In his estimation, he was a late bloomer who only came to acting by way of the back door.
“I was singing with a local band and decided to go to Freedom Theatre only because I wanted to improve my vocal abilities,” says Philly native Brian Anthony Wilson. “As part of the training you had to take a theater class, and before I knew it I was put in a play even before I saw a play, and that was only because they needed a warm body.”
Nevertheless, he remembers, “because of that I caught the acting bug that changed my life forever. And I’ve never looked back.”
Wilson was already 23 when the desire to act hit him, but wasted no time pursuing his newly-discovered career. Over the years he’s performed in such shows as “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder” (his one-man show), “Gem of the Ocean” (Barrymore Award for Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play), and “Thurgood” (admittedly one of his all-time favorites).
Additionally, Wilson has amassed film and TV credits in such productions as “Blue Bloods,” “The Sopranos” and “The Wire.”
Today, Wilson is working with Jennifer Childs in the 1812 Production of “Patsy’s Block Party” that streams live through Nov. 1. Created and performed by Childs and Wilson, South Philly’s politico Patsy teams with Wilson, her BFF, for virtual party games, audience questions and some very special guests.
According to Wilson, an actor is an actor, and must give it his all no matter what part he’s playing — whether facing a live audience or not.
“I haven’t been on stage in front of a live audience since last November, so it’s been almost a year. I’ve never been off stage for that long,” Wilson declares. “So it does make a difference not having that live response. But having an outlet to do something is great, so it’s good to be back. Thanks goodness for virtual theater.”
Still, Wilson continues, “This pandemic has decimated theater. I have friends whose career is almost ruined. It’s been devastating. It’s awful. So many people have been in a downward spiral. But this current production helps put some humor back in people’s lives. For me, it’s one of the most fun things I’ve done in a long time. And I’ve also had a chance to do some writing which feels great.”
Although he does a lot of dramatic roles, Wilson admits he also loves doing comedy.
“Comedy is my coping mechanism. It’s how I deal with life. In this production I also get to sing, which is actually how I started in the business. So I’m really enjoying this role very much,” he says.
Today, Wilson lives in Cherry Hill, N.J. For the future, the actor says he hopes to do “Fences” again.
“I’ve done ‘Fences’ four times and played every male role except for Corey which I’m too old for now. And I would love to do Troy again before I leave this earth. And also ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.’ And there are more — as soon as this thing passes.
“For now, we’re all just doing the best we can. We just have to try to stay safe and treat each other well,” he concludes.