Brandon Scott Jones Just Wants to Help Queer Youth Feel Seen

'The Other Two' and 'Ghosts' actor recalls how a Judy Garland TV movie made him feel

Chris Azzopardi

This year, Brandon Scott Jones is showing up in the most random of places. There’s his series regular role in “Ghosts,” portraying the spirit of American Revolutionary officer Captain Isaac Higgintoot, who is gay. There’s his part as Drew’s BFF Curtis on “The Other Two,” HBO’s abundantly queer absurdist comedy, which just announced that its latest, third season would be its last. And earlier this year, he could be seen on the big screen alongside Nicolas Cage’s Dracula in the horror-comedy “Renfield,” now streaming on Peacock.  

The Maryland-born actor, who has also appeared in “Isn’t It Romantic,” “The Good Place” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” recently chatted about the niche queerness of “The Other Two,” finding comfort in LGBTQ+ media in his youth and how he hopes that his latest projects are doing the same for others. 

“The Other Two” really is so perfectly stupid and yet so moving at the same time.
Let’s make that the tagline. Wild how they strike that tone. It’s cool.

It’s not an easy thing to pull off, but this show does. When was the moment you knew you could make a career out of being funny?
This isn’t going to sound funny, but I remember I was on a family vacation and my mom, dad, sister and I were driving through deep Georgia on our way to Florida, and it started to torrentially downpour, and my mom started screaming at my dad to pull off the road, and my dad kept gripping the steering wheel, screaming that he couldn’t see. He’s like, “I can’t see!” And I remember thinking to myself and turning to my sister and we’re like, “We’re going to die.” And thinking to myself, “This is terrifying,” but very funny to see my parents do this in front of their children.

I can see this as a sketch on a comedy series.
I can 100%. Literally, there’s no chill in the back, and my sister and I were just sitting there, stone-faced, like, “Oh god.” I have a memory of being like, “Oh, I want to write about this.” So that was the first time I thought, “Oh, maybe I enjoy comedy.” I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve gotten to work with people in my past doing lots of comedy that have brought me in to do other projects that maybe more people were able to see, and then also just trying your hardest to put yourself out there. And I remember the first time I put my comedy writing live on stage, and to see the reaction to that, then the reaction on the business side to that, was really, really encouraging.

When you got the script for this season of “The Other Two,” what was the scene you couldn’t wait to shoot?
Oh, god, there’s a couple. One, I think you get to see some different levels of Curtis where he’s sort of been very silly in a lot of fun ways and a good friend. We got a little taste of his good friendship with Cary last season, but this year we had two separate moments that Drew [Tarver, who plays Cary] and I both called “the hard scenes,” and we called them the hard scenes because they’re definitely a little bit more emotional for the two of us. I think in addition to all the comedy that we get to play, there’s a scene or two toward the end of the season that we were both excited to really sink our teeth into. 

Drew tarver brandon scott jones murphy lorenzo amie burton samy figaredo
Drew Tarver, Brandon Scott Jones and Murphy-Lorenzo Applin Jr. Photo: HBO

“The Other Two” really does know queer culture inside and out. What’s it like to be able to go so deep into niche LGBTQ+ culture within this show? 

It’s really fun. It is a very queer focused, queer-forward show in a lot of ways. I mean, for example, last season when Cary had this hole pic come out. I think the idea of taking a picture of your hole to send someone and then accidentally blasting it to the world is a thing that starts out as something very relatable, but is also probably a fear we all have, a little bit. 

I think trying to stay involved [and in] that world and understanding also the lens through which we look at it — which is sometimes through the entertainment industry — I know me and Drew, as queer actors, you get to see all of these little nuances of [how] people want you to be a certain way, they want you to act a certain way, and that usually corresponds with pop culture.

While doing this interview, it’s hard not to think about the first episode of this current season — navigating the promo of a TV show. That must seem very meta to you right now. Who’s the person on your shoulder as you go through this today? It is funny to be doing interviews or hosting things on TV and also then doing them in real life. There is that meta element to it. It’s almost… I’m the person on my shoulder; it’s still this constant back and forth that I have with myself of, “Am I being enough of the person that I want to be? Am I not being enough of the representation?” And you kind of feel the weight of it a little bit, not to add self-importance or self-indulgence, or some sort of ego to it, but I think there’s people that have inspired me and there’s so many different people that you want to be like, and I think you just wonder if you’re falling short sometimes. 

Can we get a spinoff of the “Gay Minute,” your show within a show this season?

Do you want a full half hour of “The Gay Minute”? I would totally do it. Just a sad, real-time show of this person trying to film it.

As someone who’s aware of the representation you bring to the TV and films you’re in, what media helped you feel seen?
When I was younger, I really loved “Will and Grace,” and I didn’t know, necessarily, a world outside of that. It was really fun to see those characters come up, but then a lot of the stuff that I really, really identified with, I didn’t even recognize to be queer culture. I was a big Madeline Kahn fan. I was a big Rosalind Russell fan. I would watch these madcap heightened movies — “Clue” or “Bringing Up Baby.” And all of these things that I now recognize as an adult, it’s like, “Oh, wait, I wasn’t alone in liking those things.” Do you remember “Me and My Shadows,” the Judy Garland TV movie?

Yeah. You thought you were the only person who saw it?
I thought I was the only person who sat there and saw it. It was a two-night event, and I did not miss either night. It’s this thing that, as you get older, you find other people that also did that, and you’re like, “Oh, all of this.” I sank myself into these things, and I was doing it for a reason, even if I didn’t fully know what it was. And it becomes so personal.

Looking at your career as a whole, when did you understand that the roles you choose are important and they matter?
I don’t know if there’s ever been one point, but I know that it’s been really nice between this show and “Ghosts” to see the fan reaction on Twitter of people either recognizing queer moments or, on “Ghosts,” I have a coming out [arc], which it’s been very nice to see the reaction to that. So I don’t necessarily know if I personally have that following, but I know that you still want to put out the authentic version of yourself for that person that might find you and might identify with who you are.
I think that my experience of coming out, and as I was growing up and getting older, it can be lonely, and I used to sink myself into film and television to quell that, and so you hope that whatever performance you’re giving, whatever interview you’re doing, there’s an authenticity there and that you’re bringing that experience to hopefully help others as well.


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