Shades of Grey: True Blood Talks to Michael McMillian

November 8, 2009 by  

True Blood is a very complex show where good and evil are often mingled and mirrored and flipped on their heads. People who start out being heroes end up having hearts of darkness like Rene and Maryanne and some, like Sam and Andy, start out looking like heroes and get lost along the way but come through in the end.  And then there’s Jason, for whom we have few expectations but who rose to the occasion and did the right thing… only to fall from grace again when he killed Eggs. The vampires, on the other hand, have many nuanced characters who have stepped away from the abyss.  Vampire Bill struggles daily to be more human; Jessica is so sweet one moment and then so evil the next; sweet, wonderful, gentle Eddy who, like the hero in ‘The Old Man and the Sea,’ was destroyed but not defeated; dangerous, complex and manipulative Eric who balances himself on the blade of  lawful evil; and Godric who rose from his own long, dark journey until he met the rising sun. One of the most disturbing aspects has been the role of religion in the show.  Alcoholic Lettie Mae’s return to the church via a fake voodoo woman led her to abandon her daughter, Tara, when she needed her most.  Hoyt’s mama who considers herself a good, church-going Christian turns out to be a liar and a hater.  And then enter cute, arrogant Steve Newlin — leader of  the Fellowship of the Sun and hater of all things vampire — who has a broad streak of misogynist and a dab of mischievous little boy; the True Blood version of the worst of the televangelists.

Michael McMillian True Blood Steve Newlin

We had the great pleasure of interviewing Michael McMillian who lends his face and his talents to bringing Steve Newlin to life and found him to be very wonderfully different than the character he portrays.  He was one of the most fun, interesting, intelligent and sweet interviews I’ve ever done.  Michael kindly opened himself up to show us how he weaves complexity into what could have been too flatly evil a character and let us see more of how Steve thinks and what his motivations are.  We also spent a lot of time delving into who Michael McMillian is and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what a great guy the man who plays the most easily hate-able character on television is.

TBN.com:  We know that you have a lot of plays that you did while you were growing up outside of Kansas City. How did you feel when you first performed on the stage, what role did you play and how old were you?

Michael: Oh man, I mean if we’re going back, I think the first thing ever did was I played Smokey the Bear in a first grade production.

TBN.com: Adorable!

Michael: Yeah. I remember the librarian directed it and all the characters had masks and she laid out a fox, a mouse, a raccoon, and Smokey the Bear and we got to pick the parts we wanted to play and I picked Smokey the Bear because he was the lead.

TBN.com: So you were in the spotlight right from the start!

Michael: Yeah, you know, I was stepping on heads even back then… I don’t know if that counts.  But I was a class clown and liked to be the center of attention and as soon as I got older I started taking acting classes. I never really liked sports; I was never very good at sports.  I don’t think you have to be either one or the other with sports or drama, but I definitely found my community of friends and kindred spirits in the theater. So I grew up doing it but I didn’t start working professionally until college. I enjoy dramatic stuff but I’ve always leaned towards comedic roles. I think one of the best feelings is performing live and having an audience laugh.  That’s such an elevating experience.

TBN.com: So you’ve done a little bit of stand up?

Michael: No, you know I’ve never done stand up. But I have friends who are pushing me to do it. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about.  David Cross and Patton Oswalt are heroes of mine and my family listened to Bill Cosby records growing up. So stand up has always been in the back of my mind.  And I’ll probably give it a shot… There’s something about doing stand up that is like performing without a net.

TBN.com: It’s the toughest job in the world.

Michael: It is, you know?  And I don’t know if I’ve got the nerve but I’d like to give it a shot. We’ll see, maybe down the line. Give me something new to try later.

TBN.com: Maybe you can go to one of the True Blood conventions and practice there. You’ll have a more accepting audience.

Michael: That would be like having three safety nets!

TBN.com: You mentioned Interlochen.  That’s a music school usually. Is that what you did there?

Michael: It actually started as a music camp in the 20s and then the Academy was founded in the 60s. Over time they developed majors in the performing arts, visual arts, creative writing.  So now you can go there and major in music or theater or design or filmmaking, something they didn’t have when I was there.  So it’s really a full Arts Academy.

TBN.com: Oh great, I didn’t even know that and I live here!

Michael: I studied theater there in high school and it was a couple of the best years of my life. One of the wonderful things about going to a place like Interlochen is you’re in the middle of the woods and you’re immersed in this youth culture of art. We’d spend out weekends going to see the jazz band or the school orchestra play a symphony or you would go to a dance piece or an art gallery opening of your friends’ stuff.  Such a rich experience. It was just brilliant. There was really nothing like it. It was like being in the woods with all these hippy arts kids. It was a very disillusioning experience from what the world is really like, but man it was great. So much fun.

TBN.com: You studied acting in college as well?

Michael: Yes, I went from Interlochen to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh where I studied classical theatre.

TBN.com: That had to be a shock.

Michael: Well, yes, well Pittsburgh was great. It’s a nice stepping stone city, especially if you’ve been out in the woods for a couple years.  And Pittsburgh felt a little bit more East Coast compared to Kansas City but it wasn’t a totally overwhelming place like New York.  A lot of people who’d come from bigger cities didn’t like it. A lot of students seemed to feel like,  “Aw, there’s nothing to do in Pittsburgh,” but I loved it. It’s a great city and it has a lot of history. They’ve got a couple of good theatres there: The Pittsburgh Public and The City Theatre. Carnegie is a great program and, I think, between my junior year of high school and my senior year of college I got my fill of conservatory training. ~laughs~

wr-1

TBN.com: Did you embrace a particular school of acting or how do you approach each role?

Michael: I got a very classical education and studied everything from Stanislavski to Shakespeare to Strasberg to Meisner and I think with any of these things, you learn the whole scope of different schools and over time create a toolbox for yourself. Then you go back and forth picking out things that work for whatever role or projects you are working on.  I tend to gravitate towards the physical stuff.  I really like Comedia Del Arte and I really enjoy creating characters that start from a very broad physical place and then work my way from the outside in. That approach has basically carried through into the transition to film and TV, especially with Steve Newlin.  I mean he’s such a physical character.  What’s great about working on True Blood is it is a really theatrical show; it’s a heightened reality.  The fun of playing in that world is seeing how far you can go while keeping it in an honest place.  Steve’s a showman so there’s such a great physicality to that character.  Even the suits that he wore, which I have to thank Audrey Fisher, our costume designer, for and Steve‘s hair– it’s brilliant stuff.  So there is a bit of a clown character in Steve that was really fun to perform… a dark clown. ~laughs

TBN.com: You were talking about your appearance as Steve Newlin on True Blood but before then you were on “What I Like About You” and you played Henry Gibson. Can you tell us about that character and the show?

Michael: Yes this was one of my very first jobs I booked right out of school. I was really lucky; the show had a really nice group of people. I played opposite Amanda Bynes as her on again-off again boyfriend who was this good-natured, clueless guy, but he grew over time.  He was the boyfriend who really wanted to do the right thing and then when it would back fire he would get defeated and frustrated. It was the perfect place to come in and learn acting for the camera. This was still back in the day when we actually had a live audience and I had to learn to find the balance between playing to the audience and to the cameras. I remember in the early episodes, since I had come from this strict theatre background, I would just play everything to the audience. Then I’d watch episodes and found my work was a little off. I finally realized the cameras were where the audience really was — the audience at home. You really do have to re-learn those rules of theater for the cameras that are shooting you.

TBN.com: Was it three-camera set up?

Michael: Yeah it was three cameras, maybe four. I grew up watching “Family Ties” and “Growing Pains” and “The Cosby Show,” so to be on that kind of traditionally formatted sitcom and get a feel what that was like was fun. It’s a bit of a dying tradition. CBS still has some multi-camera stuff, but I’m not even sure if they’re even taped with an audience any more. So I’m glad that I got in on the tail end of that type of show, but who knows, maybe it’ll come back around.  But all signs seem to be pointing towards new formats of TV. Which is exciting as well.

TBN.com: With special effects it’s hard to have an audience.

Michael: Yeah, that’s true but I think that there’s a place for these sitcoms. “What I Like About You” had this nice core following and I think that people still want that sort of comforting style of TV, because it’s very easy to watch.  I think one of those things that’s being lost is this style of TV that replicates theater, the idea of the live audience. I think there’s a growing disconnect in the culture between TV and theater. I would imagine that most people these days get their theater through public schools: going to see their kid’s plays or their community theaters. But we don’t link TV and theater in our minds anymore, so this concept of an unseen audience laughing along with you is referencing a time in our culture when most entertainment was live — and that’s simply not true anymore.  Live theater, outside the school play, has gotten so expensive it’s not readily available to the masses anymore. Even Broadway will cost you $120 for a good seat. New generations look at this format, with a “live” audience, and that presentational set up and go,  “I don’t relate, I don’t get it…I don’t understand what this is supposed to be.” Kids these days are growing up with home video cameras and the Internet. So TV reflects that now, that POV from cameras, from hand-helds, to be able to see the world as its filmed through the viewer’s own eye. Hopefully we’ll hold on to that theatrical format of TV. There’s something inherently cheesy about it, but it’s also fun, and nice and safe.

TBN.com: And relaxing.

Michael: Yes it is.

TBN.com: One thing you can’t say about True Blood.

Michael: There are very few traditional aspects in True Blood.

TBN.com: Have you ever seen a role and thought, “I would have loved to have done that part” and what was it?

Michael McMillian True Blood Steve NewlinMichael: Oh, gosh, I mean that’s the plight of the actor, watching film and TV and going, “God I’d love to do this.”  Let’s see, there’s one right now, I think he’s brilliant.  I love Vincent Kartheiser on “Madmen.”  Gosh I watch that show every week and think, “I would love to give that role a shot,”  just because he’s such a baby, you know? You root for this poor guy but he’s just clueless and so frustrated and wants to get a leg up so badly on the world. Sometimes you think he’s so malicious and other times you think he’s just really doing the best that he can and doesn’t get that he’s annoying people.  I think it’s a great character and he does such a great job with it.  I’d also love to do a period piece. I’d love to go back and do something that was set in Victorian England or World War II.  I love shows and films that really make you feel. I think that film has become a really wonderful time travel device and I think filmmakers are getting better and better at capturing a historical period and making it feel authentic.  Especially like what we’re seeing on “Madman” right now.  It really does give you a sense of what it was like to live then I imagine. Especially talking to my parents’ generation, they seem to agree.  I would really love to do something that was set in the past.  I know that’s very vague…

TBN.com: No, that’s great.

Michael: But its great working with Alan Ball too.  I would have loved to work on “Six Feet Under.” That was my favorite show.  I had actually read for the role of Russell, which Ben Foster ended up getting and I thought he was terrific.  I’m glad that I did finally get to work on an Alan Ball show.

TBN.com: What did you think of Steve Newlin’s character when you first read the part?

Michael: Well, when I first heard about it, it was for the audition and there really wasn’t much there. They just described him as being this far right wing religious zealot that is running this anti-vampire church. In the first season he wasn’t really around much, but I was immediately like, “Sign me up!” I could see the opportunity to play a villain who saw himself as the hero and those are the best kind of villains. I think it’s a really easy trap for a lot of actors when they go in to play the bad guy on something, to play the bad guy as the bad guy.  No villain sees themselves as bad.  Nobody thinks they’re the bad one.  The villains often think that they are doing the best for the world in which they live.  They may be motivated by selfish reasons but they think that even their selfish reasons are good reasons. So I was thrilled with that character, and for the audition Alan had written a scene that was adapted from the second book became the scene in season two when Sookie and Hugo meet with Steve in his office. That was the audition scene.  It was slightly different then. It was more like the scene in the book where Sookie’s name wasn’t Holly, it was Marigold, and there was more Steve describing what the church did.  I think by the time we had gotten to that point in the actual season two, we had already learned that stuff so we didn’t need to repeat it. I went in and read it through once and Alan said,  “Okay cool, now try it again and just do the whole thing with a smile.”  And there was something so delicious about that approach. Playing the smiling nice guy who’s talking about chopping off vampire’s heads and burning their bodies.  There’s just a wonderful juxtaposition between the nice guy he’s portraying and what he’s talking about that I just really, really loved.  And I thought, “there’s really great opportunity to make it fun, and funny!”

TBN.com: Oh definitely it is, it’s marvelous watching him and how he just puts this smile on his face and talks about this hatred of vampires and he it’s obvious he really believes everything he says.

Michael: You know, it’s true and I think to some degree that Steve’s got a point.  Unfortunately, well it’s been really interesting reading some of the reactions the character has gotten. One thing I think critics are getting too hung up on is marrying too closely the parallels between the plight of the gay community and vampires in True Blood. While there are some parallels in terms of marriage rights and definitely the attacks from the conservative church, at the end of the day, I think people have to watch the show and realize that it’s asking you to take vampires a little bit more literally — not so much as a metaphor.  There’s a little bit of fun with that.  Some of the criticism has been that the parallel doesn’t quite work — the Fellowship of the Sun vs. vampires as gays — because vampires ARE doing a lot of evil things at the end of the day.  And that’s true. And that’s what I think actually works about the Fellowship of the Sun stuff, not what doesn’t work.  There is a part of Steve that’s right in believing vampires are a threat.  Even Bill has done some real deplorable things and if you are a follower of the books, you know there’s more to him then we know in seasons one and two that are being hinted at very strongly in the last couple episodes.  I’m not exactly sure, but I imagine the writers are going there. I think what the show is trying to explore is that things aren’t always black and white and especially if there were something like vampires out in the real world there would be something like the Fellowship of the Sun because vampires being a threat to humankind really is something that so few people could argue with.  The brilliant thing about the existence of vampires, for somebody like Steve Newlin, is that it engages a debate that no one can beat him at.  If there’s proof of vampires then, to Steve, there’s proof of Satan. And then if there’s proof of Satan there’s proof of God and therefore he’s on the right side, you know what I mean? So really if you are at all in allegiance with vampires then you really are on the side of Satan and on the wrong side. It’s a much more of a complex debate if you take it literally then if you’re just using the vampire thing as a metaphor for homosexuality. I think it’s fascinating.  I think where Steve goes wrong is that he’s motivated by revenge mostly, he’s motivated by wanting to get back at the vampires for his father’s and his family’s deaths. I think that there’d probably be a more realistic, diplomatic way to discuss the dangers of coexisting with supernatural creatures but he takes the hard line all-or-nothing approach.  I think no matter what we’re talking about, with a few exceptions, any time you fall into a black and white belief of things you’re going to paint yourself into the corner. And I think really that’s what Sookie’s character is about. She’s the character that accepts Bill for who he is, accepts that vampires are not all bad, but to do that she constantly keeps her morals in check. There are often times Bill will do things that she doesn’t agree with and she will draw the line and say, “No you can’t do this and no you cannot kill people just because they’ve hurt me.” I think that character really is the example to live by. It’s like have your fun, have your passion and hot vampire sex but also know where to draw the line at the end of the day. ~laughs~

Michael McMillian True Blood Steve Newlin with Anna Camp as Sarah Newlin

TBN.com: I guess I think of them as the people, like me, who would be out fighting for the right of the Grizzly bear to exist even though they are dangerous.

Michael: Exactly… yes, I guess so, but also in that instance we may not want to cuddle up to Grizzly bears because they can kill us.  The Grizzly bears should exist but you do have to be careful and Steve just falls on the side of let’s exterminate the Grizzly bears so they never chop our heads off.  Which, obviously, that’s living out of balance but if you go pet a Grizzly bear and he bites your head off…

TBN.com: Whose fault is that?

Michael: Yeah whose fault is that, exactly?

TBN.com: Were you aware of how pivotal Steve Newlin would become in season two when you tried out for the part?

Michael: They had said that he would be a much larger role in the second season and shortly after I got cast I read the book so I knew that he was going to be a really big character.  Alan had said he would be one of the big arch villains in the second season so I knew. There was a long time between when I got cast in season one, which was almost two years ago, and when we got to season two. We had the writer’s strike and in an actor’s anxious timetable it took a while to get there.  But once it did, it was just great.  I didn’t know how fun the character would end up being.  I didn’t know how colorful he would be. I thought maybe at first he would be a little more uptight and conservative and straight faced and I loved that he got to blossom into this. The smiling, joking aspect was there a little bit but he became much more three-dimensional than I imagined.  There’s a lot more of an emotional life to the character. I never would have expected that we would have a scene where we are driving around in an ATV firing paintballs. That stuff was just great and it made me realize that Steve really had this 14-year-old boy trapped inside of him that just wanted a friend, just really wanted a community of people, a brotherhood. I think that’s what was behind so much of the Fellowship.  He was a kid that was living in his father’s shadow. I think his mother died when he was very young and he sort of grew up in this Christian empire and he didn’t really have much of a life.  He grew up, he inherited his father’s church and got his beautiful wife and he just wanted to force his own image into his world, he wanted to have everything he didn’t have growing up.  I found him to be a sad character at the end of the day. And even the way it ends with Sookie and Jason and Bill walking out; he’s left alone in his church. He’s been punched and kicked and shoved around. He really is, at the end of the day, a victim of circumstance and the vampires did kill his family so he has legitimate reasons to be traumatized. So I hope as the character comes and goes in the rest of the series, we’ll be able to see some of those aspects to him because I feel ultimately he really is a tragic figure.

TBN.com: Can you pick three words that you feel would best describe Steve Newlin?

Michael: Vain, passionate and foolhardy.

TBN.com: Is it difficult for you to play such a smarmy, bigoted, easily hate-able character?

Michael: Well it’s a challenge to walk the line between too much and just right. I don’t think I had one scene where I wasn’t talking about hate or vampires or God.  He speaks in such large, literally biblical terms.  There weren’t too many scenes that showed the guy behind the facade, there weren’t too many scenes where he was chillin’ out. There was the barbeque scene and that was it. So what was tough was how to make him a real person. In terms of playing him a bit smarmy and what not, I didn’t really think if it that way. And in terms of him being evil… we spent the first four or five episodes seeing him be this eccentric leader that was kind of a punch line, so when we actually got to episode six or seven and he’s shoving Sookie down the stairs, I did worry for a minute that I didn’t know if people would buy it. I just thought he was such a funny character and I was hoping that some of the sinister and dark stuff would come out and I think it did. It was just one of those things where I trusted the writers, trusted what was on the page and trusted what we had already made it in terms of the character, and it just kind of happened.  But I didn’t really think about him being evil so much.

TBN.com: Were there any scenes that were difficult to shoot or that you took home after shooting them?

Michael: Yeah there was… there was a scene in episode seven, it’s the scene where I’ve got Ryan, Jason, at knife point, and that was a really tough scene because that was the point of no return for Steve.  He’s got this Bowie knife at Jason’s throat.  It was a big switch from where he had been. Fortunately we had a great director, Michael Ruscio, and he really helped Ryan and I through that scene but everything to that point had been so much fun for us and to suddenly to have a scene that I’m basically telling him I’m going to kill him and I’ve got this knife… it felt for a minute like we were in a bit of a different show than the one we were working on because suddenly it had taken this really violent turn. I think sometimes too, actors when they’re in a scene like that when there’s a weapon or someone’s being held at gunpoint, you have this urge to kind of top the gun or the knife. The gun or the knife is a very powerful prop in a scene and I found myself wanting to, it’s kind of hard to describe, but be more powerful than the knife. So I had a hard time getting there and finding the balance of the performance in that scene and Ryan really helped me with it. He’s just such a good actor, such a good guy to work with, and ultimately we found it and I remember taking that scene home and wondering. I was like, “I don’t know. I think I might have been really bad today; I think I just might have just been playing over the top villain.” But I was really happy with the way it turned out.  But thank God for Ryan and Michael Ruscio and Raelle Tucker, the writer of that episode, because they really helped me find it.  I don’t think it was a scene necessarily that a lot of people other than me would stress over, but for me personally that was a hard one.

TBN.com: How did you feel about all those wild parties in the show?

Michael: Well I was glad I wasn’t in them! ~laughs~

I mean, I think its great, we would read those scripts as they would come out and we were like “whooo, like, wow.”  For the most of the season Anna Camp and Ryan Kwanten and I were off in the Dallas church camp world and we would check in on all the other cast members that had all this crazy orgy stuff and it was like they really were off doing a different show. They had all these horribly long night shoots and everyone was cold and naked. But everyone has a sense of humor working on that set and everyone’s so cool. I don’t think that anyone working in those scenes ever felt too freaked out or uncomfortable just because it really is the best group of people to work with. It was wild stuff; it was definitely one of those things I thought I should warn my mom about before she watches. But my parents are grown ups; they can handle it.

TBN.com: Has True Blood reshaped how you think of good and evil?

Michael: Not necessarily in those terms, but it’s definitely made me think more, especially playing this role. The Fellowship has made me think more about how hate is used subversively to win people over. It’s really is a strong recruitment tool. I think things that are openly violent or openly aggressive tend to turn people off, but when people start to gather and discuss a way of life that they feel is threatening their own, it’s shocking what becomes acceptable dialogue in the public spectrum. Obviously the best thing about our country is free speech and freedom of assembly but, I’m going to contradict myself saying that the vampire stuff should be taken more literally, but some of the stuff that’s been out there about gay marriage and keeping family pure, it just blows my mind that there’s so much hypocrisy surrounding family values when we have so many other things like domestic abuse and divorce and infidelity that can really ruin marriages much more than a man and a man or a woman and a woman getting married .  It’s just shocking that people can find nothing wrong with saying that one group, in today’s world, that heterosexuals have more of a right to marriage then homosexuals do. I think this really is going be the civil rights movement for my generation and I think its very, very important and I think the true Americans value is equal rights for everybody.  And you can’t just limit it to faith based groups and churches. I think hate is still a strong factor in people’s justifications for their own selfish actions. It goes back to who Steve thinking he’s doing the right thing. He thinks that he’s the good guy, he thinks hate is good, that hate is empowerment by God — that’s taking it VERY literally, but I think we as a people ultimately have to break down the duality of good and evil and we have to start looking at things from a more gray point of view. That’s the discussion that True Blood is having (aside from all the eye-candy and popcorn plot twists). Vampires are just vampires and aren’t necessarily good or evil.  They do terrible things but not all vampires fall into that camp. True Blood kind of breaks down that duality and sort of redefines things in a post good and evil world.

TBN.com: If Steve Newlin died what would you like to have on his head stone?

Michael: ~laughs~  “He will not rise again.”  I think he’d like to; he has a sort of Messiah complex, but I think that he’d be afraid that if he did it would mean he’s a vampire.

TBN.com: Do you have a favorite charity?

Michael: Not a favorite, no. I should be more active. This past Christmas my sister and my cousins and I decided to not give each other gifts and instead donates to different charities. I donated to The Fisher House, which is a halfway house for Veterans, and soldiers that have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. They provide a place for the vets and their families to come together and see their loved ones on their way home from war or while recovering from injuries. I think it’s a really important program. But no, I don’t have a charity that I am affiliated with.

TBN.com: Are there any questions that you would like to ask the fans and you would like to get the answer to?

Michael: I’d love to know what they think is in store for Sara and Steve Newlin.

TBN.com: Do you Twitter?

Michael: Yeah I do but I’m not doing it every 10 minutes. I do have a Twitter account and I keep it updated mostly with news about True Blood and this comic book I’ve been writing.

TBN.com: Which is our next question!

Michael: Oh, there you go!

TBN.com: Can you let us know what your Twitter account is and do you want the fans to know?

Michael McMillian True Blood Steve NewlinMichael: Yeah absolutely, that’s what its there for.  Its michamac7 and I think you can find it under Michael McMillian. And yeah it’s been cool; I’ve had a lot of people sign on over the summer between True Blood and the announcement of my comic book, “Lucid” that I’m writing in conjunction with Zachary Quinto’s production company, Before the Door, publisher Achaia Comics.

TBN.com: You must be psychic because that’s what we were going to talk about next.

We found out that you’re doing this comic and it’s set to come out the summer of 2010 but how did it all begin: the development of “Lucid” and how long was the process of putting the comic book together?

Michael: Well we’re still putting it together and I think the crystallization and the idea has really started to come together just a little after a year ago. So it’s been a little bit of a process, but I went to Carnegie Melon with Zach Quinto and a couple of other friends, Neal Dodson and Cory Moosa. After Zach had shot “Star Trek” and he had been on “Heroes” for a few seasons, he and Neal and Corey put their heads together and decided to start up a production company. Coming from conservatory program we know a lot of actors and writers and they reached out to a lot of their friends, which is really cool of them because I’m not sure that a lot of actors that are suddenly finding themselves on the rise to fame and fortune like Zach, would necessarily reach out and be like “Come on, let’s all get some stuff done while we have an opportunity.”  It was really cool of them. So they set up a production company, Before the Door, and they are interested in creating TV shows and films and comics. Neal knew that I always wrote as a side thing. He’s read a couple pilots I had written in the past, and he’s always been a big champion of mine. When they were looking around for comic ideas they asked me to come in and pitch them some ideas. I did and “Lucid” was one of them. They took it to Archaia, which is a terrific publisher. They are a small but they are growing and they have some really cool books I recommend for True Blood fans: “Mouse Guard” by Davis Petersen, “The Killer,” “Awakening,” and they’ve got a deal with Jim Henson Productions to bring “Fraggle Rock” and “Labyrinth” and “Dark Crystal” into comic format. They are just a really cool group of people headed up by Stephen Christy who is the director of acquisitions over there. So Archaia agreed to publish last spring and we announced the book at ComicCon this year, which was awesome. Now, I just got the final approval on the revised treatment and I’m starting the scripting process this week so I’m really excited about it.  This is shaping up to be one of my most favorite things I’ve ever worked on.

TBN.com: Do you do the writing? Or the actual graphics?

Michael: Yeah I’m writing it and we’re currently looking for the artist. It’s a book that takes place in a parallel universe where major world powers have combat magicians working for them as secret agents and defending our national security. It mixes elements of fantasy and modern action into one world. I think it will be really, really cool.

TBN.com: Sounds fun! Now what’s more challenging? Acting or creating the comic?

Michael: I would say that creating the comic is the scarier challenge at the moment just because I grew up reading comics and this is something I have wanted to do for a long time and I’m sort of a perfectionist in everything that I do. I’ve already had nightmares that the comic has come out and that everybody thinks it’s horrible. I think the fear driving me is really good because it’s going to push me to make sure I’ve got all my bases covered. Comic readers like their comics and when a comic doesn’t succeed on the page it’s really easy to feel ripped off and disappointed. I’m hoping to put together a really fun entertaining escape. I think “Lucid” will be just chock full of fantasy elements and a little bit sci-fi and some action and, if you like James Bond, if you like Harry Potter, if you like Arthurian Legend, if you like conspiracy theories… there’s going to be something for you in this book.  And those are all things, by the way, that I love too so it’s sort of an amalgamation of all my influences growing up.

TBN.com: When it comes out please be sure to drop us a line and let us know!

Michael: Oh Absolutely!

UPDATE: Michael dropped us a note to let us know that he’s working around Louisiana right now! From Michael: “I am shooting “The Business of Falling in Love,” opposite Hilary Duff. It’s a romantic comedy TV movie for ABC Family.” We can’t wait to see it! We also expect to have some more news involving Michael in the very near future.

(Photo credits: HBO/ Jaimie Trueblood; Steve McMillian; HBO/John P. Johnson; HBO/ Jaimie Trueblood; HBO/ John P. Johnson)

Transcriptionist: Cyrenna

Share
  • woot

    Love Michael he is super hot. And among the top 3 best actors of TB others being Nelsan, Skarsgard. Very very underrated he shines as Mr Newlin. <3

  • Ursula

    Hi everyone =)

    First post so here goes. I loved reading what this actor has to say about his character. I really enjoy the Newlins. Could you possibly have a story about vampires mainstreaming in America without TV evangelists? No way!

    I also think both Steve and his wife are played well. Wow did they both ever nail their parts. The show wouldn’t be the same without them. From this interview you can tell why Steve comes off as believable which in turn helps the main story become that much more plausible in our imaginations.

    I’ve often thought that some viewers were reading too much into it to try and compare cold-blooded, murderous vampires to gay rights. After all, no one in Bon Temps is wondering why Arlene broke it off with Rene now are they? So the Newlins really do have some legitimate points while still coming off in the tradition of wacky, telethon types that have something about them most people just don’t like. Perhaps it’s the vanity aspect that Michael McMillian brought up and that dippy hair-do. Got to love that hair. XD

    I often think of Bill as maybe looking for redemption from his psychotic past with his maker. Eric not so much. Just that they both might be willing to try something new after coming into contact with Sookie.

    • Hi Ursula,

      Welcome! You will find that everyone here are wonderful and although people may not see things eye-to-eye everyone ties their best to be civil, respectful and have mature discussions about the topics. 🙂 So jump in anytime and join in the discussions or just express yourself. You will find it fun to talk about True Blood with other fans like yourself. 🙂

  • Antonio

    Good Points All. However, You neglected to say that characters like Bill and Eric start out looking like villains or “bad news” and later wind up looking like Heroes. In the episode “Mine” We see Bill’s “darker side” and in the episode “I will rise up” We see that Eric has a different side to his persona as well when he pleads with his maker and weeps for him. “Sookeh is Mahn” luv that!

  • Antonio

    Its Funny how on a show about Vampires the Real “bad guys” are The Humans and Not the “Monsters”! It seems to me,That the “Monsters” try more to be noble and honorable than the humans do! There is definitely a contrast drawn Between Jason Stackhouse and Vampire Bill Compton! You would think that the “bloodsucker” would be the vile,detestable one,right? Wrong!
    While Jason treats women like dirt..Like Nothing more than “playthings” for his own amusement,Bill treats Sookie like a Lady. He is polite and cordial with her and her gran ~~Something Ol’ Bonehead(Jason) could learn!
    Bill even asks her out quite politely…”May I call upon You Sometime?” The Consummate Gentlemen In High Contrast to Jason The Consummate Pig Brute Player!
    Anyway, The Newlins were the couple You love to hate in the show!
    Both of them had ulterior motives! Mr. Newlins Anti-Vampire agenda sounded more like “hate speech” than a call to action!
    It made them Both appear as prejudiced bigots!
    He didnt Really care if the vampires were killing people,He was just a Bigot and Prejudiced against ANYone Who was Different than Him! That Big Vamp guyfrom TX should have kicked his sorry butt!
    Good writing though and acting.

  • JANE

    MICHAEL IS A DOLL, AND , OBVIOUSLY, INTELLIGENT. WHAT I’D CALL A “DEEP THINKER”. GREAT INTERVIEW ! NICE TO SEE INTO THE ACTOR BEHIND THE CHARACTER, AND HOW HE VIEWS HIS ROLE, AND BRINGS IT TO LIFE.

  • Lizzie 1701

    A very good interview – I actually enjoyed his character on the show. Michael seems like a beaut guy as well!

  • The dialogue is very interesting and thought-provoking!