Q & A: Brendan Fehr on ‘Roswell’, ‘Bones’ and Why Actors Should Always Have a “Plan B”

Actor Brendan-Fehr

Brendan Fehr was an actor for all of one year when he got the part of Michael  on Roswell.

But sometimes luck doesn’t bring perspective. He say’s that he “didn’t realize how hard [acting] was because it came so quick and when it comes quick it seems relatively easy.”

After Roswell ended, he admittedly didn’t go out on pilots for a long time and now he says that he’s “definitely been humbled.”

Since then though, he’s had some great recurring roles on Bones and CSI: Miami and this Saturday, you can watch him and Victor Garber in SyFy original movie, Ice Quake.

I talked to him in a Q & A where he talks about the new movie, how he got his roles on both Bones and Roswell, how he got started and more!

Ice Quake airs Saturday, December 11 at 9pm on SyFy.

So how did you initially get involved with this film?

Brendan Fehr: Just through the typical channels. It came through my agents. They handed me the – they sent the script over and I read it and it was a number of things. It was obviously getting to play a guy who’s married and who’s got a family and two kids which is something I haven’t had the opportunity to do on film.

And it’s obviously with the SyFy base and all that stuff. They got a definite following which is always encouraging as an actor. It’s always a bonus when people are going to be watching these things that you do.

And then ultimately it also – it’s filmed in my home town basically about half hour outside of where I grew up as a kid. So I got to go back and spend the weekends with my mom and my sister and my family and all that stuff. So that stuff was all very, obviously, intriguing to me.

What would you say was the most challenging part of working on it?

Brendan Fehr: The most challenging part was probably just all the breaking of the ice and the trimmers and everything else. I mean obviously that stuff’s not happening and we’re on a mountain. That was stuff you just had to imagine. Obviously as an actor you’re called on to be creative and imagine certain scenarios that are not real.

But usually you can see them. Whether you got to – usually you can see. It’s a conversation across the coffee table or something like that, or you react to someone actually punching you or hitting you, or you react to someone yelling at you or crying or running away from you.

This movie was, a lot of it, reacting the whole mountain coming down and all that stuff and that’s probably the most challenging when here’s nothing to work off of. The mountain is not going to give you anything. There’s kind of nothing there to hang your hat on it’s kind of just all up to you and then hopefully the guys in post, edit it and cut it and visual effects and all that in such a way where you don’t look like an idiot.

So that’s always the most challenging, and maybe the Star Wars things or whatever else when you’re on the full green screen. You have nothing to act off of. I think for most actors that’s a skill that we’re not quite confident in.

I’m curious to know if you had to go through, I mean, special preparation or research for the role?

Brendan Fehr: I probably should start doing those things but I don’t. The preparation and everything else for me at this point generally a lot of these things are fairly last minute. It’s not the big studio pictures and films where you have six months of training and you have something like Black Swan where Natalie Portman gets to train full-time for a year for the making of this movie.

We have about two weeks max and usually about a week before the whole thing gets rolling. So during that time – I use that time to kind of break down the script and my character and what I can add to it and what I can do.

In terms of the research and all that stuff, I rely a little bit on the writers and everyone else having all the facts straight and all the rest of it. And I just feel that if I play the lines as they were designed and then kind of true to the nature of what I’m trying to put across, then that generally is fairly sufficient.

And I think the more time you’re given and the bigger budget and the bigger time, and the amount of time you have beforehand, you can obviously start getting into greater detail. Kind of a time management issue of sorts in terms of what you’re going to spend your time on.

And, when you’re not giving it too much I think it’s just getting familiar with the characters and the story and knowing where you are and just kind of being very comfortable with your lines and what you have to do.

So unfortunately I haven’t had a project; both good and bad. It doesn’t give me enough time to think about it which can be a good thing when you over analyze it and I haven’t had the luxury of having a tremendous time and resources to do a lot of research on a lot of roles I have.

And so I kind of work with what I’m given and it’s, I think, works with me so far. But, I’m always trying to get better and all that stuff. You’re always looking for new ways to kind of go about your business so.

How did you get started in acting?

Brendan Fehr: I was living in Winnipeg and was in Vancouver for a friend’s wedding. Kind of long story short of sorts, I was basically just approached and some guy asked if I wanted to be on TV and do a role, and I said, not particularly and I never had and, thanks, but no thanks.

And he kind of explained the situation to me how he had just opened up an agency and I was right for this particular role and I thought it was crazy and stupid and all the rest of it and I said, all right, fine, I’ll go in. I don’t know exactly what it consists of. But I went in for an audition the next day. I know it was probably memorizing the lines but I just didn’t know what to expect.

It was for a TV show called Breaker High which was like a Saved by the Bell type after school show about these kids on a boat, they go to school on a boat, and they travel around the world.

Ryan Gosling was on it actually and I did a guess star for that and I auditioned for it and totally blew it. But they ended up hiring me anyways for – in spite of myself. I had no idea why, but that’s – I never stopped working after that and I just kind of fell into it and I learned…At first I thought it was silly and stupid and I was going to keep doing it until they found out I was no good at it. And then slowly as I kept working, I found out that I wasn’t too shabby at it and I learned to love it along the way and now it’s something I really, really enjoy.

And I’m very upset I’m not as good as I want to be at it. So that keeps me motivated and keep going and I’ve learned to love it. So I’ve just been blessed with the – kind of fell into and it’s not something that I thought I’d be doing so I don’t quite take anything for granted anymore. And I just really, really appreciate every opportunity I’m given to act.

How did you get your part on Bones?

Brendan Fehr: Well, what’s funny is I’m actually on the golf lanes right now. And I got – however last year or whenever the first episode I did, I was on the very same golf range and I got a call from my agent and he said, hey, you’ve got to quickly go down to Fox. They’re looking for this character and they haven’t found him yet and you’ve got to get down there in an hour. And I was like, it was one of those situations where you have no idea what you’re reading and this and that. And I was like, ah…And I love golf a lot and I was on the range and I was trying to figure something out.

And I was like, ah, I don’t know if I can make it. He was like, come on, you’ve got to. And I was like, all right. So I begrudgingly get in the car and I go down there and I memorize the lines on the way and I didn’t realize it was for his brother and it could possibly be recurring.

And I got in the room and Hart was there and he kind of took me through some things and the casting director also was there. He was a big instrument and he worked with me before I went in the room. He really wanted me to get it and so that was a huge deal for me. And I remember being in the room and Hart was like, well, do you know David?

And I said, yeah, I know David. And he goes, well, how do you know him? And I was like, we played hockey together a few times. And he goes, “Well, what do you think of him? And I was like, I don’t like him too much.

He was like, oh, really? And I was like, we didn’t really get along on the ice rink. We’ve had a few choice words and we’ve always come to blows. And he was like, really? And I was like, yeah, that was a number of years ago so obviously things change and it’s not that I don’t like him but my experience with him has been less than favorable so far.

And actually, I know David’s a producer on the show and I don’t know how much power he wields or whatever else but I’m not entirely sure – I wasn’t sure at the time whether or not he even would have approved me of playing his brother given what we had – some of the things that we had said to each other.

And I think that actually – I think that worked out in my favor because playing brothers who obviously don’t get along and having a certain familiarity, even though it wasn’t necessarily a positive one, I think they took a chance with that and I think they were going to kind of exploit that in a good way. Not a bad way.

I remember when I got the job and I walked on set and the first time I was walking up to David, I was like all right. I don’t know how this is going to go over. We’ll see what happens and I’m walking up the set and he turns around and he sees me, and he just breaks into a big smile and he holds out his hands and we give each other a huge and he’s like, hey. He’s like, how are you? What’s going on? And all the rest of it.

And, from there it was just great. We got along great. We talked sports and kids and family and all that stuff so it was – that was an interesting experience. You never – you’re going to get one thing and then obviously we had grown up and it was a number of years ago when I was on Roswell and he was doing Buffy and Angel.

And so, yeah, we got along great. We had that saying where even on my first day there, even though I’m the new guy, I could look over at David and I could be like, you’re so full of crap.

I had that ease about it and he could – he’d just give it right back to me. And I think they really liked that for the brothers. And so I think that served me well in terms of the character and all of that stuff. And the fact that we know that we can get under each others nerves but the fact that were also just two guys making a living in the real world and we’ve got families and we understand that. And you’ve got to be able to work together.

So it was just a real kind of pleasant surprise in that sense.

Can you talk a bit about working on Roswell?

Brendan Fehr: Yeah. Roswell was something that came really quick in my career. I had only been acting about a year when I was on a fairly major or legitimate television show at the very least. Doing billboards and covers of magazines and famous kind of over night.

And it probably got to my head a little bit but not too much. I mean, I never did anything totally out of control but I didn’t realize how hard it was because it came so quick and when it comes quick it seems relatively easy.

That’s about as bad as, for lack of a better word just about as big or as famous as I’ve been. I’ve been doing this now for about ten years and in my second year it had kind of been the peak, or so to speak.

And after that, after the show ended, I kind of – I didn’t go out for pilot season for a long time and I was kind of just really focused on trying to make a film career. And for whatever reason it didn’t quite pan out. And so it was a little discouraging at first but now I just – I’m really enjoying where I’m at. I’m enjoying the fact that my perspective has changed and I get to – I’ve definitely been humbled.

And I think that’s served me both in life and in my acting career. And I’ve got a wonderful family and I get the chance to kind of work my way back up to something. And I hope through stuff like Ice Quake and everything else that I’ve done that I just keep getting better and people notice and people start wanting to work with you and get a chance to get there again.

And when I say get there it’s not the fame that you’re after its choices, it’s options. It’s having people calling you to work with you and having scripts sent to you and being offered. It’s not because I want to be famous. Inevitably when you’re famous the choices are presented to you and that’s the appealing thing to be able to pick and choose and not having to be able to scrap it out.

But, that being said, I don’t mind scrapping it out right now. I think it’s something I’ve just learned to enjoy the process and its character building and you’re satisfied at the end of the day when you do grind it out. So I really, I enjoyed Roswell and it’s funny to look back. And I might have taken a little bit for granted but I just had a really great time on it and that’s the way life went and so I’m just very happy where I am now.

Do you have any advice for others who want to act?

Brendan Fehr: Yeah. The first thing that my instinct is to always say have a Plan B. You don’t want to squash anyone’s dreams and you don’t want to be the person to kind of stamp it out. But it’s a difficult thing. You’re – it’s a very interesting business and it’s not…

Auditions aren’t like interviews. They’re not like a job interview. It’s a completely different beast and you have to – you cannot get the job for so many different reasons that are beyond your control.

Generally in the real world if you’re nine to five or a manager or whatever else you’re past work. You just simply have or you are, and your personalities going to kind of determine that but here it’s what they’re looking for. Are your eyes too close together? Are you too tall? Are you too short? Are you too fat? Are you too…

I mean, you could be given – you could give them everything they need but if the guy making the decision thought that a blond guy should be playing it and not a brown-haired guy then he’s not interested in dying his hair, you’re done. You did kind of the…

It’s some very kind of fair-weathered business in that sense. And it’s discouraging. You get – for every audition I get I go out on 20, 15. I mean, that’s not a good percentage at all. And that’s pretty much standard. So you definitely have to have…If you want to get into it you need a foundation. You kind of need to know who you are and what you want and what you believe.

And I think when most people get into it when they’re younger you don’t know that yet when you’re 12 and 13 and all the rest of it. I mean, I got into it when I was 20 so I was a little older and I had my head screwed on the right way because of my family.

But when you’re younger you just – the sooner you can start the better because you’re going to get more experience and you’re going to learn a lot more and all of the rest of it but at the same time everything that…I mean, just the rejection and then the nature of the business can really tear you up and screw you up for the rest of your life.

So, I mean my advice would be to go for it. Go for it with everything you’ve got and don’t leave anything in the bag. But we’re not promised anything on this planet and on this earth and I don’t think we deserve anything and we’re not entitled to anything.

I don’t care how much work or effort you put into something that still doesn’t entitle you to it. I think we’re given what we need and it’s exactly that. I think we’re given everything. We do have to put in the time and the work for some stuff but ultimately I think God gives us everything we need.

So if he doesn’t want you to be an actor then you’re not going to be an actor. I feel bad for the people who put so much time and effort into making it and they never do. And I was asked on the street and said no, no, no and then fell into it. And I got the opportunity to do it for a living.

But that’s why I don’t take it for granted and I put in my best but go for it. But, yeah, you could ultimately…I mean if this thing dried up for me right now I don’t have a college education. I’d be in big trouble. I don’t know what I’d do for a living.

I don’t know how to make one. I’m sure I’d be all right but I’m not entirely sure exactly what the plan would be so it would always be good to have a backup plan or pursue it at the same time you’re pursuing a degree of some sort.

Most people it would be easy to do. So that would be my recommendation. But it’s the same thing with everything. If you really want something then put everything you have into it and once you’ve done that just be realistic about whether it’s going to happen or not.

I mean, I don’t think we can do – I don’t fall under that thing. I would never tell my kid they can do anything that they put their mind to. I don’t really believe that because I think we each have a purpose and I think when you ask the right questions and then you have the right…You just ask the right question an kind of got your head screwed on right I think God will guide you there.

But I don’t know there’s just certain things that…I think you could try to do everything you want to do but understand that failures and option and that’s okay. But put everything into it and then once you’ve one that sometimes you’ll just have to accept the fact that that’s not what you’re supposed to be doing.

2 Comments

  1. greyg

    October 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Brendan caught my eye first on roswell which i didn’t see until 2010. At first i didn’t like it, but after sticking it
    out (i love sci-fi) it came thru for me.
    So many odd things are said about Brendan that make me think
    he is gonna be a great actor (all the quirky ones were).
    TKS

  2. Lance Carter

    October 28, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Yeah, he seemed like a real nice guy when I talked to him. Hopefully he’ll stick around.

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