Call Answered: Brian Anthony Wilson: Lynn Nottage's "Sweat" at Philadelphia Theatre Company
When I saw Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Sweat on Broadway, I remember being so moved by it. I am so excited to dive further into this show by interviewing actor Brian Anthony Wilson, who is in the show’s Philadelphia premiere.
Sweat, set in Reading, PA, highlights a valley town filled with proud families who have worked for generations in the plants and factories of a thriving county seat. Unions rule, well-paying jobs are coveted and politics are personal. As industries disappear, the men and women of Reading are rendered powerless as they watch their income, legacy and relationships follow suit. Sweat shares the fear, tragedy and hopefulness of a community being forced to accept inevitable change.
Sweat plays Philadelphia Theatre Company through November 4. Click here for tickets!
1. This fall you are starring in Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize winning play Sweat. What made you want to be part of this show? I'm not starring in Sweat, this is truly an ensemble show with an amazing group of actors! Our Director, Justin Emeka, has so much energy and spirit, it made me want to be a part of this show. Also, having the chance to be involved in the 're-emergence' of Philadelphia Theatre Company as a force in the Philadelphia Theatre Community!
2. What do you relate to most about your character "Evan"? What is one characteristic of his you are glad you yourself do not possess? I relate to “Evan's” sense of humanity and his honest desire to help these men navigate their way back into society and rebuild their lives after incarceration.
3. Sweat, set in Reading, PA, highlights a valley town filled with proud families who have worked for generations in the plants and factories of a thriving county seat. Unions rule, well-paying jobs are coveted and politics are personal. As industries disappear, the men and women of Reading are rendered powerless as they watch their income, legacy and relationships follow suit. Like the folks in Reading who are watching their jobs disappear, how do you keep going when other actors get a role you've auditioned for? First, I have experienced first-hand some of what the Sweat characters go through. I was working full time (acting part time) at a Richardson-Vicks Factory (Nyquil, Oil of Olay, etc.) in Hatboro, PA. I started as a laborer in the factory and worked my way up to Human Resources and ended up being a Merchandise Accountant. Procter & Gamble bought out the company and closed the plant approximately seven years later. We weren't unionized though. I had the option of going “the Corporate route” but chose to take the “Buyout” and pursue acting full time, which I've been doing since 1996.
Anyway, I have been very fortunate to have made my living doing what I love since then. Rejection is a part of the business. I sometimes question why someone “got the gig” over me but the intricacies of Casting are baffling to me. As long as I give my “best stuff” at an audition, I'm usually okay with the outcome. I only book 1 out of 10 auditions, maybe less, but there is someone watching over me, that keeps opportunities coming my way. I have theater commitments through April 2019, which I am blessed to have, although its cost me three film roles, to date, because I'm only available on my AEA Monday off day. Feast or Famine.
4. What have you learned about yourself in preparing for this show? I have learned to “trust the process” more!
5. What is one or two funny rehearsal stories you can share with us? Ah, many funny stories but most are too risqué in this “P.C. world” we now live in and are “in the vault!”
6. In these heavy times we are living, how does starring in an emotional drama like Sweat help you get through these dark days? The camaraderie of my amazingly talented cast-mates and the communion we share, is what gets me through the dark days.
7. What do you like about performing in your own hometown? I love being close to home, getting to kiss my daughter good night, before she goes bed at night. Also, happy that I am able to tell the wonderful audience members, who I see and meet, while attending other theatre events, that I am performing in a show that easily accessible, in downtown Philly! Last year I was out of town playing “Troy” in Fences (Vermont) and “Justice Thurgood Marshall” in Thurgood (Olney, MD).
8. Switching gears to some of your other work. What can you tell us about being in Oceans 8? What was it like to film at the Met? It was a bit overwhelming filming in The Met, with the amazing Sarah Paulson. I've done a bunch of indie films but it had been awhile since I'd been on the set of a big budget Hollywood film. SO many people. Gorgeous setting though, I'd never been to The Met. Sanda Bullock was very lovely, I met her in the makeup trailer!
9. You are currently filming the lead in an independent horror film, Room 9. What can you share with us about this film? What do you like about the horror film genre, especially during this month of Halloween festivities? I was filming Room 9 yesterday, on my “Equity day off,” until 1:15 a.m., which is why I'm just getting these answers to you!
Anyway, unlike most of the current Horror Films, I play the Lead role of “Zion Miller,” a mysterious figure with a troubled & anguished past. As an actor of color, I applaud my writer/director, Thomas Walton, for his commitment to diverse casting! Horror Icons Kane Hodder & Micheal Berryman, are also in the film.
I'm not a big fan of the Horror genre, as I'm a big “Fraidy Cat.” While updating my demo reel, I was recently reviewing footage from another horror film, in which I portrayed a doctor and the leader of a town, in the midst of a Zombie Apocalypse, opposite Billy Zane, Zombie Killers: Elephant's Graveyard.
10. You will also be appearing in a supporting role in M. Night Shaymalan's highly anticipated film Glass. What are you looking forward to about making this film? I was thrilled to finally work with and receive direction from the brilliant M. Night Shyamalan, on the set of Glass! I recently saw a trailer for the film and was happy to catch a glimpse of my little scene, which verified I “made the cut.” I have previously done featured background work (14 days) as a core member of a group of travelers, in an earlier M. Night Film, The Happening. I was “bumped up” to a principal role, on my last day but didn't really receive direction from Night on that set. The trailer looks amazing!
More on Brian:
Brian has an extensive theatre, film, and TV background. He was seen recently in the Irish Heritage Theatre’s production of Lay Me Down Softly. Television appearances include Siren and this summer was featured in Oceans 8 starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson and others. He will also make an appearance on the big screen in Glass, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.