“I think the most exciting thing in the world is meeting new people. We can’t encounter new people unless we engage in conversation with them.”

Communication and people are at the core of the acting profession, and it's what makes us human.  Establishing conversation and building relationships is a cruciality - it's necessary. For an actor, understanding other people is the essential task, as their job is to emulate personality traits and physical attributes and then use that information to transform into another person. Photographer Amber McKee unlocks the grounded actor Brandon Larracuente as he comes alive along the shores of Los Angeles. After crossing the country to a grab hold of his American dream, the Pacific has welcomed him with open arms.

Brandon collects his milestones in a jar and then picks them out at the end of the year to appreciate what he has accomplished so far. The past year has been fruitful for the young actor, to say the least, seeing as he played the character Jeff Atkins in the first season of the majorly successful Netflix show ’13 Reasons Why’. The jock Jeff took up occupancy in all our hearts with his genuine persona - especially in the flashbacks when attempting to help Clay with Hannah Baker. Before that, Brandon was part of another successful Netflix show, ‘Bloodline’, where he played against the likes of Sam Shepard, Linda Cardellini and Kyle Chandler for three seasons. Unfortunately, Sam Shepard passed away this year, so Brandon brought us back to sweet ukulele sessions with Sam on set. 

How convenient isn’t it that Amber managed to snap Brandon in front of a sign that reads ‘Food’ in capital letters? It doesn’t seem too coincidental, considering he is a self-professed foodie. Every bit of Brandon’s life seems focused on widening the horizon, whether it's by meeting new people, experimenting with unfamiliar cuisines or exploring new places - continuously adding on to his portfolio of life. He might just be ready to take on the next wave, as stylist Leo Plass dresses him in vivid colors that blend in with the fresh, taxing salt water of the Pacific Ocean. Grooming by Kay Wamser.

Brandon is set to appear alongside Will Smith, Joel Edgerton and Noomi Rapace in the contemporary cop thriller ‘Bright’, which will be available worldwide on Netflix December 22nd. 

Above: Brandon wears Top from ACNE STUDIOS.


I’ve got a bit of a different question for you, considering the fact that you’re an actor and you're always playing a character. Who is the real Brandon?
I would say that the real Brandon gives people the benefit of the doubt. I try a lot to impact someone’s day - small things like for instance complementing the barista at Starbucks. Small things can make someone’s day. I try every day to make a little difference in someone’s life. Not something catastrophic, but just simple tokens of gratitude. Holding the door for someone. Saying thank you. I get it, we’re all busy, we all have things that we’re going through, and we’ve all got different stresses. We've kind of lost sight of human connection. People don’t connect as much or as much as they should. They don’t engage in conversation. I think the most exciting thing in the world is meeting new people. We can’t meet new people unless we engage in conversation with them. It’s honestly so easy to make someone’s day. It baffles me that so many people don't try to put in an effort. Particularly, with the time of day we’re in, I think we could all use some genuine conversation.

What makes you happy?
Family, laughter, and love. There are other things like hanging out with friends or working out, but honestly, those three things make me happy. Being with the people that I love the most. Laughter, because I feel like no matter who you are, there can always be more laughter. And love - I think love is powerful, and with love, you can overcome anything. Every movie or song - if you notice - it stems from a place of love.

Above left: Brandon wears Top from ACNE STUDIO and Trousers from PAIGE. 
Above right: Brandon wears Hat by AG GREEN LABEL and Shirt by OUR LEGACY.

Above: Brandon wears Shirt by SATURDAYS NYC.


You started out in theatre acting with the off-Broadway play ‘Desire’, then later you took a break, and then you got back and ended up in film and television. How was that transition?
It is very different. I’m working on a film right now with an amazingly talented cast. Before this movie, many of my co-actors were on Broadway, so it’s crazy to see the transition from theatre and live theatre to television because even though you can take things from both things - they’re different. Every eye movement - everything is just so different, but I feel they both benefit you as an actor in some way, shape or form. That’s why you see so many well-known actors like Al Pacino and Danny DeVito go back to the theatre - it’s always a good time to refresh your memory and kind of work at your craft differently.

I guess it makes you more alive in a sense, because you have that live audience in front of you.
It makes you more present. Present in the moment. With theatre, there are no more takes. I think there is more pressure, and I think people try to put on this added pressure when making TV and film, but you know what? We can always go into the editing room or do another take, but I think with theatre - it takes raw talent to go out there and perform night after night, sometimes even twice a day. These musicals can go on for years. My sister was actually on Broadway - young Nala in the Lion King. She did it for two years straight, and she became tired after a while. Show after show, matinée after matinée.

Both you and your sister are actors?
My sister beat me to it, she started out when she was younger, and as I grew up and got older, I guess, when I was about seven was when I did my first play, and then from there I started going from plays to small commercials and then to guest stars in TV-series. Then I actually booked my first reoccurring role on Bloodline. It’s been a transition - a growing process. 

Above: Brandon wears Top by OUR LEGACY.

Above: Brandon wears Top by OUR LEGACY and Shorts by BLURHMS.


Where did this love of performance arise? What do your parents do?
My parents were New York City police officers. My dad was a homicide detective, so he would sometimes have to go undercover. In some way, I think I get it from him, because he had to pretend to be someone he’s not. If I had to choose - it’d probably be my dad. The passion for it - my mum has always pushed me to pursue acting from a young age, and I was skeptical to do it because I was afraid of what people would think of me. She taught me to always follow my heart and never pay any attention to what others have to say, because in a few years it won’t even matter. I’m glad I took her advice. I mean, it’s been a long and incredible journey.

As you mentioned, you were on the Netflix show ‘Bloodline’, and not that long ago Sam Shepard passed away. Do you have any fond memories of working with him on Bloodline? 
Bloodline was like a family, and we went on for three seasons, so everyone was close. On our breaks, Sam would sit around with the cast, and he would play the ukulele. It was like a little jam session with the whole cast. That’s my greatest memory of him. He started learning it on set and he would play it every single day. He got really good. I think he actually made up his own songs, to be honest. He was talented in more ways than one. I’ve also heard many stories of people praising him for his writing.

Yes, he was a very talented soul. Is writing something you would want to explore? Or for instance, directing?
I have an interest in directing. The film I’m working on now, every chance I get I will sit behind the monitor with the director when I’m not in a scene and kind of pick his brain concerning what he sees. I would love to write someday when I have more time, but I think directing is what I would love to pursue one day. It’s just so interesting, because you have these two people; the director and the actor who has never met before - they read the script and make up their own interpretation of a story, and then they finally meet in person and try to make this magic happen. They both throw their ideas into a bucket, which creates this magical thing - a compromise between each other. It’s just incredible. The whole experience has always amazed me. There are just so many aspects of filmmaking that interests me. 

Above left: Brandon wears Top by ACNE STUDIOS and Trousers by PAIGE.
Above right: Same as above.

Above left: Brandon wears Top by LEVIS.
Above right: 
Hat by AG GREEN LABEL, Shirt by OUR LEGACY, Shorts by SCOTCH & SODA, Shoes by NIKE.


You’re currently filming 'The Buried Girl’ and I couldn’t find much information in regards to the plot of the film, but I understood that it is a murder mystery. Are you able to elaborate on the story?
The story is about a kid named Clay, who I play. He kind of gets involved with the wrong crowd and because of that, he gets the people around him into a lot of trouble due to his poor decisions. It’s all I can say without giving away too much. It’s honestly a lot different from what I’m used to be playing. The kid goes through a lot, so it’s cool, because it pushed me a lot. It’s driven me to explore realms and different places that I’ve never experienced before. I'm getting a lot of things from some of the talented people who are working on this film with me. 

That’s exciting. The unavoidable: You played Jeff Atkins on Netflix show ’13 Reasons Why’, which ended up being a major success. How was it working on this project? 
I think none of us had any idea. We hoped just to go in and tell a story that needed to be told. Everything else that followed was a bonus - we wanted to affect people’s lives positively and bring light to a situation many people choose not to speak of.

Your character Jeff, he was not a character from the book, so you had to build the character from the script. It’s very unusual to see a likable jock and you’ve been getting so much positive response in regards to Jeff - everybody was so upset when you died.
I’m so happy with the response. I’ve honestly not seen any negative feedback for my character Jeff, so that’s a good thing. I created the role of Jeff by speaking to the creators and the director of every episode, as we had different directors almost every episode; talking through it with the various directors and me giving them my interpretation of who Jeff is. The freedom they provided helped me establish his character; who he is, what he is about, how he sees and perceives the world.

Okay, so you receive a new script, what would be your process when developing a character? What are your steps from here? 
I try and figure out the basics: Who is the character and where is he from? From there, I attempt to stem it from: What’s important to him? Is it family? Is it money? Is it power? Is it love? What’s his mission? What’s his goal as a human being? And then I might take it to: How does he look at the world? Also, how does the world look back at him? Who is he when the world is not looking? It’s almost like you have to get into the mindset of this other character and it’s hard because you’re so used to being yourself. I think the longer I have a script, the better, as I then get to explore different things. The fact that we shot ’13 Reasons Why’ as a series and not a movie provided me with more time to develop his character with every scene - especially with Dylan - and everyone else that I encountered throughout the series. It’s a long process and I think episode per episode, I started to develop who Jeff Atkins was. It didn’t just happen at the very beginning. Over time I began to get a feel for who he is. 

 

What I thought was terrific with this series is how it touched so many. How does it feel to impact so many different ages?
That’s what I love about being part of a series such as this. Naturally, it does connect with a younger crowd, but no matter who you are or what age you are, we’ve all been children, and in high school, and I think that’s why so many people can connect with the show. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, either you’ve lived through it, or you're going through it now. You know what these kids are going through, whether it is Bryce, Jessica, Clay, Jeff, Hannah, and the fact that there is so much diversity in the show. We have such a diverse cast, and I think that helps.

Definitely. The show brings forth a serious topic - suicide and mental health. What is your relationship with the subject of mental health?
What I hope for the show is that it allows people to feel more comfortable knowing that no matter how hard things might seem, there is always somebody who is willing to listen. You might not always have someone who understands what you’re going through, but I think what saves someone’s life is just having somebody to be a listening ear. For me, I have my dad - I can call him no matter what time of day. Whatever the case may be, to some people it might not seem like such a big deal, but to me it is. And that’s what matters here. My stress might not be the same as yours, but we still all have stresses. It’s so important to have somebody that can listen to you and talk to you. When you hold everything locked up in your mind, you start to overthink things, and that's not healthy. The fact that Hannah Baker felt like she had no one to talk to - I think that’s why she got stuck in her head. And Hannah’s parents - they were too busy, so they didn’t notice the signs.

I can imagine that as an actor you’ve had to face a lot of rejection. How do you handle that?
As an actor, we’re always concerned with that. While on set, you enjoy the moment. When the film finishes, if you don’t have another job lined up, I'm sure we all think; ‘Well, what’s my next role?’. It’s been a long journey, and I’m glad that I’ve had the support from my family. Since the moment I decided to pursue acting, my family’s support has helped me. Like anybody else in life, we all have our highs and our lows. I’ve had my fair share of down times. The people who are closest to me have gotten me through the hard times, and for that, I couldn’t be more grateful. Without my dad or my mum, I would have probably never have become an actor. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to impact people’s lives like 13 Reasons Why did.

Above left: Same as above.
Above right: Brandon wears Top by LEVIS, Trousers by A.P.C. and Shoes by CONVERSE.

Above left: Same as above.
Above right: Brandon wears Jacket by ADIDAS.


You’re going to be in the movie ‘Bright’ with Will Smith, which is coming out in December. Could you elaborate a bit on your character? I understand that the world your character is in is quite abnormal – humans and mythical creatures living side by side.
It takes place in Los Angeles, and during this period, you’ll have elves, orcs, ferries, and humans living amongst each other. As you see in the trailer, Will Smith plays a human and Joel Edgerton an Orc. They end up working together to accomplish a common goal. My character Mike, despite him being an orc and a badass guy, he does have a heart, and you see that in the movie. I can’t say too much without giving it away, but my character Mike has a conscience, and he does have compassion - even though he is this big, mythical creature.

How did you find playing an orc?
It was different, because I had to learn another language. I had a dialect coach on set with me every day because I wanted to perfect the language. Embodying this character, it’s not like I was playing another human - I was playing a creature that doesn’t exist, so it was great since it gave me a lot of freedom to just try different things. And also, being in the environment of the production team, the set designers - there was such an amazing atmosphere. It wasn’t too hard getting into character - once I was on set. Our job is to be people that we are not, and if we believe that we are this person or creature, then others will believe it as well. 

You’ve worked with some incredible people lately - the Rock, Will Smith and so on. How has that been?
It was an unbelievable experience working alongside the Rock, and then to work with Will. This past year has just been great. Honestly, sometimes I have to take a step back and recall all the great things that have happened. I have a jar at home that I write down the great things that have happened to me on a piece of paper, and then I throw it in there. At the end of the year, I crack the jar open, and I read all the great things, because it’s so easy to forget. A year is such a long time and so much happens within a year, so I think self-reflection is good once in a while to see how far you’ve come when you have those down moments. 

Above: Brandon wears same as above.

 

That is such a good idea - genius actually. What are the things that you’ve been learning from these established actors?
Trusting yourself. I had a fear of ‘sucking’ - we all have this fear that we’re not good enough. The most significant thing I picked up from Will and the others, was to have faith in your choices. You made these decisions for a reason. I think believing in myself and the process, knowing that everything might not be okay right now, but if you keep working at it, there is always sunshine at the end of the rainbow.

What are you passionate about besides acting?
Food. I’m a big foodie. I love food so much - and travel. I think food and travel go hand in hand because there are places in the world that I would like to go to, yes for the scenery and atmosphere, but so much more just for the food. It’s one thing to have Italian food in New York City, but when you’re actually in Italy having Italian food, oh gosh… Or in Spain, having some paella. In Thailand, having some authentic Thai food. I’ll try anything, and if I don’t like it, that’s different, but as long as I try it. I will say though, that there are few things in this life that I’ve tried and haven’t liked. Luckily, my job allows me to travel to different places. I hope that my job will take me overseas at some point. Then while I’m out there, I’ll be able to experience another culture that I’m not familiar with while I’m working.

I read somewhere that you’ve been attending college on the side. What have you been studying?
Yes, I’m actually in my last few months of college. I’m studying mass communications. Studying communications has helped me a lot in regards to communicating with people. It taught me to understand that everyone’s different and everyone takes in communication differently. It’s not so much about what you say, but how you say something. I’ll say something, but then you might take it the wrong way. It’s helped me distinguish how I communicate my message to a specific individual. It kind of goes hand in hand with acting, since that is primarily about communicating with other people.

Social media is a big part of the industry today, what is your relationship with it?
After following came, with ’13 Reasons Why’, people now look to me or us for answers. If we give them the wrong answers, I mean, we have this power over the younger generation, so I feel like it’s our duty and job now to spread love, positivity, and kindness. Especially with everything going on in the world, because if we don’t use our voice to spread positivity and kindness, then I think we are doing the world an injustice. Say you have a million followers, now it’s your duty to make sure that you make an impact on one million people in a positive way. Social media is tricky, because it adds pressure, but also, I think it should be fun, organic and it should be you. The minute you start to look at social media as work, it starts to become very stressful, so I try not to look at it as work, but me just sharing with the world about who I am and what I love.

Who influences you?
I would say, God. In a way, he holds me accountable. He really does, because we all have our weak moments. Having a strong faith has helped me, especially moving across the country, away from home. He has held me accountable for a lot, and honestly, he is my most significant influence. 

Sometimes it’s helpful to rid yourself of your worries and transfer it all to a higher power.
Just trust that it’s all going to work out. I don’t know how, but just trust that it will. Most of the time it eventually does.

What mark would you like to leave on the world?
I want people to do what they love. Many people are working these big corporate business jobs, but they’re miserable doing it, and they’re too afraid to leave because of the security that they have with this job. If you want to be an actor, a doctor, a painter, a dancer or a yoga instructor - I mean, if that is what you're passionate about, then do it. Everybody has this fear of not succeeding in life. Acting isn’t a secure and safe job like a corporate business job, but that doesn’t stop me from not doing what I love. I think pursuing what you love, although it might sound silly to others, that’s what you want to do, so don’t let anybody stop you. If you’re not placed in an uncomfortable situation from time to time, then you won't grow. You only get better with adversity. 

 

Stockists:

ACNE STUDIOS
ADIDAS
AG GREEN LABEL
A.P.C.
BLURHMS
CONVERSE
LEVIS
NIKE
OUR LEGACY
PAIGE
SATURDAYS NYC
SCOTCH&SODA

 

Interview and words by Hedvig Werner.

Brandon Larracuente