Catching up with Michael, October 2012
October 29 2012
How did you get into acting in the first place?
I got into it in high school. We were all forced to do something for a dramatic reading contest and I didn't want to do it so I picked out children's literature. I did Rapunzel and I thought for a joke I'd give them all different voices and stuff. Well, it won me a prize and it also made me think, gosh I could make fun of stuff and this could be cool. So I started to do it, but I never thought I would do it professionally until I got to the university level. That's when I started to think about it because I wasn't really sure it was something I wanted to do, but I just found myself drawn to the theater world more and more. So I said, screw it, if I'm going to do this many plays I might as well major in it. Then I found a whole world that I hadn't realized existed, the history and analysis and all the stuff that I thoroughly enjoy today.
Was the beginning of your career easy?
It was and it wasn't. I was in college and I decided to go to Los Angeles and I went out there and I starved. I had no direction, I had no ambition to get out of my room and do something. Even though I went to classes, I found them boring and kind of self indulgent and teachers who taught, this is how I did it. So I went back and I ran into a young lady who was a graduate student in Michigan and she asked me if I was serious about it and that they needed men in the department. I guess it was an off year in recruitment. I went in, auditioned and finished off and got a BFA and a Master of Fine Arts Degree.
I still wasn't confident, so when I went to New York, I worked at other things for about a year and a half, waiting tables and that kind of stuff. I got lucky and through one of my acting classes I met some people and the next thing I know I was auditioning for a soap. I didn't make it, but the casting director said why don't you do extra work on it, and so I did extra work in it, it was a soap called Search for Tomorrow. I watched what they were doing and thought geez this is good. It lead to about five different auditions for different soaps and in the meantime I was doing commercial auditions. Then boom, one hit. That was the Guiding Light and rest, as they say, is history. But in the meantime, if you backtrack a little bit, after I got out of graduate school, I didn't go straight to New York, I went to TCG auditions in Chicago and got three roles in the summer theater program at the university of Missouri and got my equity card as a result.
What's the most challenging role you've done?
Iago in Othello. I think he's a much malign character insofar that people play him heavy-handed and strictly evil. I always looked at him as somebody who was looked over and I approached it as a joke in the beginning. It was a joke that got out of hand and he started to enjoy it more than he set out to do, until it got to the point that he killed his wife. Up until that point, the audience was on my side, they really and truly liked me and I made them laugh in the soliloquies, I made them be on my side until the point that he kills Emilia. Then it's over, and he looses it in himself. I think he goes from being in the edge to totally insane. That was my favorite role.
Has there ever been a transition into character that you thought was almost too easy?
No, not really. I did a play called Come Back Little Sheba where I played an alcoholic and because I rely a great deal on sense memory from my Stanislavski training and Uta Hagen training, which we started to call transference. I'd get into the role so much it would take a while, two or three hours, for me to come back down from it. It was very, very difficult. A lot of people liked that performance, and while I didn't dread going to the theater, I knew eventually that I couldn't do those roles anymore. I didn't want to. I went to places in my dark side I didn't want to visit.
How did you like playing twins on The Young and The Restless
Playing twins is a lot of fun because I had to play two people and give them distinct voices and personalities. I've done that on The Young And The Restless and think it was quite effective and I also did that on an episode of Zorro. It allows you the freedom to be either better or nastier. As a matter of fact, in Zorro both brothers were nasty, but they were also nasty to each other. You know your relatives better, and so it was fun to work in the script to pick on myself so to speak, and then give it back to the other one.
Speaking of Zorro, it was released on DVD recently. How does it feel to have your work brought back to life after 20 years.
Oh, I like that. It's interesting, some of my film students, like most students these days, are totally aware if the Internet and totally aware or what's going on and that sort of thing. They went out and got the DVD sets and asked me to sign them. That a kind of interesting because that was done in 1989, 20 years before it came out and people still like them and remember it.
What's the role that got away?
There's a lot of them. The one thing I'm fortunate at is that I never turned something down that turned into being something great. I auditioned for Indiana Jones, I auditioned for Lone Ranger. There were all kinds of parts, like the psychotic killer in Sleeping with the Enemy. They all got away. I would have loved to have done any one of those and half a dozen other roles. But I've been quite blessed in my career and have gotten to do a lot of different things, so I have no regrets.
Michael has been teaching at University of Nevada Las Vegas since 2003. He was recently appointed Acting Associate Dean in the College of Fine Arts.
Why do you like teaching?
I've always liked teaching, I love teaching, as a matter of fact. I think of it more as my life's work than just acting. I like to find and nurture talent, give them positive influence and mentor them into careers. When I first started out I wanted to be a teacher, but I thought I would need professional experience. I went after that professional experience and 30+ years later I found an opportunity to teach. I gave up professional theater and film just to teach, but during the course of teaching the last ten years, I've also had opportunities to perform as an equity actor on stage. I do that to keep up my end of the bargain to stay current. I've also done three or four films and shorts that I'm sure most of you are aware of.
What are your favorite topics to teach and areas of expertise?
We'll, acting and directing is mostly what they want me for, but I've also taught theater history. I think it's important to know how acting and how directing evolved in order to better demonstrate what they did as opposed to what we're doing now, so we don't make the same mistakes. We can take their inspiration and move it forward. Analysis is important: how to read and analyze the script. I'm a big proponent of Joseph Campbell and his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
You can never learn too much, as long as you're not a self-declared expert but are willing to learn and grown. You can see that reflected in the classes and students that you teach.
Have you taught anything outside of the university?
I have taught acting for SAG and AFTRA who are members of this community. I teach them audition techniques and things that I think are important when I have the time
What do you when you're not teaching?
When I'm not teaching I like to spend time with my beautiful wife Rachelle and my baby Koko and do fun things with them. Rachelle has been a total inspiration to me in staying young and, of course, our baby Kollette is another inspiration. A lot of my friends are retiring and I don't want to do that. I can't see myself playing shuffleboard and watching television during the day. I don't see myself doing anything other than teaching.