren:
Yes. Towards the end he does get involved again, not by choice but because, if you remember there's still a tape out there with the audio of Briggs' killing an FBI agent. And Jake' was complicit in that cover-up. So until that is resolved Briggs' and Jakes will sort of always be linked in this cover-up together.

Question:
So does that create a lot of conflict between you guys or...

Brandon Jay McLaren:
Yes it does. It ends up, it ends up coming up again and I don't think either party is really happy about it.

Question:
In yesterday's episode, your character described the house as a coed frat house. With so much of the show revolving around you guys as a collective group and given the intensity of the show, can you share anything about what the cast does together to blow-off steam during the season of filming.

Brandon Jay McLaren:
We don't really do a lot of things together as a group. I think in part because we all kind of live spread out in the area. three of us live in Miami. Three other people live in Ft. Lauderdale. And then everybody we really don't as a cast do a lot of things outside which I think is great because when we do get together on set we're, it's we're happy to see one another and it's fun. So I think we strike a nice balance, struck a nice balance there.

Question:
I believe you attended college on a soccer scholarship. Any favorites in the World Cup?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
Well Spain was my favorite and they got knocked out of the first round yesterday so my heart's really broken. So now moving forward I think I think it would be great to see Brazil win World Cup in Brazil. I think that would just be a great, a great story. So I'm hoping they can pull it out.

Question:
Are we going to see Briggs still fighting for his son or has that desire kind of been crushed for Season 2?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
I don't think it's ever going to be crushed. I think he just needs to sort of recalibrate and just now chose a different course of action because this one now has been squashed. But no, I think it matters too much to him to stop. He just has to figure out a different way to, so yes. And like I said, you're going to see, you're going to see some more of Daniel in this season even coming up in the next couple of episodes.

Question:
Being the only character from the ICE agency, are we going to see Jakes fitting more into the overall story or is he going to have his own cases to pursue as we go in?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
The great thing about this season is that everybody is sort of involved in this, in one case that sort of overarches the entire season. So everybody's specialty is sort of put to work and obviously when Mike is tracking down this new bus route Customs comes heavily into play because about some deals with all the contraband coming now into the country. That's essentially the Custom' job. So Jakes does go undercover under Mike and yes, is involved very, very much in the, in the case this year.

Question:
For much of last season, there was many what I like to call holy crap moments. After you get done filming, you're done filming before the first episode airs. Am I correct?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
No not this year. Last season we were. This season, no. We were still shooting while the premiere aired.

Question:
Okay. Are you able to then go back and watch as a fan or is this, after you're done filming, does it move onto another project and you kind of leave it behind you? Are you able to watch the fan and if so, what was your holy crap moment watching that surprised you that you weren't fully in on while you were filming?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
I mean obviously I read the scripts over and over and over again. So in terms of, there's no, there's no holy crap moment in terms of story because I know the story so well. But I absolutely watch it as a fan because three-quarters of the show I'm not there while it's being shot. And I just, I'm just a fan of Mike Hasnade's work so I just love seeing I love seeing them do their thing and seeing the scenes that I've read up on the screen and seeing how it was shot and then their performances. So I guess I look forward to watching it every Wednesday.

Question:
You're a well know Canadian actor and while Graceland isn't filmed in Canada, many of your shows are. In your opinion is there much difference between shooting a Canadian show versus a U.S show? Do you see a time when more Canadian shows appear on U.S. T.V.'s like the show Flashpoint did?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
There is no real difference. No, you know. Every if you shoot is Toronto, if you shoot in Florida, it all has the same feel. and I do, I do see, in the future, I do see more Canadian shows being shown down here in the U.S. I think the quality of Canadian T.V. is steadily increasing and I think it does well for everybody back home, everybody back home in Canada.

Question:
Last season one of my favorite scenes was you and Johnny because of the dynamics for Johnny is probably the most in love with the house and having this found family. And Jakes is more standoffish one. I was wondering, this season will Johnny (finally) get his full romance moment with Jakes that he seems to be craving so badly?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
Jakes and Johnny, I mean it's sort of, an odd couple type of pairing. But they do have lot of stuff this season and Johnny sort of, I think John has a great storyline first of all this season and Manny does a great job. But I feel like Jakes kind of realizing that Johnny needs to sort of learn from his own mistakes and you can only preach to somebody so much but you kind of got to let them fall and pick themselves back up. And I think they both come to an understanding but that's after quite a bit of conflict and I don't know if you've seen but in a preview they had already shown that there is a head butt coming up. So they definitely, so they definitely have some conflict coming up.

Question:
I saw that your family background is also in Trinidad. I was just wondering if you get a chance to go back there or what kind of traveling you get to do independent of what you do as an actor?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
Yes, I haven't been, my mom is from Trinidad. I mean, I haven't been in Trinidad for a while, actually. I haven't been there since I was maybe about 10 years. But my dad's from Grenada which is a neighboring island and I go to Grenada actually quite a bit. I was actually there probably about 9 months ago and before that end of the year before that. So I go to Grenada quite a bit. We just kind of go to Grenada more than we go to Trinidad. But yes, they're both beautiful countries and it's definitely important to me to obviously keep contact and keep that link alive.

Question:
When you have your downtime on set, what do you and your cast mates do?

Brandon Jay McLaren:
Downtime on set we like to hang out. we joke around. You know actually we don't have a ton of downtime because our scheduling is so great. So when we're on set it's usually because we're working but like I said before, we all really enjoy each other's company and I do feel like it shows up on screen.

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