Angel Torres, the Fry’s Electronics tech guy who joins forces with OJ and Em as they take on unimaginable forces in Jordan Peele’s “Nope,” which just notched a WGA Award nomination, was written as more of a cheery, can-do guy. But that didn’t seem right to Brandon Perea, who brought a more downbeat, angsty approach to the role.
“No one is really happy to be working at a tech store,” says Perea, who with his brothers used to run into Fry’s to check out all things video-game related and never encountered a gung-ho employee. “That was a real place for me.”
Additionally, Perea says, “My cheat code for this role was my brothers: one is a computer tech for Dell who goes to businesses and fixes problems. I hear all these stories like, ‘These people try to sound like they know what they’re talking about and it’s so annoying.’ My other brother used to run a print shop and when I’d be in the store he’d look back at me when the customers said something annoying.”
So, while Perea, who is part Filipino and part Puerto Rican, is affable and enthusiastic, he wanted to give Angel a different feel, even though the brief description that came with the sides for his self-tape audition was just “Nice, clutch guy that works at a tech store.”
“I wanted to make my audition genuine, but I wanted it to stand out,” he says, “so I brought a more depressed feeling to the part.”
Perea, who had already made a name for himself as the youngest professional roller skater (his specialty is jam skating, which is breakdancing on roller skates) and in the TV series “The OA.” His take got Peele’s attention and the actor soon did a Zoom callback with Peele.
A few days later, Perea was told Peele wanted a Zoom improv session; Peele told him: “The character you brought was way different than what I wrote for and I’d have to rewrite my entire script,” Perea recalls, adding that you could see in his eyes that he didn’t think he was getting the job. But then Peele added, “That’s what I’m going to do. You got the part.” (There was no improv session, Peele just wanted to surprise him.)
Perea was worried he’d get a case of the nerves in rehearsal or on set working with Peele as well as Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya, whom he describes as his favorite actor, but “it was the easiest job I ever had.”
“In rehearsals I just realized that they’re all really good and so I wanted to be as good and keep up with them and I’m the new kid so I just trusted them,” he says.
That trust paid off and now Perea is facing a new challenge, the “whirlwind” of trying to build on Hollywood success and figure what to do next. “I’m putting pressure on myself trying to choose the right thing,” he says. “I’m reading and taking meetings but I don’t have a clue about what the next right thing is. I do think shaping a career means being open — I’m not afraid of a small indie movie or a small part in a bigger movie, as long as it’s good. But I was definitely spoiled by working with Jordan Peele on this one.”