The life of an actor isn’t all magazine cover shoots and hotel rooms. For hard working grunts like AT&T Kingdom star Mac Brandt, sometimes a phone interview with a TV critic happens while you were on the road. As Brandt traveled from set in New Mexico, he spoke with me about Audience Network’s breakout MMA series Kingdom.
A chat between a diehard Chicago Cubs fan and St. Louis Cardinals addict didn’t include any blood through the phone line, but just a couple guys discussing a show they love.
Buffa: Is this cross city New Mexico trip some kind of hidden Kingdom spin-off?
Brandt: A Mac solo road trip. No, I’m working on a show called Night Shift. I worked on it last year and they brought me back. It’s the guy who wrote on the first season of Kingdom.
Buffa: Work is work, my friend.
Brandt: Absolutely. It’s a good thing. Last year, I was this bada** special forces guy in Afghanistan. Now I’m back and I have PTSD and it’s really cool.
Buffa: We have another season of Kingdom and (creator) Byron Balasco doesn’t waste any time giving us Ryan and Jay showdown. Were you surprised with how that fight played out?
Brandt: I loved it. I thought there was no sense in messing around. Just get to it. The show, for me, is not about fighting. It’s about the consequences of fighting. A great consequence of this fight is fallout. Kenny Florian said it, “what happens now?”. These guys are going to have to deal with it. Now you are back to the fallout of the fight instead of dealing with the fight. For me, that’s the crutch of this show.
Buffa: It’s about what they fight outside the ring. Makes for more drama.
Brandt: These guys are built to fight in the ring. They don’t know how to deal with life outside the ring.
Buffa: You can’t punch your failed romance or electric bill. I mean, you can punch your electric bill but it’s just a piece of paper.
Brandt: That makes for a bad commercial about electric bills.
Buffa: My favorite movie is Heat with Pacino and DeNiro. They talk about not wanting to do anything else in their confrontation. That’s what it is with these fighters. You are built to do one thing. These guys fight.
Brandt: You can imagine where this season is going. You have a guy like Jay. People celebrate him. I know guys like that in real life. They need to struggle. Once they get past that struggle, things go poorly. For my character, it’s great because as the Jay sidekick, if he is going to pour himself down the drain, Mac can’t stand around and watch.
Buffa: I’ve seen this week’s episode and there’s a great and tense confrontation between you and Jonathan Tucker.
Brandt: That’s my favorite scene. I love it more than anything I’ve done on that show. First, I outweigh everybody on the show by 70 pounds. I am a full head taller than most people. That scene shows only a shade of my character. That was a tough scene to shoot. I’m friend with Tucker in real life and it was hard to go in with that. We shot that in a real nasty hotel. It’s a weird thing.
Buffa: Tucker is something else. You work with a pretty elite set of actors.
Brandt: I have no problem putting this out into the world. This is the greatest collective of actors I’ve worked with. I’ve been working for 20 years, and I learn stuff on a daily basis from Tucker especially. I take things away from Frank(Grillo) and Matt(Lauria) all the time. Tucker forces you to up your game. I’ve never seen anyone work as hard and diligently as Tucker.
Buffa: I watched him on a lesser known NBC show called Black Donnelly’s and thought he was amazing.
Brandt: I loved that show.
Buffa: He has so many speeds.
Brandt: In that scene in the hotel room, he and I were comfortable enough to play pretty loose with it. He blows smoke in my face and it’s very close to my eye. I told him to get his hand out of my face and that wasn’t scripted. That was us fighting away through that scene. He put that cigarette too close to my face. And it was great. We walked out of it and said, “Yep, that’s it.” He’s doing something no one else is doing on television.
Buffa: He’s a truck racing down a hill.
Brandt: You don’t want to be anywhere near him. Matt does this thing and it might be my favorite thing I’ve seen an actor do. It’s that quiet scream tremor. It’s so jarring and violent. I watched it twice when I first watched it.
Buffa: It’s amazing what these actors do without a script.
Brandt: I’ll tell you. That is the gift of Byron Balasco. He pours his heart and soul into every script. He crafts every word and every movement but the second we start doing it he lets you do what you want. If you want to do something, you do it. The environment on the show is unlike anything he’s ever worked on.
Buffa: He’s setting the tone for TV with MMA shows and fight show. I got sucked into this show quick.
Brandt: It’s amazing. It has to get word of mouth. I’m out in Albuquerque and people know about the show because Greg Jackson(Kingdom consultant) is out here. Their first question is where do I find it and that’s what we are fighting right now. You got the same thing with Breaking Bad. Once I found it, there was no going back. Kingdom will be the same way. Once people find it, it will spread like wildfire.
Buffa: It’s one of those shows where I will watch each individual episode 2-3 times. It’s like squeezing a steak over a grill and getting every ounce of juice out of it. I was crazy like this about Banshee. Kingdom is my new Banshee.
Brandt: We could have an entire conversation about Banshee. That is another show that nobody watched at first and I kept telling people to watch it. I’d never seen anything like that.
Buffa: They shot fight scenes that would never end. Unlike most shows on TV.
Brandt: There was a fight between the main actress and the Russian that lasted like 37 minutes.
Buffa: Both shows, Kingdom and Banshee, do their thing and they don’t care what you think. I use your line about Banshee with Kingdom. Show some self respect and watch this show.
Brandt: If you aren’t watching Kingdom, you don’t know what awesome TV is right now. I’m a fanboy of the show I’m on.
Buffa: How about those Cubbies of yours?
Brandt: As a Cubs fan, I think the Cards will be out of it by the All Star Break. The only rough thing they have is that bullpen. I don’t see any NL team stopping them.
Buffa: They are definitely going to be tough.
Unfortunately for Mac, the Cards swept the Cubs the week I interviewed him for this story so there is that tiny moment of victory, Cardinals fans.
Brandt couldn’t put it any better about Kingdom. If you haven’t watched it, you should. He is just another one of the grizzled vets out there working hard to stay in front of the camera. Whether it’s handling actors like Tucker in a hotel room or driving to New Mexico for work or putting his face on a Miller Lite beer commercial, Brandt does whatever it takes to “stay in the game”, as his co-star Grillo often says.
When Brandt isn’t on camera on Kingdom, you want him to return. He’s a comedic presence that has all the necessary tools to get serious very quick. A true force of nature that you will see more of as this second half of Season 2 draws to a close as the summer wages on.
You can follow Brandt on social media and catch his white hot political takes on Facebook. He’s an entertaining man and passionate about what he is doing. If that isn’t enough of a buy in as a consumer of entertainment, I don’t know what is.