Each year Entertainment Weekly brings us a variety of men from both film and television and hosts a panel, called Brave Warriors, where they share their experiences, opinions and often very embarrassing stories. It is always one of the most fun and interesting talks, and one that fans look forward to every year. Due to SDCC being cancelled this year and moving onto a virtual platform, there was some concern that panels like this would not go ahead but thankfully EW and Comic Con still delivered. Moderated by Lynette Rice, the 2020 panellists were Joseph Morgan (Brave New World), Aasif Mandvi (Evil), Jocko Sims (New Amsterdam), Henry Ian Cusick (MacGyver), and Michael Mando (Better Call Saul).
Kicking things off with the usual starting question, Rice asked the actors to discuss their currents roles and then talk about any past roles that they were ashamed of or apologetic for. Aasif Mandvi stars in the show Evil where a team investigate supernatural incidents like miracles and possessions and try to determine if they’re real or not. He’s the pragmatist of the group and more sceptical than the others – “He’s the debunker on the show”. As for his past role he regrets, he recalls a commercial he did in the 90s. The director told him to “do the Indian head nod thing” and a heavy accent. He did it because he needed the money at the time but he felt like he was selling out his culture. Joseph Morgan spoke about his role in upcoming series Brave New World where he plays an Epsilon (someone of lower class) who has something dramatic happen to him and then gets involved in a rebellion – “It totally changes his reality and makes him question everything”. Morgan was reluctant to speak about bad roles – “The problem about this question is then I’m drawing attention to it”. Instead he apologised for all the guest stars his character killed off on The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. Jocko Sims told viewers about his medical drama New Amsterdam. His character was fired at the start of the pilot but then brought back and made Head of the Cardio department because it was clear he put patients before money. Like Mandvi, his embarrassing role was also a commercial. He actually found it and played it on the panel for everyone to see. Henry Ian Cusick has just joined MacGyver where he plays an ex-MI6 agent who has a shady past but is now trying to do good. As for past roles – “I think about the things I regret and I don’t regret them because they made me the actor I am”. However, he does speak about a film he made that never got released that he “lives in dread will come out”. He apologises in advance if it ever sees the light of day. Michael Mando is currently starring in Better Call Saul where he plays a cartel member trying to get out whilst also trying to keep his father safe. His past role is perhaps the funniest story. It was his first TV gig and he only had one line but he was very excited. His line was “They’re gonna bring down the Falcon Temple”. On set, when he was saying his line everyone would laugh and he would have to do it again. When he saw the show on television, his line had been dubbed by another actor. It turns out he had been so enthusiastic that the line kept coming out as “They’re gonna bring down the F*cking Temple”.
The discussion the moved onto stereotypical heroic tropes they had done in their roles like kissing the girl after saving the world or walking away from an explosion. Morgan racked up the most points for these, giving the advice “Never look directly at the explosion”, but also found it funny that most of his hero moments had happened when he was playing a villain. Mandvi spoke about his difficulty in using a gun while sliding across the hood of a car (another overused trope) and said he kept unintentionally making shooting noises while firing. Cusick admitted he still did this, especially in rehearsals.
Going back to their early careers, Rice asked them to discuss their first headshots. Sims spoke about his awkward experience with a photographer who was really into his mum who Sims had brought along with him. It got especially creepy when the photographer asked to take pictures of his mother. Cusick fared far better and got lucky, meeting a photographer at a dinner party who had shot Madonna and Prince – “My first photo shoot in LA was the best”. Morgan had his headshots done in the UK and has only just convinced his agents to change them – “They’ve been using the same ones for 10 years”.
Taking it further back, the group was asked about their favourite toy from childhood. Sims jumped straight in with his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle collection, citing that he was Leonardo. Mandvi doesn’t remember a toy but remembers that he had platform shoes that he wouldn’t leave the house without for 5 years. Mando is “embarrassed but proud” that his memorable toy is a Barbie that he asked for so his superhero action figure could have a girlfriend so that he could create a story where they fall in love. Morgan recalls seeing Peter Pan with his grandparents when he was little and wanting to recreate the show for his parents. He decided he was going to play Captain Hook so his dad made him a toy hook – “I decided from a very early age that I wanted to play the villain”.
Moving back to their careers, the topic of love scenes came up. Mando struggled when he first started acting because he had a girlfriend and felt guilty. Morgan remembers doing a particularly memorable intimate scene on an outdoor set in extreme heat and being covered in glycerine to make him look like he was sweating – “In between takes, they had to run in and pick off all the dead insects off me that had got stuck on the glycerine so it was like the least intimate romantic experience ever”. Cusick revealed that he and he thinks most actors have the same thoughts on love scenes – “You’re lying there in bed and thinking why didn’t I go to the gym?” to which the others agreed. The most awkward love scene award has to go to Mandvi whose mother unknowingly visited him on set on the day he had to do his love scene. She stood right next to the DP and camera operator. Eventually Mandvi had to ask her to leave because both him and his scene partner were so uncomfortable.
Speaking of uncomfortable moments, Rice then asked about most insulting thing a director had ever said to them. Mandvi recalled doing a Broadway play and after he had done his first scene, director Trevor Nunn took him to the side and asked “Do you plan on doing it like that?” When Mandvi replied no, Nunn said “Jolly Good”. Mandvi said it was the most jarring experience but that they got along after that because Nunn had approached with that “British kindness”. Morgan spoke of his time on the film Alexander where he had to do a scene on a horse despite having never ridden before and having minimal training. When it came time for the scene, his horse “just clip clopped in with no urgency at all” and director Oliver Stone came over to tell him ‘That was f*cking pathetic”. They put him on the back of Jared Leto’s horse so he didn’t have to ride in but unfortunately when Leto stopped, Morgan just slid off the horse and fell to the ground – “Oliver Stone came over to me and said that was even f*cking worse”. Morgan does see the funny side of it though. Sims remembers an audition going so badly that the casting director stopped him to ask if he was okay. Cusick had no specific moments but hates when he hears groans from video village and suggests that it can make actors feel really insecure. Mando really related and felt for his fellow actors, as well as voicing his desire to protect upcoming performers. It was something he clearly felt very passionate about and wanted to speak out on the issue. He urged directors, producers and writers not to try break actors down. Sims agreed with Mando and emphasised that the best approach was to have better communication between directors and actors. It was a serious point in an otherwise light-hearted and funny discussion but it needed to be made. The whole group seemed to agree and it was fantastic for the audience to see them come together to try and make things better for future actors.