It happened while shooting a scene this spring with Viola Davis: The moment Bret Green realized he might really have an acting career. Living in Los Angeles for two years, he had gone to about 60 auditions before landing the part of a police officer on an episode of the ABC series How to Get Away With Murder.
During the shoot, “I kept thinking to myself, ‘Don’t forget your lines in front of this woman,’” he says. “I was incredibly nervous acting with Viola. I mean, she’s been nominated for an Oscar twice. Her character on the show is very intimidating, so that didn’t help, but she was a super sweet lady. She even called me ‘a hunk.’ I’ll never forget that.”
Despite a few butterflies, Green obviously gave a strong performance — after that, the roles kept coming. He went on to play a fraternity brother alongside Dylan McDermott on an episode of last season’s CBS series The Stalker and a male cheerleader on the ABC comedy The Goldbergs.
Green’s name and face might ring a bell for some folks in his hometown. The son of Tim Green and Lisa Green, of Portage, and a Portage Northern High School graduate, Green earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Western Michigan University in 2009. But soon his name and face will be widely recognizable beyond Southwest Michigan. Last spring Green received the call — he had landed a regular role on a new CBS series, The Inspectors, which debuts Oct. 3.
“It was a little bit of disbelief,” Green says. “I smiled from ear to ear.”
After auditioning 50 to 75 actors for each role on the series, CBS tapped Green to play Preston, a 19-year-old college freshman who became a paraplegic in the same accident that killed his father. Preston wants to become a U.S. postal inspector like his mother, who experiences problems when returning to work after the accident. “His mom is having trouble solving the crimes, so Preston and his friends step up and help her find clues and think outside the box,” says Green, who relates to his character’s tenacity. “There are bits of Preston that exist within me.”
Playing a paraplegic required Green to learn about living life in a wheelchair. Hearing about a 16-year-old who broke his neck while playing football and had lost mobility from the chest down, Green located the young man on Facebook, called the teenager and asked if they might meet. Green says the teen and his mom were open books whose determination and candor proved inspirational and provided invaluable knowledge for Green.
“I learned that he was just an average kid trying to navigate life while in a wheelchair and that most kids his age lose the majority of their friends within the first year of the accident,” he says. “It really made me have compassion for the physically challenged and understand what they go through. I spent 24 hours in a wheelchair before we started filming just to understand what it’s like. The looks of pity that I got were hard to handle.”
Green gets additional help with understanding the physical challenges of his role from a fellow actor on the set — currently in his 40s — who, as a double amputee, has used a wheelchair since he was 16. “Greg Gadson plays my character’s personal trainer to keep Preston in shape,” Green says. “Greg served several tours overseas and lost his legs when his Humvee was blown up by an IED.” Gadson appeared in the movie Battleship alongside Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna.
One episode of The Inspectors is shot per week in Charleston, South Carolina. It takes an hour and a half to set up everything for the next take, so there’s a lot of downtime on the set, Green says. “It’s a ‘hurry up and wait’ game. We shoot at least 12 hours per day and shoot four to five scenes per day. They’re long days but a lot of fun.” With one exception: “The humidity is not fun,” Green says, laughing. “I should be used to it, growing up in Michigan.”
For several years, Green escaped the muggy summers. After graduating from WMU, he moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, to work as a marketing and public relations executive with a marketing company. At first, he enjoyed his job. “The money was great,” he says. “I went on plenty of trips.” But after a couple of years, the job’s appeal faded.
After becoming involved with a student film company in Arizona, Green recognized that he had an interest in acting, directing and producing. He told his wife, Amanda Loveland, of his desire to move to Los Angeles to become an actor. “She was super, super supportive,” Green says. “Not everyone has that.”
Initially, the rest of his family reacted with a bit more shock. “They were excited, but they were aware of how good my situation was in Arizona,” Green says.
Once in L.A., Green worked with several acting coaches, including Sara Mornell, of Sara Mornell Studios. Mornell taught him “about auditioning and how to (land) the job,” Green says. Within a week of meeting Mornell he landed the part alongside Viola Davis, and within a month he tested for a series regular role with CBS.
While at WMU, acting never crossed Green’s mind. But subtle clues, including having the lead role in a school play at the age of 10, did exist throughout his childhood. “As a kid, I always wanted to be inside the theater,” he explains. “My grandfather took me to plays at the Civic.”
Growing up in a sports-oriented family and having two older brothers, Green never recognized his interest in choir and plays as something that might inspire a career — until recently. “I love the ability to be creative,” he says. “I kind of lacked that with sports.”
For Green, the icing on the cake in landing his latest role is the opportunities that may come of it. “Sometimes it feels like a secret club that nobody wants you to join,” he says of the acting world. Maybe The Inspectors will finally provide Green with that elusive membership pass.