13-year old actor Brandon Spink from Atlanta, Georgia, has already welcomed an ocean of creative stimuli. Always embracing new challenges, he allows his emotions to unfold into unposed portrayals in every project he takes on. In this series, photographer Michelle Genevieve Gonzales captures Brandon being Brandon. Stylist Lo Von Rumpf dresses the young actor in simple textures and a pop of moss green, stressing his natural charisma. In an intimate and relaxed approach, Michelle lets him move and explore the space given to him for these hours. And let's bring up the hair, with its perfect curves - perhaps reminiscent of a young Heath Ledger. Brandon emits a unique sense of confidence at an age that the majority tend to look back on with great distress. A helpful skill to have in the toolbox when navigating an industry at such a young age, which requires stamina and a bit of a backbone: tackling the looming ‘no’ is non-negotiable.
Imagination drives this teen as he constructs authentic characters from script to action. His characters often succumb to turmoil, whether it is young Bruce Wayne in Zack Snyder’s ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ trapped in a bat cave or a prisoner in the NBC series ‘Game of Silence’, he somehow handles it. Transitioning in and out of emotional scenes places a great deal of strain on anyone, but Brandon finds that he usually handles these situations well. When working on set, he finds it beneficial to disconnect from everyone and retire to someplace silent to focus purely on the character - away from the noise.
When Brandon isn't pretending to be other people or solving equations, he plays pitcher on a top baseball team in Atlanta. His fervent heart is a perceptible trait which comes to show in his way of speech, but then again, he leads no ordinary life. The young actor recently played Noah Kirsch in EPIX series Berlin Station. A third season has been announced, and so it will be thrilling to see if we’re granted another round of Brandon playing Noah. As Brandon continues to unfold new characters, we'll be watching.
How was your shoot with Michelle?
She is so cool and laidback, so she made it really easy. She has an eye for each shot, and so I thought they ended up looking great.
Who is Brandon?
I consider myself to be a regular 13-year old, so I love hanging out with friends, making new friends, and physical activities. I’m the pitcher for a top baseball team in Atlanta. I’m a very goal-driven person, as in I want to be a successful person. Additionally, helping others is something I’m very passionate about.
How do you find pairing baseball with acting?
It has actually worked out well at the moment. Every time I was filming in Berlin I would get back just in time for games and such. I would always get to go practice a bit and then play, so yeah - right now it has worked out great.
I can imagine as a child actor you’re juggling a lot at the same time. How do you balance everything with school?
I go to a private school, but it is just three days a week and four hours per day. Whenever I have to leave, they let me go and send me the work. Then I can scan it and send it right back to them. I do get stressed if it’s a project, I’m busy and I’ll barely have time to do it, but usually, I handle it pretty easily.
What makes you happy?
Just hanging out with my family, my brothers, playing baseball on weekends, auditioning, and acting. Landing a big role always makes me really happy. Generally, I’m just a truly happy person.
Well, you’re lucky. I’m curious, how do you handle a ‘no?’
There is simply going to be a lot more 'no' than 'yes'. All you got to do is try your best and that’s all you can ever do.
That’s true. You got into acting by starring in local theatre productions, so I wonder: what role got you hooked on acting and why?
Yes, exactly, I started out with Peter Pan - that was my first role. The role that got me hooked, I think, was the NBC family movie I did, 'Game of Your Life', where I played the character Charlie. That’s when I realized I wanted to do more of it.
What does acting make you feel?
Acting makes me feel great because the industry is so much fun and I’m constantly doing something. It’s thrilling to pretend to be someone else, and it can be quite the adrenaline with certain auditions. I did this one audition where I played a little kid in the woods, a crazy little scavenger kid who lived with animals - that was a lot of fun. I had to have my hair looking wild and I was talking crazy.
That sounds interesting. Do you do any acting classes on the side?
Yes, I always do acting classes if I can, but I always go to my coach and work on things with her.
How do you usually prepare for a character?
If I get the script, that’s helpful, because then I’ll have time to read through it and get familiar with the story. Although, sometimes I’ll create stories myself to help build my character if I don’t get the full script. I’ll watch videos about the character and what he is like. I’ll look up words that I don’t know and figure out what they mean because that can help too.
You played young Bruce Wayne in 'Batman v. Superman', which is, of course, very cool. What was your immediate reaction when you landed the role?
I had an idea about which role it was, but it was so top secret that I didn’t actually know the movie or the role until I arrived on set. It was very ‘hush hush’, but I sort of had an idea about it and when I looked at my trailer it said ‘Young Bruce Wayne,’ so I was like; “wow, this is crazy.” I was so excited; there are no words that could describe what I felt in that moment. Batman is my favorite superhero. I used to dress up as Batman for Halloween all the time, and so being a part of the DC family is awesome.
That must have been really something, considering it is actually your favourite superhero. How was it to work with Zack Snyder?
Zack is a really fun guy. He makes the scenes so good and he always helped me out with everything. He’ll make you feel so comfortable.
For instance, the bat scene looked terrifying to film. How did you guys go about filming that?
The scene was filmed in a built-in cave in a studio. They would set me up in this harness and bring me up and down, and of course, the bats were edited in to make it look real. In actuality, there were no bats and it was just me, alone in a harness. Zack helped me out with the whole scenario, to make it look like there were bats there, he put these little eyes there to make it seem like there were actual bats to bring forth the fear. I was just trying to think of things that scare me, for instance, that the bats were actually coming at me. I’m actually afraid of bats, so I was imagining thousands of bats flying at me. I felt terrified since I was in this dark cave where there was no light except from above.
You’ve had the chance to work with some other very cool people, namely Jennifer Aniston and Garry Marshall on Mother’s Day.
Getting to work with Jennifer was amazing - she is so nice and professional, which helped me out in my role as her son. And with Garry, it was such an honor to work with him. He is such a legend and great director, but an even better man. They both gave me some great advice. Garry said; “Always stay humble in the business.” I was so upset when he passed away about a year and a half ago.
I can imagine that it was special to you that you had a chance to work with him.
That was pretty special, seeing as ‘Mother’s Day’ was the last film he did.
That is special. ‘Berlin Station’ has been renewed for a third season, will you be returning to play Noah Kirsch?
I mean, at the end of the second season Noah had to say goodbye to his dad, because of some crisis in Berlin, so he got sent home because of that. I don’t know yet, but I’m hoping that I will make some appearances in season three. It looked like a goodbye, but you never know.
What is next for you?
I’ve been auditioning, and now I’m just excited for a good 2018.
In 2017, you turned 13, how is it being a teenager now?
It’s got both positives and negatives to it. I’m getting more responsibility. I’ve started watching my brothers; showing good leadership for them. I’m growing and that’s helping me out with sports. For negatives, there is peer pressure, and also, just a lot more stress. Life gets busier as you get older, because I’m playing more sports and school is becoming tougher.
Do you want to do both baseball and acting professionally when you’re all grown up?
I love them both so much. Baseball I’ve been playing for eight or nine years now. With acting, I’ve been doing it for five or six years now. I would love to do both if I can. I can be an actor and professional baseball player at the same time.
Nothing is impossible. Who influences you?
I would have to say my parents. They’ve taught me right from wrong. Acting wise, probably Leonardo DiCaprio, since he started out so young. At the moment, I really love 'The Revenant'. He won an Oscar for that, so that’s one of my favorites. He can get to that moment; to the point where every emotion of the film is there. Sometimes that is hard, to do all these things and at the same time be expressing so much. For him, he just gets there so easily. That is what’s so amazing, and it’s what I truly admire about him.
He is amazing. Do you have anyone in particular you look up to in baseball?
I’m a pitcher myself, and that’s been my main spot for a while now. Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, Brian McCann - those are some of the players I love watching. It’s off an on who I like in sports, because if I see someone doing really well, I’ll probably start liking them. Also, if a player has a good attitude, I like that - their respect for the game.
In 'Game of Silence' where you play Petey, one scene he accidentally pours acid all over himself, which looks completely horrendous. How do you go in and out of character when it’s a stressful scene such as that?
In real life, it was pink paint. I had to get it at an exact spot in my face, so it wouldn’t cover my whole face. I had to pour it and then have it land at a particular part. Before a scene, I prepare by turning off all electronics and by being by myself. Then I transition into what the character is going through and how he feels about it. I’ll try to stay by myself so that I’m ready for the scene. When it switches to another scene, I take a deep breath and let all of that go so I can be ready for the next scene. It can be difficult to transition at times, but it honestly depends. It can be hard sometimes if I’m for instance feeling very sad. It’s on and off, but most of the time I find the process to be quite easy.
What is your dream role?
I would say a lead in a dramatic role, probably, and a lead in a superhero movie. I played young Bruce Wayne, but I’m talking like Superman – flying around.
Do you want Henry Cavill’s role?
Did you get to meet Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill?
Yes, I did, but not while filming, because it was all so ‘hush, hush.’ At the premiere, I got to meet everyone, and they were all so kind. Both Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck are so big. It’s crazy!
But you want to play Superman and not Batman?
If someone gives me Superman or Batman, that’s a hard question. I would choose Batman, because he gets all the cool gadgets and the car.
Everyone wants the Batmobile, that’s it, right?
Oh, I got to see the Batmobile! It was amazing!
I can imagine. What is the most beautiful thing in the world?
My mum, of course! She does everything for me. She brings me to everything: to baseball and auditions. She is so beautiful too. I’m so thankful to have a mum like her, because without her I wouldn’t have been where I am today. She is like my momager, she handles my e-mails and does basically everything.
It’s amazing that you get to pursue your passions at such an early age. On your Instagram, I saw that your little brother is also acting.
Yes, Roman, but he doesn’t do it as much as I do. He is kind of low key about it, but he has got a movie coming out soon. I think he got caught up in it when he saw me doing it, so I probably influenced him a little bit.
He looks up to you, that’s sweet.
I don’t know, I think he does. Roman’s kind of his own person, but I hope I am.
You’ve got two brothers?
There is Roman and Cooper. Cooper is six and Roman is eleven. Cooper is the little kid, learning everything, and saying whatever is on his mind. Sometimes it’s quite funny; he is hilarious.
What mark would you like to leave on the world?
There are a lot of ways you can change the world. I love helping people and encouraging others to do the same. I find that a lot of young people aren’t as lucky as us, so I try to engage in charity work. I recently did the Ryan Seacrest foundation where we got to meet young cancer patients at a hospital.