Billy Brown Brings It in Two Season Premieres
Watch out, because the month of September belongs to Billy Brown.
The actor, known for his role in “Dexter,” is lighting up television screens this fall with the premiere of two brand new seasons. First, the actor is returning as August Marks in FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” for season six, which hits airwaves Sept. 10. Then, he’s following that role up with Archer in a new CBS drama called “Hostages” set to debut Sept. 23. (Check out a peek of the series below.)
He chatted with JET to give us all of the deets about his latest projects, his thirst for a great script and that one time he bum-rushed an acting class just for a shot on the stage. Warning: Mild “Sons of Anarchy” spoiler ahead if you are not up to date.
JET: Tell us about you background. How did you get started?
Billy Brown: Like any kid coming up, you see films and want to be that. As I got older, I did some commercial work and great amount of modeling. I met these people in different commercials and these girls kept telling me about a theater coach out of New York. I one day took it upon myself to storm her theater. These girls had told me that I worked with said don’t send in a headshot, which I didn’t have at the time, or send in a resume, which I didn’t have at the time. They said, “just show up. You’re the type of guy that she’ll gravitate to and allow you skip the line.”
So I rolled in one day on that advice having no idea what was behind the door on which I knocked. I swung it open and stepped in. There were 60, 70 folks in theater and a couple on stage working on a scene. Across the room in the shadows, I heard a voice. “Can I help you?” I told her who I was. I said, “Yes, I want to get started right now.”
She said, “Yes, I am Janet, but as you can see we’re in the middle of something. You’ll have to come back later and follow protocol. Send me a resume and headshot, and we’ll contact you.” I said, “Yeah, but I’m here now and I parked my car and walked up six flights of stairs. I’m ready to go. Let’s do this.” She said, “I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I can’t do anything for you. Why don’t you call the office later today, and we’ll take it from there.”
So I called and set up a meeting with her daughter, who also worked at the theater company, and I started with Janet the next week. I learned a valuable lesson, not just in acting but in totality with my time with Janet. There are always key people along the path that help guide your own ship and navigate what would might otherwise be treacherous waters.
JET: You’ve clearly come a long way from that moment. This month of premieres for you with “Son Anarchy” and “Hostages” debuting shortly after. How excited are you about the premieres of both of these shows?
Billy Brown: It’s a real blessing, I got to say. In my world for what I do, you never really know how it’s going to go. You don’t have complete control over the material and decisions being made. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with the people I have from “Dexter” to even going way back with Paris Barkley, who’s a great director, on Cold Case. That led directly to Sons of Anarchy.
There’s always a connect line with the relationships that you go on to produce. If you’re cool on set and that comes around. Other decisions might have been wanted as far as the role of August Marks, but with a long standing working relationship with Paris Barkley, that went in my favor. I’m looking at the excitement of both of the shows premiering, but I’m also cognizant of what preceded “Sons of Anarchy” and “Hostages.” They’re all linked together. It’s a beautiful thing.
JET: For those who aren’t familiar with the new show Hostages, give us a brief synopsis of what it’s about.
Billy Brown: There’s a family whose head of the household is Toni Collette, who plays Dr. Ellen Sanders. She’s the top physician, who has been tasked, and surprisingly, so with performing drastic surgery on the President of the United States. Unbeknownst to her, her husband and two kids, their lives will forever be affected.
Shortly after she finds out about this announcement, her two young children and her real-estate husband are taken as captives at gun point by black masked assailants, forcing Dr. Sanders to do what appears to be the evil doing of these people’s plan. We jump from there, and immediately we’re thrown into the deep end to find how her family fares and what’s really behind these people taking on such on a bold act.
It gets exciting and thrilling and heartbreaking from the get-go. This is the first drama that CBS decided that they’re going to go 15 episodes, which says a lot about the writing as well as the tone and the scope and intensity of the pilot and following episodes.
JET: You play Archer. How does your character fit into this whole situation?
Billy Brown: I’m one of the men who come in to take the family hostage. Dylan McDermott, who plays Duncan, and myself we’ve got a long history. That unravels as the series progresses with Duncan being in the FBI and myself having a similar background in the military and doing contract work overseas and private security. Our paths have crossed on more than two occasions, so there’s a history in the team he assembled to carry out this task. All of that is slowly revealed moment-by-moment as we move through the series.
JET: Let’s take it back to “Sons of Anarchy.” It’s coming up on its sixth season. What can fans expect from your character this time around?
Billy Brown: Well August Marks was brought in the last season with Mr. Pope – the great Harold Perrineau. So now with Harold having been taken out – I hope this isn’t a spoiler for those who haven’t caught up with last season (laughs) – I’m taking over Pope Industries. The burden and the joy rest on his shoulders to continue advancing the efforts both righteous and maybe a little dark side of Pope Industries alongside – and we’ll see how that goes – Jax Teller and his band of merry men.
There’s the housing development. There are some guns, and we move forward in our world accordingly. It remains violent. It remains intense. It remains humorous and touching in moments you don’t expect. The creator and head writer of the show is bringing it. I got to say that again as far as the material. There’s such a history. There’s such a family. There’s real violence with the sons and the crew, and they are a real family. Those trappings and feelings and thoughts and actions, they echo many of our families. There are a lot of similarities that people identify with and the writer writes all of that. It’s all on the page.
JET: What attracts you to these really intense roles?
Billy Brown: It’s always the writing – always the writing. Because as I learned when we’re reading you casually understand and you’re holding on to the old feel of the magazine. Whatever it is, it’s the content. If it’s not on the page, you can’t perform it. You can’t sing it. You can’t act it, because it’s not there.
Out of the pilots I’ve read and their team of producers or whatever networks they were attached to that had interest in me, these stood up head and shoulders above the rest. With “Hostage,” I’m not privy to everything that is outlined or that may happen, so as an actor we don’t have a lot to go on when we’re talking about a brand new show that’s yet to be even filmed. But what was given to me in the pilot was captivating and exiting, and it was different. It gave me a clear vision and a clear idea of what might be in store.
(Photo by Lesley Bryce)