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Bryce Johnson Thrives on Challenges

originally posted July 9, 2004

For those who remembered 27-year-old actor Bryce Johnson as popular jock and All-American boy Josh Ford in WB's short running but acclaimed teen comedy/drama "Popular," it was a slight shock to see him feature in two eyebrow-raising films launched at the Sundance Film Festival in January. He was a bit player in Home of Phobia, a comedy that sees a college freshman pose as gay in a ploy to win his dream girl, and co-stars in Harry and Max, a controversial drama in which two rock star brothers share a deep (loving) affection for each other. "I always try to do something different," says Johnson. "I never like to do something that is really the same as something I've done before. So, whenever I see something really outlandish, I wanna go that way."

In Home of Phobia, the 6'2", blonde-hair, blue-eyed Johnson takes on the role of Tazwell, a cocky jock and fraternity president. "He's just kinda a fun, outlandish character," explains Johnson. "A bit of like Josh Ford with more perversion, you know (laughs). Maybe if Josh Ford went to college, that might be it I guess. It was a pretty funny role, and I had fun with it."

His role in Harry and Max as Harry, the older (23 to 16), near over-the-hill musical brother, no doubt presented the bigger challenge. Johnson and co-star Cole Williams had to capture the awkwardness between two incestuous brothers, and be convincing in steamy sex scenes in the film that literally pushed the envelope and then some (hence the controversy). "It was a pretty controversial film, but it got really great reviews for the acting and the writing, and the directing," he says. Johnson is full of praise for director/writer, Chris Munch. "Chris Munch has been doing independent films for a while now, he's had a few at Sundance, and he just has a really kinda artful eye," he reveals. "He's never had a studio exec, or like a network hanging over his head, so he's always kinda written really true to his heart. Which is nice, because he'll take you where he wants to go, which is cool for a filmmaker, and they don't really have to kinda worry about what other people think. I really enjoyed that, and I mean I loved working on that."

Although proud to have been involved with the project now, the Hollywood-based Johnson admits he was a bit apprehensive when first approached with the script. "The script kinda came across my way, and when I first read it, I was just like, 'What the-what the hell is this!' You know, I'm like, 'No way in hell,'" Johnson explains, laughing. His manager persuaded him to read through the script again, and following two re-reads, Johnson found "some nice colors" in the script. "I thought, 'What the hell, if I don't challenge myself, I don't really have that much fun,' so I went to the audition and met Chris. He seemed to really like me, and it kinda developed from there." Once rehearsals were underway, Johnson was confident he had made the right decision. "That's when I knew it was gonna be a really great project, just the way he had handled like-before we even like foot on the set, we had had about three weeks of just intense rehearsal. Didn't get paid anything hardly, and had to spend some long, hard days on set, but it's something that I really enjoyed, and I'm obviously really proud of it."

Johnson tied the knot with makeup artist Dawn Joanne Shand last September, and says he got a kick out of her reaction to the film. "I heard she kinda, like when it came on in the theaters she was cringing up again, hiding her eyes every now and then," he laughs. Johnson has always segregated his personal life from acting, and saw the part of Harry as a way of expanding his range as an actor. "To me, I just looked at it as a great opportunity, so I don't really take outside opinion when it comes to like, maybe what friends think, or what my parents think, when it comes to doing a project or anything like that." Nevertheless, he won't be on his parent's backs to see the film. "It's probably one I'm not gonna go encourage the parents to go out and rent right away," he jokes. "I'm like, 'If you see it, you see it. If not, no big deal.'"

The Denver, Colorado-raised Johnson is slated to star in a 20th Century Fox one-hour drama, "Still Life," as Jake Morgan, a cop murdered on his first day of work, whose spirit continues to watch over his family and see how they are dealing with life after his death. Seven episodes (including the pilot) have already been completed. "When I read the script I thought it was one of the best scripts I had read last year during pilot season, like, I really felt it was such a quality show and it was a different approach of doing a show," Johnson explains. The show was originally set to debut mid-season, however, those plans never came to fruition, and still nothing is yet to be announced. "It seems like it's getting kinda lost in the shuffle, but hopefully it'll find a home and a way to get on air," he says. "I think if people get to see it, you know, they will like it."

At the moment Johnson is in between projects, attending the occasional audition, and collaborating on a script with his wife. He intends to keep pursuing roles in films that like Home of Phobia, like Harry and Max, continue to provide him with different challenges. "I'm 27 and looking to, you know, get into some nice films that don't really deal so much with the teen subject," he says. "I'd like to go all over the map. Expect nothing and expect everything (laughs)."

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