Though perhaps best-known as Daphne Milbrook on Heroes, Brea Grant is more than just a super-actress. In addition to being a comic-book writer, she’s also working on her feature directorial debut, Best Friends Forever, which is currently soliciting funds on Kickstarter to finish the process. A post-apocalyptic road movie about a friendship that gets put to the test on a road trip during which a nuclear war breaks out, this Texas-based project is making a point, among other things, of creating more film-industry jobs for women, above and below the line. While our world lasts, we got to ask Brea about what’s new in hers.
Nerdist: The country seems to be experiencing post-apocalypse fever right now. What is it about that setting that you think speaks to audiences? And what about apocalypses is so appealing to you, since you’ve visited similar territory before, albeit in much different ways?
Brea Grant: It’s funny how these things come in waves, but the apocalypse genre does seem to be one of the hot topics right now. Not to get all philosophical on you, but I think people’s interest in the apocalypse comes from a search for purpose and meaning in modern life. We have all these modern conveniences, enough to eat and drink, pretty much everything we could need for life in a first world country, and I think people like to imagine the world without that. I mean, think about it. What skills do you really have? Would you really survive? It’s a question that appeals to the ego, your sense of self, and your relevance as a living being.
N: That said, some might be feeling “apocalypse fatigue” from a glut of post-fallout projects. What do you think sets Best Friends Forever apart from the rest?
BG: There are no zombies. No vampires. Not even an infectious disease. We really wanted to keep BFF grounded in realism. We constantly asked ourselves, “If we were stuck in West Texas and a nuclear bomb detonated, what we would do?” We also pushed ourselves to address our real fears – losing our friends and relatives, not being able to fulfill our seemingly mundane goals, and isolation. We wanted to talk about real people stuff. That may not be exciting to some people who might just want to see bombs explode people’s faces off but it’s what interested in me.
N: Between stints on television, your film work, and your comic book work, you seem to be a staple of nerd culture. What are your thoughts on this new-found nerd renaissance we seem to be undergoing?
BG: I embrace it. I think the best thing that can come out of it is that more people get into cool stuff and so we have more and more cool stuff being created. Maybe less kids will be picked on for being nerdy. And if people get keep getting into all this cool stuff, in 20 years, we’ll have the best movies, comics, and entertainment in the world.
N: This was your first directorial effort, correct? What sort of challenges does directing a film present versus acting in one? How do you direct a scene that you’re in?
BG: It was my first directorial effort and I don’t know if anyone would be surprised to hear that it’s a different world than acting. I spend a lot of time on sets but had no idea what I was getting myself into. Directors are there from the beginning to end, working when no one else is, worrying about the little things that no one else does. Actors obviously have an entirely different set of concerns. So I decided to just go ahead and combine them so I’d get to worry about both!
I’m in most of the scenes, so after a while I got pretty used to directing scenes I’m in. We did a lot of rehearsals that I recorded and was able to watch in the weeks leading up to the shoot to be able to know what I wanted out of each scene. My DP was amazing and we discussed each scene in detail so we would be on the same page from start to finish. I would check framing and we would go. I also had my AD, whom I trust a lot and have worked with in the past, to give me notes on my performance. I tried to cover myself whenever I could.
N: When will we see you return to comic book writing?
BG: Zane and I are working on one right now called Let’s Play God. It’s a slasher series that’ll be out on IDW this year. EricJ is doing the art and it’s pretty fantastic, if you ask me.
N: Comics are another field where the majority of writers tend to be male, what has your experience been in that field as well as dealing with an audience that can be skeptical of “celebrity” written comics?
BG: My experience in the comic world has been a really nice one so far. Yes, I got into writing comics while I was still on Heroes, and I know people were unsure, but as I kept at it, I think I started to win people over. At first it was a pain to read reviews that were like “another actor writing a comic book….” And obviously, as a comic fan, it kind of hurt. Making my living as actor shouldn’t negate my fandom. Writing and publishing a comic book has fulfilled a dream of mine, and it’s something I love doing. I sit down and write pitches, write scripts, review art. I put the work into it and I think after a few years, people have started to acknowledge that I may not just be a one-off in the comic writing world.
N: If the actual apocalypse as depicted in your movie went down, what do you reckon your personal odds of survival would be?
BG: Pretty fucking good.
N: We’re familiar with some of the excuses the industry has for making more male-star-driven films than female. What are the excuses you’ve heard for not hiring more female crew?
BG: Most of the excuses are just not knowing female crew and I think they’re valid excuses. People meet crew on sets, and if there are no women working on your set, it’s hard to meet them. You hire the people who show up on time, do a good job, and kick ass. Women do that just as much as men but if they’re not visible or not there at all, then how would you know? The more people seek out female crew members and put them on their sets, the more they will find work.
N: What makes Texas uniquely suited to allowing people to survive, oblivious to Armageddon? And outside of growing up there, why did you want to make your movie in the Lone Star State?
BG: Texas has a lot of guns. It’s the first place I’d go if there was an apocalypse of any kind (hoping they don’t shoot me), particularly zombie or robot apocalypses.
I chose to shoot in Texas for a few reasons. It’s the location of the movie and I wanted to be authentic to that. I also don’t think that the visuals of Texas can be replaced. With its big open skies and the endless highways, West Texas is just a different world. And obviously, the people. I grew up in Texas and I knew I could call up my friends and college buddies to help. I don’t think we could’ve pulled it off without them. And the people we didn’t know were insanely nice as well. Cops that pull up to just watch a movie set in action? That’s pretty rare.
N: You’re offering top donors on Kickstarter a mix tape of songs that inspired you while making the movie. Care to share any of the titles on that?
BG: Sure – if you shell out the money.
N: You’ve called this a different kind of horror film. What kinds of tips did you pick up on previous film sets?
BG: I just wanted to make a character piece. I like a movie with explosions and guts flying and blood pools as much as the next girl, but for the story I wanted to tell, I wanted to talk about my real fears and those are all related to uprooting my life, losing my loved ones, and not knowing what to do in the situation I’m in.
I love the horror genre – both as a fan and as actress. I wouldn’t call our movie a straight-forward horror movie but I would say that it is inspired by the genre I love. I hope I did it justice.