By Elizabeth Walker
Technically, Sean Cameron Michael is a Hollywood newcomer…but only technically. The veteran actor relocated to Los Angeles four or so years ago, after years spent living and working in his native South Africa. I reached him by phone to connect with him about his latest projects, including the independent film Last Broken Darkness and the series Blood Drive.
Q: What attracted you to Last Broken Darkness?
SCM: I had worked with Christopher-Lee dos Santos on a previous project, years ago, a short film, and he had mentioned the idea of this film to me, and said if it ever came to fruition he wanted me to work on it. We ended up shooting it in South Africa in May 2015. It’s a post-apocalyptic story about a father who has lost his wife and kid, and people are surviving underground. Usually in South Africa, movies are either comedies or political in nature, so this was exciting.
Q: Can you talk a bit about what shooting was like?
SCM: It was a very grueling shoot, since it was mostly night shoots. We would arrive on set at three in the afternoon and sometimes still be shooting at six in the morning.
Q: That must have made for a long day. Was the location something that attracted you to the project, being back in your native country?
SCM: You know I had spent years living and working in South Africa and been very involved in industry over there. After working on Black Sails, it made sense for me to relocate to Hollywood, so I had been living there about two years when we decided to start working on Last Broken Darkness. I do try and help filmmakers in South Africa because it is such a daunting industry, particularly in South Africa with the budgets and things.
Q: In the television series Shooter you play a Russian diplomat. How did the current state of international affairs influence the way you played the character?
SCM: When one is working on a TV show, it is exciting for the writers and producers, because it can be so topical. In my case, the premier of shooter kept getting delayed because actual shootings kept occurring in the United States, and we wanted to of course be sensitive to that.
But you’re right, playing a Russian character is quite topical with the American-Russian connection. I am always attracted to a role that is multifaceted, and a role that is a challenge.
Q: This is something women get asked all the time, but men rarely do. How are the roles you are offered now different than those you were offered when you were in your twenties?
SCM: In your twenties, you are always playing the good-looking, charming nice guy, but soon, as an actor, one needs to figure out what your type is. I have always played characters where there is a duplicity to them. I am always looking for honesty and truth in the characters that I play. Baddies don’t know they are baddies, so everything they say is justifiable in their own minds.
Camera work enables the audience to look into the character’s eyes, and they have to see that honesty. I suppose in that way I am a method actor, in that I want to convey that authenticity.
Q: What would readers be surprised to know about you?
SCM: To be honest, I think many would be surprised to find out I’m South African. I have played a range of characters – French, Polish, Irish, Dutch, American – so even in South Africa, people don’t realize that I am actually from South Africa.
Q: That “pan-European” accent has a rich tradition in Hollywood. I am thinking of people like Cary Grant.
SCM: Absolutely, and I have gotten to play such a broad range of characters from different places. There is no such thing as the “standard American accent” or the “standard British accent” anymore. Audiences are very smart, and now it is very common to hear someone from Liverpool or Ireland or Scotland.
Q: Sean, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. Any final thoughts to share?
SCM: Just that I am excited about Last Broken Darkness and also the new series I’m in, Blood Drive.
Last Broken Darkness was released February 18, 2017. Blood Drive is set to release on June 14, 2017.