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60 Seconds with Actor Michael Brandon

Exclusive interview by Karen Beishuizen

Michael Brandon appeared in movies, series and on stage. He is best known as the New York cop James Dempsey who comes to London in the British TV series “Dempsey and Makepeace”. In 1976 he played Bill Bast in the TV movie “James Dean”. Currently working on his autobiography, Michael lives in London with his wife of 33 years, Glynis Barber. He will attend the Book Fair from 5-7 April 2022.

KB: People know you best as James Dempsey in the series Dempsey and Makepeace (I loved that show): How did you get this role and what appealed you to the character?

Karen, glad you loved it. So did I. I read the script of Dempsey and Makepeace and it was the best tv series script I had read that year. I liked the idea of the English lady and the American NY detective and I saw it as Lady and the tramp. Funny, playful chemistry, mixed with serious action drama. I loved the diamond in the rough guy Dempsey. He has a no shit, Life is hard and then you die attitude.

KB: Was it hard to get used to British rules, regulations and customs as you met your wife Glynis Barber, who played Harriet Makepeace, on the set and you stayed in Britain? What was the hardest to get used to?

The hardest thing I had to adjust to was the weather. It rained way too much. Then the sun didn’t come out. It was just grey. I did naturally walk to the wrong side of the car for quite a while after coming over. I still love that you can drive across the street and park in any direction. Seems more Italian than English. It was more fun to drive than then now. Silly 20 miles an hour law is ridiculous and unnatural.

KB: In 1976 you played Bill Bast in the movie James Dean : How did you get this role and are you a fan of James Dean? Did you read Bill Bast’s book about Jimmy and did you meet Bill?

I auditioned for the role and I had to reach deep within myself to my most sensitive feelings to play Bill Bast. I met Bill and talked about James Dean with him. I loved Jimmy Dean’s work but Bill loved Jimmy Dean. One of the best moments I remember was a particularly crucial and very personal scene to Bill, and I asked to see the footage of the scene the next day. I was taken to the screening room where they put up the scene for me to watch. I came into the theatre and I heard sobbing. I walked down the dark theatre and in the front row was Bill Bast. He was crying. I said, “Bill are you okay?” He looked at me and said,”I just watched the scene. You were me, Michael you were me’’. What better praise can an actor get?

KB: In 2019 you were in a stage play of Roman Holiday at The Shanghai Film Festival ? Do you like the movie?

Yes, the movie was very enjoyable for it’s time. It wasn’t made for the world we live in today. It was a love fantasy. However the trip to China was fascinating and the cast talented and we really enjoyed it. My wife was with me and we love to travel.

KB: You work in movies, TV, Stage and as a narrator : What work do you like most? Is there a theater play you would love to play the Lead in and why?

Hard question: I enjoy all mediums of work. Films mostly, the whole world you create on a location or on a studio stage. However working in theatre has been mostly fascinating as well because doing Jerry Springer the Opera at the National was an extraordinary experience not only for me but the audience as well. I had the honor of being nominated for an Olivier Award. The part I loved most was from Wet Weather Cover, written by Oliver Cotton. Great writing and a wonderful role. Doing Episodes with Matt LeBlanc was also a case of wonderful writing on a television series and a very enjoyable experience. I think there is still a great part to play and I am ready for it.

KB: How did you spend the last 2 years when the world was in a lock down and you had nowhere to go? Any hobbies?

I spend it writing a book – it’s an autobiography and I have read many biographies over the last two years and this is very different. I hope it’s a laugh out loud and a deeply moving experience as well for all who read it. I am going to the London Book Fair next month on April 5-7 with it. It should be available to the public shortly after.

Check out Michael’s website: HERE