The OA's Brandon Perea Talks Buzzfeed, Kehlani, and Season Two


If you happen to live anywhere besides under a rock, you've heard of Netflix's new underground series The OA. A fusion of long form film and modern television, the show speaks on near-death experiences and the afterlife through the hazy lens of a complex, blind-woman-turned-powerful-leader protagonist Prairie and her eclectic group of friends. Composed of everyone from a sensitive math teacher to a broad array of high school students, the posse exposes human reactivity and our own vulnerability through their intertwining storylines. Chicago's Brandon Perea thrives as sensitive jock genius French, making a performance as brilliant as it is contemplative. Lithium editor-in-chief Olivia Ferrucci discussed everything from The OA's season two to Kehlani to Buzzfeed with Brandon for our January issue.

Lithium: You play the complex, conflicted French on Netflix’s The OA. How has working in the show helped shape you as an actor?
Brandon: I’ve learned so much from working with such a talented cast. I don’t completely relate to [French] but being able to portray him in the most real way possible is important. People can see that that’s what some teenagers really go through! I learned a lot about building a character. I also learned a lot on set just because I worked with such great actors. Working with someone like [director Zal Batmanglij] taught me a lot. He taught me how to be present in certain situations and he really helped me find my process as an actor.

Lithium: I can only imagine what it’s like to be on set with actors as gifted as Scott Wilson and The Office’s Phyllis Smith. What was it like to work with such an incredible cast?
Brandon: It was amazing! I’ll tell you a little story about when I first found out Phyllis was on the show. We were all at lunch one day and they were talking about Phyllis being in town soon. I was like, “Phyllis who? Phyllis Smith from The Office?” and I freaked out. I kept my cool there for a little bit when I met Phyllis at rehearsal. We introduced ourselves and then Sarah Esberg, one of our producers, complimented Phyllis . . . so I found that as an opportunity to ramble about how much I love The Office and she kind of just looked at me awkwardly like, “Oh, that’s cool!” and I had to mend that relationship throughout shooting. [laughing] It was a really great time learning from her and Scott. It was definitely nerve-wracking before the scene would start! As soon as action was called it was like all the nerves went away. It was just so good. They’re professionals. They know what they’re doing, and it just made everything easier.

Lithium: What was it like preparing to play French?
Brandon: It took a lot. When you’re really invested in a character and a story, you really and truly get connected as an audience member. You create these characters to the point where they’re so real in your mind and you really feel for them in your mind. So, a lot of script break downs and a lot of crying in the hotel room! [laughing] I was trying to find him through just really reading. I had to change my posture. I speak a lot [sharper] now because of playing French. There were times when I was walking around New York City and then I was like, “Wow, I’m kind of moving like French right now. This is weird!” I never thought it would get to that point, when it comes to acting for me. It was awesome.

Lithium: It’s safe to say you’re multi-faceted in your talents, seeing as you are skilled in acting, BMX, skating, modeling, and dancing. How do you juggle so many passions?
Brandon: If I’m over one thing at a certain point and I need a break from it, I’ll use another art form. And if I’m over skating at some point and I’m like, “I don’t feel like dancing right now, I just want to be free and not even think about that”, then I’ll go ride my bike at the skatepark and create certain lines. A line is a pattern of tricks that you create, so like biking down the bars at 360 degrees into the bank or doing a tailwhip on the quarter pipe or something.

Lithium: I love how casually you say that, like “You know, I’m just going to bike down a rail.”
Brandon: [laughing] It gets dangerous at some points, but there are times where I’m like “Brandon, be a punk and just do it!” and I have to do it.



Lithium: Obviously, a lot of celebrities have seen the show. Which one has left you the most starstruck?
Brandon: I’m a big fan of Kehlani, and she tweeted me back. That was a big one. Lucy Hale tweeted about it and I was like, “Wow. That’s Pretty Little Liars right there!” Barb from Stranger Things just followed me back yesterday, so I was tripping out. I was like, “I’m trying to save you Barb!” [laughing] That was a cool one. I think the best one that I received so far was David Harbour, who plays Hopper in Stranger Things. He follows me and he sent me a direct message just congratulating me on the show and my performance. I was just truly honored. It was a humbling experience knowing that someone that I looked up to so much this year appreciated my work.

Lithium: How does it feel to be deemed the hottest character in The OA by Buzzfeed?
Brandon: It was pretty funny! All of my friends were hitting me up and they were like, “Hey, can you get off of Buzzfeed please? I don’t want to see that!” I’m truly honored, so thank you Buzzfeed for deeming me the hottest character on The OA. [laughing]

Lithium: Do you see yourself in French?
Brandon: I do in certain ways. I would say [in] his courage, and how he really wants to be there for other people. He really stretches himself thin trying to do a lot in order to make everyone happy. That’s something that I definitely do.

Lithium: I’ve never cried during a season finale, but The OA definitely changed that. What was it like to be part of such a powerful, emotional scene?
Brandon: I remember when we were on set shooting and we all sat down and talked about it at one of the lunch tables. We were like, “This is going to be a big risk, because not everyone is going to understand what we’re doing.” We knew that if we were going to take that risk, we were going to have to give it 100%. It was so important to me, and seeing our little family really communicate with each other to create the best work we could was an amazing feeling. I’m honored that we were able to do it in such a real way that people connected with, because you just never know with those things. You really just [have] to go for it. It made me want to take more risks in my career as well, because what’s cool about playing it safe?

Lithium: How has The OA changed your own life?
Brandon: I just learned a lot about myself and storytelling. It’s been amazing to gain a following because one of my goals in this industry is to be able to spread the word of love and happiness. The OA gave me that opportunity. I wanted to show to the world that dreams can come true, because I’m just a kid from Chicago and somehow, I made it. I feel like everyone should strive to live a happy life and being paid to live and that’s what I’m doing right now. I want to let everyone know that it’s possible and The OA has allowed me to do so.

Lithium: So it’s been more about creating a dialogue for you then?
Brandon: I get to just express my word to people and I feel like that’s important. When you have a following or you gain recognition, it’s your responsibility to help. I respect Leonardo DiCaprio so much because he uses his recognition to create awareness about the environment. Being on the stage at the Oscars and winning his award and the thing he talks about the most rather than acting is the environment. That really opened my eyes to what we all could do in this industry. When you gain recognition, you really [have] to use it. I think it’s a responsibility.


Lithium: Loaded question: What does 2017 hold for you?
Brandon: I feel like this is going to be the best year of my life. The OA opened a lot of doors for that and it’s given me a newfound confidence as well. This is the most confident and humble I’ve ever been, ever, and I’m looking forward to utilizing that towards anything that I do. Of course, we’re hoping for a second season. We don’t have the go-ahead yet, but prayers are going up for sure. [laughing] I want to continue to tell the story and I want to see which avenues I can take French on.

Lithium: So, the show was the most popular program in the world in December. How does it feel to have this story possess such a vast audience?
Brandon: I had a phone conversation with Zal, the director, after everything blew up and he was like, “I don’t know, I didn’t see it doing this well!” We thought a little cult following would be with us throughout the process but we’re number one right now and it’s insane. It’s just an honor and it just opens my mind to what is possible in this world. If you would’ve asked me that two years ago, I don’t know think I would’ve told you I’d be on the number one show in the world at twenty one years old. I had no clue. I wake up every day just glad that it’s not a dream. It’s been amazing.

Lithium: What do you want the audience to gain out of watching the show, and French’s performance in particular?
Brandon: I want people to be open-minded after watching the show because there’s so much that we don’t know about this world. With French, I just want people who are going through his situation to know that they’re not alone. It takes obstacles to make you stronger. I want everyone in the audience that can relate to that to know that they can get through it as well.

3 comments

  1. Omg ibhope there is a season two and great actor he is!!!

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  2. This seemed like such a fun and laid back interview, I loved it! Brandon's sweet and funny personality really shone throughout this interview.

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