The Richmond Way
Life in Hollywood’s bright lights has long been a family affair for stuntman-turned-actor Branscombe Richmond.
Branscombe Richmond has one of those recognizable faces. At first, he appears to be just any local braddah. Could he be a neighbor, distant relative or maybe the bouncer from the dive bar last Friday night? But then he smiles, showing off his perfect white teeth, and you can almost hear a “ding” like in the cartoons. That’s it — he’s famous.
Upon this realization, some people play it cool, but some can’t help but cat-call the actor in the most endearing way.
“Ho, you da guy from that one movie!” they usually holler.
But which movie?
Kūpuna may remember him as Detective Max Quentero, a corrupt policeman who tries to take down Steven Seagal’s character in Hard to Kill. Adults know him as Bobby Sixkiller in Renegade, a bounty hunter-themed show that had a successful five-season run in the 1990s. Gamers identify him as the voice of Gibraltar in Apex Legends, a video game played by millions around the world, or Kimo in Netflix’s popular family flick Finding ‘Ohana.
A few may even recognize him as the tough “doodoo papah” guy (if you know, you know) who punches Jason Segal in the face in Forgetting Sarah Marshall or as Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson’s brother in Scorpion King.
Richmond is a dynamic actor, producer, stuntman and stunt coordinator, boasting well over 200 credits and his work has brought entertainment to at least three generations of viewers. It’s a feat some entertainment professionals only dream of.
“It’s about timing, chance, good fortune, persistence and talent,” says Richmond. “When the timing comes, you gotta take a chance on yourself; God willing, you get a little good fortune; persistence will keep you together to get more good fortune; and talent is last. A lot of guys are very talented, but they never take a chance on themselves, which is a sad thing.
“I always remind people that they don’t need to have all the answers, they just need to believe in themselves. That’s my mantra of being able to get through it all. Here I am today, blessings are abundant, and still relevant in the motion picture/television business. It’s not that I have a secret recipe, I just try to paddle my canoe stronger and faster than guys who look like me at this age.”
According to his Screen Actors Guild health/pension plan, 2024 marks his 50th year in the industry. But believe it or not, his credentials go back even further.
Richmond says that his father, Leo, was among the early Polynesians to succeed in Hollywood. (He now tips his hat to the Rock and Jason Momoa for further paving the way.) At age 5, Richmond, now 68, knew he wanted to step into his father’s spotlight, so he became an extra in films like Mutiny on the Bounty with Marlon Brando and Donovan’s Reef with John Wayne.
While it’s undeniably cool to share the screen with the Golden Age elites, Richmond doesn’t attribute that as his “break big.” That came later when he got the chance to perform stunts for Gregory Sierra in Disney’s The Castaway Cowboy.
“I got a shot because the stunt guy they had lined up got the wrong call, so it was my turn,” says Richmond. “I saw my check for $215 compared to my extra check for $37.50, and I went, ‘Boy, if I could do this every day, life would be great.’ Little did I know, it doesn’t happen like that. Affirmative action came in, and since I was a person of color, I got a shot. They said, ‘Hey Richmond, before we light you on fire and throw you down these stairs, can you say these five lines?’
“That’s how it started. I became an actor via being an action guy.”
He credits his towering height (6 foot 3) as a big selling point for casting directors. It undoubtedly secured him some of the “bad guy” roles he became known for.
“I will say most leading guys can’t beat up on an actor shorter than them because it’ll make them look like a bully,” Richmond says. “Because I was a guy of some size, I was able to get a lot of action ‘bad guy’ roles because it always looked better if Chuck Norris beat up on a guy taller than him.”
He may portray a villain on screen, but Richmond is quite the opposite in real life. Mr. Aloha loves talking story with fans; taking care of his papayas, bananas and lo‘i patches at his Kula home; and spending quality time with his dog, Kukui.
Perhaps his Hawaiian roots taught him the sentiment, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice,” which is something he seems to live by. When asked about his favorite people to work with, he mentions Ray Bolger (among a long list of others), not just because of his acting chops, but because of the way the man, who was cast as the Scarecrow in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, treated people.
“I was watching the master of kindness,” he says about sharing a dressing room with Bolger on the set of TV movie Three on a Date. “He always had a second or two for everybody, and that’s what I learned from him.
“This business is so small, the non-kind ones don’t last,” he adds.
In between filming, Richmond met former Miss Hawai‘i and Kamehameha School grad, Lei Ma‘a. The couple married, had four children and settled on Maui, where they reside today, in addition to Los Angeles and Kentucky.
Like his father, Richmond involved his children in the family business — marking 75 years and counting of Richmonds in Holly-wood — and recently founded the production company Richmond-FamilyFilms.
“It’s always been a dream,” he says. “If you look at my IMDB, you’ll see I’ve been blessed to produce quite a bit of content, but it wasn’t until I met a gentleman by the name of Garrett Sutton … He became an angel to RichmondFamilyFilms and now I have a slate of films that will be produced for Sunn Stream.”
This year, fans may find Richmond in Kangaroo Kids and Decade of the Dead, both of which are directed by his son, Fairai, plus Scare the Freckles Right Off Your Face! and At Her Feet starring Kaua‘i’s Sydney Agudong, who will play Nani in the live-action Lilo & Stitch. “I want to do good work and have some fun, smile, and make others smile as well,” says Richmond.
The national average retirement age is 61, so, it’s only natural to wonder if that’s coming up for the seasoned actor.
When the question is posed, Richmond responds, “Retirement? What the heck is that?
“I stole something from Clint Eastwood who I stunt-coordinated for on Hereafter. He said something that I borrowed, that is, ‘I’m not letting the old man in.’ So I’m not retiring for anything, ever.”
It’s safe to say we can anticipate seeing Richmond’s familiar face in even more motion pictures. So, get ready to find yourself staring a bit longer, trying to place him if you catch him on the street.