For years, the Houston natives' trajectories have coincided — with both brothers embarking on acting careers, and making great strides at it, too. Brandon, 35, the eldest of the two, is currently playing the role of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Broadway transfer of Robert Schenkkan's critically acclaimed All The Way at the Neil Simon Theatre.
Just a few blocks away, Jason, 33, — the youngest of five Dirden siblings — is gearing up for his role as George Murchison in Kenny Leon's revival of Lorraine Hansberry's classic A Raisin in the Sun at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, opening April 3. In the past, they both have experienced the bright lights of Broadway via bit parts and understudy roles in plays such as Prelude to a Kiss, Enron and Fences. This spring both have roles in big name shows boasting the likes of Academy Award and Tony winner Denzel Washington, Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose and Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston.
"We have been so lucky and blessed to be able to take part in so many projects that are revered or, like, 'the thing to be in,' and we have nothing but our parents to thank for that," Jason said.
The apples didn't fall far from the tree when it came to Willie James Dirden and his two youngest sons. A seasoned actor in his own right, their dad exposed his children to arts at a very young age via his own varied acting gigs. "A lot of the plays he did [were] more grown up and we were a little too young to see [them]," Brandon shared. "But the few that we did see [were] mesmerizing, absolutely mesmerizing. To see this man who we know one day as dad, and then go to see him playing the Angel of Death was a little traumatizing to see."
"He's been so influential on us as far as being [an] artist, period, and just the purity of the craft of acting, and the theatre, and also instilling integrity and humanity in us," Jason added.
The Dirden brothers have so much in common: From the same undergraduate studies (Atlanta's Morehouse College) to the same post-graduate degree program (University of Illinois). They both even have acclaimed actresses as real-life love interests: Brandon is married to Theatre World Award winner and Clybourne Park actress Crystal A. Dickinson; for the past few years Jason has been dating former 3LW singer Naturi Naughton, who also starred in Broadway's Hairspray and in the movie "Notorious."
"I'm waiting for him to do something original so I can follow his lead," Brandon deadpanned.
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