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March 12, 2018

Psyching Them Out

Brandon Jay McLaren's latest roles have a definite psychological bent.

Sheryl Rothmuller
  • Norbert Zsólyomi
  • Norbert Zsólyomi
  • Norbert Zsólyomi

It could be said that Brandon Jay McLaren is "psyched" for the spring television season.

This is true for two reasons. First, he can be seen starring in not one, but two spring series. Plus, on both of those series, his characters feature a psychological angle.

In February, McLaren debuted on Lifetime's third season of UnREAL as Dr. Simon and later this spring he'll reprise his role as Oliver Yates on CBS's second season of Ransom.

"I told my mom, 'You need to watch this show [UnREAL] from season one, because I think you're really going to enjoy it,'" McLaren recalled. She watched the first two episodes of the first season, was like, 'Yeah, it's fine. It's kind of fluffy.' I was like, 'Okay, just stick with it.' And then I think she watched the rest of the season in one sitting. You get thrown into that world and it engulfs you."

UnREAL is a fictional glimpse into what happens behind the scenes on reality show dating competition, Everlasting. Much of the action revolves around producers Quinn, played by Constance Zimmer, and Rachel, played by Shiri Appleby. This year, the show's "bachelor" is their first-ever "suitress." McLaren plays the on-set psychologist who — if history repeats itself — gets sucked into the Rachel vortex.

"The best way to describe Dr. Simon, is that he's very much the eyes and ears of the audience," he said. "He's going into this world completely blind, yet he has a certain set of expectations. About midseason you realize that he's entered this insane world — a world that he's not accustomed to."

His character is a former corporate crisis counselor who recently experienced a career setback and arrives on set with complete set of his own baggage. "The things that he's against in the beginning, he finds himself participating in because the world just kind of sucks you in, you know?" McLaren said.

"I'm really excited about UnREAL; Shiri and Constance were so amazing to work with," McLaren raved. "There are really, really smart, smart people on that show and I think it shows up in this finished product."

McLaren is also returning this spring to Ransom, a drama inspired by the real-life professional experiences of the world-renowned crisis negotiator Laurent Combalbert. "Their number one job is to get people out safe, so they're not above paying someone off as long as no lives are lost," McLaren said regarding the conceit of the show. "That is their mission statement."

"I play Oliver Yates, the psychological profiler of the team," he explained. "Any time they have a case, Yates is the guy who offers a profile on the person that they're dealing with so the team can determine the best approach for obtaining favorable results. There's actually a parallel between the Oliver and Dr. Simon," McLaren noted.

Currently, McLaren is in Budapest through May finishing up the filming the second season.

He's thoroughly enjoying the perks of filming outside of the U.S. "Budapest is a beautiful, beautiful city," McLaren said. "The first season shot three months in Toronto and three months in Nice, [France] which was amazing. I'm seeing places I probably wouldn't have otherwise gone to. If I get three or four days off, I like to travel to other cities. The first season, while I was in Nice, I went to Barcelona, and Geneva, Rome, and Lisbon."

Back in the states, McLaren recently wrapped production the Syfy pilot, Tremors a reboot of the 1990 cult classic film, with original star Kevin Bacon reprising his role. "He was great," McLaren said. "Super cool, super down to earth and his character is such a fun character."

McLaren takes on the role Toby, the public liaison to a data storage company in Perfection, NV which failed to create any local jobs. The pilot was shot just outside of Albuquerque on a 30,000 acre ranch last October. The team is anxiously waiting to see if it gets picked up.

What's McLaren fanboying over when he has breaks in his busy production schedule? Cooking shows. "I love cooking shows," he said. "I just finished watching a show on Netflix called Cooking. I watched like four episodes last night.

"Those are the kinds of things that I like to watch in my free time, just because I'm reading a lot of scripts all the time and I have just been working on a TV show. Sometimes I like to get my mind away from that, and food is another thing that I'm very much interested in."

Speaking of busy production schedules, McLaren, who is of Trinidadian and Grenadian descent, recently formed a content company that will produce drama, thriller and horror films in various locales worldwide.

"We really want to tell stories about underrepresented communities — minorities, females, people who don't always have the same voice in the film — for a global audience. We want to try and reinforce that stories are stories are stories. We can go to different locales, but the human experience is really universal and so we are trying our best to bridge those gaps with storytelling."

McLaren said it is "really important to me, personally, is to tell stories that I've heard growing up. Including "stories from family or friends that I that I think can strike a global chord."

McLaren began his acting career doing commercials at the age of 12 but it wasn't until after college that he decided to give the profession a go.

"During high school I was heavily involved with the theater program," he explained. McLaren's interests and aptitudes were diverse in high school — he was also a star soccer player.

Attending college on a scholarship to play NCAA D1 soccer, he focused his studies on biology and found his way back to the theater his junior year. Because he wasn't a theater major, it wasn't easy to secure roles in plays. But when he nabbed a lead, he began to wonder if he should take acting more seriously as a potential profession.

"After I graduated,I decided I would go back home and give it a shot," he said. "I figured I'd give it a year and if nothing happened, I'd just go to grad school." Shortly after this decision, he did a show on ABC titled The Days. While the series was short lived, McLaren bet that his career wouldn't be. "Maybe there's a career in here somewhere if I just keep at it." He was right.

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