Not only is Brendan Meyer a Shakespeare aficionado, but he is well on his way to have acted in every Shakespeare play ever written. Brendan joined the Freewill Players in Edmonton, Canada at a very young age, performing in Twelfth Night, Macbeth, The Tempest and the list goes on. Though he may not fit the breakdown to play Richard III right now, he strives to one day.
His current role certainly suits his age. Brendan stars as Adam Young in Disney XD's MR. YOUNG, a lighthearted comedic series about a teen who graduated University at the age of 14 and now works as a High School teacher. This marks one of his first leading parts after appearing in BBC's DINOSAPIEN and R.L. Stine's THE HAUNTING HOUR, among other Canadian TV shows. I don't think it will be difficult for Brendan to cross over in the U.S. He has already caught attention in Hollywood, joining the cast of the highly anticipated 2013 film, ENDER'S GAME. Brendan will co-star with Harrison Ford, Sir Ben Kingsley and Abigail Breslin in the science fiction story adapted from the Orson Scott Card novel. This is an exciting time in Brendan's career and I was happy to be able to speak with him in person before shooting his first big feature. It was hard to even believe he's 17 as we casually discussed his favorite Woody Allen films, his personal Shakespearean adaptations and his journey to become the best actor he can be…
PP: After looking at your social media, I see that you make it very clear that you love Shakespeare. What sparked your interest?
BM: Well, it’s just been something that I was introduced to at a young age, through reading books which were simplified versions of the stories and going to the Freewill Shakespeare Festival in my hometown. I just think that Shakespeare stories are timeless. They still resonate and they’re still suspenseful, funny, romantic and all of those things. So as a young kid who loved acting and loved theater, I was completely swept up by those stories. I continue to be involved in them both through being in them sometimes, and also just being able to watch them now and getting even more out of them than I did when I was really young.
PP: Don’t you adapt your own Shakespeare plays?
BM: Yeah. This is all a dream, but I hope to follow and do some Shakespeare movies like Kenneth Branagh or Laurence Olivier have. I’ve fooled around with new adaptations of Shakespeare and stuff, but there’s nothing that I’ve ever actually produced.
PP: Do you have a favorite?
BM: I have a couple of favorites. There are so many different ones. I really like Twelfth Night, Titus Andronicus, Othello, and Richard III. If I was going to pick three off the top of my head it would definitely be Titus, Richard III, and Twelfth Night.
PP: And if you were to play your dream Shakespearean role, what would it be?
BM: I think my dream Shakespeare role would probably be Richard III, even though I really like Hamlet and it’s obviously the role you want to play as an actor. I was in a production of Richard III, so I find whenever I’m able to be in a production, even if I have a small role in it, I really get a feel for it and get to know the play better. And I just think it’s a great role. I guess you have to be villainous, but the audience has to like you and want to see you do things, and you kind of have to have that arc at the end. I’d love to play Richard.
PP: Shakespeare is a far stretch from your current role as Mr. Young on Disney XD.
BM: He’s basically a fourteen year old teacher and he’s this child genius who graduates university at age 14. He has a degree and instead of taking a job at NASA or somewhere, he decides to go back and have the high school experience that he never had. So it’s really interesting. It’s kind of like a Doogie Howser type thing.
PP: Funny show. I really liked it. I saw the episode where you’re doing the auditions for Romeo and Juliet.
BM: Yeah, it’s really fun to work on. I think that’s one of my favorite episodes. I think it’s a really, really fun show. It’s different. Like you said, it’s very different from Shakespeare, and there are some similarities between sitcom and Shakespeare and comedy, but it’s such a different medium, because you’ve got the four cameras. Also, since it’s a straight comedy, there are rules to that which apply, so it’s been really challenging and fun.
PP: What are the rules?
BM: There are things you can’t do. When you’re doing comedy, you have to keep things light. You have to keep things energetic and happy, but at the same time you can’t sacrifice; you can’t just be “blahhhh.” You have to play the character real too, and you have to make the moments make sense as well as keep the energy up because it’s different. One of the things about comedy is, you have to pick up your cues, you have to have good vocal energy; all those types of things. You don’t have the luxury of taking a pause, or looking away, or whispering a line; it’s all very the way it needs to be written. It’s a challenge, but it’s fun. It’s just those things on finding the way, because when I first started, I thought it was a lot simpler than it actually was, but there are a lot of rules like, don’t be too angry here.
PP: I didn’t know that.
BM: That’s true. It’s not so much rules, as if this is a bible, but there are certain guidelines that you have to use and you have to find new ways of doing it. Shakespeare looks very hard on paper, and maybe it looks harder than being in something like Mr. Young, but Mr. Young has been a huge challenge.
PP: There are so many Disney shows. What makes Mr. Young special and sets it apart from the rest?
BM: I think all the Disney shows have great writing, but I think there are some interesting throwbacks to older things, like the Marx brothers and even the odd Woody Allen thing. It’s not obvious, but there’s a lot of that kind of cool writing in it and I think we’ve done a lot of really cool episodes that are a little bit different. I think it’s a show that really goes all out with the jokes. It’s really trying to just be funny. Some of the jokes are just absurd, and in the bizarre, but I find it always really, really funny. As someone who’s a bit out of the demographic–and I may be a bit biased too–I find myself laughing at a lot of the episodes as a 17-year old. I’m like, “Wow, this is genuinely funny.” This isn’t just for kids. I think that’s what sets it apart. I think it’s different.
PP: Have you acquired a lot of fans from Mr. Young?
BM: Yeah. The fan reaction both in the U.S., and Canada, and all over the world has been really big on Mr. Young. I get a lot of messages on Twitter and Facebook from people all over the place. So people really seem to be enjoying the show and seem to like it, and that’s the best thing. That’s why you do it, right?
PP: Yes. You mentioned Woody Allen and I saw you have a Top 25 movie list on your blog. It goes from Memento to Hannah and Her Sisters.
BM: Yeah, it’s all over the place.
PP: Who introduced you to these films? You’re 17-years old, so you’re not that young, but you’re young.
BM: Thanks! I’m a big movie fan, I love movies. My main hobby even outside of being an actor is just to watch movies and see what movies I like the most. No one really introduced them to me. It’s not like I had someone going, “Oh, you need to watch this, you need to watch this!” but I’ve been around a lot of actors who would talk about movies that I would hear about. It’s just something I’m really fascinated with. I’m an IMDB junkie, so I’m on IMDB all the time. I try to go on a lot of movie sites and find out what recent movies are coming out, like good indies and foreign stuff. I follow the Oscars, so it’s a real passion of mine. And to know the business ; it’s a great thing to have common ground with other people in the industry. My acting started because I just liked to do it for fun, and then slowly I started to realize that this is really what I wanted to do. I love all kinds of different movies; old movies, new movies, comedies, drama; it’s whatever—it’s just a good story, right?
PP: Absolutely. I didn’t know how many famous actors are Canadian, but there are a lot of them. Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox, etc. Do you look up to any of them?
BM: Oh yeah.
PP: Do you think there’s a big challenge crossing over from that industry into the U.S. acting industry?
BM: Yeah, well, it’s trickier. Because you’re in the U.S., you can work in the U.S. One of the biggest things for Canadians is getting visas to work over here and all that stuff. Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox, and Christopher Plummer–those people in the past were big–but even right now, Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Gosling are two Canadians who are two of the big leading men in Hollywood. It’s cool to see and it’s inspirational. You look up to those people and you think, “Okay, well, if they can make it and if I can work hard ,and maybe one day have the talent they have, I can make it too.”
PP: Look at Justin Bieber.
BM: Exactly. Justin Bieber is one of the biggest international stars right now on any platform; music or acting or anything, yet he’s Canadian. So, yeah, it’s all about having talent and getting the right job and getting lucky.
PP: Do you think you will move to LA one day?
BM: It’s not something that I’m for sure on, but I would like to move here. I like L.A. I just love to be in America. You never know what’s going to happen with your career, what you’re going to get, what you aren’t going to get, or what’s going to make sense, but I’d like to move out here. It makes sense for the career that I would like.
PP: What about school?
BM: Well, I’ve been lucky. I’ve been home-schooled my entire life. Before I got into acting, I was always home-schooled. Right now I’m working on my high school diploma online and just trying to get it done. I mean it’s tough when you’re working on Mr. Young. You’re doing 12-hour days, 4-5 days a week and so it’s tricky to keep up with it. I really want to be an actor, so I’m definitely not going to go off to university and get a degree to become a doctor.
PP: Do you have any interest in working behind the scenes in the future?
BM: I really have interest in that. I’m still trying to become the best actor that I can be. I don’t want to try too many things at once. Look at even some actors now: George Clooney just directed his first movie in ‘02 and Ralph Fiennes just started directing something. A lot of these actor-directors wait a while before they start, so for me, I’d love to just be as best an actor as I can for a while, unless there’s a story I really wanted to do, because that’s what I like most. My fundamental favorite thing about the art of being an actor is the storytelling and entertaining people through that, so to be able to be the director and really carve out the story—I would really be interested in that. But I have to know more about the camera work. There’s still a lot more I have to learn.
PP: Next up for you is the Ender’s Game, which is a movie that is getting a lot of attention, and that’s with Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley. Have you shot it yet?
BM: I haven’t shot any of that. I got the role. I just auditioned and I sent a tape from Canada. I was lucky. It’s one of those things with auditioning where I always get the question, “How did you get this role?” It’s one of those things where, on paper, it’s so simple: I auditioned and I got it. I start shooting my part at the end of February in New Orleans, so I’m really excited about that.
PP: What is it about for those who don’t know?
BM: Well, it’s based off the novel Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, which is about a young boy named Ender, who basically goes to this futuristic battle school in space where they’re training kids for an upcoming alien attack. But I don’t want to say too much. At the very beginning of the movie, they’re testing Ender to see if he’s worthy of going to this battle school, so Harrison Ford’s character is kind of surveilling him. My character is Stilson, and he is kind of a bully to Ender at the beginning of the movie. At the start of the film, I give him a hard time and the movie shows how he reacts to me and what I’m doing to him. It’s a really interesting part and is very pivotal to the start of the movie. It also influences the plot later on.
PP: Have you met Harrison Ford yet?
BM: No, not yet. I’m hoping that they’re all there at the same time as me. I’ve got a lot of scenes with Asa Butterfield who’s playing Ender, so it’ll be really interesting to see who’s all there and who I can have scenes with.
PP: In the future, who would you like to work with?
BM: I want to work with everyone. Just kidding. I’m a huge fan of the industry. My favorite actors are Leonardo Dicaprio, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Joseph Gordon Levitt. One of my favorite directors is Christopher Nolan.
PP: Do you think Leo deserved the nomination for J. Edgar?
BM: I think he was great in that movie. I’m biased as I’m a huge Leo fan, but really, I thought Leo was great in that movie. Actually my for me I thought Joseph Gordon Levitt’s performance in 50/50 was fantastic, so he was a big snub for me. My three favorite performances this year have been George Clooney in The Descendants, Leo in J. Edgar, and Joseph Gordon Levitt in 50/50. So I thought Levitt was snubbed. That screaming scene in the car? Come on, come on?
PP: Tell us something that we can’t find about you online or can’t read about you. Something we don’t know yet.
BM: Well, one of my favorite things to do in my spare time is– I’m a huge golf fan… I really like golf. I have this putting green. That’s one of my favorite things to do, is just work on my putting!
It is not every day you meet an actor who yearns to know all about the business. Brendan challenged himself at a tender age to learn everything he could about film history, theater and the craft of acting. He may not be your average teenager, playing sports and video games, but that's what makes him interesting and unique. He has set his goals and he knows his true passion. I am sure we will see more of Brendan as he continues to reach for his dreams.