The Arrow interviews Michael Emanuel
If you haven't heard of actor and producer Michael Emanuel, you'll surely remember him after viewing the comedic, yet disturbing, flick "Lucky". In the movie, Michael plays Millard Mudd, a loveable neurotic, psychotic, chick-killing, nipple-rubbing, beer-guzzling lug who has lengthy exchanges with his new talking pet pooch. I had the opportunity to chat with the dude behind the stellar choking techniques and here's what came out of it.
ARROW: What would you say is your favorite horror movie?
M: Tough to name just one…I tend to respond to movies that cross genres like “Frailty”, “Donnie Darko” or “Peepin Tom”, but for pure horror, I’d have to say “Night Of The Lepus”…kidding, I mean “The Exorcist”. The devil always makes me shit my knickers!
ARROW: I was looking up your filmography and came across a TV show called "Apple Valley Nights", in which you acted and also exec produced. I've personally never heard of it, but the premise sounded interesting. What’s the history behind that show?
M: It was a Pilot created by Stephan Sustarsic, directed by Eric Leward (“Incoming Freshman”” Young Hercules”) that unfortunately never sold. Really funny stuff but sitting on a shelf somewhere.
ARROW: On to "Lucky" which you also executive produced. As an executive producer, what were your duties on that show? Locking the financing?
M: My partners and I, writer Stephan Sustarsic and director Steve Cuden acted as both executive producers…we got the cash…and as producers…we put the whole project together. Talented Writer/Producer and friend James Fergusan helped as well and was really my right hand on the set for the day to day stuff. Steve Cuden our multi-hyphenated director (writer-lyrasist -producer- director- adajio dancer) handled most of the post production…and did an exemplary job of it. Steve Cuden single handedly got us flying on the film festival circuit with his thankless submissions and never ending hard work.
ARROW: What kind of preparation and homework did you do as an actor, in order to be able to slip into the shoes of the twisted individual that is Millard Mudd?
M: Well, I unearthed a corpse at the local cemetery and practiced my suave moves and hung around with the Green River killer.
ARROW: Would the part stay with you in between takes or after a hard day of shooting? Or was it easy for you to let go when not being in front of the camera.
M: I was very concerned with what time we were going to break for lunch. You know the girl who plays Wendy was also our caterer. On the day that we shot that horrific strangling scene, for lunch she prepared “Bologna Salad”…made the strangling that much more easier! Not to make light of a wonderful performance, Maureen Davis is a truly gifted actress and her brave performance in that scene is what makes it so compelling and unsettling…it’s got nothing to do with the bologna.
ARROW: I heard the shoot took place over a period of nine days. Did you have any room the to improvise anything during takes or did you follow the script to the letter?
M: Yes, it did take nine days as we were scheduled for ten, but the county shut us down for a day cause we didn’t pull permits….although we snuck back in in the dark with a strobe light and a camera and shot some stuff that made it into the movie. No need to improvise on this as I truly love saying the words that Steve Sustarsic writes. My biggest fear is that I won’t ever get the chance to say words like that again.
ARROW: What would you say was the hardest scene for you to act out in terms of it being emotionally taxing on you as a person.
M: The really horrible stuff is the hardest, but it was my job as an actor to play this…I have to believe that stuff first if I expect the audience to believe it. So when I’m killing somebody, I have to pretend that it’s what I want to do. Same as when I’m devastated when Misty leaves me…I have to believe that to make it work. Does that make any sense or does it sound like drivel? It’s tough to verbalize this stuff since I believe that acting is an emotional process and not an intellectual one.
ARROW: I assume that "Lucky’s" (the dog) dialogue was added in Post. How were your lengthy exchanges with your canine co-star shot and what kind of challenges did that raise for you as an actor?
M: No, David Rievers, great actor, voice of “Lucky”, was feeding me lines almost every day on set, so I just listened to him and pretended the dog was saying those smart ass things to me.
ARROW: What’s next on your plate as an actor or an executive producer?
M: I stay pretty busy as a working actor with films, television and commercials…just wrapped a movie with Kelsey Grammer called “The Good Humor Man”, a huge guest spot on the ABC show “Threat Matrix” and a TV movie called “Gone But Not Forgotten”. On the producing side, I have a bunch of irons in the fire across the board in terms of genres and budgets. “M” by John Gilmore is the story of a young man who drifts into the Charles Manson camp in the days leading up to the Tata/LaBianca murders.
Truly America's nightmare, it's a voyeuristic eye into the family, the sex, and drugs, the tearing of the moral cloth during the sixties. A young man's decent into hell, if you will. Another in the works is LARRY HITLER, written by Sustarsic. In the same tone as LUCKY. It's a darkly comedic, smart, coming of age teen horror flick. As if high school isn't hard enough…Larry Hitler! An uplifting period piece called “Buck Jackson” with Thomas Carter attached to direct, Steve Sustarsic’s quirky offbeat ensemble comedy “San Bernardino” with Dwight Yoakam attached to star and a couple of others. I’m really busy these days and I like it that way.
ARROW: They say that through every role, an actor discovers something new about himself. What would you say you learned about yourself via Millard Mudd?
M: Be nice to lonely fat guys.
I'd like to thank Michael for his time, for stopping by the site and for not killing me and putting my head on a stick. It must also be said, the man has raised the bar when it comes to the art of choking and I have to respect that. If you don't know what I'm talking about, quit reading and go watch "Lucky". Trust me...you'll know then.