Brandon Jay McLaren
Last year on Falling Skies, the 2nd Massachusetts Militia Regiment lost several people in its fight for survival against a race of extraterrestrial invaders who have come to Earth with a self-appointed mission to “reshape” the future of humanity. Fortunately, the militia’s ranks have been reinforced in the show’s second season with the introduction of some new faces, among them Jamil Dexter, a former Ivy Leaguer who joins the 2nd Mass as its new engineer. Vancouver-born actor Brandon Jay McLaren, who plays Jamil, had no hesitation at all about signing up for this particular alien resistance movement.
“I was in Los Angeles when my agent first contacted me about this recurring guest star role on Falling Skies,” says McLaren. “I checked it out and discovered that it was a really cool part as well as type of character that I’d never played before. So I put my audition on tape in LA, sent it to the show’s producers, and a few weeks later I got a phone call telling me that I had the job and to fly up to Vancouver to start work.
“So that was great. The show’s cast was nothing but welcoming right off the bat at the first table read we did for the season two opener ["Worlds Apart"]. As for my character of Jamil, he’s kind of introduced as someone who has a great deal of responsibility thrown at him right away. Naturally Jamil is a bit overwhelmed at first, but thankfully he manages to figure it all out in the end.
“Jamil becomes Captain Weaver’s [Will Patton] right-hand man after Tom [Noah Wyle], and the trick with my performance was making sure that I struck a balance. By that I mean you don’t want a character that is overly confident all the time because then he becomes flat. So I had to show Jamil as being confident enough to do what he had to do, but he initially doubted himself a little bit, too. Ultimately, though, he came around and realized how important his role was in the 2nd Massachusetts Militia.”
Amidst all the fighting for survival against the aliens, Jamil made time for a little budding romance between him and Seychelle Gabriel’s character of Lourdes, a former first year medical student and fellow member of the 2nd Mass. “That was a sweet, earnest love story,” notes McLaren. “In a world as crazy as the one that these characters live in, I appreciated the fact that the show’s writers took some time to concentrate on the personal relationships developing throughout all this chaos.
“Honestly, I have to say I’m really pleased with the way that the writers handled my character on Falling Skies and focused not only on Jamil’s technical skills and responsibility, but also his feelings for Lourdes.”
Although McLaren became interested in pursuing an acting career at a young age, it was not a decision that he rushed into. “It took me a while to admit to myself that this was what I really wanted to do,” he says, “because once you do that, it then becomes a bit of a daunting prospect.”
The actor made his professional debut in 2003 when he guest starred in "Blackboard Jungle," an episode of the Canadian-made legal TV drama Just Cause. “That was a long time ago,” recalls McLaren with a chuckle, “and as funny as this might sound, it really was like a dream come true. When you’re starting out in this business, there’s no one path you take. Everyone pretty much finds his or her own way, and in the beginning it seems like this insurmountable task of, ‘How can I get on TV?' So for me, getting that job was a pretty terrific thing.”
D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear, She’s the Man, Scar and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil are among McLaren’s feature film roles. On the small screen he has worked in a number of made-for-TV movies as well as guest starred on such TV series as The Chris Isaak Show, Smallville, Power Rangers: SPD, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Human Target. The actor also played recurring/regular roles on Being Erica and The Killing.
“My character of Lenin on Being Erica was so great because he was this carefree, world traveler type who never really put down roots in any one place,” says McLaren. “Lenin then met and fell in love with a woman who was the exact opposite; she lived her life by the book and had always been very low-risk her whole life.
“After Lenin, I played Bennet in The Killing, who was so disciplined and selfless, to the point that he nearly got himself killed trying to help young girls. Both characters were polar opposites but also very rewarding to play in their own way.”
Moviegoers can see McLaren in the upcoming horror comedy Dead Before Dawn 3D in which he plays Dazzle Darlington opposite Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) and Devon Bostick (Diary of a Whimpy Kid). Sadly, his Falling Skies character of Jamil Dexter is no more, having succumbed to a horrific alien-induced death in the season two episode "Molon Labe." However, the actor is looking forward to starting his next gig and playing Dale Jakes the new USA Network series Graceland.
“We begin filming in a couple of months and the series will probably air sometime next year,” he says. “It’s about the adventures of five undercover federal agents who live in a mansion on Venice Beach. So it should be a lot of fun.”
Please note, Falling Skies photo by James Dittiger and copyright of TNT. All photos of Brandon Jay McLaren are by/courtesy of Joe DeAngelis.