Rather than reminisce about the past, every December we like to countdown the faces to watch for the forthcoming year. Here, we launch our 16 Faces of 2016. We’ll be posting one new face a day throughout the month, so check back in tomorrow.
Comic book superhero was never on Brianna Hildebrand’s list of childhood goals. Born and raised in College Station, Texas, Hildebrand always imagined she’d become a singer-songwriter. “I was strictly into music. It was my favorite thing to do,” she explains. “I’d never even thought about acting.”
Then Hildebrand entered a talent contest for modeling, music, and acting. She moved to L.A. and began taking acting classes and auditioning. She kept up with her music, performing at venues like the Clive Davis Theatre at the Grammy Museum in L.A. But when she decided to return her focus to songwriting, she was cast in her first feature film, Deadpool, alongside Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Gina Carano, and Ed Skrein.
Though Deadpool might sound like just another superhero film, it is something of a risk for Marvel. Its tone is grounded in acerbic, adults-only humor (jokes from the red band trailer include “You look like Freddie Krueger face-fucked a topographical map of Utah”); the protagonist (Reynolds) regularly breaks the fourth wall; and it is the first X-Men related film to be rated R.
Hildebrand’s character is the black lipstick-sporting, leather-clad, shaven-headed Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Born Ellie Phimister on the fictional planet of Genosha, Negasonic first appeared in the X-Men comics as a pupil of Emma Frost (January Jones‘ character in X-Men: First Class, 2011). “The only information I had on her was that she could see the future and was a teenager,” says Hildebrand. “It was hard to build the character based on the little information I had on her,” she continues. “Then again, it was also fun and maybe easier because so much of it was just from me. All the character development I could make up myself and really give her as much as I wanted to give her.”
In addition to Deadpool, which is due out in mid February, Hildebrand recently wrapped the independent movie First Girl I Loved. She spends her spare time writing music. “I write before I go to bed a lot,” she tells us. “I would love to focus on music again, but who knows.”
HOMETOWN: College Station, Texas
SUPER SIBLINGS: I have two brothers and one of them plays the guitar. I actually started playing the guitar because of him. Both of my brothers are 12 years older than me, so I thought they were really cool and I just wanted to be really cool like them. They are 30 now. I’m pretty sure my brother taught himself how to play the guitar, and it was inspiration for me to play. By the time I actually got a guitar he’d already moved out of the house, so I taught myself in honor of him.
THE MAGIC OF MIXTAPES: I was scouted by this talent scout back home. She found me because I used to make my dad these CDs of my music, and I think that some guy that he worked with had a niece who worked with the talent scout, or something really drawn out, kind of word-of-mouth. I remember calling my dad about it immediately, because she’d left me a voicemail, just being like, “Is this even real?” She ended up being real, so that’s great.
THE TALENT SHOW: I ended up moving to L.A. because I had gone to this competition with [the talent scout] and this group of kids. I’d entered the acting and modeling portions of the competition, as well as the talent part for music. There were different sections within each section of the competition, so for acting there was cold-read, improv—it was broken down like that. There was definitely a wide variety of people at the competition. I did pretty well in the acting a modeling part, so that’s, in a nutshell, the reason I ended up moving to L.A. I moved two months after the competition.
LA LA LAND: When I first moved out to L.A., I was still 17. The deal with my dad was that I would be able to live out there if I were to treat my acting classes like college classes. So when I moved, that’s all I did: trained and auditioned. When I first moved, I hated it. Now when I go visit back home for the holidays I hate it. I’m like, “I just want to be back [in L.A.], where it’s warm.” I think it’s growing on me, living in L.A. I grew up in a pretty small town; it’s a college town, really. I grew up with these dreams of a big city, but now going back to Texas is weird—maybe because I don’t have the same big city dream anymore. It’s like, “Wow, there’s a lot of grass.”
FIRST PROFESSIONAL AUDITION: I think it was for a TV pilot. It went really awkwardly. I walked into the room and was all smiley, and they were not at all smiley, so I was just like, “Oh…this is how this is going to go.” I’m sure it did discourage me. It’s really easy to get discouraged in this industry in general, though—it’s a wake up tomorrow, pick-yourself-up thing.
FIRST PROFESSIONAL ROLE: It was actually Deadpool. It was the first movie I’d ever shot. Before that I’d done a web series and a short film. I put the audition on tape; they ended up liking it. I got a callback and went in the second time and met [director] Tim [Miller] and everyone. It was pretty simple. It was really fast the way that all happened.
ON THE DEADPOOL SET: I got on with Ed [Skrein] and Gina Carano a lot. They’re just great people. They’re really cool. Ed helped me learn more about the Deadpool universe by lending me his comic books. Comics are actually a lot more difficult to read than I thought they would be. After my second Deadpool comic, I kind of gave up. I think it’s just the way the boxes are—I’m a horrible comic book reader. My character is only in two of the comics—she ends up being killed off—so there was not much I could have really learned about my character. I did learn a lot about Deadpool and who he was and his relationships with other people.
THE FIRST GIRL I LOVED: I actually auditioned for First Girl while I was in Vancouver filming [Deadpool]. But I had read the script right before I left for Vancouver, and I remember being really obsessed. I felt like I really needed to be a part of the project, so I spent most of the time while I was over there—my spare time—memorizing the lines. Immediately when I got back from Vancouver, maybe two or three weeks between the two, I started filming First Girl. It was completely different. It was a 25-day shoot. Super low-budget. My character was completely different. There are two leads in the movie and I wanted to audition for the other character [Anne] because I identify with her more. But it actually made more sense that I was Sasha, so kudos to the director.
MAKING MUSIC: I haven’t released any of my music yet. I’m still playing with the sound and experimenting as far as producers and who I should collab with. I love a live band, I love the sound of live instruments, so anyone down to bring a nice drum or guitar in. But I think it all depends on chemistry too, meeting people, the vibes.