February 2003
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days : An Interview with Michael Michele

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days: An Interview with Michael Michele

Making the transition to the big screen after being on TV for so many years is not easy. For some folks, they are quickly pigeoned-wholed because of the persona they created for themselves on TV. Some producers see them as a comedian or a dramatic actor with no chance of being versatile. For Michael Michele, that has not been the case. She started out in films but quickly went to television and created memorable characters on each of the series she was on. Some may remember her as Malik Yoba’s girlfriend on “New York Undercover”, or Det. Renee Shephard on “Homicide: Life on the Streets” or even Dr.Cleo on “ER”. Michael has definitely put in her time. Now she’s ready for the big screen once again, and well prepared. After an appearance as one of Muhammad Ali’s wives in Michael Mann’s Ali two years ago, Michael has two exciting new films coming out this month. That should garner enough attention to land her more roles. Before the month ends, she will be playing a cop on the big screen along with Ving Rhames in “Dark Blue”. Prior to that film she will be featured in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. In the film she plays Spears, an advertising account exec eager to do anything to land a big account. In a conversation with blackfilm.com, Michael talks about the role and what types of films she really wants to do.

WM: Hello Michael.

MM: Hello.

WM: After watching this film, I must ask, have you ever tried to dump someone in less than 10 days or at least after the first date?

MM: I dumped my date at the high school prom. That’s the only time I had to lose a guy in 10 days or less. My friend and I wanted to get to the college campus party, so we ditched our high school prom dates. But as an adult, I haven’t dumped anyone in that short period of time.

WM: How did you go about in getting this role? Did you audition for it?

MM: Well, my agent sent me the material and I laughed hysterically when I read it. This is really funny, but I’m known for being a dramatic actress and what’s the likelihood that I would be considered for a romantic comedy. Usually as my friend would say, I’m like the “cop-doctor-lawyer-chick”, so I decided to come to LA and meet Linda Obst, the producer, and I read for her. Shortly thereafter, they offered me the part. I guess the tape had been sent to Sherry Lansing, the head of Paramount Pictures, and it was a relatively a quick process. I was quite surprised, but I was anxious to get into another genre. I’ve always liked the idea of being in a comedy, in particular a romantic comedy. As an actor, I have always focused on very serious dramatic work.

WM: What other sorts of roles are you looking to do?

MM: Now I’m completely hooked to the idea of waking up everyday, and getting a laugh, and I love that. Normally, I’m waking up in a cold sweat everyday because I would have to learn new medical jargon for ER or do some court scene when I played a cop on Homicide. The idea of waking up in the morning and be ready for a laugh is great and I love that. I would love to do more romantic comedy and possibly something in the action genre because I have been an athlete. So something that would take advantage of my years of athleticism would be great as well.

WM: This film revolves around characters that have to do crazy stunts in order to get something else. Have you ever done something crazy to accomplish another goal?

MM: What I try to do is approach the role from a place a truthjust like I do dramatically from a place of truth. However, with my character, I had to be more conniving than someone would be in real life. It was the world of advertising, the “DeLuer” diamond account, and in my mind the story that I created for myself was this will finally buy me the penthouse on 5th Ave, the second home in the Hamptons, and come hook or crook, she’s landing this diamond account. This was the story I created for myself with Spears. This woman would do whatever she needed to do within the realm of work to get this account. We could be competitive in the workplace but we understood that this was a comedy and we were taking certain liberties because it was all for fun.

WM: I spoke with some folks who compared the film to “Two Can Play That Game.” Do you see the two films being similar although they are targeted at two different audiences?

MM: I think the idea of dating is a very universal theme. I think the similarities are clearly are about commitment and commitment issues run the gambit. Commitment issues cross all racial and ethnic lines. Those are very similar. I don’t think this film is race specific. Commitment issues or even my character Spears vying for an account could be for anyone.

WM: Is the type of film guys can see on their own without being dragged on by their girlfriends or dates?

MM: Very funny question. Two of my buddies who came with me to the premiere in LA are from New York and they thought this film was a “chick-flick”. I think what guys can take away from this film is that most guys have been in a situation where they might be a little fearful of the girl staying a bit too long; or seeing her put something in the apartment that isn’t masculine or opening up the bathroom cabinet and seeing a product that’s not supposed to be there. I think those ideas a lot of guys have experienced. I think Matthew McConaughey really represents some of the fears that guys have. Some guys definitely have issues when the girl wants to add a little something to the apartment. It takes them out of their comfort zone.

WM: Do you prefer TV or film?

MM: What I liked about television is that it gave me the opportunity to hone my craft as a dramatic actress. With “Homicide: Life on the Street”, with 3 years on “ER”, and even to some degree when I was on “New York Undercover”, which is when I was really starting my career, it gives an actor the opportunity to be in front of the camera for nine months. You are there everyday for that time period. If you are in a good dramatic series, good being the operative word. I’m not saying all television is good television because a lot of television is crap. But if you have the opportunity to be on a good dramatic series with well-trained actors; really talented writers, good directors, good producers, then there’s the ability to hone your craft. For that, I love television, and it has given me the opportunity to work on my craft as an actor. Feature films have given me the opportunity to put down what I have learned. You have to create a character in 9-12 week period and then it’s over; whereas on television, you have nine months to flush that character out. It gives you different things. When I had chosen to do “Ali”, that was a small role in terms of screen time, but what I walk away with was the opportunity to work with a phenomenal director in Michael Mann. Sometimes you don’t get that opportunity on television. I will always do both. I will never just do television or just do feature films, because they both give me something different.

WM: As you start to do more feature films, is it much more challenging to get roles?

MM: No, because I started my career in movies with “New Jack City.” It was my job. After that film, my representatives wanted me to pursue more feature films, and I chose to go into television. As the time permitted, I would do feature films. I did a comedy film with Marlon Wayans called “The 6th Man”, which a lot of young kids went to see. I never had a problem getting auditions for feature film but I always wanted to find the quality of feature films. That’s a greater battle. Playing Det. Renee Shephard on Homicide is probably the best role I’ve had in my career over and above anything I’ve done in feature films. Unless you are Meryl Streep, women have a better chance doing a dramatic role on TV. Angela Basset is a Yale School of Drama grad and still there are not a lot of roles for her. In general, there are fewer roles for women.

WM: Can you talk about “Dark Blue” in which you play a cop on the big screen?

MM: Amazing script. Amazing director. Well-crafted actors. It gave me the opportunity to bring that type of character to the big screen, which is something I always wanted to do. I had done it on television but never on the big screen.

WM: The film deals with subject of police brutality, and the setting in the early ‘90s during the Rodney King Trial. With your experience on Homicide, did you any extra research?

MM: It was very time specific, 1992, and it was very regionally specific to Los Angeles, so yes, there was some research involved. I spent a number of days and nights with various people of the LA Police Dept. and doing a lot of reading and our technical supervisor spent a lot of time with us and was explaining to us what LA was like in 1992. I’m a New Yorker, and I wasn’t in LA at the time. I turned on CNN and watched and listened and read the newspapers like everyone else did, but it’s not a movie about Rodney King. I want people to understand that. It just serves as a backdrop. It’s not played out in any significance. It’s more of a story of systematic corruption, and what happens to people who find themselves in an environment that is corrupt. It’s how the good and the bad work within the system. The just and the unjust. The righteous and the unrighteous. It’s really a story of what happens in this country systematically with corruption and racism and all of those societal issues that we are all familiar with.

WM: What are you working on next?

MM: I’m trying to make a smart choice. I’m trying not to say yes to project that would put back in front of the camera. I’m trying to be anal in many ways about my next choice and really trying to keep my eyes open for something that has some action. I have not ventured into that area and that’s something closer to who I am, being an athlete and all. I want something in the action genre.

WM: Thanks for the conversation.

MM: Thank you.