Taking Risks with Brandon Ruckdashel
by Kay Bourne
"But Mr. Ruckdashel’s performance," the review continued, "is also noteworthy because his Lorenzo vibrates with the smug and nonchalant power of youth."
In the play it wasn’t long before his character was seducing a priest with the words "God’s not here now. It’s just you and me," and taking his clothes off. (Full-frontal.) Yet such edgy roles are typical for the actor, whose next is opposite porno superstar Jenna Jameson, who is making the move to legit films in such titles as "Zombie Strippers" in theaters next Friday.
Currently the photogenic Ruckdashel’s in front of the cameras for the part of Riley, a new character for the popular cable series "The Lair," seen on the subscription cable network heretv. Edge reached him by phone in L.A., home to the studio for the show.
Set for the most part in a private gentleman’s club operated by vampires who lure gorgeous young men to their lair for a feeding frenzy -- and other delicious moments -- the story-line follows a young journalist’s investigation into the horrific discovery of bodies drained of their blood buried in shallow graves near the small town where he works.
The Riley episodes - and there will be more than one show devoted to Ruckdashel’s character - take the "Lair" story to a different locale. While Ruckdashel was sworn to secrecy about the details, the initial episode begins on a lonely highway where Riley has stopped to chance a belt on his car. Along comes a hitchhiker, Jan.
Controversial roles have dogged the easy-on-the-eyes Ruckdashel, even back as far as when he was a junior in high school when he was cast as Judas Iscariot in a production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in Lynchburg, Virginia. The role came to the young actor at a time when his family had just moved the city in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, (coincidently Lynchburg was the hometown to late Carl Anderson who won awards for his portrayal of the character on Broadway and in the film version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical.).
The small city, as it happens, was also home to Jerry Falwell who led a mega church there. The late evangelical Christian pastor and televangelist expanded the Moral Majority to the Moral Majority Coalition which opposes, among other things, state recognition and acceptance of homosexuality, the Equal Rights Amendment, and abortion.
Falwell was also opposed to the story-line in "Jesus Christ Superstar" on a convoluted theological basis which more or less complains that the plot characterizes the indecisive Judas as a pawn of God. Anyway, Falwell tried to shut the show down by discouraging attendance, however, his admonitions would seem to have had the opposite effect, as, according to Ruckdashel, the musical played to packed houses for two weeks in an auditorium that seats 1,400.
Ruminating back on the hoopla, Ruckdashel says that it dawned on him at age 16 that by giving audiences a chance to evaluate philosophical arguments for themselves, art provides checks and balances in a society.
It’s also freed him as an actor to leave things up in the air when portraying a character. For example, when he played the young seducer of a priest in "Ascension," people sometimes asked him afterwards whether his character was going to go on to live a gay life, a query he’d suggest they decide for themselves.
"I felt it was important to let the character’s future be completely open to their interpretation," he explained.
Having grown up in a Minneapolis suburb, his family moved to Utah his freshman year in high school, and the next to Lynchburg, where at a suggestion of a high school drama teacher, he spent a summer at the North Carolina School of the Arts intensive acting program. "That summer was the most amazing summer of my life," he wrote on his web biography. "I had finally found my home."