Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest author and actor, Mike Kimmel. Mike Kimmel is a film, television, commercial, and stage actor with extensive experience in both the New York and Los Angeles markets.
His TV credits include Game of Silence, Zoo, Treme, In Plain Sight, Breakout Kings, Cold Case, Suit Up, Memphis Beat, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Mike also worked regularly as a sketch comedy player on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno for eleven years. He has performed in dozens of theatrical plays on both coasts, including Radio City Music Hall, Equity Library Theater, Stella Adler Theater, and Theater at the Improv.
He trained with Michael Shurtleff, William Hickey, Ralph Marrero, and Gloria Maddox, among others.
Mike holds a B.A. from Brandeis University and an M.A. from California State University. He has taught at University of New Orleans, Upper Iowa University, University of Phoenix, Nunez Community College, and in both the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Unified School Districts.
Mike has written and collaborated on many scripts for stage and screen. His full-length historical drama on Presidents Lincoln and Garfield was a 2013 semi-finalist in the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. He is the 2014 recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from Upper Iowa University.
Norm: Good day Mike and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get involved in acting?
Mike: Thank you very much, Norm, and thanks especially for all the work you do on behalf of indie authors and publishers.
I've known since childhood
that I wanted to perform on stage and screen and write books and
scripts. As a young kid growing up in the Bronx, though, it was
difficult to find a legitimate mentor, serious guidance, or even
printed information to lead me in the right direction. Looking
back, I realize how much I would have benefited from a good
introductory book of acting scenes to help me get started as a child
or young adult.
Without a good starting point as an actor, I gravitated towards other pursuits, but kept show biz in the back of my mind. I kept telling myself: "Someday I'll give it a serious go. Someday, I'll pursue my dream." You might say I spent my early years living on "Someday Isle!"
In my mid-twenties, I
finally started taking classes regularly and showing up to open call
auditions, reasoning that even if there are 500 people competing for
the same role, someone among us has got to get that part. I
decided early on to become as skilled, dedicated, and disciplined as
I possibly could.
That way, if I was ever fortunate enough to have a serious opportunity at major show business roles - the kind of roles actors worldwide dream about - it would be up to me to determine what I can do with that opportunity. Even today, with more than twenty years of experience behind me, I remind myself daily that although there are many variables outside an actor's control - it's entirely up to the actor to determine how focused and prepared he or she will be for the audition and the job.
Norm: Tell me about a time where you had difficulty turning yourself into a character.
Mike: I've always enjoyed
the challenge of "working against type" in the casting
process. A couple of years back, I had an opportunity to read
for a nice supporting role on the TV series Memphis Beat.
The character I was reading was very different from me physically,
but I was able to win the role based upon some unusual choices I made
in the audition room.
I'm on the shorter side with a somewhat
conservative look and a slight New York accent. The role was
written for a 6'8" Tennessee mountain man with abackwoods
drawl, handlebar mustache, and covered with tattoos. Basically,
they wanted someone very physically intimidating to tower over the
two series leads, Jason Lee and Sam Hennings, who are both about
I was able to find a creative way to accomplish the same thing with a very different physicality. Fortunately, the producers were flexible enough to change their original concept. I worked on the accent, and they put a fake mustache on me. No tatttoos.
Norm: If you had a magic wand, what acting part would you do next?
Mike: I have always been a huge fan of the Indiana Jones films, and would love to work on an upcoming installment of that series. I know it seems like they've done all they can with that franchise, but I'm sure there will be more Indiana Jones movies, and I'm also sure they will be terrific. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg know what they are doing, and they can make it work.
Norm: Do you believe theater is important and if so, why?
Mike: Yes, I think theater is an ideal training ground and a great place to start. Working in a theatrical play is very time-intensive and can really take over a performer's life for months at a time. Also, many theater scripts are somewhat abstract in nature, with non-linear story lines.
For this reason, it can be difficult for younger actors to get a sense of how well they're doing throughout the rehearsal process. Working in theater, though, helps actors develop discipline and focus. It helps us become team players, as well. Building a long resume of theater credits is an effective way to show industry professionals - and yourself - that you are serious about the craft of acting and that you are playing for keeps in this business.
Norm: What is the acting profession’s greatest challenge today and if you could change just one thing about the industry what would it be?
Mike: It's still
very difficult for newcomers to "get in the door" and have
an opportunity to audition for substantial roles. I think that's the
nature of the industry, though. It's always been an extremely
competitive field, with far more qualified actors out there than
I also think recent advances in technology are helpful in this area. It's easier and less expensive to shoot film projects now, and this is a big advantage for the low-budget and student filmmaker.
Norm: How do you set up about working on your roles?
Mike: My earliest training
was in theater, and I believe repetition and constant practice is
vitally important when rehearsing a role. Working a scene over
and over helps the actor discover layers and nuances in the
There are no boring characters out there. It's an actor's job to delve deeply, however, discover what makes each character tick, and invest something unique from his or her own background into every new role.
Norm: What effect do you hope to have on an audience?
Mike: I always want
to instruct and inspire. I think that's one of the greatest, most
under-utilized benefits of the entertainment and communications
There's always an opportunity to share a positive message that will give people you never meet a boost in some area of their lives. In writing Scenes for Teens, I've tried to weave life lessons for young people into the scene material wherever possible, as well.
Norm: Do you specialize in any particular acting technique?
Mike: I've studied different styles and all seem to have advantages and disadvantages. When you work in show business for many years, you begin to pick and choose what works best for you from among the various methods.
also develop certain strengths. Maybe even more importantly,
you recognize your own weaknesses and learn to use your strengths to
compensate in those areas. This helps you develop a reliable
My strongest influence came from studying
with the late, great Michael Shurtleff. He wrote the
book Audition, which is a classic in the field and has
influenced countless actors.
He was also an absolute genius at simplifying the performing process for actors who tend to "overthink." I've tried to incorporate what I learned with Mr. Shurtleff in Scenes for Teens, as well, and hope the book can help demystify the process as much as possible for newcomers.
Norm: How did you get involved in teaching acting and how rewarding has it been?
Mike: Teaching acting and coaching actors privately has been tremendously rewarding for me, both personally and professionally. Like many avenues we pursue, it started accidentally, built slowly, and eventually took on a life of its own.
I started by rolling up my sleeves and assisting a
couple of fellow actors who were really struggling in a play we were
rehearsing together. I found that I enjoyed the process and was able
to explain certain concepts and techniques in a way that was slightly
different from what our director was doing.
Not better, just different. Sometimes, it's valuable for actors to have a different perspective on a role to help them see new possibilities.
Norm: What would you like to say to actors who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep acting, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Mike: I would encourage all actors to go back and look at the early work of their favorite present day stars. You will often find their early efforts may show promise, but rarely even hint at the level of skill they will eventually develop through many years of diligent work.
I also encourage actors to
work conscientiously at building their resumes. Even if they
can't find an agent, and even if they're living in a remote area that
seems light years away from Hollywood and Broadway, they can still
work nights and weekends in community theater.
They can still
audition for student films at the local college - or even high
school. That will help them build their resumes and skill sets,
focus on positive growth, and move away from second-guessing
I think if we all take the time we waste worrying, and invest those hours in positive growth activities instead, we would be much happier and more productive.
Norm: What motivated you
to write Scenes for Teens: 50 Original Comedy and Drama
Scenes for Teenage Actors? As a follow up, what purpose do you
believe your book serves and what matters to you about the
Mike: I was asked to teach kids and teens a few years back, and found it very challenging to find age-appropriate, clean material.
I knew other teachers were very likely encountering the same issue. I also wanted to find a way to simplify the acting process for young people.
Lots of people want to get started in acting but don't know where or how to begin. One of the most important skills is learning to deliver dialogue realistically and conversationally. This is important in every area of show business - film, TV, theater, commercials, and even hosting.
Norm: Could you tell us a little about the book and what are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
Mike: As an actor, I wanted to write the book that I would have liked to receive as a birthday present when I was a teenager. As a teacher, I wanted very much to create a collection of two-character dialogues with varying writing styles and difficulty levels.
I always saw this as a workbook - or a tool - that young people can pick up and practice at a moment's notice to help them develop realistic speaking and active listening technique. These are skills all actors need, and it will benefit young performers to start practicing in this area from the outset of their training.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your book, Scenes for Teens: 50 Original Comedy and Drama Scenes for Teenage Actors?
Norm: What is next for Mike Kimmel?
Mike: I just wrapped
a wonderful role in Distant Vision, an experimental film written
and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
It's an amazing, semi-autobiographical script. It's a very innovative project overall, using new technology that Mr. Coppola has created for the film industry. We worked together for three and a half weeks with a top-notch cast and crew in Oklahoma City, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how this one turns out.
I'm also finishing up a second book of original scenes for younger actors, ages 6 to 12. The format is very similar to Scenes for Teens, and I believe it will be a solid companion piece to the first book.
Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Mike: Great question,
Norm! Many parents spend thousands of dollars on classes and
photos only to discover that their kids soon lose interest in
acting. That's to be expected, as well.
Acting is not for
everyone, and I think this book can be a valuable first step to help
young people decide if they want to go further.
They might pick
up my book, spend a few weeks practicing the dialogues with friends
and siblings, and then decide they just don't enjoy the process of
memorizing lines and performing scenes. Of course, I prefer to
hear that serious young acting students are practicing with my
book and becoming inspired to take their training further. But
if this book helps steer others away from further study in show
business, I believe that's equally valuable, as well.
In either case, I wanted to create a useful resource for teens, parents, and teachers that can save everyone a great deal of time and money in the long run.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
Mike: Thank you, Norm, and thanks for the opportunity to speak to all your loyal readers.