Interview with Benmio McCrae of the upcoming movie “The Descendant” by Thane 1/19/22
It was great to interview Benmio. I enjoyed listening to his experiences with plays and world travel.
Thane: What attracted you to acting?
Benmio: Well, I started out very young as a kid. I was always kind of hammy, I think, around the house. Growing up, I’m Jewish, and I used to go to Synagogue, and every year we would do these Purim plays. I think that was my first experience being on any kind of a stage. They would take Broadway music and change all the lyrics and to tell the story of Purim. So, that was my first introduction to any kind of performance.
Then, later on, I had a big brother from a big brother program that introduced me to theater. He took me to my very first professional play. It was a play called The Miser by Moliere; it was a farce. It was very funny. I think I was maybe thirteen or something like that. I was pretty young. That play blew my mind. It was amazing [and] so funny, and I think that was it. That was the spark. I was kind of up and running from there.
Then, not too much after that, I ended up at a performing arts high school called Kappa, which is a Philadelphia high school for creative and performing arts. It was really like, if you ever saw the movie Fame, with all the kids performing, that’s exactly what our school was like. It was a real melting pot of kids from all different parts of the city coming together, all different talents, and just [excited] to be there in that environment and learning all different arts. I was a dance – well, actually, I was a theater major, and then I ended up having as much dance as I did theater. So, that was my introduction, really, in high school. It started in high school.
Thane: You’ve been an actor, director, and producer. Would you direct or produce another project?
Benmio: Absolutely. I’m really focused on on the acting thing right now, but I enjoy directing and producing. I definitely help a lot of colleagues with their projects. We did a family project called Aquarium. Our kid wrote the script and was in it. Jordan Phillips, he’s a Carnegie Mellon grad. Then, my wife produced that, and I directed, so we kind of shared all the creative duties on that project. That was really exciting, because we got to premiere at Slam Dance, and, ultimately, we took it to Cannes and around the festival circuit in Europe. It was a whole lot of fun.
I really love the creative process in general. Making movies and television is, I think, a privilege. You get to play in a big sandbox every day with a lot of other creative people in making this visual art and art that can heal people and move people. It’s really something. So, I really value what we’re able to do and in cinema and theater.
Thane: You said in a previous interview that you felt blessed to be a part of an emotional episode of 911. What did you like about that experience?
Benmio: Well, that was based on [this] heart wrenching situation where there’s an accident, and there’s a confusion with two girls, one who they thought was brain dead and the other one they thought was alive, and then the episode ended up being a reverse situation. So, it was a heart wrenching situation for the parents, particularly, you know, thinking that your kid is alive and then discovering your kid has succumbed to the injuries, and it was a flip flop for the two families. So, it was very, very emotional. The day that I was filming, I was playing the doctor. By the time they got to my scene, everybody had been basically cried out the whole day. It’s very emotional, and I think all the actors in this, in all the various scenes – I know the actors playing the parents just were touched deeply by the subject matter. So, again, that’s one of those situations where you get to tell a very real meaningful story, and hopefully you do it justice.
Thane: Do other actors give you tips on how to get parts, and if so, can you share any with us?
Benmio: Sure. I occasionally will recommend colleagues or people for parts, if I know someone’s looking for a particular actor, or if I know someone who’s going to be particularly good for a role. I have no problems recommending friends or even actors that I don’t necessarily know that well, but I know their work, recommend them. It’s happened in reverse as well, but in terms of really how to get parts, it depends. I mean, everything really does come through the agents for the most part. So, you’re somewhat waiting on auditions, but you can reach out. If you know about a project, you can reach out to directors; you can reach out to casting agents. That’s really the best way is making yourself known, so that people have an opportunity to see your work. So, if it’s not in something that’s already mainstream, you can get your stuff out there on smaller projects. Film Festival films are very good vehicles for getting seen and notice and getting your work seen. The key is really just having people aware of you. I think that’s the biggest thing. So, whatever you can do to to generate exposure, particularly for the work, that’s a good thing.
Thane: If you could choose, which kinds of roles would you play?
Benmio: That’s a good question. I’ve done a little bit of both dramatic and a little bit of comedy. I think comedy scares me a little bit more, because I think I’ve done it less, but the times where I have done comedy, and I really like it, I just really focus in on the filmmaker, the director, what they want in the scene. I just have to kind of allow myself to be a vehicle for that vision between the writer and the director and just trust as far as comedy, because I don’t myself know what’s particularly funny. I can’t really see myself in the scene, but the times where I’ve been able to do comedy and really commit to what they want, it’s really paid off. That’s been great. So, I’d say I’m drawn more to dramatic roles. I play a lot of doctors and cops particularly, but that’s not to say that there aren’t funny cops or funny doctors either.
Thane: If you could work with anybody who would the person be?
Benmio: So many good actors out there these days. Denzel, Ben Kingsley, [unintelligible], Ruth Negga. There’s just a lot of actors that I admire, and I don’t necessarily have a short list of any particular one that I’ve been dying to work with, but I respect the work in general, and I hope I get to work with all of the mainstream actors that are out there.
Thane: How has the pandemic affected your career?
Benmio: Well, it’s certainly slowed things down in a certain sense. The auditioning has changed quite a bit, because everything is kind of via self tapes, because you get your audition, you get the script, and then you kind of have to tape yourself at home, and that’s the first step. So, that’s very different.
So, at the beginning of the pandemic, that was a big shift for everybody in the industry, and then everybody kind of had to make space in their homes and get equipment, lights whatnot, to be prepared for that. So, I’d say that was the biggest shift in the industry.
But the past year actually has been fruitful, being able to work on a number of projects. I got to work with my wife on a commercial. It’s a Cologuard commercial that’s running now quite a bit, and we’re in it together. That was shot during the pandemic. So, that was kind of exciting and fun.
I remember I did an episode of Good Treble, and it was one of my first, I guess, roles back to work in the midst of the pandemic, and I just felt so awkward, because there was that long period of time where nobody really touched anybody. We didn’t touch each other. So, I remember like from the first moment on set, one of the actors wanted to shake hands in the scene, and it was just very awkward to just touch and to be touched in the midst of pandemic. We’ve gotten over that, but that first one was really fun. It was really interesting, I’ll say.
Thane: You have acted in both plays and screen productions. Are plays more difficult, since you only have one take?
Benmio: Well, I mean, it’s not necessarily one take; it’s one continuous performance, but the thing about theater is you’re doing in front of a live audience. It’s very alive, and you have a much longer rehearsal period, whereas on television, sometimes you don’t even get rehearsal. You get a little bit of rehearsal on set, or maybe you’ll get a day to rehearse, or if you’re lucky, maybe a week to rehearse on a big project, but in a theatre production, you will typically get maybe almost a month to rehearse. That’s a long time to kind of create and craft the characters. You kind of really have an opportunity to get it really into your bones. So, it’s totally different. I think everyone starts on stage, and some people will continue to have good stage careers in addition to their film careers; particularly, a lot of the Brits do, and I do admire those who are able to kind of go back and forth. That’d be great.
Thane: You’ve been a world traveler, what are your favorite places to visit?
Benmio: Well, I always say I’m a city kid, and [I’m] really drawn to the bigger cities. I like them, because they remind me of home. So, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, London. But if I had to pick maybe [a few] favorites, maybe right now, I would say, Rome, Paris, [and] London. I haven’t been to any of the Asian countries yet. That’s a to do list.
Thane: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you’re involved in and what they are about?
Benmio: That’s a good question. I have three, Apple, Amazon and Sony Pictures, but I can’t actually talk about them yet. So, unfortunately, there’s not much I can say about them, other than, hopefully, they’ll be coming out soon, because I don’t have any release dates either. 911 was, I guess, my last released project, and so hopefully I’ll hear within the next month or so one of the release dates on one of the projects. The feature film for Sony is expected I think maybe towards the end of 2022. So, hopefully the studio will step up and make some sort of advanced announcement and release a teaser, so I can start talking about it.
Thane: How can people find you on social media?
Benmio: My website is the best place to get me, benmio.com, and I kind of keep it updated with all the stuff that’s up and coming.
Thane: This is the end of the interview. Thank you, Benmio.
Benmio: Thane, it’s been a real pleasure, and I thank you for having me on your interview. I appreciate it. You be well and Happy New Year. Thank you, sir. Take care!
Here is the Video!
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
He has new movies coming out in 2022 via Sony Pictures and Amazon.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda