For Brandon Jay McLaren, acting was one of the ultimate forms of self-expression.
From the time he was young, the Vancouver native was always involved in drama classes and dabbled in music. it wasn’t long before he was bitten by the acting bug and was completely hooked.
“Being in the performing arts allowed me to express things in my life that I didn’t have permission to in real life,” said McLaren. “From there I got hooked. It sort of kind of carried me through a business that can be up and down, hot and cold. That initial love of expression was what got me.”
As he got more ingrained in the entertainment industry, McLaren started to pick up small roles here and there. However, it was when he booked a role as the Red Ranger on “Power Rangers S.P.D.” that it really solidified that he could have a career in acting.
“I was a little uncertain about taking it. This was around 2004, at the time there was a ‘Power Rangers’ curse,” said McLaren. “If you did that show, you wouldn’t work again. In retrospect, that was the job that allowed me not to be a waiter and afforded me just to be an actor. I was able to focus all of my energy into that.”
“Power Rangers S.P.D” filmed for seven months in New Zealand, and after returning to the United States, McLaren booked a role in the film “She’s the Man,” and the curse — at least for him — had no effect.
“I remember thinking, that didn’t take long,” said McLaren with a laugh. “I knew I would be okay, but there was a little bit of panic because at that time there was a bit of stigma attached to it.”
With no curse in sight for him, McLaren has since gone on to make a career for himself in the industry, starring in the Bounce TV holiday feature film “Marry Me This Christmas,” CBS’ action drama “Ransom,” CBS All Access’ and Jordan Peele’s “The Twilight Zone.” He was recently cast as playing US Marshal Xavier Watkins in the anticipated series “Turner & Hooch,” which is slated to premiere on Disney+ in 2021.
McLaren says he was in Toronto working on another movie at the time when he learned about the audition. As a fan of the original movie starring Tom Hanks, he knew he had to give it a shot.
“I had to send a tape in as an audition. Two days later, they wanted me to do a screen test,” said McLaren. “Because I was in Toronto at the time, I had to do a Zoom screen test with all the executives. That was an interesting experience, especially in this COVID world.”
McLaren landed the part and has been in Vancouver filming the new series. He has been loving working with Josh Peck, who plays the titular Scott Turner.
The actor is also starring in the new Netflix series “Firefly Lane.” Based on the bestselling novel by Kristin Hannah, the series follows the story of Kate, played by Sarah Chalke and Tully, played by Katherine Heigl, and their enduring friendship from their teen years through their 40s. McLaren plays Travis, a handsome widowed father whose daughter attends the same school as Kate’s daughter, Marah, and finds himself bonding with Kate.
McLaren had previously learned about “Firefly Lane” through Peter O’Fallon, who works on the show and had worked with McLaren in the past. He landed the role after O’Fallon expressed interest in him for the show.
“I was so thrilled to get it. To get to work opposite Sarah Chalke, she’s a legend,” said McLaren. “I used to love ‘Scrubs.’ When I got the news that I was playing her love interest, it was like the teen inside gets giddy and excited.”
Because of the pandemic, life on set was naturally different than usual. Everyone is tested regularly and wore masks. Though there was apprehension to return to work, McLaren is grateful for his time working on “Firefly Lane.”
“After everything was shut down for 6 months, we were sort of apprehensive, like what’s the world gonna be on a film set,” said McLaren. “The only difference is you lose some of the connectivity. You don’t know what crew looks like. It’s bizarre because I work with them every day but didn’t know what they look like. We still laugh, everybody is happy to be there now. We’re grateful to be working.”
Even with the COVID restrictions in place, McLaren had fun on set making the show and hopes that the audience enjoys it.
“I had an absolute blast on the show,” said McLaren. “I hope people will find it funny and nostalgic.”
Outside of television, McLaren has made a name for himself on the music front by teaming up with his brother Brent. In 2019, their first track, “Tints” was featured in “Ransom.” Capitalizing on that momentum, they went on to license their song, “I Know” to the Audience dramedy, “You Me Her,” and their singles “Sequel” and “All Yours” in another one of Brandon’s projects, “Marry Me This Christmas.”
McLaren is working on releasing an EP with Brent, which has been a difficult feat with McLaren in Canada filming and his brother being in LA. McLaren says that the music they make has been shifting over the years.
“With the borders being closed, we’re going to wait until I wrap up here because it’s difficult going back and forth,” said McLaren. “The goal of music kind of changes over time, it’s becoming more personal.”
In the future, McLaren hopes to be able to get his hands in the developmental side of the entertainment industry and even take on more opportunities to direct.
“I’ve been trying to lean on the development side and put irons in the fire,” said McLaren. “I would love to direct eventually. That’s a challenge I want to take on. I’ve directed my brother’s music videos in the past. That’s definitely going to be the next challenge to take on in the near future.”
“Firefly Lane” will premiere on Netflix on Feb. 3. Stay up to date with McLaren by following him on social media @brandonjaymclaren.