Man On The Rise: Brandon Perea

Brandon Perea

“It’s a risk. This whole show is a risk,” Brandon Perea admits. “And it made me realize that taking risks is okay.” The show in question? Netflix’s newest sci-fi/supernatural drama, The OA. The show centers around a young woman named Prairie Johnson who mysteriously reappears seven years after having gone missing, calling herself The OA and can now see — having been previously blind. Perea plays Alfonso “French” Sosa, one of the five people Prairie assembles to tell the story of what happened to her too. The OA premiered on Netflix last month mere days after being announced, with little to no promotion, and has since then already amassed somewhat of a cult following. Although all the characters from the show has received praise in their own right, Perea’s portrayal of French has been noted as a stand out, especially given that it’s his first major acting role. “I was interested because French isn’t really like me, and ultimately it’s something different than my everyday life,” Brandon said when we spoke recently. “Seeing his story made me realize there are a lot of people that go through what he’s going through, trying to impress their families and not getting the love they want to receive from their hard work. And having to struggle every day in order to get that praise or at least a thank you.”

Brandon Perea as French in a scene from Netflix’s The OA.

Although The OA is his first major acting role, the 21-year-old Chicago native has pretty much been always been entertaining people in some form or fashion. “I was always skateboarding and breakdancing and was always just into entertainment,” he says. “I’ve always been doing little things to make people laugh, and just trying to impress people with my talents.” One of these talents includes what is known as jam skating, which is a combination of rollerblading, gymnastics and breakdancing. “There was this roller-rink called Main Street USA that I would go to every weekend, and I would go breakdance and battle everyone and try to beat everyone in competition. Then I saw people breakdancing on roller skates, and the girl I had a crush on did it as well, so I was like ‘Yo, I’m gonna get these roller skates and I’m gonna make her fall in love.’ I never fell in love with the human, but I fell in love with skating!” he laughs. It has become such a passion for him in fact that he’s appeared on America’s Got Talent with his skating group, the Honor Roll Skate Crew, and has been named the worlds youngest pro jam skater. “It’s not something you see everyday. It’s always so funny seeing people’s reactions whenever I do like a backflip on roller skates, or if I’m just doing tricks, people really just don’t know how to comprehend it so they’re just like ‘what!?’”

At the ripe old age of just 16 years old he moved to Los Angeles, without his parents (though with their full support), to pursue a career in acting at the urging of his former skating manager. “He asked me, ‘What do you really want to do? What’s your dream? Your body can’t skate forever,’” said Brandon. “I sat there and thought about it and I told him, ‘I’ve always wanted to act but I never knew really knew how to get into it so I haven’t ever tried.’ And he said, ‘You’ve got one life to live, why aren’t you acting?’ and I was like, ‘You’re right!’” He rented a room from a friend and started work on his career, regularly attending acting classes. “Once I started getting into some classes and really started digging deep into characters, storylines and really diving into scripts, I really fell in love with the entire art form and it’s my bread and butter now. It’s what I want to do for a long, long time.”

But above acting and skating it’s Brandon’s fresh optimism about life and career that’s most striking and impressive. He is someone truly enjoying and living in every moment, and it shows. “I always have little dreams. I wanted to make a living off of skating and I broke that barrier. Then I had to find something else to break the barrier with and now I’ve got The OA and that was a dream come true. Now I’m looking for that next dream,” Brandon said. “I really just want to tell great stories through inspiring characters. Whenever I watch a show or movie I love walking away with feeling something from a character that helps me out in my personal life, and that’s what I want to do. I want to help people through this art form. Everyone can live out their dreams. I’m just a kid from Chicago and I’m living out mine. My whole goal in life is to get paid to live, and that’s what’s going on now and I want to continue to be able to do that.”

All chapters of The OA are streaming on Netflix.