Style, superpowers, and smarts. Brea Grant has them all and is quickly establishing herself as one of the rising stars in Hollywood. The triple threat actress who plays Daphne Middlebrook on Heroes and appears in Max Payne talked to us about her hit TV show, why she won’t read message boards, and why she loves Alien vs. Predator.
FSR: How did you end up on ‘Heroes’ and what was your initial reaction to getting the part of Daphne?
Brea Grant: I ended up on ‘Heroes’ because I auditioned for the part like everybody else, but the writers were writing the role of Daphne, which was originally called Joy. I don’t know if I have said that in an interview before but she was called Joy. They were writing and they kept saying, ‘We kind of want her like the girl who played Jean on ‘Friday Night Lights’. And they kept saying that and someone at some point was like, ‘Let’s try to get the girl who played Jean on ‘Friday Night Lights’,’ and that was me. (Laughs) So they brought me in and I auditioned once for producers and I screen tested with Masi Oka and Greg Grunberg. And that was it. My initial reaction, when I found out I had the audition I freaked out. I was really excited once I got it but it was almost like shock, you know, I had been preparing so much. It was an amazing feeling but it definitely was like a muted feeling because I was so shocked.
That’s very cool. You have a background in acting, your dad’s a playwright, right?
My dad is a playwright and I grew up doing theatre as a kid in Marshall [Texas]. But that’s about my only background before I started going to TV and film.
Would you consider doing stage acting again?
Yeah, definitely. I actually did a play when I was here in L.A. called ‘Eavesdropper’ that was really fun. Yeah, I would. I think it’s a completely different medium because film acting is so ‘Cut. Do it again,” do it twenty times at least, and it takes all day to do this one emotion, this one line, and stage acting is more about giving you the chance to be the character more. So I would like to do something like that again. I don’t know when I’ll have the opportunity to. I don’t know if I would do it in L.A. either. I might want to go somewhere else.
Yeah, Kevin Spacey said that there was more of an organic process that takes place in theatre compared to the monotony of film acting, so that definitely makes sense. What drew you back to acting? You have an MA in American Studies from the University of Texas. What ultimately made you decide to pursue this career again?
To be honest, I started taking acting classes again because I wasn’t happy in grad school and I didn’t have time for myself to do anything, if that makes sense. I wanted to do something that was just for me, and fun for me, and I thought acting classes would be good because I missed acting from when I was a kid. I thought it also might help me speak better in my classes, because we had round-table classes and I wanted to articulate what I wanted to say. I thought it would help for the public speaking part. So I started taking classes with Mona Lee [from Britelites Acting Studio] in Austin and that was it. After that I kept going to grad school and I did get my degree eventually, but I left when I started writing my thesis just to take a semester off. I moved to L.A. because I liked doing it [acting]. And it went pretty poorly but I liked doing it, so I wrote my thesis while I was out here as I was trying to pursue the whole acting thing.
You’ve become a fan favorite as Daphne Middlebrook. How have you dealt with your recent success? Have there been any strange encounters on the streets yet?
Umm, no. (Laughs) I don’t know. I don’t know if people recognize me or not. I’m not that aware. I look around sometimes and think I see people staring at me but I’m not sure. I mean I have a lot of Facebook friends. (Laughs) But that’s the only major difference that I’ve found. Not many people come up and say they know who you are. I get a lot of weird emails but that’s pretty much it. I don’t know, I don’t even notice if people know I’m on the show, and I don’t read the message boards so I have no idea what people think about me or if they’re even aware that I’m there.
That’s probably good. It can be tough even reading comments on the Film School Rejects site alone. I can only imagine what it would be like reading after an episode.
Yeah! I think there was one too many times where somebody called me ugly and I was like, ‘Okay, I can’t handle it. I can’t handle being called ugly and fat anymore.’ (laughs) So that was the end of that. I quit reading them all together. My mom filters that stuff for me and will occasionally send some nice quotes but that’s it. (We both laugh.)
That’s pretty nice of your mom.
Daphne has been described before as the Joker to Hiro’s Batman. Was the Joker a character that you did some research on when preparing for the part?
No, but I should have, right? No, I didn’t. I am a comic book reader so I am familiar, I guess, with the nemesis type character. But my research was on super-fast people so that was where I did my reading. I own a lot of ‘Flash’ comics now. But I also knew that there were going to be lots of changes happening with my character, so I sort of limited all the nemesis stuff.
Cool. One of the reasons I like Daphne is that she has spunk to her but she also has an innocent side. I think that separates her in my mind personally from other villains on the show. What do you think separates Daphne from characters like Sylar?
I think the more you learn about Daphne the more you’ll realize that she is very different. I think you’re right. Because Sylar doesn’t hesitate to kill people, I mean he’s an evil guy. His power drives him to kill. Hers is not necessarily driving her that way. She has been living on her own and has her own set of rules about things. Like stealing is okay or it’s not a big deal to her. She’s not a villain in a way that’s she is about to go on a killing spree or something like that. That would be sort of out of her realm, I think.
Yeah, I think that is one of the things that separates Heroes from other shows. Everyone is dealing with these moral dilemmas whether they’re a hero or a villain. Are we going to maybe see a dilemma that exists within Daphne? In the ‘I Am Become Death’ episode we see her romantically linked to Matt Parkman. Is there a chance that we could see a heroic turn for Daphne in the future?
We will definitely see her faced with moral dilemmas, and that’s the thing I like about ‘Heroes.’ I think it is in the comic book genre, it does take a lot from the fantasy/sci-fi world, but they are real people with extraordinary abilities. They’ve always said they were. I think Daphne would be a girl who just, I mean, yeah, she has a crazy power but she’s not necessarily a terrible person because of it. She just likes dealing with things in a way that she thinks is appropriate. And things start to happen very quickly in Daphne’s life where people realize that this very large and terrible thing is going on. Very soon, in the next few episodes you will see her start to deal with the moral issues, some of the things she has been doing that may be immoral, or some of the things she has to do that will be immoral. That’s so vague, I know. I’m sorry.
No, you kind of have to be vague. It’s not like I can say, ‘Give me a rundown of the next three episodes,” and you’re like, “Okay, here’s a shot by shot sequence of each episode.”
(Laughs) Yeah, and then they did this–
Exactly. (Laughs) You mentioned you were on Friday Night Lights, another NBC show. Is it your goal to be on every NBC show by 2015?
I hope so! Actually I’m going to be Chuck next. Okay, not really. I don’t really know what’s on NBC to be honest. Knight Rider? Is that on NBC?
Yeah, that’s on NBC. Maybe you could step in as an alternate voice for K.I.T.T., the car.
Hey, that sounds good. That’d be really good. I’d like to play a car one day. That’d be an extra goal. It’s random that I ended up on two NBC shows but that had nothing to do with the network. It just kind of happened that the writers for ‘Heroes’ were fans of ‘Friday Night Lights ‘basically.
Got ya. Going back to the Joker parallel, I’m assuming that you had a chance to see The Dark Knight.
What did you think about it?
I liked it. You know, it was built up a little much for me, I will say. My boyfriend went and saw it on opening night and I was shooting, so I didn’t get to go. So we went the next day and he raved and raved about it. I liked it a lot but I think it was built up too much in my head. But I love Maggie Gyllenhaal so that was exciting. I love Christian Bale. So I like seeing those actors work. Jeph Loeb works on our show and he wrote, what I think, what are some of the quintessential Batman stuff over an extended period of time, and I think it takes a lot from some of his stuff, which is cool to see it go to the screen.
Very cool. So maybe on Heroes could we see you give that Clint Eastwood meets a grizzly bear voice that Christian Bale does? (Laughter) Maybe it will be an episode where Daphne gets laryngitis.
That’d be really good. (Laughs) I think you should write the next script. It sounds like you have all sorts of ideas.
Yeah, that’s what I’ll do, and it will be the worst Heroes script ever. (Laughs)
BG: You’d be shocked. Some of our writers are very new to writing. They get some really fresh people. It’s kind of interesting.
That’s pretty great because I think writing is a very hard niche to break into, particularly in the realm of television and film, you know?