Brian Thompson [Interview]

Hello Folks! Today we have a great interview with long time working, and self-proclaimed blue collar, actor. It’s Brian Thompson, Everyone!

Oddly enough, this interview came to be because of a random conversation I stumbled upon on my Facebook Timeline. I’m hardly on that wretched site, but it seemed to be fate this time around. Our old friend Randy Mazucca (a.k.a. Mr. Facebook, circa 2013) mentioned that the man who portrayed Shao Kahn in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was from our shared hometown of Longview, Washington. I was intrigued, and had to look him up. 
And now here we are! Thompson has worked on a plethora of damn fine films and television series. Currently he has a reoccurring role, as fire captain Gerard on the Fox Original series 9-1-1, and has appeared on other fine shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files. His film credits include, The Terminator, Cobra, Flight of the Living Dead (directed by our old friend Scott Thomas!), I Am That Man, and many more.
On a personal note, Brian actually made me take a deeper look into the place that I call home. I have actually been the cliché (spoiler alert, he says it below) person when talking about where I am from. But, Brian’s words actually helped me put things into a better perspective. So, dearest Longview….my bad.
Alright, so Folks, please enjoy some incredible words from the accomplished Brian Thompson!


What inspired you to get into the world of performance? Was it something that you aspired to do since your youth? Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day? 

 I had asked friend Paul Delashaw if he wanted a ride home from school, spring of 1977 about three months prior to graduation from Mark Morris High.  He said, no that he was trying out for the school play then exclaimed, “Brian, there’s a part you’d be GREAT FOR!”  I ended up playing the Russian ballet instructor “Boris Kolenkov” in You Can’t Take It With You.  The entire experience was delightful bordering on ecstasy. It didn’t hurt that three of the girls who would always turn my head were in the play as well.  I got to be near them for several weeks in a row: Julie Lafaw, Nancy Johnson, and Marcia Jacobsen — beautiful, kind, loving creatures. I cherish that experience.  I probably am the only person who still to this day owns a poster from the play, it is framed in my living room. At age 61, the title is an affirmation, “You can’t take it with you…”  The summer after highs school I fought forest fires on for a forestry company.   At the end of that summer I walked onto the Central Washington University football team. At the start of the winter quarter, I saw an audition notice for Guys & Dolls. I think I sang happy birthday that night at the audition. I haven’t stopped acting since.  I started out majoring in music/piano. My father who was a science teacher at Robert A Long High School, was wounded by the declining salaries of teachers. He knew Central was heralded for its business program.  The thought of his son graduating with a degree that didn’t equate with a viable job, caused him much concern. I ended up graduating with a degree in Business Management, but I lived in the drama department. My backpack was full of plays. If I read a monologue that I liked, it wouldn’t leave me alone until I had it memorized. My senior year, without telling anyone, I auditioned for graduate acting programs and got a full ride to the University of California Irvine, where we acted, sang, and danced around 12 hours a day 7 days a week. I was obsessed. Acting was something that I couldn’t stop myself from doing.  I would walk by a closed theater and start vibrating, “they do plays in there!”  UCI was a three year program and half way through my second year I started sneaking off to auditions in Hollywood, just for practice.  I ended up getting some of the jobs. During my last year at Irvine in 1984, I found an agent, became a member of the Screen Actors Guild, did two commercials, two television shows, and one feature film, the original Terminator.

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this project that still affects your work to date?  

During my junior year at Central, I auditioned for the Cripple Creek Melodrama, and was hired. I unfortunately had been hospitalized just prior to when I was supposed to join the company. I convinced the doctor to let me out of the hospital. I was still in a lot of pain. The doctor gave me one more shot of morphine, and I hopped on a plane.  You had to audition for your roles once arriving.  When in the hospital, they had put a tube in my stomach, but the first couple attempts the tube hit my vocal cords and they were bruised.  I tried to sing at the audition but my voice kept cracking. I apologized to the director and producer, told them about the mishap with the tube, and that I was very tired and needed to sleep. I woke up 24 hours later (they had sent a doctor to check on me twice) and learned that I no longer had a job and they had given my parts to an actor who had mistakenly thought an audition application was an offer for work and had driven all the way to Cripple Creek.  So what did I learn?  From the actor who drove all the way there with no job, take chances, something good does have a chance of happening.  For myself, the show must go on. If you snooze you lose.

So, I learned from your bio that you and I share a same hometown! I grew up, for the most part, in Kelso-Longview, Washington. Where I understand you also grew up as well? I know I already asked about inspirations, but I am also curious to know if a blue collar community like Cowlitz County had any influence on joining the world of entertainment?

 I’m very fond of Longview.  Wood shop, metal shop, and auto mechanics classes were a part of our culture. We breed capable people who know how to fix things and know what hard work is. I had a great swimming coach Richard Stumph, who beat into my head, “whether you say you can or you say you can’t you’re right.”  We shared a lot of success together saying, “I say I CAN!”.  That solidified my belief in incremental progress towards a goal.  I paid for my first year of college with savings and working the entire summer at Reese Brothers foresters at $3.75 an hour, but after 40 hours you got time and a half and after 60 hours a week you got double time.  I only took 3 days off the entire summer and averaged 90 hours of pay per week.  I had been working several days in a row when I first started. Luck put me in the cab with one of the two Reese brothers. On the way to the job site, he somewhat apologetically said, “We don’t pay a lot here, but if a guy is willing to work, you can make some serious money.”  I replied, “Yes, today is my 11th day in a row.”  He did a double take, “What’d you say your name was?”  The next day when I arrived for work, one of the foreman handed me a set of keys and pointed at a crew van, “You’re driving.”  Everyone wanted to be a driver as now you were paid for your time to the work site. When we worked on the Oregon coast, it added as much as 6 hours a day to your salary.  A shout out to all my Reese Brother’s Brothers. You know what we did and how many people we saw who quit halfway through the day and asked to go back and sit in the van. To the tens of thousands of trees we planted, forest fires we put out, and the miles upon miles of fire trails we dug by hand on terrain so steep that you couldn’t swing a pulaski without being roped in.  So you ask if Longview had any influence on joining the world of entertainment? I was never a person who said the cliche, “I have to get out of this town.” It was never a conscious decision to leave Longview. I was simply following a path to find a way that acting could bring income. No one in Longview, especially not my parents, ever encouraged me to attempt it, quite the opposite. This is not a fault of anyone. To their credit they know the absurd chances of finding sustained employment as an actor. Every time I get a job, I hear a very incredulous yet quiet voice, saying, “How’d that happen?”  Of the approximately 50 actors that I knew at Irvine who were picked out of hundreds for their professional promise, only a handful of us found some employment, and after about ten years, I was last actor standing. Longview is full of hard working honest people.  When I get to portray those roles, my interaction with them for certain, is a blessing.

While you have worked in several different genres, one of them you have done some wonderful work in is the world of horror. Including 2019’s Hoax, which you starred alongside our friend and former interviewee Adrienne Barbeau. So, I am curious to know how you enjoy working in the world of horror? What do you believe it is that sets it apart from the plethora of other genres you have worked on? 

For the average blue collar actor of which I count myself a member, you seldom ever get to pick your jobs. The jobs pick you. Actors love what? ACTING!  The joy of creating a character, memorizing lines, then getting to take these characters to play, is the joy.  The jobs that come your way are often the highlights of your year. The jobs are the vacation, especially when you are a supporting actor.  I’ve done a few leads and the leads get their ass kicked. Supporting parts are usually a few lines or scenes, with lots of days off in between. I’ve travelled all over Europe on my days between being on sets. With the exception of a few days, Hoax was a vacation. We were in a stunning location high in the Colorado Rockies, and there were lots of days off. Matt Allan the director was an actor’s director, kind, funny, and well prepared. What sets horror apart? That something bad is going to happen to these characters and a makeup artist is going to show up with gallons of blood.  Suddenly the story becomes dark, really dark, and these characters that you love, have horrible things happen to them. One of the darkest productions, dark as in haunting, that I’ve ever experienced is Joel Coen’s Macbeth. The scenes I have with Denzel Washington as Macbeth, are horrifying as we grown men are contemplating and planning murder. That’s horrifying. 

One particular project that you worked on that truly blew me away was the 2017 film Trafficked. I know what I enjoyed Siddharth Kara’s story so much, but I am curious to know what drew you to this project? What made you want to be a part of this project?  

Once again, the jobs pick you. I learned of it first from my agent Mike Eisenstadt. I read the script. Human trafficking was a subject that I knew of, but had no idea of the extent it is being propagated in the US. Being involved in projects that help mend social ills, is very important. In scripted form, these projects are rare, so I was eager to help. During the past year I have been able to watch more documentaries than at any other time. Probably very much like many americans who now have a deeper relationship with Amazon Prime and Netflix:  Docs I highly recommend: HBO’s Q-anon, Food Inc, Scientology the aftermath, Forks over Knives, Athlete A, Bikram, Seaspiracy, The Great Hack, What the Health, Last Breath, Dirty Money, Fyre, The College Admissions Scandal, Bob Lazar: Area 51, Gloriavale, Jonestown: Terror in the Jungle, Going Clear, NIXIVM, Holy Hell, Children of God.

If you were handed the opportunity to create and/or star in the biopic of any legendary figure in American history, who would it be? 

Elon Musk. I don’t believe that the average person understands exponential change and how rapidly our culture is going to change — Moore’s law and AI.  A movie that gets inside the philosophy of Musk will introduce many more people to the digital tsunami that is arriving, including crypto currency, as well as the environmental benefits of the world he is moving us to.  The world that he envisions is a healthier safer world. I’m all for carbon taxing now. Petrochemical companies are as liable as the tobacco companies. This includes plastics.  Coal rolling and unnecessary acceleration should be outlawed. We do not have the right to pollute indiscriminately. If you don’t want it in your house, in your air, with your children, why do you allow it outside? 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers? 

Captain Gerard is returning to 911. There’s a special special agent showing up on NCIS LA.  Then Macbeth, directed by Joel Coen of the Coen Brothers. I’m an ardent supporter of St. Judes, Best Buddies, NEXT for autism, & Operation Hope that is chaired by Longview’s Mark Morris graduate, Jennifer Trubenbach. I encourage readers to share their good fortune with them, as they a really are moving the needle. If you happen to be on the west coast of California or Oregon, you might catch me wing-foiling. Google it.

What was the last thing that made you smile? 

I smile a lot when Shari, my girlfriend of 22 years comes home, or when we sit down to share meals that we prepare. We haven’t been to a restaurant in years.  But the last thing that made me smile actually was Guillermo our painter, just showed up at the door and it was a big smile to see him after several years. That was my last real smile, as he happened by just before I answered this q. 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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