I connected with actor Sean Cameron Michael several months ago through social media and when the opportunity to do an interview with him came up, I jumped at the chance.
My first exposure to Sean’s work was when another critic at Your Entertainment Corner got me hooked on the Starz series, Black Sails; Sean played the smuggler Richard Guthrie for the first two seasons. It wasn’t until after I had gotten to know Sean that I realized he played Charles Solenz in the 2008 television film, 24: Redemption.
Recently, Sean played the Russian diplomat, Grigory Krukov, on the USA Network series Shooter. Up next for Sean is the new series, Blood Drive, which will air sometime in 2017 on Syfy.
Despite the gruffness of many his characters, Sean is one of the nicest guys out there. One of these days, I’d love it if Sean were cast as the lovable neighbor rather than the guy sent to kill the neighbor.
Check out my questions below and then watch his Blade Runner tribute short film, Tears in the Rain, here.
Greg Staffa: USA Networks’ Shooter recently concluded its first season. You played Grigory Krukov, a Russian diplomat with a very dark side. Had you seen the 2007 film or read the book it was inspired by?
Sean Cameron Michael: I had watched the Mark Wahlberg film (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and knowing that he was also on board as producer of the new series was an added bonus.
I feel it’s my responsibility to do as much research as I can on the character, the story, project, and everyone involved (depending on the amount of prep time that I have) before I walk onto the set. It’s like playing detective and I really enjoy that. All this information ultimately influences and assists the choices I make in my portrayal.
Greg Staffa: Krukov is in the shadows through the first half of the season. How much information were you given as far as storyline and details about your character? What was the biggest challenge in playing Krukov?
Sean Cameron Michael: From the onset, I knew that the character would possibly be recurring throughout the second half of the series, but to what extent and exactly where the story would go was ultimately up to the writers. Working opposite top Hollywood actors such as Ryan Phillippe, Eddie McClintock, Omar Epps, Costa Ronin, Desmond Harrington, Shantel VanSanten, and the legendary Beverly D’Angelo was an absolute treat. Having to learn fluent Russian for a couple of scenes (with only a few days prep) was certainly the biggest challenge and I have to thank my dialect coach, Olga Hamlet, for her patience and passion. I could not have done it without her.
Greg Staffa: Anytime you do a series or film, there’s always a delay from finishing the shoot to when it airs. Shooter was delayed not once, but twice. As an actor who got started in theater where you have immediate gratification, what was it like to wait months for Shooter to air?
Sean Cameron Michael: I’ve learnt to enjoy and take immense pleasure in the film making process itself. It’s very much a collaborative experience so when you’re filming a scene, being in the moment and bringing the words to life with authenticity and honesty is wonderful. It’s the only true moment of acting and reacting. When the director, writers, and producers are happy with the work that you’re doing, that’s incredibly gratifying. Ultimately, your performance and how you’re perceived in the context of the entire episode is determined in an edit suite. I’m always curious though, after the fact, to see what takes actually made the final cut and if those acting choices worked for the writer’s intention.
Greg Staffa: Are you able to go back and watch Shooter as a fan?
Sean Cameron Michael: I love good TV and film. I’m as obsessed and passionate as the next guy and I’m fortunate to be able to watch a show objectively, seeing what works (or sometimes doesn’t work) for me as a viewer. I know some actors hate watching themselves on screen and are overly critical of their performance. I’m not one of those actors. I think it’s important to see one’s work; where you’re at as an actor; what you can learn and better perfect the next time you’re fortunate to be in front of the camera again.
I was very excited for the Shooter premiere and seeing the audience and fan base grow, as the series progressed, was fantastic. Interacting with passionate fans via Twitter was also a treat. Viewers really do love a great baddie.
Greg Staffa: You became an actor at an early age and have been successful as a South African actor. Was the transition to Hollywood something you had set your sights on or was it something that happened naturally?
Sean Cameron Michael: Ironically, the majority of work I’ve done over the past 25 years has actually been on American productions filmed in South Africa. When we shot Michael Bay’s Black Sails series for Starz in Cape Town and I got the opportunity to play a series regular on two seasons of it, that seemed like the perfect time to start the green card process to relocate to the States. It’s been over two years now that I’ve been working in Hollywood and yes, it most definitely has been a dream come true for me.
Greg Staffa: Is there much of a difference between shooting for South African television and Hollywood?
Sean Cameron Michael: Hollywood productions usually have adequate to good budgets to make quality television so as a boy from Africa, it’s an honor to be part of that. It’s remarkable how local productions even get made in South Africa with sometimes ludicrously low or almost not existent budgets. The cast and crews over there are so passionate, hard-working, and dedicated though. I’m still very patriotic and appreciative to a country that I love and has given me a career for the past three decades. Whenever I’m in South Africa, I really try to work on as many short films and indies as I can. It’s my way of giving back and supporting up-and-coming writers, directors, and producers to help realize their own dreams. This month, I’ve got a South African Blade Runner tribute short film called Tears in the Rain, currently doing the rounds on the internet, which you can watch here. It’s directed by the multi-talented Christopher Grant Harvey. We’ve also got a feature film called Last Broken Darkness (directed by Christopher-Lee Dos Santos) doing the festival circuit in the US and Europe, which you can watch a trailer for here.
Greg Staffa: Here’s a scenario — Steven Spielberg calls you up and says, “Sean, I want to work with you. I’ve got the money, you pick the role, genre, and subject matter.” What would the film be?
Sean Cameron Michael: Wow, wouldn’t that be amazing! Hmmm. I’d love to do a biopic about the life and music of David Bowie. A musical drama. Would be a great opportunity to show off my passion for music and singing.
Greg Staffa: Is there anyone you would like to work with someday?
Sean Cameron Michael: I’ve been fortunate to have already worked with some greats: Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, William Hurt, Charles Dance. It would be awesome to act opposite Susan Sarandon, Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, Mark Wahlberg, Bryan Cranston, John Malkovich, Michael Sheen…
Greg Staffa: People often associate an actor with the role he’s famous for playing. For instance, that’s Sean Cameron Michael from Black Sails. But when you look in the mirror, who is Sean Cameron Michael to you?
Sean Cameron Michael: I believe many of the roles we play are based on truths and traits we find deep inside ourselves. That’s how we bring realism, subtlety, and honesty to help humanize the characters we portray. That said, I’ve played some hardcore psychopaths and I’m personally actually quite a warm, friendly, down-to-earth, easy-going guy. I see a duality when I look in the mirror—sometimes serious and intense, other times silly and fun. So there’s always a duality to the characters I play.
Greg Staffa: What is one random fact fans would be surprised to learn about you?
Sean Cameron Michael: If I wasn’t acting, I’d be singing in a band and making music.
Greg Staffa: You’re currently working on the Syfy series, Blood Drive, that will air sometime in 2017. I won’t ask for specific details about the series but what drew you to the role?
Sean Cameron Michael: I play the role of Old Man Heart—the aging alpha-male and CEO of Heart Industries, who will murder anyone who gets in his way. Once I read the first episode, it was immediately something I knew that I had to work on. It was outrageous, intelligent, brilliant, funny, and like nothing I’d ever read before. Also, it was an opportunity to play an American character for a change (I always play South Africans, Russians, Brits, and Germans) and coincidentally, it was also filming in my hometown of Cape Town in South Africa.
Greg Staffa: Now that Shooter is over and you’re filming Blood Drive, what else is in store you?
Sean Cameron Michael: There are a couple of feature films that I’m attached to that are shooting here in the US, South Africa, France, UK, and Germany. It’s really a case of which one goes into pre-production first. Exciting and interesting times indeed.
Photos provided by Sean Cameron Michael
© 2017, Greg Staffa. All rights reserved.
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