SDCC 2017: Interview with actor, director, writer, producer and professional nerd Jon Lee Brody


Bam Smack Pow speaks with the host of Nerd Talk — actor, director, writer and producer Jon Lee Brody.

In this day and age, it’s not enough to just have Hollywood bring your favorite comic book characters to life. The very people creating those films and embodying those roles must be fans themselves. Gone are the days when audiences would just flock to any superhero film hitting the theaters.

In the 21st century, we have choices — which have allowed moviegoers to be ever so pickier with how they spend their hard-earned cash at the box office. Why? It’s simple. Fans expect passion — and that passion can only be conveyed if the people telling the story (writers, directors, actors, etc.) truly believe in those properties.

Today, we have a man of such passion — Jon Lee Brody. Mr. Brody is an actor, director, writer, producer and, above all — professional nerd. In fact, Jon can probably be considered the most suave and cool nerd there is.

You have to be if you get to hang out at DC Entertainment’s headquarters in Burbank, CA and rub shoulders with Geoff Johns. Yes, that Geoff Johns — the big wig now running all of DC Entertainment along with being the master architect and navigator of the DC Extended Universe. Oh did I also forget to mention the man is friends with one of the most famous DC fanboys in the industry? Kevin Smith!

Bam Smack Pow recently attended San Diego Comic-Con 2017 and caught up with Jon, a.k.a “a walking tome of DC knowledge.” Being the host of Nerd Talk, Jon definitely attracted our interest. So join us as we speak to him about nerdy things and his career.

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Bam Smack Pow: Tell us about how you go into the industry? What were the initial challenges?

Jon Lee Brody: I’ve always had this want to become an actor. After college, I joined The Second City which was based right in my hometown of Chicago. I’m also a proud alum of the Piven Theatre Workshop.

I was able to book some small jobs in Chicago and then, one day, I boldly decided to move to Los Angeles. It was very difficult at first, but after a lot of hard work, I slowly started to get more work and more connected. It’s still lots of hard work, but rewarding at the same time.

BSP: Tell us about your production company, Iron Will. Where did the name come from? What’s your process in getting a film made?

JLB: The name “Iron Will” was inspired from my high school football program. It was our mantra and it’s something I’ve always carried with me. When it came time to name my production company, “Iron Will” immediately popped into my head. It was the only name.

Overall, the process is insanely and notoriously difficult. There’s a lot of variables to deal with. You have to get the talent interested. They need to be fired up for a script and want to do a project. After that, more creative people join on. But, as a first step, the talent is key. You have to find that one script or story that gets them really passionate.

BSP: Who has influenced you the most in your career?

I would say Steven Spielberg. I love the way he directs films. If you look at his older stuff, he frames it in a really special way — the way he films his actors and scenery. You get a sense of the geography of the scene. I feel like a lot of movies are killing themselves with coverage. Spielberg has a way of strategically using a closeup or an over the shoulder that gives it more impact and meaning.

He just has that certain intangible quality that makes his movies special. He’s like the Mozart of the film industry. A young prodigy who has kept evolving. I always imagine how Mozart’s music would’ve evolved had he lived on. But we get the film version with Spielberg. E.T. the Extraterrestrial is one of my favorites from his library of films. It exemplifies everything awesome about Spielberg; I watch it once a month and keep finding new things I love about it.

BSP: Stylistically, which filmmakers or actors have influenced you the most in your craft?

JLB: This goes back to Spielberg. I mean, he’s just awesome. And I like to favor wide cinematic shots. Give the audience a sense of where the scene is, but also let them see all of the dynamics going on at once. As important as it is to see one actor talking, it’s just as important (if not more important) to see the other actor(s) reaction(s). And to me, seeing it simultaneously is the way to go, as opposed to always relying on back and forth single shots. Let the audience ultimately be the editor.

Akira Kurosawa and John Ford Westerns are some of my favorites too. And I gotta mention my homie James Wan. I’ve been lucky to know James as a friend, but he’s been generous lending me some of his advice over the years too.

As far as actors go … I mean, there’s so many. Tom Hanks is probably my favorite. And you can’t go wrong with the classics — Jimmy Stewart, Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn. And let’s not forget about Meryl Streep — I love Meryl Streep! She’s one of the best and a legend.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a favorite of mine too. I almost feel like he’s underrated. I know that sounds silly, but, a lot of times, the heartthrob type dudes get a little less credit because … well … they’re heartthrobs. But Leo is always believable and makes risky choices. He’s one of the best there is.

And I will say on the record that Grant Gustin is the next big thing. He’s going to win Oscars and Golden Globes and any award possible. He’s got a certain demeanor to him that can’t be taught. He’s killing it as Barry Allen / The Flash, but I look forward to when he takes on other roles.

Did I forget anyone? Oh wait — Tina Fey! Totally serious. She’s also up there as one of my favorite actresses!

Going back to films, another of my favorites that always inspires me is West Side Story. The way it’s framed. The way it’s edited. So, so good! There’s just something about old movies and classic things. They really had to put thought into it. We have the luxury of digital now, but that also can make us complacent because we know we can just pop in another memory card if need be. Back in the days of celluloid, you really had to plan. And I like to take that approach.

Photo Credit: Steve Lam

BSP: If you were given a dream role to play any superhero, who would it be?

JLB: Nightwing! Dick Grayson is probably my favorite DC character. And before anybody says, “You can’t be Dick Grayson! He’s not Asian!” I have to correct them and tell them that he is Asian! In the 2014–2016 Grayson run, it was explicitly stated he’s of Romani descent. I also got a personal confirmation from Grayson writer Tim Seeley that Dick Grayson is definitely Asian. So there you go!

BSP: Which superhero do you think would be the biggest challenge for an actor?

JLB: Superman. I feel that of all the incarnations to-date, they haven’t really captured the Man of Steel. Christopher Reeve’s portrayal definitely came the closest — and that’s probably why it’s the most iconic. Actor George Reeves is someone else who also came close. I feel that his portrayal of Clark Kent as this smoother cool guy was right on point.

Superman is a really difficult character to get right. This is partly because he’s an alien and is so perfect and powerful. They need to show him reacting to our not-so-perfect world. He’s an alien, but he’s just as human as any one of us. It’s a very difficult balance that has to be approached in a subtle manner. He’s Kryptonian by birthright, but his instincts are that of a human.

BSP: Anything currently in the works that you want your fans to know about?

JLB: I have a number of projects, but I have to be tight-lipped about them. Trust me, we have some pretty exciting stuff being developed.

BSP: As a “professional nerd,” what’s the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done?

JLB: The term “nerd” has taken on such a different meaning since its initial inception. It use to mean loving comic books and science fiction. Nowadays, it’s about having a certain passion. For me, this secret passion is cooking.

I like to secretly visit restaurant kitchens and cook food for guests. I love being behind the scenes and knowing these customers have no idea who cooked their food. I love the act of preparing gourmet meals.

BSP: Where will Jon Lee Brody be in ten years?

JLB: That’s a really tough one. I was asked this question ten years ago, and my life right now is completely different to the answer I gave then. Right now, I’d say that in ten years, I’ll still have the drive I have now to keep improving. And if it turns out I don’t then I’ll become a chef. But hey, I might be writing and directing the next Superman flick and if I do, I’ll bringing back the John Williams score. Seriously, it’s completely unknown.

BSP: You’re probably familiar with the game “F——, Marry, Kill.” Here’s a DC superhero version, I’m going to call it “Fight, Sidekick, Mentor.” Who would you fight? Who would you take on as a sidekick? And who would you take on as a mentor? I’m going to make this one difficult. We’re going to use the DC Trinity. Go!

JLB: I would fight Batman because he’s human — and because I myself know martial arts. I’m not saying it would be easy, but I’ll at least have a chance. But Batman has the guts to go against anyone. Human or metahuman or other wordly. There’s something to be said about that. If I can hold my own against Batman, I’m in good shape.

I would take on Superman as a sidekick. Who wouldn’t want Superman to be by his or her side? Just saying, “Hey, Superman is my friend and he’s got my back and he’s my sidekick,” is probably the coolest thing in the world.

And I would want Wonder Woman to be my mentor. She just seems like someone who has a lot to teach me. It would be a privilege to be imparted with some of that vast wisdom and knowledge. And she’s been around a long time. She’s seen a lot of things. She would have many valuable lessons. Plus, all of my best life lessons came from my mom and other strong women. It would only be fitting to have Diana Prince be my mentor.

Next: Interview with 'Injustice for All' director Danny Mooney

Jon Lee Brody is an actor, director, writer and producer based in Los Angeles. His acting resume includes various blockbuster films — The Dark Knight (2008), Eagle Eye (2008), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), and Furious 7 (2015).  Jon has also appeared in numerous hit television shows which include CSI: NY, Leverage, and Modern Family.

As a producer, director and writer, Jon created the online series Nerd Talk, and is developing Police Cops and Legacy. His other upcoming projects include Project Kandor (2017), The Pastime (2018), Infected (2018), and Hurricane Kid (2018).