CRAM: Actor Brandon E. Burton On Being A Black Man Playing A White Character And Gary Oldman's Inspiration

A new horror film, Cram is headed to screens next month and one of the actors is a black man who plays a white character so we wanted to learn about what that experience was like so we spoke with the actor!

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Cram is a new upcoming indie horror flick, gallantly flaunting a 45-minute runtime and due to how interesting the film is we spoke exclusively with the two stars and the creator. In this article, we focus on our chat with actor Brandon E. Burton.

Brandon plays a character from the 1600's called The Master Of The Books. An old-timey white man, he was played by Brandon, who is African-American. This required a large amount of prosthetics, make-up, and VFX, and was an incredibly interesting subject, so we were sure to focus on it during our chat.

Despite his portrayal essentially being the opposite of blackface, we also talked about his inspiration, which was heavily credited to multiple roles Gary Oldman has played.


Below we have included our full video chat with Brandon along with some of his quotes for those not looking for the fully immersive interview experience.

Brandon E. Burton: I play an older-than-time information vampire. That's the best way I can describe it. He's called the master of the books who does not look like me in the slightest but I think that's part of the fun of it.

Beatrice Sniper, who did the VFX for the make-up, and Alexandra Nimon did the costuming. Basically it was like me and Beatrice with a speaker and I want to say the first application took 3 or 4 hours - because it's all kind of a blur. And then when we had to do it again for a different location we had streamlined the process and it was about 2 hours. But I really want to big ups Beatrice because she was on set at all times, and also she was behind the camera making sure I was comfortable. One of the things that gets lost in the sauce when you're shooting with prosthetics is they're deeply uncomfortable for long periods of time and having someone who understands what you are going through because they helped apply it is a huge relief. It was a huge weight off the shoulders knowing that I had someone who knew what I was going through,

And also something I think that I hadn't realized at the time but I've come to realize since we've been doing these interviews is that a big inspiration for this character, especially when it comes to dealing with Marc, is Gary Oldman in True Romance. He's playing a frightening white dude with a Jamaican accent with a bum eye, but he is the most frightening thing on screen - but he's also deeply compelling. And I remember before we even started filming that I had seen True Romance for the second time and having gone through school I was looking at it through a different lens, but I didn't realize how much his performance in that movie had on my performance in Cram. Because in actuality the scariest characters are the most frightening. He's super casual and you don't see him coming. And that's what makes him frightening. The fact is he understands what Marc is going through, and he's like 'no man, I know you can do this, and also, I'm going to have you. And again, Gary Oldman doesn't do blackface but he's not playing a character that looks like him, and neither am I. 

It was weird when I first looked in the mirror with the prosthetics done as a white person. When Beatrice was first applying the make-up I wanted to make sure there were no mirrors because I didn't want to see anything until it was all done. The first time I went to the bathroom and saw myself in the full prosthetics and make-up it was really shocking but it was also deeply informative. And Abie and I talked extensively about this and about putting a black man inside white prosthetic make-up and what does it mean? And I think that in itself is a mini version of the metaphor of the movie. What does it mean to take somebody that does not fit and force them to become something that they may not want to be but they have to in order to serve the function of the institution. So yeah, it was really weird and to this day my dad does not believe that it's me in there.

What do you guys think about these comments from Burton? Will you be catching the film next month or does it seem like it's not your forte? Check out the trailer and the synopsis below for more infortmation on the movie and share your thoughts in the comments section!

We all do what we gotta do to pass – except Marc. Desperate to finish his final paper, he struggles to cram all night in the library. After dozing off, Marc awakens to discover that his paper has vanished! Looking for answers and a way out of this nightmare, Marc is drawn deeper into the mysterious and enchanting stacks. Alone in the library (or so he thinks), Marc is easily frightened and considers giving up. But the library has other plans for him....

Cram hits On-Demand next month on March 17th.

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