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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Sean Cameron Michael, South African-born Veteran Actor #TheMummy @blooddrivesyfy #Shooter_USA #BlackSails #BrokenDarkness Our Coverage Sponsored by Cosmopolitan Dental, Official Dentist of Whom You Know

Photo Credit - Paul Smith Photography

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South African-born veteran actor Sean Cameron Michael started acting professionally at the age of twelve in musical theater. With a career spanning over thirty years, he is today regarded as one of Africa's most successful exports, having performed numerous leading and supporting roles in over eighty television and film productions and has worked with some of the top actors, directors and producers in the world today, including Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Ryan Reynolds, Matt Damon, Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, William Hurt and Michael Bay.

Career highlights include Bryan Singer and Dean Devlin's Emmy-winning The Triangle and Fox's multi-Emmy and Golden Globe nominated feature 24: Redemption. Over 12 million viewers tuned in for the premiere.

In 2012 Michael worked opposite Games of Thrones' Charles Dance in the Emmy-nominated Strike Back series, as well as Oscar-winner William Hurt in BBC Films' Royal Television Society's award-winning The Challenger Disaster. In 2013/2014 he secured the series regular role of Richard Guthrie in the hit Michael Bay pirate adventure series Black Sails for Starz. Season 1 garnered 4 Emmy nominations and 2 wins. He returned in season 2 which premiered in over 200 countries and was considered for an Emmy, as well as a SAG Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.

In 2015 Michael relocated to Los Angeles and became a permanent resident. He played the supporting role of Lester in Zentropa/Universal's feature The Salvation for director Kristian Levring (alongside Mads Mikkelsen, Jonathan Pryce and Eva Green) and then went to work on feature films Dis Koue Kos Skat, Double Echo and American Girl: Lea to the Rescue. In 2016 he also guest starred on CBS's Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Scorpion and Of Kings And Prophets (ABC).

The actor recently recurred as Russian diplomat Grigory Krukov in USA’s hit conspiracy drama Shooter (opposite Ryan Phillippe and Omar Epps) for which he is now a 2017 Emmy contender. He will next be seen in Tom Cruise’s The Mummy which premieres June 9th, as well as recurring as Old Man Heart in Universal’s new grind house-inspired series Blood Drive which premieres June 14th on SyFy.  We are absolutely honored to present Sean Cameron Michael as our latest Mover and Shaker!  Peachy Deegan interviewed Sean for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first acting memory?
Sean Cameron Michael: 
At the age of twelve I played the lead role in a children’s musical called The Magical Mystery Man. We also recorded an original cast album of the show.

What motivated your passion for acting?
My parents were both involved in theater and cabaret work in the sixties, so it was only natural that I would one day follow in their footsteps.

What have you enjoyed the most about each of your acting ventures and why?
I have been fortunate over the years to work with some of the most respected actors, writers, producers and directors in the business today. It has been an honor and a fantastic learning and growing experience as an artist and as a person.

What is it like to work with Clint Eastwood and is it what you expected?
It was an absolute thrill to work with such a legendary filmmaker. Surprisingly, it was a very calm and controlled shoot. Mr Eastwood knows exactly what he wants and needs to make a scene work. He has worked with the same production team and crew for many years, so the process is seamless and utterly professional.

What would surprise people most about Clint?
He is a very quiet and soft-spoken gentleman and seldom screams action or cut on a set. He allows actors the freedom to naturally get into the moment and create authenticity and after a few takes, once he has what he needs, we gently move on to the next shot. He has a beautiful soul.

What directors would you like to work with and what do you think you would learn from them?
There are so many greats, but to name a few: Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan, Lars von Trier, Paul Thomas Anderson, Nicolas Winding Refn, Martin Scorsese and Tom Ford. As actors we love to be challenged, stretched to our limits and to overcome boundaries. 

What do you attribute your acting success to?
Success means something different to everybody. I guess, many years of hard work, passion and dedication. It is a never-ending road to creative fulfillment and trying to sustain a career over decades is certainly a challenge. I strive to keep things real, be easy to work with and aim to deliver consistent and truthful work. 

Do you enjoy the stage or the screen more and why?
Naturally one gets that instantaneous audience response performing live on stage, which is such a thrill and you get to play more and deliver subtly different performances each night; while on-set camera work is more technically demanding and requires a very specific focus and tenacity to repeatedly create a simple and natural performance in a completely artificial environment. When the camera zooms into your eyes, its aim is to capture your soul and you can’t lie. I love that.

When you're not working, how can people tell when you're acting and when you're being real?
I live a very simple, easy-going, down-to-earth natural lifestyle, surrounding myself with a handful of close friends with whom I can feel completely safe to just be me. I save all the drama and action for the camera.

What are the biggest mistakes actors can make in their careers and how would one avoid them?
Wouldn’t it be great to know the answer to that. We could all save ourselves so much time and heartache, but ironically it’s those mistakes from which we learn and grow. I’ve learnt to be true to myself and not be in such a rush. Fame and fortune are often rare and temporary highs. If you’re looking for instant gratification and can do anything else, rather do that, but if acting is in your heart and coursing through your veins, savor the passion and enjoy the journey. A career in the arts is certainly not for the feint-hearted and the reality is that we often face rejection on a daily basis. Maybe the secret is figuring out who you are, acknowledging that that is enough and presenting that to the world with pride. Be uniquely you is what will attract the right people to work with you.

What is the key to getting a great agent and what defines a great agent?
By constantly working at your craft, training, studying and networking will ultimately lead to your signing with an agent or manager. Once you’ve figured out who you are as an artist, what’s your niche and your type, then you’ll be ready to find the right person who recognizes your talent and knows how to sell you in an extremely tough, competitive business. Showcasing your artistry on stage, through workshops or sending out a good acting reel will usually attract the right representation. Ultimately, do your homework.

What would surprise most people about your career?
I think the fact that the majority of international productions that I’ve worked on were all shot in Cape Town, Durban or Johannesburg, South Africa over the past thirty years. The country has some of the most diverse filming locations and state-of-the-art studios in the world, with highly-competitive tax rebates and incentives for foreign filmmakers.

What should the world know about South Africa?
It has one of the most progressive democracies; its people are incredibly friendly and excited to meet people from all over the word; and its westernized cities are awe-inspiringly beautiful. It’s a very affordable and life-changing destination to go on holiday.

How has California treated you?
It has been such a rollercoaster ride relocating here from Africa and adjusting to the way of life and how things work. People drive on the wrong side of the road! Seriously though, I have very quickly fallen in love with California, its astounding beauty and its very diverse people and colorful cultures. From a work point of view, the opportunities are endless, so that’s very exciting, though obviously the competition is extremely tough compared to the relatively small pool of actors in South Africa.

Do you think it is essential to be in LA or New York to be a successful actor?
I think it depends on your expectations and how far you want to go within the industry. If one is happy to just do theater or background work, you could achieve relative success in your small hometown or a popular filming location such as Atlanta, however, if you want to be on broadway or do mainstream television or film work, then yes, I’d say it is essential to relocate to LA or NY as that is where the majority of projects originate.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My mother was a professional ballroom dancer for many years and she instilled in me a passion for the craft that requires nurturing, absolute dedication and endless hard work. She was also a single mom, bringing up three young kids and struggling to make ends meet. That has been the driving force that’s kept me going all these years. To honor her memory and ultimately make her proud.

What are you proudest of and why?
I’m proud to be following in her footsteps and also to be representing my home country on an international platform, perhaps making a path easier for other South Africans brave enough to venture across the waters.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I would one day like to achieve a status in the entertainment industry that affords me the opportunity to help and benefit needy charities and organizations around the world, such as Charlize Theron’s Africa Outreach Project or the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation which is dedicated to the long-term health and wellbeing of all Earth’s inhabitants.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Being awarded an extraordinary ability green card to live and work in the USA has been a career highlight. Also being an Emmy contender for my work on a number of shows such as Black Sails, Scorpion and more recently Shooter, has been a tremendous honor. I recently won Best Actor for a short film, Tears in the Rain, at the SciFi Underground Film Festival in Munich, Germany and Best Performance by an Actor at the Boston SciFi Film Festival for our indie feature Broken Darkness which is currently on the international festival circuit. Truthfully, awards are recognition that as artists we’re on the right track, but we do it purely for the love of the craft, not the accolades. 

What one word best describes you and why?
Passionate. It’s who and what I am.

What do you take your sense of identity from?
I regard myself as just another ordinary, human being doing what I need to do to survive and be happy. I spiritually and professionally believe that we’re all on our own journey’s in life to find ourselves and make some sort of meaningful difference in society.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? And South Africa? And Los Angeles?
In Manhattan it would be Central Park; in South Africa I’d choose Table Mountain in Cape Town; and in Los Angeles I’d choose Los Feliz where I’ve just moved to.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? And South Africa? And Los Angeles?
Century 21 department store in Manhattan for great deals on clothes; the V&A Waterfront in South Africa which has wonderful African markets and sunset cruises; and in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles I love going to the European Deluxe Sausage Kitchen to buy traditional South African cured meats such as biltong (beef jerky) when I’m missing home.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
A personal chef to make me healthy meals or a personal trainer to get me into gym each day or a publicist to accompany me to industry events as I’m naturally quite shy.

What is your favorite drink?
Either Jameson Whiskey or a glass of Shiraz.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
I thinking walking into a hanging pot plant in front of a group of elegantly dressed people and having to dust soil off my shoulders was a tad embarrassing.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? And South Africa? And Los Angeles?
Katz’s Delicatessen for the best pastrami sandwich in Manhattan; Sevruga in Cape Town for sushi; and The Woodman in LA for yummy sliders.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? And South Africa? And Los Angeles?
How to stop Acting by Manhattan acting coach Harold Guskin; Zoo City by South African author Lauren Beukes; and At Left brain turn Right by LA coach and author Anthony Meindl.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
Dave Gahan, lead singer of British electronica band Depeche Mode. They’re touring the US in October this year and I’ve been passionate about them since the eighties. Their music defined me in my teens and it would be amazing to perform on stage with the band.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? And South Africa? And Los Angeles?
I think a whiskey-based Manhattan cocktail. “I’ll have a S.C.M. That’ll give me the Dutch courage I need to walk into any audition.” In South Africa I’d like to have a plaque with my name on it at a drama school that I sponsored. In LA, obviously a star on Hollywood Boulevard. That would be a dream.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? And South Africa? And Los Angeles?  
In Manhattan, a jog through Central Park; In South Africa a hike up Table Mountain; and in LA a walk through Griffith Park.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? And South Africa? And Los Angeles? 
NYE in Times Square; A breathtaking visit to God’s Window in Mpumalanga, South Africa; and a visit to the Hollywood sign in LA.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
Dinner with David Bowie or George Michael to talk about their amazing careers and how they sustained it over decades, influenced an industry and touched millions of lives.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? And South Africa? And Los Angeles? 
In Manhattan going to watch Rent on Broadway; In South Africa being part of the musical opera Mandela Trilogy which toured the country; and in LA visiting the Getty Museum.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
In my free time over the years, I’ve coached young actors in South Africa and here in the States and worked pro bono with aspiring writers, directors and producers to help bring their passion projects to fruition. I’ve also been a judge for a number of years for the International Emmy Awards, as well as the Emmy College TV Awards, recognizing student filmmakers here in the US.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan? 
That's a difficult question. Underrated I would say is the passion of the people and the energy of the city. Overrated perhaps the actual dropping of the ball on NYE in Times Square.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite​ column and what do you like about it?
Gotham Gadgets is pretty cool and fun. Always interesting to see what’s out there and what we can expect in the future.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
When people meet me in person for the first time, they always comment how surprised they are by how down-to-earth, friendly, approachable and funny I am. So yes, all the baddie characters I play on TV or film are just that, characters I portray for your enjoyment. It’s just acting after all.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
They can follow my adventures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @seancmichael

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