Exclusive! Brant Daugherty Tells Wetpaint: “I Still Have to Defend Noel”
The last year has been a wild ride for Brant Daugherty, as the dashing young actor has been catapulted from relative obscurity into the high-profile role of Noel Kahn on Pretty Little Liars. But we think his star is only going to continue to rise: Brant is charming, ambitious, and thoughtful. In our exclusive interview, Brant tells us his take on Noel's intentions, his Hollywood aspirations, and why he loves interacting with fans. The role of Noel started out pretty small but expanded to become one of the most significant roles on the show. Did you know when you signed on how important the role would become?
I had no idea. When I first got the part, I was told that it was one episode, possibly recurring — so I gotta give a lot of credit to [executive producers] Marlene King and Oliver Goldstick for that opportunity. It's funny — I always heard stories of how actors find their way into acting, and it's interesting to be on the other side of that right now. I've been an actor my whole life — I went to film school, where I studied writing and directing — and that got me out to Hollywood, working on film sets. I spent about a year working as an assistant, and it was on Bring It On: Fight to the Finish that I got the push. Holland Roden, who was in the movie, got me a meeting with her agent. She had a lot of faith in me. I was really impressed that somebody would look at their assistant on set as I'm getting them sandwiches and think, "You know what, I think you could be good for this."
And then how did that lead you to Pretty Little Liars?
They had me audition for the pilot for the role of Ezra. I was told I was too young for that, which is interesting to me because I'm actually older than Ian Harding. It's funny the way Hollywood works — I'm not complaining though! But then they called me back for Toby. I was told that they liked me over there, and I had a lot of fun with that read, since Toby is a really fun character to play. But if you've seen Keegan Allen playing Toby, you understand why they gave him the part. Keegan fits it so perfectly.
Noel went from appearing like a stand-up guy to being one of the show's sleaziest characters. What did you think about how Noel played out, and what was that like for you as an actor?
I still have to defend Noel. I think he did the best he could under the circumstances. All of his actions come from a place of being hurt. Aria really got to him, and you have to look at it from Noel's point of view. Nobody is the bad guy in their own life. Noel is a little misguided, but he wouldn't consider himself a villain. I was thrilled when I first started reading these scripts where Noel makes this turn. I thought it was really organic for him to show this new side of himself. He's just reacting to the hand he was dealt by lashing out — and trying, in his mind, to get back at Ezra for taking advantage of Aria. Can anybody honestly say they would act more virtuously than Noel did in that situation? How many people could have seen their girlfriend with a teacher and been more noble about it than that?
That's a fair defense. So, if you didn't realize how high-profile this role would be when you auditioned, how has your life changed given the show's popularity over these last months?
My life has changed completely over the last year. The show is so immensely popular, which speaks volumes about Marlene and Oliver's ability to create something that connects with people. The main difference in my daily life is that I'm able to interact a lot more with the community as a whole. I get people at grocery stores giving me theories, and cashiers at Starbucks telling me who they think "A" is. It's fantastic — I love the interaction, I love being accessible, and the fact that people come up and talk to me has made going out in public a lot more interesting. Although I did get an angry fan recently. To her credit, she was able to separate me as an actor from the character of Noel, but she wanted Aria and Ezra together, and she couldn't believe what I was doing to that man. How dare I? But my favorite comment that I've been getting is "Okay, I hate Noel. I love you, but Noel is really pissing me off right now." I take it as a compliment that I'm doing my job well.
Who have you hit it off on the show — who do you hang out with outside of work?
I love shooting scenes with Ian Harding. He's amazing, and the classroom scenes we do together are some of my favorite things ever. He's so much fun to challenge, and we're always trying to one-up each other on set. In one take, I'll pull the pen out of his hand instead of pulling it off his desk just to see what he does. We have a lot of fun riffing off of each other. Off set, I've made a lot of really good friends: Chuck Hittinger, who plays Sean; Brendan Robinson, who plays Lucas; Janel Parrish, who plays Mona — they've all become really good friends of mine.
Honestly, just the energy and the people. I've heard horror stories of sets that don't run well and people who don't get along, and there's so much drama behind the scenes, and the show's not doing well — and it's remarkable to me how everything flows on our set. How smooth it is, and how everybody gets along. We know that we're working on something that matters to people, and is resonating with viewers, and it's such a good feeling there, all the time. Even during the intense scenes, we go off set and say, "Wow, that was a lot of fun."
A lot of the other cast members, like Lucy and Janel and Tammin, are all vocalists in some capacity. Are you a vocalist, or a dancer, or do you have any other secret talents you can tell us about?
I just discussed this with Janel the other day. She brought up the fact that they taught me how to play guitar for one scene this summer. I didn't have much experience — I had a working knowledge of it, but I wasn't great by any means. But they taught me the whole song and we played it live. The joke was that my talent isn't actually playing guitar — it's just picking things up quickly. No, I wish that I was a good singer, but my real talents lie behind the camera in writing and directing.
Interesting! Do you have any projects lined up for behind-the-scenes work, or are you mostly focusing on the show at this point?
I'm not working on anything official, but I'm currently balancing writing two feature length films and a short film. I'm trying to get the short into production soon with a few actors I know, and hopefully I'll be shopping the features soon enough. You never know — in a few years, maybe you'll see a Brant Daugherty-directed episode of Pretty Little Liars!
Thanks to Brant Daugherty and the team at David Sweeney Management. For more on Brant Daugherty, follow him on Facebook or Twitter @brantdaugherty!