Michele Martin is a classically trained actress who studied ballet and jazz as a child, until she accompanied her friend to an audition for “The Sound of Music,” where she was asked to and try out and landed the role of the outspoken nine year old Brigitta. She fell in love with acting and spent most of her formative years touring and performing plays in regional theatre in the United States and Europe. She has played a gambit of roles from broad comedy, in the film Dadgum, Texas (2011), opposite Lost (2004) star Jeff Fahey to the indie drama Assisting Venus (2010), opposite Michael Steger (“90210″ (2008)) and Julian Sands (24 (2001), where she plays his much younger lover. She has also taken the stage as Cecil Volanges in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”, Miranda in “The Tempest” and Charlotte Corday in “Marat/Sade.” She was raised in a small Southern town by her Russian Jewish grandmother and her first generation American father, who is from Guadalajara, Mexico.
What is the current project you are working on?
A modern adaptation of the legendary writer Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, set in modern day middle America (Ohio) in the trials of today’s economic hardships. It is so interesting to me that a play written in 1879 is still so relevant with the war on women and banking craziness. But this film won’t be boring; it is so exciting to have the chance to bring a fresh take on a classic, much in the way that “Black Swan” bridged the gap between the classical art of ballet and a thriller. This adaptation, as our director Charles Huddleston says, Is not your great grandmother’s A Doll House. I am excited to be working with Ben Kingsley and Jena Malone on ADH.
I have also been cast as the female lead in a wonderfully dark, funny and warm comedy, A Mile in His Soul, the script attracted me with it’s unique story about homelessness and what it really means to become an empathetic person, to truly walk in someone else’s shoes. It is beautifully written by Morley Shulman and produced by Eiran Lenton and will be filming in Scotland this Fall.
What was the casting process like for “A Doll’s House”?
Interesting. lol. I think that if you have a quality project with a strong script, it becomes a little easier, but this is always a really challenging part of filmmaking. The right casting can make or break a project.
How do you balance writing and acting?
Wow. that is a question! I have trouble with balance. Basically, I get very little sleep. Ha, and not ha. I put 110% of myself into both. Someday I may be forced to participate more in one than the other and I guess if I had to choose that would be acting, my first love. Both art forms serve different purposes in my life and are fulfilling in unique ways.
How do you define success?
When I am surrounded by creativity and inspiration, I feel very lucky and successful.
How do you handle rejection?
Not well. But somehow, no matter how hard it is, I pick myself back up and try again. For better or worse, I never learned how to quit.
Did you always want to be an actress and writer?
Yes. I am afraid that I’m not cut out for anything else. I fantasize about other lives, and admire other professions, but I realized early that if I actually had to do anything else I’d be miserable and a complete failure at it.
What inspired you to become an actress and writer?
Great films. Great writers, directors, actors. Since I was a kid I’ve watched a lot of movies. It is my my mini vacation and escape; reality is overrated. One time in class I jokingly said I wanted to be a young female Woody Allen, but I think the idea stuck. Like Inception only with Woody Allen.
What is the best thing about being one?
Getting to be someone else. Living in someone else’s skin, their heart and dreams. It has helped me develop a part of my humanity and empathy and opened my mind in ways that I might not have experienced if I only lived this life as myself.
What is the worst thing about being one?
Lack of carbs. Donuts especially. Rings of love I call them. I miss donuts a lot.
What was it like working with Jeff Fahey, Michael Steger and Julian Sands?
Jeff is a really cool guy. He’s a team player; we were on the set of a very small comedy in Texas, in the the dead of summer and he was helping out, getting the crew water. His acting style is so unique, he never learns his lines until he is in the scene, which creates truly spontaneous moments. That can be disconcerting for someone like me who came from the theatre, but I went with it. I love to learn. Michael is the easiest going person, such a sweet guy and that relaxed genuineness translates in his acting. Julian is a good friend of mine and I have such admiration for him. He is the consummate actor, I can never repay all of the time and attention he has given to my work. Like most actors, Julian is not only a performer but a fan of film and theatre; he is a scholar and a class act. Plus the camera is in love with him, he has that thing that you can’t take your eyes off when he is on screen.
How has your life changed since you became an actress/writer?
The change is ongoing and in ways that I might never fully understand. Everyday is an adventure. I am so grateful that I took the road less traveled.
What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to make it in the film business?
Oh, geez. First there is not one piece of advice. The journey is different for every person. I guess most importantly, make sure there is nothing else you could possibly do. Because, it’s tough, but so very rewarding if you don’t give up. Think outside the box and yeah, never give up.
What do you like to do besides acting and writing?
I like to travel, garden, listen to music, read and visit art galleries. I can basically draw stick people but great art inspires me. And of course see theatre and film.
Have you had any other jobs outside of the theatrical arts?
A couple of inconsequential day jobs. I worked in a sandwich factory one summer. Don’t ever eat those sandwiches out of vending machines. Just don’t do it.
How would you describe your education?
Life has been my educator, so i guess I will always be in school. I studied classically at The American Conservatory and privately but reading and observing has been my main form of education. I am a huge advocate of literacy programs. I believe all educations begins with reading. Not everyone can afford a fancy degree but everyone can get a library card.
What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?
I don’t watch a lot of TV. I’m loving The Newsroom, the best TV to come along in a long time. And I like Boardwalk Empire. And Entourage as a guilty pleasure.
Films, foreign and American melt into each other for me. Here is the cliff note version of a long list:
All Woody Allen films, even the flops. I loved his dramas, September and Interiors. And Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters are classics. I saw Midnight in Paris at Cannes and I cried. Sitting in a comedy and crying. Completely absurd but that is how much I love his work.
Lost In Translation
The Godfather 1&2
The Royal Tennenbaums
Rushmore Lost in Translation
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Red by Krzysztof Kieslowski
My Week with Marilyn
House of Sand and Fog
V for Vendetta
and Talledega Nights and Get Him to the Greek for cheap laughs, always work.
How would you describe the film “scene” where you live?
In LA? It’s a mecca for film. What Broadway is to New York. So pretty intense and yet it is LA, so people try and act like they don’t care as much as they really do (or at least I hope they do, because I do). The energy and passion for film is here, sometimes you just have to chip away the facade.
How has social media changed the film industry?
Monumentally. And I hope for the better. It opens doors to new filmmakers with fresh ideas, that might not have been able to be seen or heard if not for social media.
What’s your opinion on crowdfunding?
Positive. Exciting that there are alternate avenues for filmmakers to raise funds. The public knows a lot more about what they want than they are given credit for and crowd funding helps everyone get involved.
How does independent film differ from the mainstream?
In indie film non mainstream subjects and unique stories can be explored, a great example of a truly independent film is Dee Rees’s Pariah. The indie spirit is about acceptance and learning about people living what might be considered alternative lifestyles. Independent film opens hearts and minds. I love that. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t get excited by mainstream films. I am a huge fan of the Batman films! As long as a film has something to say, mainstream or indie, there will be an audience.
You could go back in time and see and film being made. Which film would it be and why?
Would have loved to be on the set of The Godfather, to see an iconic film and the process from beginning to end, and to see all of the things that went into making it iconic would be truly amazing.
Do you believe in life on other planets?
I think so. But I am still trying to wrap my head around life on this one!
What’s your favorite movie quote and why?
“La-di-da, la-di-da, la la” from Annie Hall. Because, it says it all.
What is your opinion on movie remakes and sequels?
There are classic iconic movies that should not be remade. “If it ain’t, broke don’t fix it,” my Grandpa use to say. But there are excellent examples where remakes and sequels work, like Christopher Nolan’s Batman. I am excited to see what Baz Luhrmann has done with The Great Gatsby.
On book to movie adaptations?
If they are good, it’s great. if not, it is unfulfilling, especially if it is a book you really love.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’d like to say thank you for taking the time to come up with these thoughtful questions and for caring about art and film.
Thank you so much for doing the interview. I’m also an advocate of literacy and libraries. I think libraries are extremely underfunded. I’m a huge fan of Julian Sands. His commitment to both independent and mainstream films is inspiring. I wish you all the best with “A Doll’s House”,” A Mile in His Soul” and your future projects.