'Graceland' interview: Brandon Jay McLaren talks being the bad roommate on his new USA show

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"Graceland" is the newest drama coming to USA. This story of federal agents living in a beachfront safe house while working undercover is filled with tension and mystery. Among those agents is Dale Jakes, a customs agent played by Brandon Jay McLaren ( "Falling Skies," "The Killing").

During a visit to the Florida set of "Graceland," we asked McLaren about the show and his character.


What was your attraction to "Graceland" and to the character of Jakes?

Brandon Jay McLaren: It just had a really cool feeling. My manager sent it over and she's like, "Brandon, read this, it's just cool." That's the word that she used.  And I read it and I was like, "Yeah, this is pretty cool."  It's the way Jeff writes and the way he kind of delineates the different characters and the setting.  There's this sexiness to it, and I loved it. You know, it kind of makes that kind of cool vibe with good character development.  So kind of everything you want in a pilot as an actor when you're reading it.


Does being the only agent for Customs separate you out on the cases?

Brandon Jay McLaren: No, we all work together. I think that's kind of the point of the house, having all these people in the same house where they can all kind of help each other out.


What sort of cases does Jakes deal with?

Brandon Jay McLaren: It's stuff crossing the border. So any kind of contraband, anything comes in and out of the country is sort of my responsibility. 

It also crosses over to DEA, because a lot of that stuff is drugs and-and stuff like that. 


Are there noticeable differences between the training and work of a customs agent and that of an FBI agent?

Brandon Jay McLaren: Yeah, there are differences. But there's also sort of a base that we all kind of have to kind of go through.  That's kind of what unites us all, we have all the base knowledge and then more specific [skills] once we get into our kind of profession.


Did you talk to law enforcement professionals as part of your preparation for the role?

Brandon Jay McLaren: Yeah, we had a consultant with us during the pilot, and we read a lot of books. [Series creator] Jeff Eastin gave us four or five books to read before we shot the pilot, so that was real helpful as well.


How would you describe Jakes' personality?

Brandon Jay McLaren: Jakes is very prickly. But it's not for the sake of being that way. And you'll see as the story goes on, you'll see that Jakes is dealing with a lot of stuff outside of the house. So he sometimes has other stuff on his mind.


In the safe house, who does your character share his juice with?

Brandon Jay McLaren: My juice? Nobody. Nobody. No, that's a no-no.


So is Jakes kind of a nightmare of a roommate?

Brandon Jay McLaren: Oh, absolutely. That's the worst. Yeah, [the roommate] who counts the scoops out of the ice cream or draws with like the felt pen, where the ice cream was last!


How does working on "Graceland" compare to being on a show like "The Killing"?

Brandon Jay McLaren: It's very different. Yeah, "The Killing," because the show was so moody, that mood at times definitely sort of transferred over to the set. 

But this show, I mean, we have a great time. Everybody really enjoys coming to work. And, you know, when you're driving along A1A to get to set and the beach, it's great. I know I have no complaints.


"Graceland" premieres Thursday, June 6 at 10pm on USA.

Photo/Video credit: USA