Exclusive: Brea Grant Joins "Dexter"

Exclusive Interview with Brea Grant of Dexter
Interview by Jamie Ruby
Written By Jamie Ruby

Brea GrantBrea Grant is probably best known for her role as Daphne Milbrook on the NBC series Heroes, the bubbly, quirky girl with super speed. She, however, also had a reoccurring role on the series Friday Night Lights and appeared in other series such as Cold Case and CSI: Miami. Grant also worked on film in Rob Zombie's Halloween II, and starred in the movies The Perfect Student and Ice Road Terror.

Grant is set to star in the upcoming motion comic Hack/Slash as Cassie Hack, as well as the thriller Detour.

The actress will also be returning to television for season six of the popular Showtime series Dexter. Dexter, based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, follows the life of Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) a forensic expert and bloodstain pattern analyst who lives a double life as a serial killer of criminals.

Brea Grant sat down for an exclusive interview with Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision and MediaBlvd.

Brea GrantGrant's audition for the part on Dexter was a rather unique experience. "It's kind of a weird story. I auditioned, but I was actually in Texas with my family and got a phone call that they were interested in having me come in to read for this recurring [role] on Dexter. I couldn't make the audition because I was in Texas, and LA is sort of harsh in that, if you aren't there, a lot of times they're not going to wait around, especially in television.

"I ended up making a video with my mom recording it on my iphone and my brother reading across from me. Then as soon as my boyfriend uploaded it to Vimeo or something and sent it over, I actually got hired from that, which is one of the first times that has ever happened for me. I've made videos in the past, but I don't think anybody ever watches them, but they were really cool about it, and I guess knew enough about my work to be able to trust me after just sending a video recorded in the kitchen."

Grant will be playing the part of Ryan Chambers, an intern in forensic investigator Vince Masuka's [C.S. Lee] lab. "My character mostly interacts with Masuka. I play sort of a dark, sexy roller girl type who makes things complicated for him a little bit. He's getting a little bit of a nice story line this season."

The actress is glad to see Lee's character get more screen time. "It's like all these characters on television that kind of end up being dismissed into some type of office or lab or something like that. It's always nice to see them get story lines."

Grant did not really need to do research for the role before starting to work on Dexter. "My mom and step dad are both scientists, so there were some words that I had to call and ask, "How do you say this, what does this mean?" Sort of these "sciency" terms, so I would know what I was talking about, but otherwise what I always try to do is put together a mix tape for my character as well as I use this online website that let's me create outfits and clothes and things they would have in their house, and I keep like a log of that, so if I have to go back to my character and think about her, that's sort of the way I prepare, which is totally weird, it doesn't even make sense, but it makes sense to me as far as my style, the way I approach life, I guess."

Dexter is known for being quite a gory show. The blood and guts didn't really affect the actress, but the snakes on set did. "Most of it's fake. But actually there were some snakes that I couldn't tell if they were real or fake, and I have no idea if they were, and I'm really scared of snakes, so that was a little worrisome.

"For the most part, most of the stuff is not real; it's fake blood or corn syrup or whatever, but we do have to get a little dirty with it.

"...I pretty much work in genre work a lot. I mean I do a lot of horror and a lot of sci-fi so there are a lot of body parts, a lot of blood.

"My boyfriend's a horror director, so I live in that world. For me it really doesn't faze me anymore. I mean, if something's is done really well, it's more like, "Wow. That looks amazing," rather than gross."

Many of Grant's roles may have been horror or science fiction based, but that wasn't something she planned. "It wasn't like I said to only submit me for sci-fi projects. I just happened to fall into something that I liked which is awesome...I love horror, I love sci-fi and I got really lucky because I landed up on a show like Heroes, and once someone sees you on a show like that that they sort of associate you with that world and continue to invite you back to that world, for better or for worse."

Heroes was a big learning experience for Grant. "[It was] one of the first big things I had ever done and also one of the first things I had done, so it was a little crazy to be thrown into this world where all of a sudden people wanted to talk to me, and they were like, "Come do this red carpet," as well as working every single day. I just had never been on a job where I had to work every day. I mean an acting job; obviously I've had real life jobs. That was crazy to just be thrown into a world like that, where six months before I had still been waiting tables.

"Overall, the chance had been fantastic, the other actors that I was surrounded by were amazing and everybody was really happy to be working on such a successful show and it was awesome. I couldn't have asked for a better dive into the world of TV."

Grant sees some similarities between both Dexter and Heroes. "I think things are very similar, as I come in as a side character and the whole story line and then leave, for better or for worse, at some point. They are both huge, huge shows with huge cult followings. People are really excited and supportive.

"I've been really lucky as an actress to be given really cool characters and so I end up with a lot of people being super excited and super supportive of what's going on with my character, and I think that's sort of amazing and, also the following - going on location and having people show up with their DVD's wanting people to sign. I mean, that just doesn't happen on a lot of other shows that I've guest starred on or done little stints on here and there.

"So I think for that reason they are pretty similar. I mean, we have a big ensemble cast on Dexter, and I know Michael C. Hall is the main guy, but everyone else does have a pretty awesome story line. So it's not like you are following just one character.

"I don't know, I kept thinking that things would be really different and it just wasn't. It wasn't terribly different other than the cast and the crew already knowing each other, and I felt like I was late coming to party."

Even now, Grant still gets nervous acting. "I think [the most challenging part is] not getting nervous and screwing up. I know that sounds like the most easy thing that I should be good at by this point, but I'm still nervous when I walk on set, and I still feel like it's the first day of school, when I had to make sure I packed my lunch and everything was okay...Make sure I know my lines, I mean literally know my lines inside and out, because I am so worried that I am going to screw everything up. To be honest nobody cares. I could screw up my lines as much as I wanted; I just want to be prepared and ready to go. The hardest part for me is being ready. That and the audition part."

There is, however, a lot that Grant has learned about herself since she started acting. "I would say that I have a short attention span. I learned that and that means that I need to keep myself constantly busy and active, which is why in addition to acting I started writing and doing other things, because otherwise I start to get bored and I would cut all my hair off or do something insane instead of something productive. So I know that I have to keep myself sort of busy.

"As far as acting goes, I know that I have to make sure that I am comfortable first. Everybody feels that way to a certain extent; it's sort of why a lot of actors wind up in their own heads and in their own worlds, just because we have to check ourselves first.

"I literally have my own kit I put together and take to the set everyday with weird stuff in it, like chocolate and crossword puzzles books. I mean, its stuff like that I know will make me happy and comfortable. I know then that I can do my job, which is not that difficult, but I do have to be super comfortable, and it kind of goes for my life as well. If I'm not comfortable, I'm not going to be at my best, and if I'm not wearing clothes that are comfortable, or I'm starving or anything like that, which seem to be very basic things, but when there's a thousand eyes on you everyday, and there's cameras on you and everybody is making sure you've done your job, you have to make sure you're taking care of yourself first and foremost.

"I think a lot of women are raised to take care of others, sort of the way we've been raised to take care of children or our family, or a boyfriend or whoever, and I think we put ourselves second a lot of times, or last, and I don't. As selfish as that sounds, if someone says "I need you to do this." I will say "No I'm going to go to bed and get eight hours sleep, and I'll talk to you tomorrow." Which I think makes me a bitch, but it's the choice I've made."

On Dexter, Grant tries to stick to the script. "They are pretty on point with the lines and how they want them to be done. I personally have never been in a position on a show where I felt like I could say, "This doesn't feel right for me." I've done some films on which I felt that I could say that, but as far as [with television], these writers have been there for five seasons and I haven't, so I feel like even if they've only been there for one season, they've still been there for a lot longer than me, and I feel like I don't have that right.

"As a writer I feel like there's a reason for everything and if I have a definite thing I need to say, I will say it, but otherwise I try to trust the process. There's a reason it's a collaborative process; there's a reason there's a director, a writer, and an actor. It's great to have all those separate people, because in theory you'll end up with the best product from all those people's perspectives.

"I've seen some of the other people go and talk to the writers, especially once you've been playing a character for five years, they go up and talk to the writers sometimes. I'm the worst though, because even though I do learn my lines, I like to put things in my own words, so I get a lot of, "Actually it said this," and I'm like, "Oh my God, I'm so sorry." In my brain I start changing it into a more Brea style talking instead of Ryan Chambers style of talking."

The actress has not done green screen work for special effects yet for Dexter, but she has for Ice Road Terror on Syfy. "It's hard but it's not impossible. It is a lot of acting, because you're acting on a green screen and pretending to do things that don't make sense because there's not really a person sitting next to you, or there's not really a monster there.

"I shot this monster movie, a Syfy original, last year and there's a giant monster, but of course there's no monster, because Syfy likes to put those in all digital and crazy, and the director would literally would have a pole with a teddy bear at the top and we would literally stare or we would just be in front of the green screen acting scared at nothing. It's sort of a weird type of acting for sure, and you have to be okay with the fact that you're going to have fun with this."

During the film, Grant and some of her costars had tweeted live during the television premiere on Syfy, but the actress has been an avid Twitter user for some time. "I actually joined twitter pretty early on. I had just started Heroes, and I just started tweeting, and I convinced Greg Grunberg [Heroes] to join and a bunch of other people, and Masi [Oka; Heroes] just joined these past couple of months ago. I think it's a great way to keep up with your fans; it's a great way for your fans to follow you from one project to another. I am a total fan nerd and I will follow people that I'm a fan of, and like I want to know what people's next projects are that I follow - the writers, the directors that I like - I kind of use it for that purpose, and I think that other people do as well. It's really nice for me because it's still pretty early in my career as an actress, and I also do a lot of writing and I like to keep people up to date on all the things that I'm doing."

Grant doesn't just write for fun. She has a comic miniseries that she just finished with her brother Zane. "Our first one is called We Will Bury You, which is a 1920's zombie story and that is out in trade paperback actually, and out in comic books stores right now."

It was her brother who came up with the story idea. "We sort of had this idea that we wanted to create a zombie story from the point of view of people who weren't in power, and we wanted to make it historical, because we both are nerds and we both love history, and we wanted to put that into a kind of a crazy time period. We chose 1920's to follow the fall of stock market. Essentially the beginning of the Depression is what we were focusing on, so there are all these ties to people losing money as well as obviously losing their life.

"So we tried to do this whole time link with the stock market thing. We started actually started writing this a few years back. Zane had the idea and we sort of decided to make the story of all over the world, so we had four different story lines that we had written. We only ended up being able to write one, because as first time comic book writers, no one was like "Yes, we'll give you your own unlimited amount of issues."

"So we wound up writing the one set in New York. We're really proud of it. It was our first attempt at a comic book, and I think it worked out pretty well. I think we're learning more and more and hoping to continue to write them."

Currently the siblings have been working on comics for The Suicide Girls. "The Suicide Girls is the current one that we've been writing and it just finished the fourth issue, and it will be out on trade [paperback] in the fall, if people want to catch up with it then."

The pair still have more comic series that are on the way. "We have a graphic novel that is pretty much written, that we have an artist for, and then we have another series, a little mini one - a horror mini - that Erick Jay is doing the artwork for, and we're still trying to find a place to land as far as polishing goes. We've spent all of Comic-con meeting people and we're sort of like, in post Comic-con trying to figure out what we're going to do now."

Grant says that her brother might end up writing beyond the comic world, for things such as screenplays, but she probably won't spend much time with that. "I am thinking that my brother Zane would probably end up in that world. I mean I like comics.

"I actually wrote a screenplay that we are in the process of doing pre-production for right now. We're hoping to shoot in Texas late this year or early next year.

"I do dabble in that world, but I don't think that it will be the world that I live in, because I like acting and I will probably end up trying to do both, but a lot of my time is taken up by acting."

The film is called Best Friends Forever and is an apocalyptic road trip movie.

Another project that Grant has in the works is the starring role of Cassie Hack the upcoming film Hack/Slash. "We haven't started yet. I've just signed on to do the project in the last couple of weeks, so I don't even know much about it, but I do know that it's going to be some green screen, but mostly I'm just going to be the voice. It's a motion comic."

If Grant could be in any kind of show she chose, it would be something with action. "I would love to have my own television show. That would be amazing to do...sort of like an "actiony" television show like Alias, or Nikita, or something like that. I think...a big comic book type actiony movie would be awesome. I mean, it what's I read; it's what I watch. I'm definitely the first in line for every movie where everything blows up every summer. So that would be my goal."

During her spare time, Grant likes to read a lot and watch films. "I go to the library maybe once a week or so and I order a lot of books. I read a lot of non-fiction as well as fiction. I love pop-science and history books...I watch a lot of movies...

"...I try to end every workday, if I'm not working on set, by seven or so at night, then I make dinner or go have dinner, and then watch a movie pretty much every night."

Grants favorite films are The Wizard of Oz and the Neverending StorY.

If Grant wasn't an actress, she would probably be a librarian. "I was in graduate school; I have a Master's degree in American Studies. I'm assuming I would be doing something with that. I've often thought that I would go back to school and be a librarian, which is probably why I spend so much time at the library. I love the library. I worked in the library when I was in high school and I think I would go back and do something with books."

To learn more about Grant, you can check out both her blog and her Twitter account, though she does not have a Facebook account.

You can also see Grant in the upcoming season of Dexter on Showtime.

Photo by Teren Oddo

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