RAHWAY, NJ — Multitalented actor Brett Azar is hard to miss. Standing 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing 250 pounds, this muscled actor has been a contestant on Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” and has undertaken numerous television roles. He was a body double for Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator Genisys” and “Terminator: Dark Fate.” Now, he is continuing to follow his passion for acting, with a role in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s upcoming NBC comedy series, “Young Rock.”
“I always had a passion for acting, from day care to elementary school,” Azar said on Sunday, Jan. 3. “At Barrington High School, I was a jock and I was the captain of the football and baseball team, but most of my friends were into theater, because I was in Competitive Chorus, and the people in the chorus were all theater people. I always wanted to do it in high school but never had time for it, because of sports. When I went to college at the University of Rhode Island, I had the time. I did a mainstream play there and fell in love with the stage and the whole aspect of acting. I took theater and acting classes, film studies. Once I got to NYC, I took some schooling classes there — my favorite being Upright Citizens Brigade. I learned more in that improve class than I did from any Meisner technique classes that I’ve taken.”
It was actually Azar’s physique that led him to his first opportunity.
“I merged into the bodybuilding world and began competing in bodybuilding, which I was still able to do onstage, but it wasn’t acting,” Azar said. “I competed all throughout college, but out of college, I had my own personal training business. I was living with my girlfriend at the time, for a year, a decade ago, and she had an interview in New York City for a modeling and acting agency. I went with her. When I was there, an agent asked who I was. I told him that I was just her boyfriend. He immediately wanted me to sign a contract. I told him that I didn’t want to do modeling and that acting was always my passion — if I can do that, then I can sign the contract. He told me about their acting division and asked me if I wanted to give it a shot, and I agreed.”
That very night, Azar said, the agent called and said he had booked him for a commercial for ESPN, the first of several commercials he landed. After this was filmed, while Azar was driving back to his job in Rhode Island, the agent called again with an audition. Azar told him he couldn’t go back and forth to auditions and shoots in New York City because of his full-time job in Rhode Island, but the agent persisted, so he eventually agreed. Two weeks later, Azar had closed his personal-training business and moved to New Jersey.
“Once I moved here, I pursued acting 100 percent, took classes, built my resume, took smaller jobs. It was full-time acting,” said Azar.
“One of the first gigs I landed, I was the Trojan Man for Trojan condoms,” he continued. “There were a lot of times where the jobs I booked never had my face. So, for the Trojan Man commercial, he’d stand in the background, and viewers would see the armor and his arms. I booked smaller commercials like that. I did a Geico commercial with the pig screaming out of the car. Eventually, the bigger commercials came. I did a couple commercials with Ryan Reynolds for a phone app called Tune Blast. In the commercial, he’s sitting and playing on his phone. The director walks in and says, ‘All right, I need you, Ryan. I can’t use your stunt double. He looks nothing like you.’ The commercial then shows me, sitting there, with the same clothes he’s wearing, completely jacked up. Ryan says, ‘What are you talking about? He looks just like me; he sounds just like me. I don’t see what the problem is.’”
These commercials eventually opened the door to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with Schwarzenegger. There was a worldwide search for a person who could match or at least come close to what Arnold’s sizes were in the first Terminator; Azar had the same frame and height. “I was a little less muscular, but pretty much the same build, and then, in my audition on tape, I did the Arnold voice, and I think that helped a little bit,” he said.
“The very first time I met Arnold was when I was a body double for him in a Budweiser commercial, playing ping pong. That was uneventful,” Azar continued. “But then I got hired to be his naked body with his CGI’d head on my body for ‘Terminator Genisys,’ and I spent three months with him in Louisiana filming. He got really used to seeing me naked. So now, whenever we see each other in person, he says he doesn’t recognize me because I’m wearing too much clothing. They brought me back to be his body again in ‘Terminator: Dark Fate.’”
Azar said that his first Terminator movie changed his life. Being cast as Schwarzenegger’s body in ‘Terminator Genisys,’ he said, opened so many doors that he would always be grateful to Schwarzenegger and Alan Taylor, the movie’s director. The experience also helped establish him in the fitness world, allowing him to meet professional bodybuilders and fitness athletes who appeal to the Arnold Schwarzenegger crowd. Azar said it also legitimized his career choice and helped change his family’s perspective about it, as they had previously not supported him dropping his full-time job and moving to New Jersey on a whim to become a homeless, jobless actor. He said he scraped by for four or five years, but it really wasn’t until he was booked the first Terminator movie that his family realized he had made the right choice for himself.
Azar’s mother, Suzanne Munroe, takes great pride in her son’s acting success, even though she says it wasn’t always easy for him.
“He’s never given up on his dreams,” said Monroe on Monday, Jan. 4. “He works hard, is very driven and self-motivated. He’s a good kid. He graduated college with straight A’s. We always thought he was going to be a doctor or a dentist, but, no, he wanted to be an actor. He has done well. I’m always his No. 1 fan.
“Right when he started on this venture, he left home and he wanted to be an actor and it’s been a struggle,” she continued. “It’s either he’s happy and acting or he had no money and was poor. It’s all or nothing. Step by step, he has worked his way up to getting roles that he really enjoys. He’s excited about this one because it’s his face and his acting. He’s excited about that but he has done a lot of movies and commercials along the way.”
Recently, Azar found himself doing something out of the ordinary — competing on Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” — thanks to encouragement from Jenni Farley, also known as JWoww, a television personality best known for the MTV reality series “Jersey Shore.”
“I saw the audition in an email and a friend of mine, JWoww, as everyone may know her, was recently a winner on a celebrity season,” Azar said. “So I reached out to her and asked if it would be a good idea. Through the magic of who you know and timing, I got hired to be on the show, and I almost won. I’m a typical gym rat who really doesn’t eat for taste; I eat for function, so my meals were very plain, dry and not anywhere near what a chef would ever serve. So I fit right in with the people who couldn’t cook. I live off a microwave.”
Even though Azar did not win, he was invited to compete in the Halloween special of “Worst Cooks in America.”
“Somehow, during the Season 15 showing of ‘Worst Cooks in America,’ I became a fan favorite,” Azar said. “So, they brought me back for the Halloween special this year, and I was teamed up with my buddy, Mike Jones, and we won, which was a big deal, because it was for a new kitchen. The Halloween special was about scary and gross food items. The item they gave me was a cow’s heart, and it was the size of my head. We had to blend it and put it in the meat grinder. It was fun.”
Azar is excited for his latest gig — playing an iconic character in an upcoming NBC show about the wild, unpredictable childhood and formative years of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
“The show, ‘Young Rock,’ is about The Rock’s childhood and how he became the man that he is today, with a comedy, family-style spin on it,” Azar said. “I played a wrestler from the ’80s, The Iron Sheik, who was like an uncle and mentor to The Rock when he was a kid. The Sheik was and is a bit of an eccentric person in real life, and they certainly kept that true to character in the show. He’s still alive, and I actually spoke to him while I was filming. He was and still is a very popular wrestler. He’s in the Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was also a very eccentric guy — a bit brash, a bit of a partier and a funny character.”
Munroe is happy for her son that he landed this role and is making his way in his chosen profession.
“It’s tough,” Monroe said, “because it’s hard to make a living as an actor. There were a lot of friends that started that road with him, and they weren’t able to stay in it, but he’s determined. So, it would be wonderful for him to be able to make this a career where he can actually afford to be off on his own and not worry about his bills.
“That’s what I would be most excited about,” she continued. “To have a future that he can sustain and not worry about where the next job is going to come from.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been particularly challenging for performing artists, Azar has been able to find jobs for himself. Because of the coronavirus, he has had to submit his auditions by video. The week before the audition for the “Young Rock” part, Azar had decided to shave his head, something he’d never done before. He said this proved fortuitous, as he looked so much like a young Iron Sheik that it helped him land the role.
Azar recently did a national commercial for E-Trade and said there’s a possibility for full-time work for him in the future as a narrator for a new video game. Though Azar downplays his previous acting experiences, he has also been in the movies “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” and “Jersey Shore Massacre”; the TV movie “SARS-29”; the interactive media production “#WarGames”; and such television programs as “Gotham,” “Power,” “Jessica Jones,” “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” “The Blacklist” and “Claws.” But for now, all his attention is focused on “Young Rock,” which is slated to premiere in February.
“This is the greatest role I’ve ever been involved with and probably will be the biggest show I’ve ever been involved with,” Azar said. “It really is a dream-come-true situation for me, where I’m not just a body, and not just a thug or goon. I’m a multi-episode character that shows real emotion, and, career-wise, this is the biggest and best thing that I’ve ever experienced.
“This role will open more doors for me, big time,” he continued. “This will open more doors than ‘Terminator’ would have. Just because this is my face, for one. It’s me acting as a character, and it establishes me as an actor, much more so than anything I’ve done in the past, because I’ve always done little guest-star, co-star roles where I had one or two episodes in a show. But I’ve never been a recurring character. I’ve never been more than just the tough guy, goon, guard or bouncer. This character is dynamic and funny. There’s actual acting involved, instead of saying one line within a script.
“Working with these actors, with the directors and writers such as Nahnatchka Khan, Jeff Chiang and Jeff Walker, I couldn’t ask for anything greater,” he added. “Plus, to be involved with something that Dwayne Johnson is involved with, as a meathead gym-rat actor, I’m in heaven. This is a dream come true. Viewers are going to love this show, without a doubt.”
Photos Courtesy of Brett Azar