Recently I had an email exchange with Sean C. Michael. Known now as the head of Heart Enterprises. This South African native has come back to his hometown of Capetown to be part of this fantastic show called Blood Drive. So continuing on with my series of interviews with the cast and crew of Blood Drive, I bring you Old Man Heart. Be sure to catch Blood Drive on SyFy, Wednesday nights at 10:00 PM Eastern time.
HMF: Our first question never changes. What is your favorite horror movie?
SM: There are so many classics like The Shining, The Exorcist and The Babadook, but The Blair Witch Project made such an impression on me when it was first released. It was so original, clever and groundbreaking at the time.
HMF: Who are your biggest influences in acting?
SM: I’m inspired and influenced by so many great writers, directors and actors, so the list is endless, but to name a few actor favorites would definitely include Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, Daniel Day-Lewis, Anthony Hopkins and Jeff Bridges. I’m pretty much obsessed with all good TV and film, and the art of great storytelling. There’s nothing more exciting than reading a brilliant screenplay for a project I’m about to start work on and figuring out what I can bring to a certain role to make it fresh, exiting, entertaining, authentic and truthful.
HMF: What was it that drew you to acting?
SM: When I was growing up, I was the youngest of three kids and quite a loner. My parents got divorced when I was seven and our lives turned upside down. As a form of escapism during those very difficult, unsettling and confusing times, I learnt to entertain myself and sort of disappear into my own little fantasy world. My parents were also involved part-time in entertainment – my mom a dancer and my dad a singer – so I was immediately drawn to the arts, performing in school drama productions and the choir. I did my first professional theater production when I was twelve years old and I was hooked. The rest is history.
HMF: What was it like growing up and acting in South Africa?
SM: As a child in the seventies and eighties, I was blissfully unaware of the politics and social inequalities in apartheid South Africa. I knew that things were kind of weird and strange, but there was no internet, no access to information and extreme censorship in the media. I instead followed my passion for acting and grabbed every opportunity I could to perform. After completing my schooling and compulsory conscription in the national defense force, I left my hometown of Cape Town and moved to Johannesburg to pursue acting full-time. I did soapies, TV presenting, commercials, voice-over work, script writing and completely immersed myself in the industry over three decades. Today, there are so many international TV and film productions being shot in South Africa due to lucrative tax incentives, top class film studios, experienced cast and crew and astoundingly beautiful and varied locations around the country. It’s the perfect place for a young actor wanting to learn the craft and gain experience.
HMF: What takes an actor in musical theater and pulls them into film and television?
SM: The need to pay the rent and survive. Yes, one does theater for the love of the craft, but financially it can be a struggle. Film and TV is more lucrative with added and varied opportunities. As I got older and gained more experience, I found the medium of camera work more challenging and demanding. It’s a very technical, fast-paced environment and to rise above those pressures and deliver a natural, unaffected honest performance for the lens is truly gratifying.
HMF: On Blood Drive you play “Old Man Heart”, the head of Heart Industries. How did you go about preparing for this role?
SM: I was already a big fan of the grindhouse genre and specifically the work of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. After reading the script for episode 1 of Blood Drive, I was totally blown away by it. I had not laughed so much and read something so over-the-top, insane, ridiculous and entertaining in a very long time. I immediately understood the world that James Roland had created and by reading the scripts for further episodes, figured out where Old Man Heart fit in the storyline and how his character radically affected others. Creating a believable character is quite an organic process for me. It was important for me to climb inside his somewhat demented head (Old Man Heart, that is 🙂 and really find, not only his motivation and what makes him tick, but literally his voice. I also grew my hair, beard and nails, practicing how to paint them a gorgeous bubblegum pink. It’s difficult. I dunno how the ladies do it so perfectly.
HMF: What is it that sets the role of “Old Man Heart” apart from other roles you’ve played in the past?
SM: Over the past ten years I’ve played lots of villains and baddies, but this role was, without a doubt, the most complex, multi-dimensional and challenging one to tackle. In the first few episodes you just see his pink nail varnished hands and get a taste of who this curious mastermind behind-the-curtains might be. Finally in episode 6, he is revealed and as the series progresses, we go even deeper. By the time we reach the end of season one, audiences will have discovered more of Old Man Heart’s backstory and my portrayal throughout will hopefully make more sense (especially when fans re-watch the entire series).
HMF: What was it that drew you to audition for Blood Drive?
SM: I happened to be on holiday in South Africa when they were holding auditions for the show. Being a fan of the genre, it was very exciting to be considered for a role in it. I initially auditioned for the role of The Gentleman, which of course later went to the perfectly cast Andrew James Hall who did a masterful job. On my return to LA, I did a callback for the role of Old Man Heart via Skype, but I was already filming on USA’s Shooter series with Omar Epps and Ryan Phillippe, so was unavailable to them. The producers managed to do rewrites of the first few Blood Drive episodes and wait for me to become available, so the minute I wrapped on Shooter, I jumped onto a ‘plane back to South Africa to start work on the show. It’s an amazing story and I cannot be more blessed and thankful to John Hlavin, James Roland everyone concerned for their faith in me being able to pull it off.
HMF: What has the fan reaction been like to your character?
SM: I think they hate Old Man Heart, which is perfect! He is supposed to be this wonderful antagonist, making the lives of the characters we love so dearly, especially Julian Slink, an absolute nightmare. It means that I’ve done my job as an actor, which is truly gratifying. I’ve been so fortunate over the years to have built up a fanbase of loyal supporters who have thoroughly enjoyed the hideous villains I’ve portrayed in shows like 24 (as UN worker, Charles Solenz), Black Sails (as Richard Guthrie) and Shooter (as Russian FSB agent Grigory Krukov). These are all despicable TV characters and as audiences, I believe there’s nothing more exciting than having a charming baddie to get our blood boiling.
HMF: Your character brings a level of reserved rage to the screen I haven’t seen in a very long time. I literally looked away for a moment during a scene and at first you were cool and calm, the next thing I see is someone else at the table having a very bad headache. What do you do to tap into that?
SM: It’s all on the page. The writing is excellent and quite specific, while we were fortunate to work with some of the top directors in the business, including Roel Reiné, Lin Oeding, Gregg Simon, David Straiton and James Roday. My job as an actor really is to focus on what energy I need to bring to each scene, whether it be that reserved rage or completely losing my shit – and if I can surprise an audience in the process, that’s an added bonus. The unpredictability of the character is what makes OMH so dangerous.
HMF: Finally, what can we expect from Mr. Heart later on in the show and what else can we expect from you after Blood Drive?
SM: Throughout the series Mr. Heart is in his boardroom, but when he finally leaves the building, well, that’s when things get really exciting.
I have a couple of action feature films and a new TV series in the pipeline filming in the UK and the States, so that’s something to look forward to. Watch this space.
HMF: Thank you again so much for taking the time. I’ve had a blast doing these interviews and each of you have been the consummate professional. It has been truly enjoyable.
SM: It was my pleasure and thank you for your support. Fans can follow my daily ramblings on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @seancmichael
You can also find Sean online here…
Be sure to keep tuning in to see more of this cast of characters and how they develop in this insane world that is the home of the Blood Drive!