With Game 1 of the World Series set to kick off later tonight, we thought it was a great time to take a look at the new baseball movie “Brampton’s Own,” which is available now on Digital HD. First up, we’re talking with star Alex Russell, who plays Dustin, a minor league baseball player who returns to his hometown after leaving years before to chase his dreams. The film, which is written and directed by Michael Doneger, also stars Rose McIver, Spencer Grammer, Scott Porter, Jean Smart and Riley Voelkel.
We recently sat down with Russell to discuss the risk/reward of working in independent cinema, striking a balance with your goals, and why his time on the CBS series “S.W.A.T.” is unlike anything he has experienced in his career thus far.
TrunkSpace: “Brampton’s Own” is not the first independent project you’ve worked on. As an actor, is there a bit of a leap of faith involved with signing on to work on an indie, not knowing when (or even if) a particular film will see the light of day?
Russell: I think you always have to go off your gut instinct and your response to material. If I come across great material and a great role and sign on to it and the film turns out great but never sees the light of day, to me, it’s a risk worth taking. I’m less concerned with whether it’ll have eyes on it and more concerned about the quality. And the quality of Michael’s script was through the roof, truly.
TrunkSpace: What was it about “Brampton’s Own” and the team behind it, particularly Michael Doneger, that gave you the confidence to jump into the work and take on the character Dustin?
Russell: As I partially touched on in the previous question, the script was truly wonderful. I laughed, I cried, I went on that old, ideal “roller coaster of emotions” every writer hopes to send you on. When I met with Michael shortly thereafter, it sealed the deal. I knew, first from his script and then from how he spoke about the story, that he knew exactly what he was doing.
TrunkSpace: Dustin sacrifices a lot in the pursuit of his dream to be a professional baseball player. Did you discover parallels in his passion for baseball and your own for acting that helped you to understand and connect with his journey and who he is as a person?
Russell: I’m a big family man and have a very strong relationship with my hometown and the friends and family I have there so I’ve never lost touch as a result of my work the way Dustin has. However, I think most people in the pursuit of something great can lose perspective and begin to place waaaaaaaaaayyy too much importance on their goals. Goals are great, don’t get me wrong, but nothing is worth missing out on life. Balance can be a hard thing to strike. This movie offers a very healthy perspective for highly motivated and work-focused people. Not placing all your happiness in the hands of one result or outcome, I think this is key. That theme is a major one in this film and it’s one I’ve had to become familiar with over the years in order to live a happier, healthier life.
TrunkSpace: When you’re working on a film where your director is also the writer, does that become an extra tool in your toolbox? If you have a question, does it help lead to a better understanding of where your character is coming from and ultimately where he is headed?
Russell: Absolutely. It’s great having two important roles living on inside the one person. Questions about a scene that would be geared towards a director can often go hand in hand with questions about a line. Michael was always there, wearing both hats at once.
TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with your work in “Brampton’s Own?”
Russell: This is tricky. Ummm… I don’t know, I don’t think I have a favorite scene of mine.
Actually, I’m really happy with my work in the scene when I’m asking my sister for a job. There was a Newton’s Cradle on the desk and I kept clicking the balls back and forth to annoy her – I don’t believe this was scripted – and I found it funny when it was kept in the scene.
TrunkSpace: What we love about a movie like “Brampton’s Own” is that it is original. It isn’t “Based On The…” or a “Sequel To…” or a “Remake Of…” It’s just a great original story, which seems to becoming more and more of a rarity in the world of film. How important is independent filmmaking these days to giving audiences more than super heroes and super franchises?
Russell: I think it’s massively important. It’s important as a vehicle for new filmmakers and creatives with new ideas to come through and up in the ranks, keeping the industry fresh and on its toes. I also think it’s important for studios to keep making “mid-level” studio movies. We’re at a point where it’s million dollar indies or the next 200 million dollar franchise installment – both of which I love – but almost never the in between movie; the 30/40/50 million dollar film with, yes, great action, set pieces and A-listers, but where the STORY is the star. It’s tricky because these days, it’s hard to get people to go and watch that movie. They wanna take their kids to see the blockbuster. I think something’s gotta give. The whole thing is cyclical and I feel we’ll have a demand for this kind of movie again before too long.
TrunkSpace: You’re currently in your second season of “S.W.A.T.” for CBS. (Props to David Lim who also stopped by recently!) From what we could tell, portraying Jim Street is the longest you have ever spent with one character thus far in your career. What has that long-term character journey been like – knowing who he is, but at the same time, still learning as new scripts arrive week after week?
Russell: It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and I have to say, it’s awesome! I love Street. He’s my buddy now and I feel I can rely on him week after week to take me on a fun, new adventure. I love learning more about him and myself as the show moves forward.
TrunkSpace: Does working on a show the size and scope of “S.W.A.T.” take some getting used to, both in terms of the workload and the attention that it can bring?
Russell: I suppose the longevity of focus and hard work is new for me. I’m used to movie schedules where you bust your ass for a few months or a few weeks and then you’re done. I must be getting more used to it now though. This year is flying by compared to last year.
TrunkSpace: What we love about your career is that you are still very involved in the Australian film industry as well. As your profile continues to rise and you achieve more success within the industry as a whole, does it become easier or more difficult to pursue various avenues? Is there more freedom in success, but less time to enjoy it?
Russell: I think the more successful an Australian actor becomes in the US, the more avenues there are to pursue back home and even elsewhere. The network shooting schedule can make it tricky but not impossible. I’m grateful for the Aussie roles that my American career has helped afford me. I love being a part of stories on both sides of the pond. It’s like having my cake and eating it too. And I love cake.
TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Russell: I think no. I like not knowing what’s ahead. Part of the fun is taking the ride and enjoying the twists and turns. The unknown, the potential of what could be. This excites me. I think getting a glimpse of the future would kind’ve be like a spoiled surprise. And I love surprises.
“Brampton’s Own” is available now on Digital HD, including iTunes.