It was the spring of his junior year at UAlbany, and Brandon Jay McLaren, a human-biology major recruited to play soccer, was headed straight toward medical school.
Then one night, he attended an a capella concert on campus.
“As I watched the show, I had a ‘Jesus moment,’” McLaren says. Recalling all the time he had spent in high school doing theatre, he realized that performing “is what I want to do.”
Having finished his pre-med classes, McLaren was free to study theatre. But he didn’t want to take beginning drama classes. An understanding faculty member, Marna Lawrence, let McLaren take 300-level classes. “She championed me,” he says. “She gave me a lot of guidance, and she broke all the rules.” McLaren soon earned a lead role in a campus production of Flying West.
Still, he confesses, it was a confusing time. “I kept asking myself, ‘Who are you?’ It was a crazy, crazy senior year!”
A native of Vancouver, British Columbia, McLaren graduated from UAlbany cum laude. He moved back home, found an agent and did commercials for a year. He also got a lead part in a play called She’s the Man.
In 2006, McLaren relocated to Los Angeles, where his career has blossomed. “I’ve been really fortunate,” he says.
Well known for his role as the Red SPD Power Ranger in “Power Rangers: SPD,” McLaren has appeared in more than three dozen films and television shows. His credits include Danny Brooks in “Harper’s Island” and Lenin in “Being Erica.” More recently, he portrayed Bennett Ahmed, a teacher suspected of murdering a female student, in “The Killing,” which was nominated for six Emmy awards.
CBS recently cast McLaren in a new drama, “Ransom.” Shooting has begun in Toronto. For a horror production, the entire shoot has to be filmed in the dark, “so you’re working 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. five days a week.” Though the days can be long, McLaren loves his work. “I’m typically excited to go to work, because it’s always going to be different.”
His years at UAlbany, says McLaren, “were some of the best years of my life.” How did he manage to excel at his studies and soccer? “I had the same routine all four years,” McLaren remembers. “I was either in the library or on the soccer field. I got really serious for four years.”