Check our fun interview with handsome actor and one of the leads in Tyler Perry’s new series “Too Close to Home”, which premiered on August 22 and was recently renewed for Season 2.
Benedict stars opposite Heather Locklear, Danielle Savre, Kelly Sillivan and Brock O’Hurn, as the southern bad boy, JB, who can be a loose cannon, working low-end jobs to make financial ends meet.
In addition, he was an avid tennis athlete, where he shared his passion for the sport with a recent hosting gig on a weekly series with Tennis Channel’s called “Fit to Hit.”
Hi Brad, please tell us a little about you?
My full name is Bradley Philip Benedict and I was born in raised in Norcross, Georgia. I am the youngest of four siblings, with whom I have very close relationships, and have two amazing parents who have been married for 40 years. I grew spending much of my extracurricular time on the tennis court and ended up playing collegiate tennis at the University of Georgia, where I was a member of the 2007 undefeated NCCA Championship team. I got a Bachelors in Business Administration majoring in Finance, and have fortunately yet to put my degree to professional use. It was a dream of mine since I was a little kid to become an actor. A dream, however, I never expected or intended on actually pursuing. Growing up in the Georgia suburbs, the thought of becoming a professional actor seemed like a fantasy world. Now, of course, the Atlanta film and television market is booming, but when I was growing up, it wasn’t the case at all. What else … I have an extreme fascination with the oceans and dream of exploring the world both above and below water in this lifetime. I am scuba certified and have slowly begun to rack up dives, and can’t wait to continue extending my dive record. I probably have a tendency to talk too much, but it’s been that way since I was a toddler, so I doubt it is going to change any time soon. I’ve recently gotten the opportunity to start traveling abroad and I am hooked. Being exposed to different cultures of the world changes you as a human. It expands your mind and teaches you how we are all very much the same, but also that there is not one right way to go about life.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Kind, curious and adventurous.
So how did it all begin?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved to be in the spotlight or the center of attention. That can definitely sometimes be a negative quality, but I feel lucky that it ended up causing me to audition for the spring musical in high school my junior year. In my head, I thought I loved acting, but I had never acted, so I think what it really was, was that I wanted to be up on the stage in front of everybody performing. The love of acting came once I started doing it. The year before, my sister, Lindsay, had done the musical GREASE. I remember watching the show and being so impressed and proud of her, and desperately wanting to be up there doing the same thing. I don’t know if I ever told her that. Her performance was what inspired me to audition for the spring musical the next year. I remember being in class and finding out that auditions were that same day, and that you had to come prepared to sing a song. Well, I had never sung in front of people before and had absolutely nothing prepared, so I called home ‘sick’ and had my mom check me out of school so that I could go pick out and practice a song. I ended up auditioning with the song ‘Desperado’ since I had recently learned how to play it on my guitar. Probably not the typical musical theatre audition piece, but I didn’t know any better. Ultimately, I checked back into school at the end of the day and went to the try outs. A few days later I found out I had booked the leading role of Albert in the show Bye Bye Birdie and I was officially thrown into the fire. And hooked.
Any other family member is in the business?
Nope. Not yet at least. I have a feeling it won’t stay that way forever though. I think several of my family members would love get onto a TV or film set and play a little make believe, and I intend on convincing them to give it a shot. My only other family member I have seen act is my sister Lindsay, and she is phenomenal.
What inspired you to become an actor?
I have just always loved performing and entertaining people…or at least attempting to entertain people! That was the original inspiration. Then as I began studying acting and film and storytelling, I developed a deeper appreciation for the art and craft of it, and have enjoyed really exploring it from a new angle other than just as an entertainer.
What is the best part of acting?
Getting to play for a living for starters. It’s pretty rad. But it is also a lot fun to dive into character’s circumstances and try to get into a different head space than your own. I feel like over the years it has helped me to, at least a little bit, have a better understanding of people and to help relate to more people and their personal circumstances. It forces you to open your eyes and make an effort to step into somebody else’s shoes for the day. That process can be very enlightening, and FUN!!
What roles do you like to play? And why?
Before booking my role on Too Close To Home, I would have said ‘any role’! It is just so tough to break into the entertainment business, that I was happy to get the chance to act no matter the role. I was often hired as a frat boy kind of character or some variation of a play boy. I had a blast playing those roles, but my role as JB on Too Close To Home is the first time I have really had the opportunity to play a real character, somebody very distant from myself. I realize now that it is more fun to step further and further away from yourself in a role. In a way, it has almost made acting easier, just in the sense that when you have to dress very differently and use an accent, and engage in foreign behaviors, it helps you get out of your own head and perform less with your analytical left brain, and let your creative right brain take over.
Who is your favorite actor/actress?
That is a very difficult question. There are so many extremely talented and entertaining actors and actresses out there who have inspired me and excite me. I will say that as far as modern day actors go, I have an extreme appreciation and admiration for the work of Kevin Spacey. I have seen him in movies, television, and on the stage, and I have never once seen him phone it in or be anything less than brilliant. He clearly loves what he does, but also has taken time to develop his craft and never fails to deliver. I’d like to absorb as much of that as possible.
Best advice ever given?
I was once told by an Oscar winning actor that my only job as an actor is to service the writer and to go to all ends to try and bring to life what they put on the page and intended for the character. That I was never to act self-consciously or worry about my appearance, but to analyze the script and try to find what moving picture the writer was painting with his words…Again, this has always seemed to help me step outside of my own self-conscious thoughts and into the thoughts of the character I am portraying. I’ll admit, easier said than done.
Now tell us about the show “Too Close to Home”?
“Too Close to Home” is a one-hour drama written, produced, and directed by Tyler Perry. o far, the series has been split between two settings, Washington DC and the rural town of Happy, Alabama. It centers on a young woman, Anna, or Annie Bell as she is known in her hometown, who escaped her trailer-park upbringing to work in the White House. When she finds herself caught in a sex scandal with the POTUS, she retreats back to her hometown of Happy, Alabama seeking refuge. My character, JB, is a Happy native with a long history intertwined with Annie’s and her two sisters, Bonnie and Shelby. JB drives a big rig truck and finds himself in a heap of trouble when he begins running drugs and it gets stolen and sold off. When Annie returns to Happy, she arrives to a dangerous situation with angry drug bosses on the hunt for revenge. She also makes things worse by bringing drama of her own from Washington DC.
What was the audition process like for the role of “JB’?
Well originally when the audition came in, I read the breakdown, and considered not even auditioning. The character was described as a rugged trucker, and I certainly didn’t think I fit the bill. I typically feel as if I am viewed more as a clean cut All-American type, but I loved the script and figured I would go for it. What the heck right? Instead of going into an actual casting office and reading in front of a casting director, I self-taped my audition at home and sent it in. A few days passed, and I figured I wasn’t getting the role. I moved on in my head, but then the next morning I woke up to a voicemail from my agents. The voicemail said that Tyler really loved my tape and wanted to fly me from LA to Atlanta for a callback. The day after that, I was on a flight to Georgia (pretty awesome considering it is my hometown and where my family still resides) and ready to audition in front of Tyler Perry. There were several actors for each role brought to Atlanta and we were mixed and matched and paired up to read scenes in front of Tyler and his whole producing team. We spent about 3 hours doing chemistry reads with different actors, and then it was done. We were bussed to the airport and flown back to LA or New York or wherever we came from. As soon as I landed in Los Angeles, I turned on my phone and found out I had been pinned for the role. An offer came in the next day, and a few weeks later I was back on a plane to Georgia to film the first 8 episodes of the show. Things happened fast.
How do you stay fit?
First of all, I love fitness and would probably go crazy if I couldn’t workout. It always seems to clear my head and bring positive vibes when I am going a little mad. Since 2011 I have been very into CrossFit. I even got a training certification and was coaching CrossFit classes as a side gig for several years. I love the class environment and the overall sense of community and encouragement. I also love the intensity and functional movement aspects of CrossFit type training. It fulfilled my competitive drive that I had been missing out on since my competitive tennis days. Lately, however, I have been mixing it up a lot more and been doing some cycling, more traditional weight lifting, hikes and even the occasional Krav Maga class. I’d love to explore yoga soon.
What keeps you motivated to keep training hard and eating right?
For one, it makes me feel accomplished and confident. This town, and this business, can beat you down. Starting my day with a workout helps me have one small victory each day, and I feel I can carry that positive energy with me throughout the day. I also love the mentality of work hard/play hard. I feel the only way I will be able to play hard for many many years to come, is to take care of my body and stay fit. Use it or lose it, as they say.
What is your favorite healthy food?
I guess everybody has a different definition of healthy, but one of my good friends is an incredible cook. I literally laugh out loud when I taste most of his dishes because they are so delicious. My favorite is probably his grilled ribeye, sautéed chipotle garlic shrimp, and a chopped salad with whatever he chooses to include in it that evening.
And your favorite cheat food?
Anything where there is A LOT of it and dipping sauces. I will smother my food is some sauce when given the opportunity. I also really like a little something crunchy in most of my meals! Umm and Mac N Cheese of course.
3 things you can’t leave home without?
Phone, keys, wallet. That is the routine. Hopefully someday I will have a much more exciting answer to that question. Like, a kiss from my wife and a hug from my kid…but right now, it is just phone, keys, wallet. Oh, and sunglasses. Oops that 4.
Any other exiting news you want to share with us?
I created, produced, and star in a scripted web series set in the world of competitive functional fitness. Inspired by my CrossFit days. The series is called The Hollywood Box and currently being shopped to distribution outlets. You can check out the trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ses8x1MxYF8 — I look forward to sharing the whole series with everybody soon!
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I don’t know exactly. I never really look too far in advance. I feel like that makes me zombie through today. I do know that I have a lot of extremely talented and ambitious friends who I believe in immensely. Several of them have written brilliant scripts that I would love to someday, down the road, be a part of getting produced and brought to life. I also want to play a music gig someday. It has been one of my biggest fears, and biggest goals at the same time, to play guitar and sing songs on a stage in front of an audience. Someday.
What kind of music do you listen normally?
I have a very eclectic taste in music and listen to most everything depending on the environment. If I am in my car alone, I most likely will be tuned into the local country music station. The last concert I went to was at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles and I saw the Avett Brothers. Incredible show.
How’s a normal day in your life?
As an actor, there is no normal really. Every day is so varied. On my free days, some of my priorities are getting in a workout, some sort of actor training, playing my guitar, and eating really tasty healthy foods. And as Jimmy V would advise: laugh, think, and cry.
Do you support any charities?
I have done a bit of volunteer work in the past, but hope to get more and more involved with charitable causes in the future. I’d also love to get involved with shark and coral reef conservation efforts. That is something I am very passionate about. Anybody out there have any suggestions on how to do that?!
What is your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Wake up before sunrise. Pack a cooler. Head to my boat with my girl and some friends. Go out on the ocean. Do some fishing, diving, lobster hunting, and relaxing. Grill out cooking up my fresh catch and listening to some good country music. Pull back into the marina as the sun is setting and live music is firing up. Only problem is, I don’t have a boat! Yet. But that is definitely my idea of a perfect Sunday.
Where we can follow you?
Quote: “The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” — Brad Pitt in TROY
Book: “The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships” by Neil Strauss
Movie: Can’t pick a favorite. It’s like asking me to pick a favorite band or favorite song. I’ll just say, I LOVE movies, and I love going to the movie theatre and drifting away. I specifically love movies that leave me feeling hopeful.
Drink: Not much of a drinker, but I do love the occasional dirty martini. Vodka.
Food: Anything with a crunch! Well almost anything. I just love food in general. Beware, I WILL get ‘hangry’ if you don’t feed me.
TV Series: Oh man, I love so many series. I’ll just have to give you a list of a few that I love and have kept up with recently: Bloodline, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Ballers, Night Of, and most recently Westworld. I guess I gravitate towards more one hour dramas, but I enjoy a good intelligent comedy at times as well.
Sports Team: Instead of a team, my favorite athlete is my former college tennis teammate at the University of Georgia, John Isner. He is a professional tennis player and has been the number one professionally ranked American tennis player for several years now. He stands 6 feet 10 inches and his serve is a bomb! Go Johnny!
Travel destination: I want to travel everywhere in the world and see it all! Currently, I am really interested in planning a trip to Australia to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef while we still have it. Someday I plan on buying a sail boat and island hopping all over the world for a year or two…living off the land and sea as much as possible.
Photo Credit: Casey Nelson Photography