Actor Bret Green is the star of the upcoming CBS series The Inspectors. He plays Preston Wainwright, a paraplegic college student working for the United States Inspection Service. I recently chatted with Bret about the show and his character Preston. Read on to hear what he had to say.
When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
“When I was a kid growing up I used to watch Home Improvement. My brothers and sisters and I would sit there, that was the days before DVR. We would all have a character and we would write down their lines. By the end of the show, we would have all these scribbled lines in this notebook of what they said. Then we would all go down to the basement and act out scenes in front of our parents and grandparents. I always got to play the lead, I was kind of the ring leader so I got to be the star of the production (laughs). I guess I got a start pretty young, but I didn’t actively pursue it until much later in life after college.”
How did your earlier roles prepare you for your current role on The Inspectors?
“My first role on network television was on How to Get Away With Murder and I think I had two lines. They were both in a scene with Viola Davis and I was absolutely terrified (laughs).
When I moved to LA, I told myself I was ready. I really wanted a guest star/series regular kind of role. Then I get a two-line role on How To Get Away With Murder. Going in there and meeting Viola, seeing how they work and getting to sit back and watch the rehearsal process and the block and shooting, was an experience. I knew when I came to LA, I had a lot to learn. I’m glad I’m a fast learner and picked up pretty good tips. It definitely helped me to have myself on set, to learn professionally and also have a little fun.
I played a young police officer and I found some evidence that was incriminating to Viola Davis’ character. She just has those eyes, they’re like daggers cutting into me (laughs) so it didn’t help that it was an intense scene with one of the strongest actors.”
What was the audition process like for The Inspectors?
“That’s a good question. It was one of the first auditions that came across my agent’s desk. I was really excited about it after reading the character and the story. I felt that I had a really good chance at it because the character was a lot like me. When I first auditioned it was like December 8 and I found out I got it in February. It felt really long, I was trying to forget about it, it was before the holidays and I felt I was right for it. I was pestering my manager to get feedback, saying ‘I swear I did really well on the audition’.
It was quite the process over two months of waiting. My agent called me and told me I booked it and I’ve never been so excited. It was definitely a big change for me, I feel so much more confident. The audition process wasn’t too bad.
I had a couple of chemistry reads. I remember the first time I felt that I might have a shot at this was when I did a chemistry read with Jessica Lundy who plays mom on the show. I thought ‘I look exactly like this woman’ (laughs), I have brown hair and green eyes. I’m looking around the room and I think ‘he has blonde hair’. But I look just like her and thankfully they thought so too!”
What can you tell us about your character Preston Wainwright?
“Preston is a college freshman and he is a paraplegic. He doesn’t have any movement from the waist down. The biggest challenge for me was trying to figure out how to play this, I don’t know anything about the physically challenged. I had to do research on that. Basically, he’s kind of a super wiz kid. He’s probably one of the kids who got a perfect score on the SATs. (laughs). He can hack into computers.”
Are there any real life experiences you have used to aid you in playing Preston?
“One of the biggest challenges Preston faces, other than the fact that he’s in a chair, the looks he gets and the special treatment, is the limitations he feels. Preston got paralyzed in a car accident that actually took his father’s life. That’s ultimately fresh still, and he’s dealing with the loss of his father and the loss of the mobility on his legs.
I’ve played sports practically my whole life. I was always under-sized, there were always kids bigger than me. I’ve kinda had that ‘never give up, you can’t tell me I’m not gonna do it’ attitude. I think that helped me excel in sports. I used that element a bit, that attitude of being like the Rudy. Growing up being the undersized runt and having that ‘Sure you might tell me I’m too small, not fast enough, not gonna do it, and I’m not able’ mentality. I’m not gonna listen to that because I’m pretty sure I can do it. I can as good of a job as everybody else, that’s definitely an attitude Preston has. I try to bring a bit of that into the character.
The fact that he’s dealing with the loss of his father, I haven’t had to deal with that in this point of my life, thankfully. I’ve definitely had friends who’ve lost parents so I try to tap into what we used to talk about when their parents passed away. I just feel for them and kinda make that my own situation. This character and that’s been tough I think we’ve done a pretty good job at it so far.”
What do you enjoy most about working on The Inspectors?
“Just the fact that I am working (laughs). Being able to work pretty much five days a week, coming in and really getting better every single day. Coming to work and learning what it’s like to be a professional. Knowing what it’s like to get enough sleep so that I’m coming in the next day fully rested. Doing your work the night before, so when you wake up at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning, you don’t have to worry about going over lines. You know you got that stuff already fleshed out and you’re ready to go for the day.
I love to act and making a living doing it is probably the best part. Working with a really great cast and getting to see their faces every day just puts a big smile on my face. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I had done the corporate world for a while right after college. I knew instantaneously that it was not for me. I’m so grateful that this was the path I chose to go down. That’s the best part, that this is my job.”
Can you share with us any memorable moments from the set of The Inspectors?
“I have a best friend and he’s always getting into some hijinks that we’re involved in. One of the fun things that we did that’s actually…my co-star Harrison Knight and I both rap. He does it more seriously, I do it more like parody rap. We do an episode where we’re trying to raise some money for one of our classmates to stay in school because somebody had scammed him out of all of his tuition money. We’re trying to raise money so he can stay at school and we’re doing a fundraiser and we’re kinda at a loss as to how we can raise money. We say “Why don’t we make a video?” Harrison writes the rap and we do the video for this kid Carl , who is about to get kicked out of school and didn’t have any tuition money and we had to perform. We make a video for him, so that was kinda fun to bring that aspect into the show. To get to have a little fun with a little rap with one of my buddies.”
Why should people watch The Inspectors?
“First of all, you’re going to learn a lot about The United States Postal Inspection Service, which I would probably say a really large percentage of the population doesn’t really know about. It is one of the oldest federal agencies in the country. You learn a lot about a federal agency that has like a 96% or 97% conviction rate so they’re right up there with the FBI or CIA in terms of how good they are at their job. You get to learn a lot about that. Also, most of the crimes that happen on the show are crimes that have actually happened.
The producers worked really closely with the USIPS in making sure that these crimes are 100% legitimate and accurate. So, one of the things we wanted to do was to make people aware of these kinds of crimes. Whether it would be identity theft or fraud or any of these email scams where people want you to send money or do all these things or Ponzi schemes.
There’s definitely a lesson to be learned in every episode in terms of ways to protect yourself especially in the internet age with all kinds of identity theft. That’s a reason to watch! You can make sure you’re not getting duped yourself. Also, that’s a really great dynamic with Preston and his friends navigating their way through their freshmen year of college.
Preston is fairly new with being in a wheelchair. I remember my freshman year of college and just thinking about how I felt like a fish out of water. I was really uncomfortable and wasn’t sure what I was doing. But on top of all that, Preston’s in a wheelchair and everybody’s looking at him. He feels he’s getting treated differently. There are things he can and can’t do, so I think that everybody wants to root for an underdog. Not that Preston is necessarily an underdog, but the deck has definitely been stacked against him. It’s fun to watch him succeed and prove to people that just because you’ve got some obstacles doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish your goals!”
What would you say is the message of The Inspectors?
“It’s funny because there’s kind of two-story lines. There’s the kids in college and there’s The Inspectors who are out solving crimes. I would say overall the message is not to let anything stop you from achieving your dreams. It’s such a heartfelt story. A lot of the people I have worked with and the consultants who have helped me are amputees. One guy got into a car accident when he was 16 and he’s in his 40s now, paralyzed from the waist down. They all tell me that within a year or so you pretty much lose most of your friends because either they decide it’s too much work to haul you around. It’s a great message for kids and everybody. It’s a good message to show them that you stick by your friends, family and the people you care about. It does have a positive message.”
I almost called you Preston, so you already got me hooked as a viewer calling you Preston. I apologize.
“That’s okay, I’m called Preston all day long. I answer to either one (laughs).”
Is there any other character on The Inspectors you would have enjoyed playing if you hadn’t been casted as Preston?
“I think my best friend Noah, who’s played by Harrison Knight. Harrison is kind of this young Kevin Hart type. He’s probably 5′ 5. He’s just this little firecracker. He’s the comic relief, he’s super skinny and there’s all kinds of food jokes. He’s always eating something. (laughs). He’s kind of aloof and fun.
I think that would probably be a really fun role to just kinda free my inhibitions and let go. I can definitely be a goofy sort of guy so if I could play another character, I’d do Noah because he’s the fun character of the bunch.”