Brent Jennings: The Lodge 49 Interview

Brent Jennings has acted on the stage, on the silver screen and now he finds himself on Lodge 49, the AMC series that created a huge buzz among critics and fans alike. At TV Series Hub, we were pleased to be able to speak to him about his storied career, his favorite medium to work in and how he makes his character of Ernie Fontaine come to life.

The Interview

A Prestigious Honor

TV Series Hub: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us at TV Series Hub.  First of all, congratulations on being inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. That is a very prestigious honor.

Brent Jennings: Thank you very much. It was a wonderful weekend. So nice to be honored by people in your hometown who respect what you do. Plus, it is a fund raiser too. It’s a charity that benefits people all around the state. What a good thing to be involved in!

Prelude to the Lodge

TV Series Hub: I know that you go back to your hometown and do workshops and classes at Hendrix College. Sometimes people have a sense of what they can accomplish when they are growing up. Did you have any idea when you were attending Little Rock Central High School that you were going to be an actor?

Brent Jennings:  I had this idea from the time I was in the 6th grade when I did a play. Every year my elementary school would do an annual show. You would crack jokes and sing little songs. The teacher who directed it by the name of Miss Robinson  sat me down and said, “You know, you should think about becoming an actor. You have a good speaking voice and a sense of timing.” So, I started researching and every opportunity I would get to act, I would do it. It never lost its flavor. 

When my friends would ask me, “What are you going to do?” I always knew. It makes a big difference in life to know what you want to do. Goals are what get us up in the morning and keep us going. From that point on it has been full speed ahead.

It’s Like Putting a Puzzle Together

TV Series Hub:  Looking at your resume, you have had quite an extensive career. I noticed that you were on Veep before your co-star David Pasquesi (Blaise) on Lodge 49 joined the cast. And you have been in some impressive movies as well from Brubaker with Robert Redford to Witness with Harrison Ford and Red Heat with Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as The Murder of Mary Phagan with Jack Lemmon. Not to mention your stage work, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Do you have a favorite medium to work in?

Brent Jennings: I really do like good stories for film or television. You can take scenes and really pull them apart. It’s like putting a puzzle together, you know.

As far as theater goes, I like the rehearsal process more than the performance.  I like the “discovery” of the part and the whole lesson of learning who the character is. Also, I like developing a chemistry between other cast members. I did a lot of theater because I felt it would make me a better actor.

“As Above, So Below”

TV Series Hub: Changing subjects for a moment, let’s talk about Lodge 49. This is a brilliant show. Who approached you about the series? Was this a role that you pursued?

Brent Jennings: It just sort of came my way. My manager found out about the project and she was trying to get me in but was running into some resistance. After a few tries, she succeeded.

I was in Little Rock, Arkansas visiting my mother and wasn’t even interested in reading the script at that time and then I told her to send it to me. I read it and fell in love with the character, the story and the project. The writing was very elevated for television and the point of view of life was optimistic with a tinge of irony.

Jim Gavin’s (Lodge 49 writer and creator) perspective on life was unique and fresh. Ernie Fontaine was so multi-faceted. I was thrilled by it so I put myself on tape and came back to L.A. I met with the producers and Jim and it just all worked out. Some things are meant for you.

The Romeo and Juliet of Long Beach

TV Series Hub: Ernie and Connie are like the Romeo and Juliet of Long Beach. That entire situation is bittersweet. Do you think this is what has kept Ernie a single man? He is holding out hope for them to get together?

Brent Jennings: We got a backstory before we started working on Lodge 49 from Jim Gavin. Ernie and Connie were high school lovers. The parents of Connie objected and took her away. Ernie graduated school and went into the Navy.

He had a relationship with a woman. They had a child, they lost the child and then ruined the relationship. After that his parents died, so Ernie is a guy where the cards in life were sort of stacked against him. He’s trying to find a place to belong and Connie represents some hope.

It’s like being in a new city. You turn the corner and you see someone from your hometown and it gives you some comfort because it is someone you know, someone you have a history with.

He’s a young guy trapped in an old guy’s body because he’s still looking for the things that younger guys are trying to get things with his career and a woman. Life is about companionship.

That’s the theme of the show. All of these characters are trying to connect to something and each other. They aren’t sitting around on their cell phones texting, they’re talking to each other. Reaching out and looking for a real connection.

Once Connie gets on the scene, Ernie becomes obsessed with that because he has no other options as he sees it. I don’t know where they go in the future.

Little Victories

TV Series Hub: Now that the dream of “Captain” has been dashed, do you think Ernie will continue working for Bob or do you think there might be a chance that he will try and pursue another path in season 2?

Brent Jennings: That’s a good question. I would hate to see Brian Doyle-Murray who plays Bob not have a part in the show. That’s Ernie’s world being the plumbing salesman, I have no idea.

I haven’t even spoken with the writers or the producers yet about where we are going to go in the second season. This is a valid question. Whatever happens, I will just commit to it, make it work and have fun with it.

TV Series Hub: Is there a direction that you would like to see the writers take for your character in season 2?

Brent Jennings: I know from talking to people who are fans of the show they say, “Oh. I thought they were going to win and it turns into a loss.” The audiences are rooting for the characters. So, the question becomes do we get these little victories along the way or do we always lose? Maybe we need a little victory here or there. I trust the writers. They came up with a great first season.

It’s Not about Winning, It’s about Living

TV Series Hub: Talking about your character’s relationship with Dud, it seems like Ernie has finally accepted the fact that Dud is going to be a part of his life. Do you think Ernie sees himself as a mentor of sorts? How do you envision their dynamic in season 2?

Brent Jennings: I think they will remain connected because what we are seeing is two people that needed the same thing at the same time. It’s more of that than a mentor-mentee relationship. He wants the same things the younger guys want.

Ernie may never get what he is searching for. What’s important is the spirit of these characters. Life is hard, life is rough, it’s full of disappointments but it’s beautiful.

These characters are all fighting for something. Connie is fighting for something, Blaise is fighting for something, Dud is fighting for something but they’re not really bitter or cynical people. They have a love for life and they enjoy it.The show is not about winning, it’s about living.

Hail to the Lynx

TV Series Hub: What is on your horizon? Can fans expect to see you in anything before Lodge 49 returns?

Brent Jennings: I am doing a recurring role on a show called All American on the CW that  I am shooting right now.

TV Series Hub: Has production started on Lodge 49 yet? Has the writers’ room reconvened?

Brent Jennings: I know they have been working on season 2. I’ve been told we will be shooting in January. So, I am assuming the show will be ready in August just like season 1 was. I know they are working on the scripts probably 90% of the entire season but I don’t know what that is or where we are going.

Many thanks to Brent Jennings for taking the time to speak with us at TV Series Hub. We look forward to meeting in the Tavern next season!   For more information on Lodge 49, follow amc.com and if you are missing the Lynx gang you can binge watch season 1 on the Premiere app.