“I never felt out of place”: Aaron Branch on Unstable
Rob Lowe and his son John Owen Lowe star in Unstable, in a very similar dynamic to that of Tony Stark and Peter Parker’s father-and-son relationship, popularised by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The new release follows scientist Ellis Dragon, who struggles to return to work at his company after the loss of his wife. Instead, he busies himself with wacky inventions and other such diversions. His estranged son, Jackson, comes back to help rebuild the company, while also learning to navigate a newfound romance alongside his relationship with his father.
Actor and standup comedian Aaron Branch plays Malcolm Drummond in the series (initially finding out that he was a shortlisted contender for the role in a queue for the drive-thru at Burger King). Having been featured as a rising star in Netflix’s Fresh New Faces, he channels his ambition and tenacity into the character of Malcolm, who is also trying his best to impress Lowe’s character, Ellis. The Upcoming caught up with Branch ahead of the release of Unstable to discuss working as an assistant to a CEO before becoming an actor, his friendship with his co-stars, and meeting Fred Armisen.
Can you give us a brief introduction to Unstable and your character?
I play the character of Malcolm and he’s a very anxious, but also very tenacious (did not mean for that to rhyme) newly promoted manager of a small team of scientists. He is just trying his best to figure it out. Unstable stars Rob Lowe along with his son Johnny Lowe. It’s about a scientist who lost his wife, but he’s a genius so he’s just trying his best to get it together. His son comes back up to make sure that all of his marbles stay intact.
How did you come across this role initially? And what drew you to audition for Malcolm?
My agent, Marisa – shoutout to Marisa – sends me on a lot of auditions, and she sent me on this one. It just so happens that this was the one that, after hundreds and hundreds of “nos”, turned out to be a “yes”. Being in LA, you kind of have to have several jobs. I had just come from being an assistant to a CEO of a company. I was not that good at the job, but he liked me enough to give me a promotion, so I ended up becoming a manager of a small team of editors. He wanted to start a production company branch. I ended up leaving the position two or three months after, and then I just went on to do standup and acting full-time. When this came up and I saw Malcolm, it was literally almost identical to the experience that I just had as the assistant to the CEO.
Do you have any other similarities with Malcolm that helped you land this role?
Definitely the tenacious part. Even when things are not going our way and we might not be doing the best job, I say that we both still are like, “We’re going to try, we’re going to kill it.” We just don’t stop until we’re the best – I don’t know if that sounds pretentious or not.
What was it like working with a father-son duo like Rob and Johnny? Is their relationship on–screen a lot like their relationship off-screen?
I would say that their relationship is very, very similar to what it is on-screen. Obviously, it’s definitely fabricated in the show – like a thousand and ten percent. There’s so much love there and you obviously see that in the show too, but at its core – you know how it is with your parents? There’s small bickering, but I think that’s how it is with any parent-and-child duo. I know that me and my mom are like that. They’re probably two of the nicest humans, and also funniest humans that I have met. It was very fun; I was surprised at how much we got along.
And how about working with veteran comedic actors like Rob Lowe and Fred Armisen?
I was freaking out, hardcore, because it’s Rob Lowe – everybody loves Rob Lowe! My mom loves Rob Lowe, my grandmother loves Rob Lowe. Especially with Fred Armisen – I grew up with Saturday Night Live. I grew up in the early 00s, so Fred Armisen was my Chris Farley. He was the guy that really got me into Saturday Night Live. To be on a TV show with two people that I really, really respect and admire is very, very nerve-wracking, but what I appreciate about both of them is that I never felt any type of ego trip. I only got to work with Fred for one day, and obviously I worked with Rob a lot of days, but the one day I worked with Fred especially – he’s such a kind soul. He is very nice, he asks a lot of questions, he talks and [he is] just a really kind person. I would say the same thing for Rob. Rob was there to offer advice, answer any questions, and he was also there for a lot of laughs. I never felt out of place, which is so surprising because they’re both such powerhouse talents.
What kind of advice did Rob give you?
My very first scene that I had… was it my first scene or the first scene we actually filmed? It was in the very first episode, where I’m at dinner with his son, Johnny, and I was attempting to eat the food. He was just explaining to me that it’s one of the hardest things that an actor can do; he was trying to give me tips and tricks on how to be able to stay in the moment with your character, but also eat. I still haven’t figured that out – if you notice in that scene, I do not eat; it is very, very difficult. But it was nice to have affirmation from him, to know this is also a really hard task that a lot of people can’t figure out.
Malcolm gets up to some fun and eccentric things with his co-workers, especially the girls in the lab. Was that dynamic the same on-set?
Yes, most definitely, especially with Emma Ferreira and Rachel Marsh. We kind of all ended up becoming best friends, hanging out everyday. They made fun of me a lot, but I also made fun of them a lot – specifically Rachel Marsh, because I thought it was funny. That was definitely the dynamic from the very beginning. We all became like a little family: we would eat together, went to the movies together. It was also during Covid, so we weren’t really going out into the world that much because we were trying to avoid the virus. But we all stayed together and we did everything together throughout the duration of filming it. It was very, very fun.
What would you like to explore for Malcolm in a potential second season?
I want to get a little more on his backstory – like his home life. I also want to be able to dive more into what it was like growing up with Jackson. I think it would be really funny to have flashbacks of us in high school. It would also be funny to have flashbacks of Ellis going back to school and all the shenanigans that happened during that time period.
Which of the inventions in the show do you think would benefit you the most in real life?
I really do think an invisible cloak would be really awesome; I think I would use it all the time. Not because I don’t want people to see me, but just because I think that it would be absolutely fun. When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I started collecting small different spy tools to kind of just have. An invisible cloak is a really good thing that I didn’t know I needed, that would’ve completed my repertoire.
The show is very science-focused. Did you learn a lot of scientific things working on it?
Absolutely not – I did not learn anything! But what’s really cool about that, though, is that Emma and Rachel actually had a real-life scientist on-set teaching them how to interact with the tools, like the microscopes and everything else, but Malcolm and myself don’t know what we’re doing in the slightest, which I think is so awesome, so funny and so on-brand for myself.
If you could describe Unstable in three words to entice people to watch it, what would they be?
Eccentric, original and hysterical!
Unstable is released on Netflix on 30th March 2023.
Watch the trailer for Unstable here: