Zimbio Exclusive Interview: Brandon T. Jackson Talks 'Percy Jackson,' Stand-Up, and Working with Eddie Murphy
Brandon T. Jackson (Getty Images)Brandon T. Jackson plays a satyr in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, which finds him providing comic relief as he hops through the movie's epic journey on furry goat legs. The actor and comedian memorably hocked "Booty Sweat" energy drink in Tropic Thunder, and lately he's been hitting the road and sharpening his stand-up routine between shooting movies, and TV shows.
We caught up with him on his way through Northern California, on his way to a club appearance, to talk about stand-up, the Percy Jackson movies, and the Beverly Hills Cop TV pilot he shot with Eddie Murphy. Here's what he had to say.
Zimbio: You're out doing standup right now. So do you spot Percy Jackson fans in your audiences?
You know, it's different fanbases, but I get fans of Lottery Ticket, and Big Mommas on my comedy side, and Tropic Thunder fans.
Yeah, I read your reddit AMA, and everyone seemed to want to know what Booty Sweat tastes like.
[Laughs] Yeah it tastes like, uh, they made it grape soda like the Chapelle joke…
You mean Purple Drank?
So in this movie you play a satyr, and when you're watching the movies, your body moves pretty weird onscreen because you've got hooves for legs. I know a lot of that effect is in post with CG, but is there anything you do to simulate the way a satyr moves on set?
The weird thing is I'll be the only one on set who's hopping around while everyone else is pretty much walking normal. It's kind of an awkward thing, but I think because the castmembers saw me do that in the first one it's just like, "Oh there's Brandon, doing his little goat walk."
Are you wearing like, green screen pants?
Yup, well this time they were blue pants which I guess worked better.
And Anthony Head, is he on a cart? Because he's like three feet above everybody.
He's on stilts.
Ahhh. So Percy Jackson has an enclave of pretty hardcore fans. Do any of them ever recognize you?
You know what, it's usually kids — kids and parents recognize me, not the college kids. It's more like the families, which is cool.
So you kind of have totally disparate fan bases recognizing you. You've got the Booty Sweat dudes who recognize you from Tropic Thunder, you've got the fans of your stand-up, then you've got the little kids who've seen the Percy Jackson movies.
Yeah it's pretty cool man. I don't take it lightly. I don't take advantage of it. I just feel thankful for these people who allow me to express myself in different ways. It's really cool, actually.
Are you able to work any of this into your stand-up material? Because there's a lot that's weird about being in something so fantastical, like walking around in bluescreen pants.
You can, but I try to be as much a human onstage as possible. The character in the movie is written by Rick Riordan. The stand-up is written by my boys. My stand-up is written by my writers and me, and we talk about real life.
I don't talk about mystical things in my stand-up because these are real people who came to see you. Yeah I'm playing in these movies, but who's Brandon T. Jackson as a person? So I give them me, not a character. I think they appreciate that more because you don't want to be that dude. You don't want to be the dude who's like, "I was on a private jet, right? And it was like daaaamn." It's like, "Okay this guy is too much."
So it goes back to when I first came out, I was not going to be the dude from Hollywood. But the guy who first came out here with a dream, that's who I am onstage.
So you've done a little bit of TV. You filmed a pilot for a Beverly Hills Cop show with Eddie Murphy. I'm sure it was somewhat disappointing that it didn't get picked up.
I think it was a blessing in disguise to be honest. But we'll see what happens. It's not over. The pilot turned out so good, they want to return to a movie.
So a new Beverly Hills Cop movie is a possibility?
They're writing the script right now.
Yeah, they signed the dudes who did [Mission: Impossible] Ghost Protocol.
So can you tell me anything about what might happen with that?
I don't know. All I know is I did my job as an artist, and they did their job as a business. They feel like — I don't know, CBS, I don't think it's an edgy network like that, which is great for CBS. You've just gotta realize that it wasn't right for the franchise.
And a movie might free you up to be more true to the spirit of the films. Is that the idea?
I think so. I think we were very edgy for CBS. I think we were the edgiest as you could've went for CBS. It would have been like a 'Fresh Prince' thing on CBS, like the edgiest you can go on network TV. But it doesn't agree to our franchise man. It's a film. Personally I think it belongs on film whether I'm a part of it, or if I'm not — which I would love to be. But it's not up to me. It's up to fate and whatever the stars say. I can't really control anything.
You must feel a special connection there. I imagine growing up in Detroit, Axel Foley is almost like a superhero.
So what was it like working with Eddie Murphy on that?
Oh my god, Eddie's the man. He's a talent. That dude's a genius. I would never call myself a genius, but Eddie definitely helped me during that process. It allowed me to sort of spread my wings as an artist.
I was watching him. I wasn't really — he came in as Yoda, you know? I was Luke Skywalker. You know what I mean? I wasn't stepping in there like, "Hey, let me show him how it's done." [Laughs] "Let me show Elvis how to play the guitar real quick." I wasn't that dude.
Did you pick up anything from him? Did he give you any tips you could use?
Yeah. But actions speak louder than words. If you catch it, you catch it, if you can't then you weren't meant to catch it. Every guy that came to him became a great comic, a great act — Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence became great acts. Everybody that came out of that camp became great acts. He's a great act.
Do you look up to him in your stand-up, too?
I do because he's charismatic. He's very charismatic, and I always look up to him with that.
So who are your top comedians that you look up to right now?
Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Louis C.K., Katt Williams.
Katt Williams is an amazing stand-up. I'm sorry, he is. And even though he's offended a lot of people, he's an amazing stand-up.