Byron Brown II is likely best known for his acting work on the film, THE ROMANS, a modern day take on Julius Caesar set in Buffalo where the movie was filmed. Byron has also worked behind the scenes in various forms such as lighting technician, grip, camera assistant and production assistant. Along with THE ROMANS his film credits also include THE FIRST PURGE, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURLTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS, and CROSSBREED.
I had the chance to meet Byron during the Canadian Premiere of JOHNNY GRUESOME, Gregory Lamberson’s feature film about his beloved head-banging zombie rebel from hell which saw many incarnations since the script was written over thirty years ago including an award winning novel. Byron co-stars in the feature film along with Anthony De la Torre and Chris Modrzynski. Join us as Byron and I chat about his role as Eric Carter, Johnny’s best friend, and what the future holds for this young actor.
Byron, if you don’t mind starting at the beginning, how did you first come to work with Greg Lamberson and help bring Johnny Gruesome’s best bud, Eric Carter, to life on the big screen?
Me and Greg Lamberson officially met on the set of Ninja Turtles, which we both worked on. We were already familiar with each other because the first film I acted in, The Romans had been featured in his Buffalo Dreams Film Festival. On the set of Ninja Turtles he took notice of my demeanor and style and made up in his mind that I would be a good fit for his hero in Johnny (Gruesome), Eric. When he approached me about it, I was all for it, looked forward to checking out the script, and once I read it, I’m like oh yeah, I’m in.
As far as I’m concerned, you absolutely nailed the role of Eric and really brought the character that’s been in my head since first reading the novel in full view.
The chemistry you had with your fellow actors seemed pretty organic, particularly with Johnny Gruesome’s other BFF, Gary (played by Chris Modrzynski) Your comedic timing was spot on and the two of you simply worked well together, you being the panic stricken “good guy” and Gary being the freewheeling rebel without a care. Were you given time away from filming to get comfortable with each other or were the casting gods just that good?
So, me and Chris had worked on several films together prior to the filming of Johnny Gruesome on the crew side of things (Winters Dream, Ninja Turtles, etc.), so we already had a bit of a rapport with each other. I actually filmed my casting tape with him, and that sort of served of the cementing piece of me locking down the role, as Lam (Greg) was able to gauge our chemistry together from that. I hadn’t had the prior experience of acting alongside someone I was already cool with, so I think that transferred over on screen and helped us play around a little more in the arc of our characters relationship.
As your first lead role, what takeaways from the experience do you feel will be looked back on down the road and be considered as your most cherished or educational?
I mean, overall, it was a really good film experience. I have so much to look back on, and so many positive takeaways. The vibe on set was smooth, it was such a cool project to be apart of. Seeing the look on Lam’s (director/writer Greg Lamberson) face as he watched characters that were so many years in the making come to life was really fulfilling. Watching Craig, the special effects makeup artist, bring Johnny’s character to life and seeing what went in to that was dope. And just having the opportunity to work with such a good crew (many of which I had previously worked with) and the ability to get closer to them was rewarding.
What does it mean for you and your career to be a part of an independent horror film like Johnny Gruesome and work with such an eclectic cast and crew?
It meant a lot to be apart of this film. The majority of my film credits are on the crew and technical side and I originally got into film wanting to direct (which is still a goal of mine) and ended up getting pulled into acting. Landing a lead role in this film made me approach acting more seriously and sort of made people look at me in that light garnering interest from other projects and such. Might end up being a defining moment looking back.
Like any typical independent film project, things have a habit of not always going so perfect. Where there any moments that stand out to you during shooting that went along those lines, perhaps to comic effect/relief?
Things actually went pretty smooth on set, to my knowledge. The only moment, really, I recall along those lines, you know, things not going according to planned was when we filmed that final fight scene in the water, which was freezing by the way. So, Sam, the assistant director, got in the water beforehand to check it out for us and shooting was a bit delayed because he had to chase a couple snapping turtles off set. I guess they were probably looking to make a cameo. Also, for that scene when Matt the DP was floating in a canoe to capture the right angle I believe while the rest of his crew watched from the bridge above and I’m not much of a swimmer or water person, but we had on wetsuits under our clothes. So yeah, there were a lotta moving parts there, but it ended up looking good.
What’s next for you film-wise, and what is the best way to ensure fans don’t miss whatever project you’ve got in the works next?
Couple things in the works film wise. I just worked on a short film called Free Moses with long-time collaborators Korey Green and Pete Johnson. The film deals with a former soldier who has PTSD and it’s in post-production right now. Also working on a Halloween reboot with AG Al Mutawa and Tony Pacella. Couple other projects in the works as well; should be a production-filled summer. The best way to stay informed on my creative projects and what’s next is to follow my Instagram @seeings0unds. I often upload behind the scenes content of my story which I feel is always pretty cool to see. Blessings and Best regards …to everyone.