Interview by Gareth Hughes
It's not everyday that you can tick interviewing a dwarf off your to do list, but this week I pulled it off when I chatted with the happiest dwarf of them all, Michael Coleman. He talked openly about his career, about the roles that inspire him and his time on the set during the filming of season one of Once Upon A Time. A huge thank you to Michael for taking the time to answer our questions.
This is just the start of a series of interviews we will be running over the summer that we hope will keep you occupied while the show is on hiatus.
Tell us about your plans during the break from filming?
Step one is to spend some long overdue, quality time with my family. We have plans to spend time in Toronto, Los Angeles & Hawaii.
Step two is to go back to work, work, work and audition for some of the other incredible new shows and movies that are in prepping to shoot while Once Upon a Time is on hiatus. I spent most of this year playing a dwarf (Once Upon a Time) an elf (movie of the week) and a Gringott (Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story) and I am hoping to play some non-prosthetically roles during our down time. LOL.
Step three is to stay in touch with as many cast & crew as possible and all of the amazing fans of the series. This fairytale series has been just that, every step of the way.
Have you had any great blooper moments on set you'd like to share?
LOL. I have some GREAT stories for an upcoming episode but it's unfortunately too early to share those.
In episode 16, I get in a pretty fun little argument with Snow White and I think my sudden "non-happiness" surprised everyone out the gate and we were all laughing pretty hard during the first several takes.
What would your fans be surprised to find out about you?
Hmmm. Great question. Probably the roles and shows I've been able to be a part of prior to Once Upon a Time. In the world of animation I've been one of the X-Men, played a hamster on Hamtaro, a puppy in Hello Kitty, countless brooding teens in shows like Dragonball Z, Inuyasha, Transformers, Gundam Seed: Destiny...
I am also a writer with a couple of feature films and web series under my belt. I am a trained editor, have written award winning musicals and own a large acting school (where several OUAT cast members - The Fairy Godmother, King Midas, Stealthy... teach classes).
And perhaps that I really am this happy most of the time
Did you envision the massive success and fandom that has developed around the show so quickly?
I had every ounce of confidence in Adam and Eddie, and once we started adding the leads I was thrilled (although disappointed and felt owed a "Spoiler Alert" when I found out Jennifer Morrison was in the cast and would thus not be returning to "How I Met Your Mother" -- I wanted her to be the Mom LOL)
But all that being said, I was still skeptical... A show about classic fairy tales? A message of hope and faith? Would the world really be ready to see these classic characters in this new reality?
I had little doubt after we shot the pilot though. I still remember Josh Dallas approaching Snow and ourselves during the funeral scene... literally a single, genuine tear in his eye as he delivered every take. This guy is movie star good. And Ginny Goodwin treated us like friends from the gate and despite a surprise snow fall and being up in a forest she delivered with the "all for one, one for all" mind set you rarely see outside of student films.
This cast was solid and committed out the gate. Hard to fail with these work ethics and abilities. I would need a million pages to properly articulate the respect I have for every cast member, crew member,writer, director, producer... of this show.
Can you tell us a bit about your career? What led you into acting?
I became an actor because I couldn't decide what to do. I wanted to be a lawyer, a cop, a marketing exec... A million and one things. Acting was my one chance to get to do them all. Then I fell in love with the craft and my goals shifted to a love of entertaining and educating.
Which character is your favorite from the show?
Now that's near impossible to answer. I have become good buddies with Jared (aka Henry) and his family and I am constantly in awe of my amigos skills - so he's at the top of my list. This is like asking a father of 12, who his favourite child is... LOL. Oh man. Ummm... Belle (Emilie De Ravin) is the name of my 6 month old daughter, and I love Emilie's work... Who doesn't love Jen, Lana, Bobby, Ginny, Raphael, Lee, Gabe, Mig, Fausti, Jeff, David,... all right I am stalling... I pick (hands over eyes)... Snow White. I get to work with Snow White!!! How incredibly cool is that? Something I will cherish for all my days.
What is the most challenging aspect of working on Once Upon A Time?
Not being star struck by the amazing ensemble and guests they continuously bring in and being a character in the scene as opposed to an audience member. Also wondering what Adam and Eddie are planning. The writer in me loves these guys to bits and their ability to shape distinct universes ranks right up there with Joss Whedon in my book.
What hobbies do you pursue outside of acting?
I play ice hockey several times a week and I love playing my guitar. I've been singing and playing since I was 13 and it is truly one of my favourite happy places.
Do you have any other acting projects that you are involved in at present?
There is a wonderful movie on iTunes called Best Day Ever: The Aiden Kesler Story that I am very proud of, and I am currently developing a new television series pitch with a director (Paul Kaufman) based in LA that I've worked with several times.
Growing up, which fairy tale character or story most appealed to you?
The Little Mermaid. I have always been fascinated for her desire to live the fullest life imaginable, regardless of the obstacles or odds.
What one piece of advice would you give to readers who aspire to enter the acting profession?
Don't aspire. Do. This is not an art, nor is it something anyone is born with - it is a learned skill. A Craft. There are countless myths about how impossible all of this is to do and what the random chances of success are and yet, we see time and time again, countless actors pursuing it at the highest level and not only achieving their goals but exceeding them.
What would be your dream acting role?
Jedi Luke Skywalker in stories that take place well after Return of the Jedi (I have read most of these books and love where this character goes.)
Who did you bond with most during your time on set filming season one of Once?
Snow White & the other six Dwarfs. Although I did get to know some other actors as well, like Jared Gilmore (as mentioned earlier) and Josh and Lana and Raphael and Eion... David Anders (this guy kills me. love this guy)
In your own mind, do you have a back story for Happy that you would like to see play out?
I trust Adam & Eddie have some fun stuff in mind, but if anyone ever wanted my two bits... I think Happy's back story is relatively simple. He gets to do what he loves, with whom he loves - every single day. It would be strange to not be Happy. I like the idea that Happy does have a switch though - mess with his brothers, Snow or any of their friends and watch out!
I like to think of those classic Incredible Hulk scenes with Bill Bixby and would love to pay homage with a "trust me, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry" moment. How much fun would that be?
Anything you'd like to say to all the fans reading this?
I sincerely thank you for your incredible kind words and the tweets (I'm @1MichaelColeman for anyone wishing to say hello) and love for this show. It truly has been a special journey for everyone involved in the cast & crew. It is so nice that it appears to have made a similar connection with those who have found us on Sunday nights and continue to share this journey with us. I truly hope we all get to do this for the rest of our lives and I promise to approach each day and every episode as if this were the case. Heigh Ho!
Michael has the most amazing interactive website. Check it out: http://www.actormichaelcoleman.com/