As a writer, I think one of the coolest things to do is to interview another writer so when I had the opportunity to talk with actor and Emmy Award Winner Branden Wellington I had one of the best interviews I could have imagined. ‘Orange is the New Black‘ fans will recognize Branden as one of the newest Litchfield Penitentiary’s Correctional Officers, but New York Met’s fans will also know him as the in-game host for the last five seasons. Mr. Wellington is a man of many talents but the most impressive is his writing ability. He is as I mentioned an Emmy Award Winner for his written work ‘TV Dreams in a World of Sports-Kids‘ and has written pieces for many organizations including the NBA and FOX Sports. So when I had the chance to sit down and talk with him, I decided to ask about how his life has changed for him since ‘OITNB‘, the world of sports and his love of writing.
Rachel Bryant: So how has life changed since your role ‘Orange is the New Black’?
Branden Wellington: So originally, I was working at Citi Field as the New York Mets for the last five seasons as the sports in-game host but since the season has come out I have pretty much been dedicating myself towards to putting my focus towards acting and spending the last couple of months working on my body, making sure I am in tip-top shape. Otherwise a warm welcome from the fans of the show and from friends and family. It was pretty much a secret most of the season until the trailer came out. I was sitting on a secret from a lot of close friends and family members, so when they were finally able to see it, they were already fans of the show, but they fell in love with it, even more, when I became part of it. Which was a pleasant surprise for me as well, to make them happy and make them love the show more than they already did.
RB: What was it like working with the cast of ‘OITNB’?
BW: I would love to say it is like a master acting class that you get on-set. The talent on there is unbelievable. You watch them come in prepared every single day at a high level and even as talented as they are they are even better at being people. I was going through a lot of challenges last summer when I started on the set. My little brother had recently gotten shot two weeks before we had started filming and I hadn’t gotten a chance to go home. But I would show up on set every day and Uzo (Aduba) and some of the producers as well would check in on me to see how I was doing. They would always provide comfort and laughter and they would just make sure I was doing ok for the day because they knew that while we were filming it was tough for me to be away from my family, but they really made sure I felt like I was at home. Like I said as talented as they are, they are even greater people and that is saying something because of the talent level that is there.
RB: I noticed your work in the field of sports is extensive from reporting to being the In-game Host for the New York Mets. How is the world of sports different from the world of acting?
BW: It is interesting. I must say that I feel that the world of acting to a degree is more competitive. I think mainly because I grew up in sports. I played high school basketball and high school baseball as well and because of my ability to write, I was able to slip into the NBA and write. The doors for acting didn’t open up as quickly for me as the doors for sports did. They actually called me after I released a spoken word video on YouTube called ‘America in 4 Minutes’ and invited me into their family by asking me to write a couple of campaigns for them. Afterward, I had just finished a TV show on The Travel Channel and the New York Mets were looking to implement a new in-game hosting position. They were looking for someone who had live experience, studio experience and a background in sports so with my experience with The Travel Channel and my sports background I took the meeting and that lead to a 5-year game host. I will also say another difference if you want to talk difference between film and TV versus sports world, I came from live sports hosting so there is the crowd element that you would get from the sports world that you wouldn’t get from acting. Being able to feed off the crowd that is there everyday and use their energy to propel yours versus acting if it is a closed set and if you are not doing theater then you must pick up energy from your castmates or from the energy you have been able to generate for your character that you have created yourself. So, there are subtle differences in your approach to the work.
RB: You are also an Emmy Award Winner for your writing for your work TV Dreams in A World of Sports-Kids. Where does your inspiration to write come from?
BW: I always try to write from a place of love, past pain or to motivate people to move forward with what they are passionate about. I also like to write pieces that make people think as well. One of the things that inspired me to write ‘TV Dreams in a World of Sports-Kids Day Open‘ was the Miami Heat. Every year they do ‘Kid’s Day Broadcast‘. They have been doing it for nearly 11 years now I believe. They invite kids in from the inner city who would never get the opportunity to work as part of the broadcast for the day. They bring them in they get to hang out with the coaches, the players all day. They learn to draw up plays on the board. They teach them how to be sideline reporters and get to watch the game as well. The kids would never get this opportunity any other way. They go into the neighborhoods, they go into their schools and let them dream beyond their reality. When they told me about it, I thought it was a really cool idea. I was fortunate to grow up with a lot of mentorship and different programs that allowed me to live outside my reality so when they asked me to come on board and write about what they were doing I was immediately connected to it. It was that same genuine concern and compassion for others that helped me dream bigger than Indianapolis.
RB: What are some future projects that your fans can be looking forward too?
BW: I have a supporting role in an independent film called ‘Inez & Doug & Kira‘. It is an independent feature about two twins who are in a relationship with the same guy and one commits suicide. So it is flashbacks of her life that leads up to that moment. I don’t want this interview to get too deep but I had a brother pass away from suicide. What drew me to the story was that what they cover the ins and outs that people go through on a day to day basis and humanize it or at least help understand it more. I know when I lost my brother, suicide is always a taboo subject that no one really knows how to talk about. You never really know how to talk about it for face it until you are dealing with it personally. When my brother died I had a completely different view of what suicide is and the victims it claims. So, to be a part of a project that humanizes and gives a little insight to what people go through dealing with suicide or suicidal thoughts was pretty cool to be a part of and to help push forward that narrative. I am the lead in a pilot in development called ‘Payroll‘ it is about three friends from New York City who quit everything to launch the biggest festival the culture has ever seen. It is about the origins of ‘South by Southwest‘ and it is from writer Dennis Williams who worked for ‘Funny or Die’. It is a really cool project that brings together music, tech and film. It is about ‘South by Southwest‘ but it is derivative of today’s music that drives the industry. I am also in development on a couple of spoken word pieces. One piece ‘Choose Not Fear’ is a response to domestic terrorism and it will be the first video piece I have done since ‘America in 4 Minutes‘. The rest of my pieces I have done either for the NBA or corporation that I have been lucky enough to work for. I am just trying to get some more of my own videos out there.
There you have it dear readers just a small glimpse into a large pool of talent that is Branden Wellington. I was so impressed with his character CO Young on ‘OITNB’ season 6 but his writing talent is what I will walk away remembering. I have done a few interviews now but this one turned out extremely different as the two of us share a painful bond. As someone who has lost a loved one to suicide we as well both find the act of spreading awareness and bringing it to the forefront an important mission. I know we will see great things from this young man in whichever field he is currently working in be it in writing, sports or acting. Be sure to follow him on Twitter or Instagram to keep up with his current and future projects….