Wilson got his jumpstart in acting in 2002 when he attended a talk given by Peter Sklar at the Warrenton Ballet Academy, then staying afterward to interview for a spot in the talent scout's "Beginnings" workshop held in New York later that year. A summer's worth of funds earned mowing lawns all went to the nine-day seminar, from which he came back with a photo portfolio, resume and monologue prepared with assistance from Sklar.
Brandon was subsequently offered parts by both casting directors. He took the role of Peter Cratchit in "A Christmas Carol" with Vpstart Crow and considers the production both a stepping stone and turning point in his career.
"He just nailed both those auditions and never looked back," Kathie said.
Neither did she. In the years since her son first seriously considered acting as a profession, Kathie has taken on the tasks of manager, agent and publicist at various points in his career.
According to Brandon, as soon as he showed an interest in pursuing drama, his mother went out and bought "Acting for Dummies" and began to cram that day.
"The only things I knew were from when I was trying to act in my late teens and early 20s," she recalled. "I knew about Actors Center in D.C., that they were a good place for auditions. I knew to look in "The Post." I read every book I could find, learned all I could on how to be a working actor."
The two started calling around to casting agencies around the D.C. area in the hopes of finding representation, but were met with same response everywhere: No kids. Of the three management companies they contacted, however, two offered Brandon contracts. He signed on for five years with Linda Townsend Management in 2004, after she heard his monologue at an actors' open call.
"That's when it seemed to become real," Kathie remembered.
Brandon began picking up more auditions, scoring roles in Arena Stage's "Camelot" ― "the greatest show I've ever done," he said ― The Shakespeare Theatre's "Henry IV, Part 2" and the lead in "Malcolm," a play produced by Cherry Red Productions in D.C.
"It was all back-to-back. That's the most alive I've ever been," said Brandon.
The process of auditioning, he claimed, proved to be far more challenging than the actual acting. "It takes a lot of guts to go out and be told you're not good enough, again and again and again," he said.
The biggest obstacle he's come up against when trying out is "keeping it fresh," he said. "You spend weeks memorizing all these lines, memorizing all these emotions, and then you just have to let it all go and appear natural."
In 2005, he went out for the lead in "Rocket Science." After five callbacks and a screen test, he landed the role of Phillip ― not the part for which he was aiming, but a speaking character.
"I really thought I'd made it when they put me up in a Marriott residence for a month (when filming)," Brandon said.
Soon after the film experience, his manager scheduled Brandon an appointment with New York talent agency Jordan, Gill & Dornbaum, Inc., which in turn led to a "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" audition. The day he was slated to be at the studio, a snowstorm hit New York, causing Brandon's train to be delayed, then his cab to fish-tail en route to the site.
"So I ran," he said. "And I made it."
Moments after the audition, NBC producers scheduled him for a callback, at which he landed the guest-appearance role of Jacob Fenner in the episode "Players," which aired March 22.
While filming the show, Brandon had to lie on a New York sidewalk from 12-4:30 a.m. Unable to budge until the scene was complete, he would lie still, only occasionally opening his mouth to chew brownies the crew members would feed him between shots.
"So cold," Brandon recalled. "And you can't move at all."
The young actor figures that that appearance on "Law and Order" is now doing more to advance his career than any other part he's had. The first stranger's head he turned in New York was as a direct result of "Players."
"The guy at the bus station actually asked if I was on 'CSI.' I said 'No, but do you watch "Law and Order?" ' And he was like, 'Oh, dude! You were the kid who got shot!'"
"We joke now that his head was probably so big that he couldn't get through the bus doors," said Kathie of the incident.
NBC invited him to audition for a role in one of its "Special Victims Unit" episodes in April, and although Brandon didn't get asked back, other acting opportunities have recently started flooding in.
"The auditioning is non-stop," he said. "I could write a book on this, and it's only my fifth year."
The past week's schedule alone consisted of a Studio Theatre audition in D.C., Guiding Light film background work in New York, followed by an M. Night Shamalayn feature-film audition.
"That's Tuesday," he said. "I'm coming home Tuesday night because you never know what's happening Wednesday."
"It's never been like this before," Kathie said of her son's schedule. "Every time he does something, it leads to something more."
Of all his auditions, Brandon estimates that about 30 percent lead to callbacks, and about 20 percent of those lead to jobs.
Currently, he rides the bus to New York for work purposes about 50 times a year. The plan is to move there within the next 12-18 months, potentially at the cost of not completing his studies.
"I'd never say this about anything other than the performing arts and sports, but if you're going to school for something you're already getting paid to do, then I'd say it's ok to pursue that," Brandon said.
Asked how far he's like to take his own quest for professional success, Brandon replied with two words: "Harrison Ford."
"I'd really like to get more into films, but I still love theater," he said. "I want to do it at least a full production every other year ― at a bare minimum."
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