Chances are you’ve already seen Brandon Michael Hall around town.
As part of ABC’s push for its new original comedy series “The Mayor,” Hall’s face has been plastered on the side of public buses and on posters throughout New York. “I was over in New York this past weekend, and I got to see for the first time the LED panel on the ABC Television Center. It was an LED panel of the entire show and cast and it looked really cool,” says Hall. “And it’s all over L.A. I’ve been seeing it the more I’m out and about.”
The recent Juilliard Drama grad stars in the network’s new show, which premieres Oct. 3 in a prime-time slot. Hall appears as the titular character, fledgling rapper Courtney Rose, who decides to run for mayor of his fictional Bay-area town as a publicity stunt. Unexpectedly, he wins despite his lack of political experience. Sound familiar?
Daveed Diggs, of “Hamilton” fame, served as an executive producer for the musical-laced show, which was created by Jeremy Bronson and also stars Lea Michele.
“We met up for a drink and sat down, and he started talking to me about the industry and what this role meant to him,” Hall recalls, describing Diggs as a “big brother.” “He asked me if I knew anything about the Bay and the hyphy movement that happened over there back in the early 2000s, and I was like, ‘Nah, I’ve never been to the Bay area.’ And he was like, ‘Well, we’ve got to fly you out.’ And so he flew me out to the Bay where he grew up, and he basically just dropped me off with two of his friends, and was like, ‘All right, figure it out.'”
His trip out West included stops around the Mission district, a local high school basketball game, and a visit to Fruitvale in Oakland. He also took a closer look at the influential Bay area hip-hop artists, including E-40 and Mac Dre, who inspired the show’s musical quality. “One of the big things about hip-hop and especially in the Bay is that in their lyrics, they make it known where they’re from. They always shout out like, ‘I’m from the Bay, I’m from South Carolina, I’m from New York,'” Hall says. “Courtney is prone to doing that. He’s constantly about Fort Grey — everything is about this city when it comes to his family, his community, anything he has to do to help uplift his community. He’s repping Fort Grey to the fullest.”
Although the show draws parallels to current American politics, the premise of “The Mayor” is lighthearded, an optimistic microcosm of society’s ability for change on a community level. While much of the current political rhetoric is divisive, the show aims to broadcast a message of unity.
“Look, as an artist, we’re supposed to hold a mirror up to society and give an understanding of what’s going on, and how do we find answers to fix these problems,” Hall says, mulling the show’s larger role. “Fort Grey is just an imaginary ‘hood for every ‘hood around America…sometimes Courtney finds a way to fix these problems, sometimes he doesn’t, because sometimes these issues are deep-rooted and it takes more than just someone in a political chair to fix them. It takes the whole community,” he continues.
“I pray that this show starts another movement of teens and young adults getting up and saying, ‘You know what, if I can see a brother on TV whose the same hue of me, or someone who struggled with the same social issues as me, maybe I should go out and make a change as well and call my senators. Maybe I should run for governor.'”
In addition to “The Mayor,” Hall will return to “Search Party” for season two later this month, and stars in the ensemble film “Lez Bomb” with Bruce Dern out in November. In addition to his upcoming slate of projects, he’s been working on producing his own projects and musical endeavors. Only 24 years old, Hall is early in his career, but like many young actors, has been vested in the business for years. Prior to Juilliard, the South Carolina native attended a Governors magnet school focused on the performing arts. But he credits his interest in acting to the church; his mother was a preacher.
“I would sit in the church, and I would watch the pastor give these magnificent sermons,” he says. “I grew up in a very Southern church where there’s shouting, foot stomping. And I was always engulfed by that experience and how the pastor with this ancient text was able to move this crowd in such a way — not just move them, but people would talk about it,” he continues.
Things clicked for him during a performance of “Romeo and Juliet” his sophomore year of high school.
“I was doing the prologue, and I looked down into the audience and the same attentiveness that the audience was giving the preacher I remembered growing up, I was getting in that moment,” Hall says. “And that’s when I got bit by the [acting] bug. And ever since, I’ve just been pushing the right buttons.”
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