Recently we had the chance to talk with Brent Jennings about his life as an actor and his role on the upcoming AMC show Lodge 49.
Was acting something you always wanted to do or did you discover it later, like a happy accident, so to speak?
Brent: Well, it was an accident that happened very early. I discovered acting in the sixth grade while doing a play, and the teacher who was directing the play pulled me aside and said, you should think about becoming an actor. You have a good speaking voice and a good sense of timing and people respond to you, so I took it seriously and started researching it when I could. I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity around me, but I ended up at this place called the Arkansas Art Center and started taking some acting classes. One thing led to another and I ended up in New York City after college, which was in Boston where I was also acting, and I basically became a theater rat. In fact, I had to change my major in college because I was spending too much time in the theater, so I thought I better take something that actually makes me do homework.
Now you’ve done work in theater, movies, and television. Do you have a favorite medium to work in or do you simply go where the work takes you?
Brent: I basically go where the work takes me, although recently it’s been more TV than anything. I consider myself a character actor who goes where the work is, more than anything. I’ve had several lean periods in terms of work but in one of those lean times, I was a substitute teacher in my son’s private school, you know to pay the bills. As it turns out, they asked me if I wanted to be Assistant Head of Admissions and drama teacher, so I asked them how much they were offering and when they told me I couldn’t believe it. I was like, you want me to come in every day for that? That’s why I’m here now, that’s what I’m making. (laughs) At that time I was like I don’t want to do commercials, I don’t want to do this or that but then I realized, if you can make a living doing what you love to do, you’re much better off, no matter what medium you’re working in. From that point on my attitude changed and whatever came along that was interesting to do, I would do it. I was doing whatever I could to stay in the game, as they say, and do what I love.
How did you come to get the role of Ernie on Lodge 49 and what did you think of the script when you first read it?
Brent: I was really, really intrigued by the script when I first read it, I thought it was something special. I got the part the old fashioned way, where I just went in and auditioned and I guess they saw my passion for the part. When you make your living from the audition process what you and the people you are auditioning for are looking for is chemistry. You are looking for a part that you feel good about, that you understand, that speaks to you and you want to show who this character is because you think you know it. You are going up against actors who are just as good as you, who have done as much work as you so, in the end, it’s all about the chemistry, something that fits. That’s what this felt like, it felt like a good fit, the writing was unique and I just fell in love with it.
So tell me a little bit about Ernie. What was it like playing this character?
Brent: Oh, it was so much fun. We shot in Atlanta and sometimes I’d wake up in my apartment and phone my wife and say, I can’t believe this part I’m playing. I can’t believe what I get to go in and play today, just the huge range of the role. Here’s a guy who when we meet him, he’s at a point in his life where he’s just trying to leave his footprints in the world. He’s afraid he’s never going to accomplish any of the things he hoped to have, he feels the window is closing. However, there’s still humor in him, he’s still a very three-dimensional guy and there’s a drive in him, to achieve something he’s never achieved before.
I’ve seen the first few episodes of Lodge 49 and I really like the characters and the tone of the show, it’s quite different. How would you describe your experience working with the rest of the cast on this show?
Brent: Well, one of the things about it is I think everybody felt they were involved in something unique, different and special. I remember conversations with the sound mixer and the boom operator, who felt that they were on a show that was different, it makes you feel like you’re doing something really special. They guys go from project to project and when they think it stands out when they support it, it makes it that much more special, it really does. Everyone from the actors to the directors who came into work on it, there was just an enthusiasm about this project that is so rare, in a business where everything is pretty much the same. When you run across something that’s fresh and has a new voice and is good, it gets you excited and makes you feel good about what you’re doing.
Television definitely seems to be the place for great stories and character these days, especially on platforms like AMC and Netflix. Do you think this is simply a stage, like a golden age so to speak, or is this new age here to stay?
Brent: I think it’s here to stay, I really do. I think that we have so many different platforms now that there are great avenues for quality to find a home. The possibilities for material to exist that are a bit more challenging than it used to be, I think that makes things very exciting for the future. There are more avenues now for projects to see the light of day so I’m thinking it’s here to stay. You see what Netflix has done, countless programs, I don’t know how they’re doing it or if it will last but they have changed things, everything has changed a lot in television. AMC has always been different, that has a different palate and takes chances and is not always commercially driven.
Ok, so if you were to pitch the show to someone, to peak their interest, how would you describe Lodge 49?
Brent: Wow. Ok, I would say this is a show about everyday people who are fighting to hold on to their dreams and their goals. They’re doing it for the lust for life, the ups and downs of life, chasing their dreams and trying to make them come true. There is a lot of hope and optimism there and they are very resilient people, people who get up and try again, they fall down but continue to fight. It’s about a group of people who are challenged by life but they love and enjoy life, as they face the challenges that life throws at them.
I want to thank Brent for taking the time to talk with us.
Lodge 49 will premiere on AMC Aug 6th at 10 pm.