10K Saturday with Will Branner!
Lulu: Hi everyone, welcome to 10k Saturday, and I've got with me today Will Branner. Will, say hi.
Will: Hi. How's it going?
Lulu: Um, let's talk about this sound in the background, because we are at 244 Rehearsal Studios. Is that the official name?
Will: Yes, in New York City. Yes. The 244. The nicest studios.
Lulu: I mean, they're pretty nice.
Will: With the loudest people, all the opera people in the back. But today we're joined by the never-ending-piano-player wailer in the background (laughter)
Lulu: -- and he's just, wait, he stopped! (They gasp.)
Will: Oh, thank God.
Lulu: This is a live stream, and he's listening to it, and he was like, "oh no, that was me."
Will: He's like, "You guys need silence?" He's been going at it for an hour. I've been here an hour. He's still going. (laughter)
Lulu: Will Branner is a University of Michigan legend. I think that is fair.
Will: Yeah, that's a fair assessment. People know me still. It's been a while, but they still know me.
Lulu: (piano starts again) Oh, there he goes.
Will: Oh, he's back in.
Lulu: We should name him.
Will: Wail. The whale.
Lulu: Moby Dick, Moby Dick over there. Yeah. And Will and I did South Pacific together at Triad Stage in Greensboro, North Carolina. We had a really good time and I guess we kind of stayed friends after that.
Will: We did. Yeah. We were an unlikely duo walking around North Carolina. People were like, well what are you guys up to? And it was mischief.
Lulu: Always mischief. So, Will is an actor and singer here, he's super successful and very talented. And every time someone works with him -- oh, you don't know this. Every time someone works with him that is in a workshop or something, they text me when they find out that we know each other or they put it together and they go, I'm working with this guy, Will Branner, and he's amazing. And I have to text back and say he's one of my favorite people in the whole entire world.
Will: It's like once they get past the University of Michigan Frat Bro side of me, and then they text you and they're like, oh, he's amazing. (laughter)
Lulu: You just did a reading of something with Al Bundonis.
Will: That's right. I did a new reading of a musical called Mars 2076. It’s like Les Mis in space.
Lulu: In what way is it Les Mis in space?
Will: It's not comedic at all. It's like we're in space --
Lulu: That's your go-to?
Will: -- and we are singing the whole time. And we are serious about these Mars issues. We want to free Mars from the --
Lulu: -- but it's not like Galaxy Quest.
Will: No, no, no, no, no, no.
Lulu: It's not like Apollo 13.
Will: It's not adventure. It's a drama. It's like high drama, but it's on Mars.
Lulu: It's Gravity the Musical.
Will: Yes. Kind of. Yes.
Lulu: Okay. I like that. You had to be super serious. Why do you only play serious roles when you're such a golden retriever?
Will: That's true. I've got to like, get my agents on that.
Lulu: Well, when we had our first-ever rehearsal for South Pacific, I think you were either sitting next to me or were one down, and you were very serious. He was playing Lieutenant Cable, and he was very just straight, straight up serious man. And then for some reason, the second day you were a little sillier and you actually turned to me and said, "You thought you knew me, but you didn't!" (laughter)
Will: ...and then no, no, no... you became my friend when you found out how big of a Finding Nemo fan I was. Finding Nemo the Musical fan. Die hard. The number one Finding Nemo fan in the world sitting right here.
Lulu: Um, nothing makes you feel older than knowing that someone you're working with came to see you as a kid every summer performing a show.
Will: I was starstruck though. I like couldn't talk to you the first day. I wasn't being serious. I was starstruck.
Lulu: Were you starfish-struck?
Will: Because I Google everyone in the cast, you know, you gotta know who you're working with. Even then I was like, "She was in Finding Nemo?" (laughter)
Lulu: One night we were all hanging out, and I think that you did like the entire show for me. You might've been a little, tipsy, just a teeny bit.
Will: I know every word.
Lulu: Yes. So we had a lot of fun. And you used to follow me around snapchatting me. And here's a funny story. So the last time that I was in these studios was with someone that you knew, and I didn't know them. So I got introduced to them. I don't even remember who it was, and they said, I feel like I know you, or I've worked with you, or something. And I said, Oh, I'm so sorry, I really don't remember you. And I kind of put together how old this guy was. And I was like, did you go to University of Michigan? And he said, yeah. I said, do you know Will Branner? And he goes, yeah. And I said, do you know me from his snapchat? And he was like, you're Lulu!
Will: No, you were famous for a little while. It was every day.
Lulu: It was. So I'm really excited to have you on my podcast, because this is new since I've known you.
Will: Right, right. You were shopping this around when we first met, you were like, I have this idea and we're like, okay, Lulu.
Lulu: (laughing) Thanks for the faith.
Will: No, I believed in you. I was one of the the few.
Lulu: Yeah, sure. Uh, well, you know, I waited 18 months to have you on it so it doesn't matter. So, it's really great to have you here for 10k Saturday. I've got some questions for ya. So my first question is: what are you obsessed with right now?
Will: Star Wars. In particular, Episode Nine. I gotta figure out how it's gonna turn out. You know, so like watch a bunch of theory videos on youtube...
Lulu: Oh you are like into the myth around the myth.
Will: Yeah, Like, I like "Where do we come from? What are the possibilities?" All of the minute details. Not just like in the movies, you know. Like, I read the books, the comic books --
Lulu: The whole universe.
Will: Yeah, and that's been since I was like four years old.
Lulu: I will tell you this, I am not great at details of Star Wars. I've seen all of them.
Will: Good. We appreciate you.
Lulu: No idea if I saw them in the right order. Thank you. Still don't remember exactly who is good and bad. It's very confusing, because storm troopers are dressed in white and theoretically those are usually --
Will: Well, they give you the red light sabers to let you know those are the bad guys.
Lulu: Not enough. I feel we've set these rules of storytelling that Star Wars has broken, and I get confused.
Will: That's true, that's true. It's getting more complicated.
Lulu: Is Queen Amidala good or bad? Because she kind of looks like Cruella Deville.
Will: No, no. She's good. She's good. Definitely good. Natalie Portman, always good.
Lulu: So I don't want you to betray your Star Wars love. But I will ask you because I know that this is a controversy from my Star Wars friends. Tell me about Jar Jar.
Will: Oh, see we don't know where Jar Jar came from. Was George Lucas just in there one day? Just decided to put this in the movie? But he's transcended just that film. Like he's a legend. He's like a comedic legend beyond where the films have gone. The memes, the Internet theories. Like there's one going around that Jar Jar's a Sith lord, and he's like orchestrating the whole thing. There's a really good youtube video about it. Cause he can jump super high, and he can like swim underwater, and like at a rate that doesn't even make any sense, he uses the force...
Lulu: So basically he came out in the movie, everyone was like, who is this? What's going on? And now you've created justifications around it.
Will: Yeah, yeah. Like the fandom, the fandom has embraced the tragedy of Jar Jar ... Star Wars is, I feel, is indestructible. Like no matter what you throw at it, the controversy of the last movie, the Last Jedi, was it good, was it bad? But it's kind of indestructible because the fandom is so strong and dealt in... like Star Wars is beyond what the movies are. It's what we all used to do playing in the backyard. I've lived so many different Star Wars stories that just what's in the movies is not what Star Wars is to me. Like it's, it's the action figures, it's the video games, it's the people -- there's an account called Star Wars Theory that just made their own Vader fan film. It's like, the best fan film of all time, but he's trying to finance a whole series and the community of Star Wars came together and raised this guy $200,000 or something, just so we can make a fan film and he doesn't make any money. He doesn't make any money off of it. He's not allowed to monetize it. Like LucasFilm refused to let him do it. But the fandom is that passionate that they'll get behind Star Wars projects.
Lulu: Do you want to be in that movie?
Will: Yeah. Yeah. Hit me up.
Lulu: Okay. So guys, if, if you know that guy -- I'll tag him on all the social meeds. Look, Will Branner, you heard me talk about it. He's an excellent actor.
Will: Excellent. (laughter) The best.
Lulu: We'll have a link -- you have a reel? We'll put a link to your reel on our blog. Hire this guy. He already has a following. Clearly there are people, everyone at University of Michigan follows his snapchat.
Will: If Snapchat is still alive.
Lulu: Well, his Instastory is going to be lit by that time.
Will: So lit, bro.
Lulu: So lit, bro. That's a good obsession. That's like a lifetime obsession, like not this week. That is lifelong.
Will: Yeah, there'll be like a day where I'm like, oh, I'm not feeling Star Wars today, and then like the next day we're back in, you know?
Lulu: Do you get nervous when the films come out?
Will: Oh, I've been to every midnight premiere since I was six. So, my dad took me to the Phantom Menace at midnight, or at least he told me it was midnight, might not have been. But he was like, we're going to opening, and I've dressed up every Star Wars opening, every single movie that's ever come out.
Lulu: But do you get nervous that you're not going to like it? Or are you like, I'm in.
Will: For me when the movie comes out, it's like a big deal for everyone else. But that's like a little tiny fraction of my Star Wars.
Lulu: That is fascinating to me. Yeah, that's great. Cause I remember dressing up for Harry Potter book releases and I would go to Barnes and Noble at 10:00 PM for the midnight book release. But I was never nervous that I wasn't going to like the book. I knew I was going to love it. It didn't matter. So, wish list. What is something that you would have on a wishlist right now? That this guy would stop playing piano?
Will: Yeah, there's that... (laughter) No, life is good. I'm kind of making my wishes reality right now. I've been repeating the phrase to myself, "Broadway 19" this year, me and the girlfriend, and she just made her Broadway debut in Mean Girls, which is very exciting. And I have a show that's coming to City Center this year in New York. So you've got to like ask the universe very specifically, I've learned, you know what I mean? But that's on the wishlist this year. It's like Broadway 19. I'm not sure what that means. Like the City Center show's Bat Out of Hell, shout out. It's going to run for three months. Awesome show whether I'm in it or not. But we've got some other projects, so we're like grinding. We're moving the career along this year.
Lulu: It's going to be good with with Branner in it or not, but but better with Branner in it, I mean, clearly.
Will: Star Wars Theory, hit me up.
Lulu: Hey, Star Wars Theory people. If you want to see him work, go see Bat out of Hell. Unless he's not in it.
Will: I'll be in something else.
Lulu: You were in the Bat out of Hell tour.
Will: Yes. I was on the Bat out of Hell national tour. It was supposed to come through all the way to... City Center's pretty much Broadway, because it's a 3000 seat theater, it's an extended contract, we're being paid the same as Broadway actors. So it's kind of made me take a step back and be like, oh, what is Broadway to me? Is it performing in New York in town for a large number of people? Is it the money I get paid? Is it just the prestige of the name Broadway? It's made me think a lot.
Lulu: I think that that's a never-ending thing for actors... making sure your definition of success doesn't lock you in to a specific definition of failure. So I think that's great.
Will: Yeah. It's like, I want to perform in New York. That's been the dream of mine and it's happening this year. So I'm excited. On a very large, very professional scale. So my wishes are coming true this year, which is cool.
Lulu: I love that. I love you.
Will: I love you too.
Lulu: Okay. All right. So if you had $10,000 what would you do with it? You can go somewhere, you can have some thing, you can do whatever you want.
Will: So I'm also a film director. I've got about three film projects that need financing this year. So that's my like immediate, uncool... those are happening regardless. We're going to get those funded. That would just save me a lot of stress.
Lulu: Do you have a GoFundMe or a Kickstarter?
Will: No we're not, we're doing private funding for this. Door-to-door style.
Lulu: So if anybody wants to -- just contact us.
Will: We've got get some good projects. The one I'm shooting, it's tentatively called Sailing, but I was just on a location scout in Jacksonville for three days this last weekend. And it went amazing. We're fully funded for that one. And I shoot May 17th through the 25th directing. It's a proof of concept for a feature, but my other cool $10,000 I would go to Nepal and climb, like get to base camp of Mount Everest. I have sinus issues. So let's see if they would hold up. But that's, that's like the dream vacay.
Lulu: Wait, what's wrong with sinus issues, because of the altitude?
Will: The elevation and stuff. Yeah, yeah.
Lulu: You'd have to get a Sherpa.
Will: Yeah, for sure. For Sher-pa.
Lulu: I know I'm only telling you this because I feel like you're also the type of person that would get there and be like, I don't need a Sherpa, but I'm telling you now, Branner, if you go, get a Sherpa.
Will: But Nepal is like the wishlist dream with the $10,000 that I can make reality.
Lulu: You can totally do that. You can make that happen.
Will: Oh yeah, it's going to happen. I can't wait.
Lulu: So, I want to ask you if there's a charity that you support that you feel really strongly about.
Will: Hmm. So here's where the story begins. Okay. I am a scuba diver, and where I learned to scuba dive and became a rescue diver -- so I'm like three dives away from becoming a master scuba diver -- is the island of Saint John. Like my family bought property down there. They rent it out. It's like where our businesses are. We have a huge tie to this island, and it was ravaged by Hurricane Irma. The whole island destroyed people's homes -- destroyed -- and they're still recovering. Like half of the island is still in pretty much chaos. We stopped hearing about it, but Kenny Chesney has a charity called Love for Love City that is still raising money. I ran a marathon for it last year, raised a couple thousand dollars, and they are doing really good work. The best thing that they did initially was they got all the dogs off the island, like they saved everybody's pets ... stuff you don't really think about that they're doing now. It's like water and reconstruction, and getting people's homes refurnished and just the little tiny stuff that you don't think about in the wake of tragedy, they're helping to rebuild St John. Yeah, that's my charity.
Lulu: And your family has great ties to that island. So it means a lot to you.
Will: Yeah, like we've done a lot of work for the island. My parents bought a home down there. They're fortunate. There's a House Hunters International episode about my parents, and it's really sweet. My dad just starts sobbing. It's really sweet. My dad's life long dream was to own just a little tiny piece and he got a little tiny shack of the Caribbean, but it's like his home, and he's a different person when he goes down there. He's an island boy when he goes down there, and it's he would do anything to help that island succeed.
Lulu: So what's your happy?
Will: What's my happy?
Lulu: Yeah. Right now.
Will: My happy is my new apartment that I just moved into. I just moved in with the girlfriend, which is a little controversial. But she saved me after getting back to New York. I didn't have a place to live after this tour and she was like, come on. And so we've made -- for the first time in my life, my living space is like beautiful and I enjoy coming home.
Lulu: Because you're living with a girl.
Will: Yes, yes, yes.
Lulu: Because his old apartment was like couches and stairs and a big University of Michigan flag on the wall.
Will: It was a frat house.
Lulu: It was a frat house in Washington Heights.
Will: Yeah, it was weird. It was a six bedroom apartment. Then before that I, lived with eight guys, before that, four guys, I did a contract one summer where they didn't provide housing. It was pretty -- you know, we've come a long way since then.
Lulu: I'm so happy you're on the podcast.
Will: I love our podcast dreams. I support them a hundred percent.
Lulu: I support all your dreams. 100% too. Um, hey everyone, this was Will Branner. We're going to have links to all of his stuff up on the blog, and I can't wait til you see him in a Star Wars movie.
Will: We're putting it out there. We're putting it out in the universe.
Lulu: We're manifesting it. Star Wars 20. Broadway 19, Star Wars 20.
Will: I like it.
Lulu: Alright, peace.
Will: Peace out. Bye.