Brendan Fehr, Local Actor

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Brendan Fare. I'm an Actor and Director and have lived in New Mexico since 2012. Originally I'm from Canada and lived in Los Angeles for a little while. I ended up coming out to New Mexico because I landed a job for an NBC show called The Night Shift

Now New Mexico is home. It's where I've shot a few projects, including the one we're about to talk about, The Best Man also shot Baron and Toluca here, which is B and T, which is a pilot I did, I am looking to bring as much as I can here. It's my home. My family's here and everything else.

What made you want to make New Mexico your permanent home? Especially being in film.

Going from Los Angeles to New Mexico you realize a whole bunch of things - cost of living, and you're not that far away. You realize you can get a lot more bang for your buck. I'm a father and a husband, and you're always looking to provide a similar upbringing, or a little bit better. You want to make some progress in terms of your childhood. I had a really phenomenal mother. So if I can, I don't know if I can reach that realm of fatherhood. Standards are very high.

But New Mexico was a place where we could offer that to our kids. As an actor, when you - when you have a job, it pays pretty well. When you don't, it pays nothing. So you can be unemployed a lot of the time, but New Mexico is a place where we could get that space and find a home with a certain amount of land. 

We live in a place where we have kids from down the street knocking on the door, on their bikes, walking past our house, and going like, "Hey, can we play." It's a different level for raising a family. We're trying to provide your kids with a particular atmosphere, and New Mexico has really allowed us to be able to do that.

That is especially with the jobs I've had here and everything else in the film industry. Night Shift ran four seasons, and I have done Better Call Saul. I was allowed to shoot a pilot, and based on the tax credits it was super beneficial to shoot our pilot here. If I need to go, LA is 10 and a half-hour drive. So, I can really kind of make a three o'clock appointment the next day, if I really pedal to the metal.

What made you want to get into film in the first place?

I didn't want to be - I wanted to be a math teacher. I loved school growing up. I loved my teachers. I love learning math, mainly because  I was very black-and-white as a kid. Just give me an answer so I can move on, and that's math.

So growing up I was going to be a math teacher because my friends didn't enjoy math. And at the end of the year when you have your final exams, it was a massive amount of your grade for the entire year, and we would have anywhere between four and about seven kids come just descend on my house for the last week of school. I would tutor them all, and walk them through math and all of the subjects. We all just studied together, and I graduated near the top of my class. 

This is the last place I would ever think I would find myself in because it is very subjective. You can put yourself into a role or a project or a movie, and there are things that make a great movie, and there are things that make a great character, but in the end, it's still art. There's gonna be some subjectivity on it, which is something I've matured into, allowing subjectivity in my life. You have to allow for those things, as much as it still rubs me the wrong way. I've grown up with a thick enough skin and a good enough upbringing that I'm okay with it.

I also modeled a little bit. We have the Great Canadian Superstore up in Canada, which is the equivalent of Walmart, and it was paying my way through university. I then got pulled into having a meeting with this talent agency, which represented models, but they had just started an acting division. There I met this guy, and I was super leery, but he was just like, “Listen, you got a great look maybe you can do it”. And I was like, “ I have no interest. This is the last thing that I would ever want to do.” 

So he had just started his own business, and he gives me this audition. So I went to the audition, and I practiced all night. I was going to try and do it as well as I could. I was on a boat and I had to kiss a girl. 

I had just graduated from high school and I think I know myself really well. I have all the answers in the world. Because I'm 19, I have my whole life in front of me.

I think I'm going to be on a set. I think the boats going to be there, or a built boat. I think the girl I have to kiss is going to be there. I walk into this white room, and they tell me to stand on a X at the front of the room. There's a table and a camcorder. 

In the back of the room are the producer and the casting director, and they say, "Whenever you're ready." 
I thought, "Oh, I'm definitely not ready for any of this." And I said, "Where's the boat?"
They replied, "No, there's no boat."
I was like, "Right, but I have to kiss someone in this scene?" 
And they replied, "Just look at me. I'll be reading with you. Forget about the kiss, just move past it."
And, out loud. I just went, "This is dumb." 

I grabbed the paper, threw it in the trash, and left. I was not prepared for any of it. 

They called me two days later, and I got the job, and the pay was like $2,500 for four days, which was my whole year of university. After that, I ended up moving in with my manager and pursued acting, and I never stopped working. After I got that one job, I knew what to expect. I knew it was a white room, I wasn't going to be kissing any women. I wouldn't be on a boat or driving a Corvette, or whatever the side said. So I had that locked in. I had to imagine all this stuff. And 26 years later, I'm here in New Mexico still in that same room trying to imagine the same stuff and come up with something that casting directors find exciting and fun.

I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

So what's your favorite aspect of the industry, or your favorite part of being an actor?

I wouldn't consider myself a people person, but set gives me energy. I'm a totally different person on set. Actors are kind of the last of the modern-day gypsies. We go from town to town with a brand-new family. A bunch of traveling vagabonds from different parts of the world have learned and grown up in entirely different ways, with completely different ideas. Even different ideas about the script, how to attack a character, and all this stuff. I'm really grateful for that aspect of it. I dig that team aspect, a bunch of people getting together. 

The deeper I got, the more love I got for it, the more I started to appreciate it. As jobs got harder to come by, I saw people doing these really great things, and you go through bouts of unemployment and self-doubt. It always came back to telling stories - having something inside of you. Where you gotta get something out, even if it's not my story. It's just something that I need to express in a certain way. I can't do it in sports, or as a husband, or as a father, it's got to come out in a different way. It is acting. 

I like to surround myself with other people who feel that same way. I would have hated to act alongside myself as a child, or as a teenager. I didn't get what was going on. I didn't understand that this is a gift. 

So you've experienced a grown appreciation for the industry, the craft, and the work that gets involved in all of it?

Yeah, I thought it was a bunch of people who dressed up and put on makeup. Now, I do really appreciate it for its craft, and I realize how bad I am at it, and how much I have to learn and want to improve and want to work with people who will. I still think I have the instincts and the skill and the capacity to get better, but it is fun to be on set and see other people who have had a certain amount of success, and who have given performances that I really love and appreciate.

You can't tell a good story without a good story on the page. Writers are indispensable. I've tried writing and I understand a little bit more. I've directed. I love directing. I want to do it more and more and more, as much as I can. But, I also understand how much I need to learn from that. And acting, I've been doing the longest, and I still feel like I'm in the back of the line. I'm just trying to progress. It's not perfection, to just progress and be grateful for opportunities that come my way.

The older you get you become more grateful in life for a little bit of everything, whether that's family or friends, job career, little stuff really makes a difference. Little stuff tends to pass me by a lot, but there are things in life that I never thought that I would genuinely cherish, and acting is one of them. I want to do it more and more. And the more I can do it in New Mexico where I live, and my family lives, and support the state, the city, the communities, the counties, that's the ideal part.

Your most recent project, The Best Man was filmed here in New Mexico, what made you want to get involved in this project?

Work. It really is work. Actors want to work. Actors want to act, and they want to act as much as they can. This project had Luke Wilson already attached, who has had more success than most in the industry. So, how much can you learn from someone like that? Then you got a guy like Dolph Lundgren. He's been around since Rocky III and has done really iconic stuff. This is a guy who's gone through it and you can only learn. 

Work is not something I ever take for granted. I did when I was a kid, and I've learned trying to support a family, that it's not something I ever take for granted. That comes first, in the position I'm in life I don't get, offers banging down my door, I'm still auditioning. I haven't landed an audition since 2012. So, you're looking at someone you may think is successful. Since then, I haven't landed one in 11 years. That's how tough this industry is. So when you get an opportunity to work. I do it and try - I put my best foot forward. I do the best I can with the material that you have, with the time that you have to shoot it. I mean, we shot The Best Man in 10 days.

A feature film in 10 days is insane. It's one of those things where you take what you're given and you do the best with it. And people you could have shot a movie for, you know, there's different kinds of pressures shooting the movie in 10 days. Knowing that it's an impossible feat, and what you come out with is going to be looked at. I take every project, whether it's really big or really small, and go, "Okay, what are we dealing with here," and control what I can control. I had this character and all I have to do is be as present as I can, with the material that I have, and try to deliver the most honest performance I can - and hopefully make it a little entertaining. 

I had one acting teacher, Her name is Deb Aquila. She has cast a bunch of phenomenal movies. She has this acting class and said to me once, “Brandon, I never don't believe a word you say. But sometimes it's just boring”. I had to find a way to add pizzazz to certain stuff, which is really not my forte. It's telling the story and yarning it together however you want to.

That has been my journey, trying to find a way to make those really high-stakes decisions, or choices in a performance, but then grounding them. Because I can ground anything, I can land the biggest plane you'll want with the craziest dialogue and you're gonna believe every word. You might not remember me at the end. So I gotta find a way to add that little. You're always learning.

What advice would you give to somebody wanting to get into the industry, especially here in New Mexico? What are some tricks of the trade or words of wisdom that you've had to learn along the way?

Well, I'm not the wisest man. So let's take out words of wisdom. Let's go straight, bad advice. Can we do that?  

I had this fantastic opportunity of being in these American-made, big projects in Canada. If I would have gone to LA I didn't have the chops, I didn't have the experience, and I couldn't compete against the people there. So that really allowed me a foot in the door. All the guys that I acted with, there was like a group of six of us, we've actually hilariously been all relatively successful. It was just us competing against each other, and we'd shake hands when the other guy got the job. They've all gone on to do other shows and movies and everything else, and New Mexico feels a little bit like it's the Vancouver of America. There are a ton of productions coming in here, and if you want to start out there's such a great opportunity here to get your foot in the door. Whether you're 10 or 90.

There are insane projects up here with a tremendous pedigree and if you want to get in as a guest star, or just a couple of lines, or whatever else, this is the place to start. Number one, you're in a great position. Suppose you want to start off in New Mexico, get an agent. You can't get credit if you don't have credit. But ultimately, for an actor, there are two things, you've got to be curious. Your life experience is very valuable, but your life experience, which you're going to offer a lot to every role you take, is the totality of everyone's life experience. So be curious. Look at other people's life experiences. Try to understand other people even if you disagree with them. Try to get an in on why they believe, do, or say because that's the fun part. 

You've got to step in other people's shoes. You've got to be open to that. I wasn't willing to be open to that kind of stuff, and as an actor, I can disagree with you. I can go play the person I really hate in life. My job is to explore possible reasons this person could be saved and believe or vote or whatever the - the way they are?

Then you come up with a backstory, you do a little bit of research on these people, and all of a sudden, you're like, "Oh, well, maybe if I would have," "Yeah if I grew up the way they did, I might be saying or thinking the same thing." That doesn't mean you can't say it's wrong or right, or whatever else. You shouldn't judge a character that's beyond that. But, what you are saying is try to be a little bit understanding of that, and then try to get in there. Being curious, read books, magazine articles, and poems. Getting into it all - watching movies and television. International movies are really great.

There are some movies coming out of Korea and India and TV shows in Germany that are not going to be on the network. But if you go find them, they're telling these really excellent stories, and you can learn a lot from them.

Being curious is number one, and the other part is to take chances. Everyone says there are no dumb questions. That's not true. There are, but you have to ask them anyway. What you have to do is you have to be willing to make bad choices because you're going to come out better on the other end. So there are dumb questions, and there are terrible choices, be willing to ask them and if you can get through that, you're way ahead of the game.

If you can ask them once, you can ask them twice. You can ask them three times, don't ask the same question over and over again. But given that, you're on your way and you're doing better than most because, you had the guts to do it. You're only going to be more well-rounded. Something's gonna click. You have a little bit more after the fact of asking the question than you did before, and that's all we can ask for in life and in the acting business. 

Last but not least, when you're not shooting or working, and living in New Mexico, what are some of your favorite places to spend time offset? 

Golfing is my number one hobby. There's this one guy Troy that I know from LA and he's worked with a ton of actors and he'll always call me up to tell me so and so's in town, and they want to golf. I'd show them around all the courses. I don't get paid for it, but I just tried to take their money. 

Golfing is really great for me, and then beyond that it's my family.

One of my first jobs growing up was doing lawns, spraying lawns, fertilizer, weed killer, inspecting them for bugs, and all that stuff. It costs a lot to maintain a lawn, and we do have a fair size piece of property here, so I try to keep it as green as I can. I wouldn't call it a hobby, more of an unhealthy obsession that I can't afford. 

I do want to get back to playing hockey. I'll probably skate out to the blue line and then skate straight to the bench to catch my breath. But I think it'll only take me a season and a half or so to be able to pull off a full shift at some point. I do want to get back to doing that.

Thank you so much for taking the time today. Thank you for sharing your background and, of course, being a part of the New Mexico film community. 

We have great crews here and great locations. We're not very far from LA, and everyone that I know that has come here really, really enjoyed it. My next goal is to bring something that I create here. A bunch of vagabonds and Gypsies who want to tell a really great story. I would love to tell it in the state of New Mexico.