Woodburn teen Mason Brown sees early success as an actor
Since he was 5 years old, Mason Brown has had a strong sense of what he wanted to be when he grew up: an actor.
"I wanted to be the next James Bond," Mason Brown said.
But unlike many 5-year-olds who dream of becoming an actor, Mason Brown, a longtime Woodburn resident who is now a senior at Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy, is still pursuing an acting career more than 10 years later.
Last year, he was a lead in a web-only short film posted on Disney's YouTube channel. In 2015, he played a small role on "Grimm," an NBC supernatural drama series filmed in Portland. He's acted in a scattering of independent movies and has played parts in multiple web series, such as "The Benefits of Gusbandry," "BASICS" and "The Haunting of Sunshine Girl."
Mason Brown got his first modeling job for a Fred Meyer ad when he was only 8 months old. He started pursuing acting more seriously by age 7.
"We did something kind of drastic," he said. He and his mom traveled to Arizona for a weeklong training camp and "cattle call," an opportunity to meet agents and audition for roles.
The trip was largely a bust: Mason Brown didn't get any roles.
A few years later, he and his mom moved to California for six months so that he could find a manager and audition during pilot season.
His mother, Veronica Brown, said it was worth the sacrifice to help her son pursue his dreams.
Veronica Brown said her parents, who emigrated from Mexico, worked full-time jobs and raised seven kids, didn't have much time to help their kids pursue their dreams.
"I really wanted to be there for my kids," Veronica Brown said.
The trip to California helped launch Mason Brown's career: he got his first manager and auditioned for roles.
It was through his first manager that they learned that the training camp in Arizona had been a scam: Most agencies work on commission, but agencies at the cattle call charged a fee up front and didn't find work for the young actors in attendance.
Because Mason Brown was missing school to audition in California, he was required to do homework by himself for eight hours a day. "It definitely taught me work ethic," he said.
After lots of auditions, he was picked for a role on "Conan" as a Christmas caroler in a sketch featuring Conan O'Brien and Jack Black.
"My first job with Conan O'Brien was very important," Mason Brown said. "It taught me how to act on set."
When he and his mother returned to Woodburn, he signed with a couple of Portland acting agencies: Puddletown and Q6 Talent.
Since then, he's been balancing his schoolwork and his other interests with finding jobs in acting.
His biggest role so far has been on the Disney Channel's YouTube series called Free Period, which features short films of various genres. The film titled "Misfits," released last November, featured Mason Brown as the male lead and currently has more than 30,000 views.
He says that so far, the most challenging role he's played was for the YouTube series "BASICS."
"Typically, I'm cast as the lover boy, boy next door, lead type of role," he said. "I've kind of got that down. I don't have to do too much prep. I just slip on the character with ease," he said.
But for the web series, he was cast as a drug dealer named Roy.
"He's very different from me, and I had to get into that mental preparation of being the bad person," Mason Brown said.
And while Mason Brown aspires to be like James Franco, Johnny Depp and James Dean, the actors to which he's most often compared, he tries to stay well-rounded and rooted in his community. He says his roots in Woodburn are important to him.
"I myself am Mexican," he said. "I use the stage name Mason Treviño Brown because of that."
He volunteers through his church, Immanuel Lutheran, is on the honor roll, is involved in sports and plays in the Woodburn High School Mariachi Band. He said his support system of family and community members makes it all possible.
"I get a lot of help from a lot of people," he said.
Now a senior in high school, Mason Brown is applying to colleges and thinking more seriously about his future and whether he'll pursue acting as a career.
"As for whether I'll make it the main focus of my career, it's not guaranteed…I've been working at it for over five years and I'm still a very minor actor," he said.
But Mason Brown said even if he doesn't become a career actor, he'll always be acting in some capacity.
"Throughout my life, acting's been more than just a hobby to me," he said. "I love doing it. I don't think I'll ever stop."