AMC’s The Killing is premiering its season one finale this Sunday, and as we approach the (hopefully) final reveal in the murder of Rosie Larsen, We can revel in all the great mystery (and misdirection) this show has thrown at us.
[WARNING : The following interview contains some MILD SPOILERS about The Killing season one.]
One of the bigger red herrings this season on The Killing has been the story arch of Bennet Ahmed, Rosie Larsen’s teacher who appeared to be everything from a statutory predator, to a killer, to a domestic terrorist, at different points in the show. Of course, we then found out (too late) that Bennet is actually the kind-hearted man he initially appeared to be – albeit, one with some poor decision-making skills when it comes to withholding information from the police.
Actor Brandon Jay McLaren was the man charged with brining the pivotal role of Bennet Ahmed to life and keeping the character colored in a nice shade of gray to keep viewers guessing. Fans of the show may (or may not) recognize McLaren’s face: the Canadian-born actor has shown up in a variety of roles over the years, including playing Red Ranger Jack Landors on Power Rangers S.P.D., as well as one-off parts in shows like Blade: The Series and Smallville.
While his acting resume spans nearly a decade, we’re fairly certain it is his role as Bennet Ahmed that is bound to kick open some new doors for McLaren – which is why we took the opportunity to speak to him now:
Screen Rant: How has the reception to your performance as Bennet Ahmed been? Is the role opening doors for you?
Brandon Jay McLaren: All around it’s been really, really positive. You know, people stop me in the street…it’s been a really generally positive response.
Hopefully people were stopping you in the streets with good things to say – not yelling at you for being a killer.
[Laughing] I have gotten a couple of those – people like ‘I hope you didn’t kill her!’ Meanwhile I’m looking around trying to see if any other people are listening, because they may not realize that [laughing] I’m on a TV show! But all around it’s been really, really positive.
This character was very pivotal in the series – what brought you to the role? Was it just the character himself, or some of the themes surrounding him (ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual temptation)?
I think what really spoke to me was the need to find someone, you know what I mean? The need of the family [The Larsens] or the police force to find someone, anyone, to pin [the murder] on, even if the evidence wasn’t necessarily unanimous. I think that’s a really important part of the show, and you kind of see that everybody is just rallying to get this thing wrapped up so they can forget about it, even if that’s at a detriment to Bennet. So that really, really spoke to me.
There’s the issue of Islamic religion in America that gets introduced when we find out what Bennet is actually up to – did any of that speak to you personally?
Not so much personally, no. When you’re playing a character it’s good to keep your personal feelings about things separate from the character you’re playing, because then you start to play the character with a judgement, either positive or negative, you know what I mean? Which can color your performance. So my personal judgement aside, it was brave of the show to go to a place like that. Whether you agree with it or disagree with it, the fact remains that this kind of thing does happen, you know, and the things that happen in society are not to be shied away from, they’re meant to be confronted. And I think The Killing confronted these sorts of realities in a responsible way.
How do you shade a performance like this to keep us guessing? Did you see the scripts in advance or did you play it a piece at a time?
I didn’t really know my entire arch until about episode 4. That’s when [they] called me and said ‘You need to know that Bennet is hiding something – it has nothing to do with Rosie’s murder, per se…you’re not going to know what you’re doing, but it’s actually kind of a noble thing.’ So as an actor playing it you can only play that you’re hiding something, and the audience kind of determines for themselves what they think you’re hiding. So was it difficult? No, because I was hiding something that was potentially life and death for me and my family. Bennet could’ve gone to jail for kidnapping, which is a serious charge – he could’ve lost his wife and unborn child. So you play with the information that you have and try to be as truthful as you can.
Have you seen the end of the season and how things go?
I’ve read it, I have.
Anything you want to say about it?
Nope. Did you watch the [penultimate] episode?
I did, things look pretty clear but I don’t underestimate this show to throw at least one more twist at us. Is there any last-minute reveals?
I’m not going to say anything. I’m going to let people just watch.
Where might we be seeing you in upcoming roles?
I’ve actually just started working on season 4 of Being Erica, which is a Canadian show. I did the last season, so we’re starting season 4 on that – that will be out sometime in September. I’m actually looking to try to do something comedic – I’m looking at a couple comedic projects that I might jump on, switch it up from The Killing. I try to switch it up every once in awhile. I also have Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, a film that I did a couple of years ago that went to Sundance and was just bought by Magnolia, so that will be out in September.
We’ve been following Tucker & Dale for awhile – can you tell us about your role in it?
Yeah, it’s about a group of college kids who go out on a spring break kind of camping trip, and we encounter these two hillbillies, and as their relationship grows a series of misunderstandings leads to these kids getting killed by accident, but seemingly on purpose? It’s actually really, really funny. It was well-received at Sundance and I think it’ll do well in theaters.
Do you get to flex your comedic muscle in the film?
Yeah, absolutely. It was an absolute blast to film. Working with guys like Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, you know they’re comedic pros. It was a lot of fun, I learned a bunch, and I look forward to doing something like that again.
Do you have more American or Canadian comedic sensibilities?
A little bit of both, you know what I mean? I did a pilot for sci-fi last year call ‘3 Inches’ which is still in the works, and I was a comedic character in that as well. So I’ve been lucky in that way, to be able to go back and forth.
What about Ronald D. Moore’s 17 Precinct pilot? It didn’t get picked up but you had a role in it. Did you get to see the pilot?
I didn’t get to see the pilot, no, unfortunately. But the experience was great and the cast was great. Unfortunate that it didn’t get picked up.
You can next see Brandon this Fall in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil or on the Canadian series Being Erica.
The Killing airs its season one finale Sunday, June 19, 2011 @ 10/9C on AMC.