Branden Wellington, Suncoast Emmy Award Winner of “TV Dreams in a World of Sports”
The New York Conservatory: What piece of advice did you receive at the Conservatory that has benefited you the most?
Wellington: Trust your instincts. That advice I’ve gotten from the Conservatory has really propelled me through a lot in my life. My teachers helped me to trust my instincts, and that plays a part when you’re writing, performing, deciding which jobs you want to take and which ones you don’t. Your instincts are like a grand guide, they lead you to the right project, the right people, right choices. When you really trust your instincts, and get out of your own way, miraculous things can happen. I learned that in Meisner and Scene Study class.
The New York Conservatory: Describe the feeling you had when you found out you won an Emmy?
Wellington: I’ve been writing for 20 years, and when I found out I was being considered for the award it was a combination of excitement, a sense of fulfillment and shock, but completely honored that they enjoyed what I did enough to submit it to the Emmy’s for consideration. I was humbled by it.
I get out to Orlando for the regional Emmy awards and I was sitting there, I was happy to be there and see everyone having their art confirmed with a sense of fulfillment, and I felt the same way, too. You start to realize what you’re up against. On some level I felt afraid, now that I’m here it’s a lot of talent and a lot of people.
When they called my name I was genuinely shocked. I ran up the stage, and I really didn’t have a speech planned. The only thing I knew I would say is a quote from Jackie Robinson, “A life isn’t important except for the impact it has on other lives.”
I started writing poetry in the fourth grade, and never in my wildest dreams did I think you could be recognized for that on such a prestigious stage. It’s still sinking in.
The New York Conservatory: What was your best scene or classroom experience at the Conservatory?
Wellington: I had a moment in a voice and speech class–one of the biggest turning points of my life–my teacher asked me something, and this was the first time I didn’t have an answer. I was comfortable with not knowing something, and I was able to express it without feeling like an idiot. The phrase that changed my life was “I don’t know,” and if you can get comfortable with the unknown you can get comfortable with life.
That’s a lot of what this industry is like. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. If you can get comfortable with that, you can make it. You can thrive.
The New York Conservatory: Is there a TV show you’d like to see re-made, and who would you like to portray?
Wellington: I don’t want to see a TV show be re-made. I watch the show, Entourage, once every year and a half. I’ve watched every season five times. It’s what we dream of, going after your dreams as an actor and performer with the people that you grew up with, and you’re all winning. I watched that show a lot because days when this industry gets tough, days when I don’t feel like getting out of bed, that show gets me up.
The New York Conservatory: Can you name an unexpected aspect of your training?
Wellington: I can’t dance. Taking movement class helped me get comfortable in my body and learning how the body operates. Not just on camera but also in life. When you start to work on your posture and body control, those things are vital to your long-term health and performance.
The New York Conservatory: How did the New York Conservatory prepare you for interacting with others on set?
Wellington: That business class we took was everything. When they tell you: “Do your job and no one else’s,” that really means do your job and no one else’s. One time I was working as a model on set for Audible, a campaign for Amazon, and I was wearing headphones while walking on the treadmill. The ad was “turn gym time into story time.” They said “Let’s change headphones,” and I took the headphones off to give to the grip. Unfortunately, when I took the headphones off I broke them in half, and the director was angry because they couldn’t use that color again because I snapped them in half. It wasn’t my job to take the headphones off. Someone else was hired to do that, and that was the moment I remembered that I should have done my job and no one else’s.
The New York Conservatory: What advice do you have for current students?
Wellington: Work. Make no excuses for not working. Really read the scripts as much as you possibly can. Teachers that are part of this industry are constantly giving you jewels that will carry you for many seasons of your life, and you won’t even know it until you find yourself in the position to use them.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Take chances. Don’t hold back because you think it’s going to affect your grade, and don’t try to do something because you think it’s going to improve your grade. Obviously, you’re being graded on your performance, but your performance is always going to suffer when you’re performing to your idea of someone else’s standards. To be an artist is to serve. We are entertainers of humanity. When you shift your mindset, you can walk into a room and give it all that you’ve got, and know that it’s not about you receiving something back like a hand clap, recognition or the approval of others.