Richmond actor Brian Landis might not think of himself as a leading man, but he definitely should. Take a look at any of his performances and you'll quickly see what we mean. He has skillfully portrayed a wide range of television and film characters, including Samuel Adams (no big deal, just a Founding Father), a detective, mobster, Union soldier, bank robber, and car salesman, among many others.
Brian's strong onscreen presence and natural delivery are reminiscent of a seasoned Hollywood actor, and his performances are so spot-on that they can't help but resonate with you. Metro is lucky enough to have worked with him on a variety of projects, including two award-winning 48 Hour films as well as commercial shoots.
Learn about Brian's background, past roles, and future plans below.
Where did you grow up? I’m from a tiny town outside Staunton, Virginia, called Churchville. Actually, to be more accurate, I’m from the sticks outside Churchville. The closest landmark is an old grain mill and the Middle River.
Tell us about your education/early career history. I came to Richmond to attend VCU and ended up a bit unfocused, so I helped put together a noise band called More Fire for Burning People and focused on graphic design and web development to make ends meet.
How did you get your start in the industry? I did lots of theater growing up and was part of ShenanArts, a theater group in Verona, Virginia. After moving to Richmond, I tried to make my way into film and TV, but didn’t commit to it. After a few small gigs on Legacy [1998-99 TV series] and some local commercials, I took a break until a few years ago. When music started to become frustrating, I decided to return to my acting roots, and I’m really glad I did.
How do you prepare for a role? It’s so amazingly fun to read a script for the first time. It’s like opening a present; you never know what you’ll get. I always try to read over the entire project to get a vibe for the story's tone, then I dig into the character and figure out what kind of person would say the dialogue that’s on the paper. Are they happy-go-lucky, restless, troubled, angry? Next, there’s the basics of simply learning the lines as well as possible so they become almost second nature. Delivering lines while reading off the page kinda kills some of the nuance in a performance. Also, I try to figure out what music the character would listen to, since music says so much about a person and can help me get into the headspace of a total stranger. After that, I just let it go and attempt to prepare for the nerves that could, without fail, stifle a good performance. Rarely can I perform without some level of anxiety, but reducing that stress as much as possible is the best thing I can do to give an authentic performance. Lately I’ve been trying to rehearse each part two ways: first, exactly how I think the character would act based off a straightforward script read, and then from the opposite of what might be expected. Maybe the bad guy’s actually a really nice person.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? I really, really love it when I can affect people. When I convince someone that I truly am the character, not merely performing as them, I feel as if I’ve done something right, and it’s exciting. I guess I’m no different than most performers in that I love having an audience that I can invite into a new world. It’s terrifying knowing that I may, and will, sometimes fail miserably, but it’s exhilarating at the same time.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job? The almost constant rejection. It’s usual to prepare and audition for thirty things and only get one (if I’m lucky). When you walk into an audition, nerves are piqued and your adrenaline is pumping. You’re basically standing there naked; you put everything into your performance and then you walk out drained. Usually that’s it--there’s no call back, there’s no phone call, there’s nothing. It can sometimes make you question if you’re good enough. In actuality, it’s almost always because I was too tall or too old or too young or too gray or not gray enough, etc. It seriously feels like trying to win the lottery sometimes.
Your favorite acting gig thus far? For many reasons, it was my role as Sam Adams on Legends & Lies. I had a bunch of dialogue, there were lots of emotional peaks and valleys I was able to work within, I was in front of the camera constantly, and, simply put, it helped build my confidence. I was also able to work with some really great people. That said, my favorite roles to play are the ones where the characters live on the fringes and don’t quite fit in with society. I’ve never seen myself as a leading man. I love the weirdo that is socially awkward and sits in the corner or maybe listens to a little too much Joy Division. To that end, a close second favorite would be a couple shorts that I’ve been in.
Who is your dream costar? How about four? Giovanni Ribisi, Patricia Arquette, Christoph Waltz, and Parker Posey.
What inspires you to be creative? I was just thinking about this, actually. If I’m not being creative, I feel listless and bland. Some people use their creativity to make money, while others' creativity lies in scientific formulas or cooking delicious food. My passion lies in performance, and without it my life wouldn’t be nearly as gratifying.
What are your plans for the future? Well, I’ve just finished editing my first short film, “Kill Jar,” that an amazing crew of people helped bring to life, some of whom work at or with Metro. On a side note, Metro has some of the most creative people that I know in the industry. While we’re all out trying to make a living on commercials and industrials, etc., there is an immense talent pool of people right here that are hungry for narrative work. I think many in that crew, by following up the 2016 Richmond 48 Hour Film Project win ("No One") with “Kill Jar,” are building something that has a lot of promise around here. I don’t know where that gets us, but it’s really exciting. So, I’m working on that, continuing to try to get as many acting gigs as I can, and making plans for a follow-up short film as well. It’s baby steps for awhile.
To learn more about Brian, visit his website, brianklandis.com.