Photo Credit: Vince Trupsin
Getting onto a set can seem like a delusion for aspiring television and film actors. This is why we were ecstatic when Michael Nardelli, an experienced perfomer in both mediums, was interested in sharing his knowledge with us. Michael has had stints on popular television shows like Revenge, Hart of Dixie, Nashville and CSI, and films such as Another Happy Day (alongside Kate Bosworth and Demi Moore) and, more recently, Circle.
In addition to his impressive list of acting credits Michael is an established Producer and Director. He is producing the upcoming film The Girl Who Conned the Ivy League with Director/ Producer McG and Amanda Seyfried attached to star.
We caught up with Michael to pick his brain on breaking into the industry and how he got into an “intense mindset” for his upcoming horror film...
On getting his start in acting.
A heavy portion of the foundation of Michael's career lies in his education.
"I moved seven times growing up, so always being the new kid and being very observational about new people and new places I think fed into my hunger for acting. But, I was always fascinated with film, television, and theater. My first memory is watching THE WIZARD OF OZ when I was two years old. I was so consumed by it all. I would always recreate scenes from that with my friends on the playground. Then it was STAR WARS. Then BATMAN. That sense of play lead to High School Theater and making videos for difference classes in lieu of papers. We would write them and act in them, shoot them and edit them all by ourselves.
When I was living in Upstate New York, I went to this open call for wannabe actors. It actually turned out to be legitimate and I got called back to LA and NYC to meet with agents and casting directors. I knew I wanted to start working in film and TV, so I only applied to colleges in Los Angeles. From there, it was studying film and theater at USC. My passion for it all just seems to keep growing."
On learning as he goes.
Besides USC, Michael has trained with the prestigious Groundlings. We asked him the most vital thing he's been taught as a performer.
"My acting coach Warner Loughlin always says, “It’s a 60 year career, not a 6 year career.” It is pretty simple advice, but it is just this great mantra to calm you down when you feel like nothing is working or going your way. There is this rushed feeling people put on you when you are an actor “Why aren’t you uber famous? Why aren’t you on GAME OF THRONES?!?!?!” Of course, there are stories of people who literally become sensations over night. But in general I think like any other career, acting is about stamina and learning as you go and being nice to yourself."
On his favorite television experience.
"REVENGE was really fun. The cast and crew were so nice, and the locations were so beautiful and beach-y. It felt like a permanent summer. I also just enjoyed playing Trey, this mysterious bad guy. His agenda was always changing and it was fun trying to keep up and keep his motivations grounded in reality."
On what it's like to audition for TV.
"They [TV auditions] are always a little different. You get your material and if you are not already watching it, try to familiarize yourself with the tone of the show you are reading for. Usually you get at least a night to prepare. Sometimes longer. Sometimes you only get an hour! When you are rushed like that, I always find it helpful to hone in on what really matters for that particular role. Is it a sense of humor? A strong history for the character? His relationship to the other person in the scene?
Auditions are just a strange beast, it has taken me a long time to love them, but I think I am slowly getting to the point where I can enjoy them, have fun and take them for what they are without the world feeling like it’s about to end."
On having a horrible audition.
We asked Michael if he had any horrible audition stories...
"There is a million! One time I had my pages all out of order. I thought it was just one, but then it was all of the pages. I turned into a bumbling mess and could not quite recover (never went in without checking my pages after that one!)."
On his best advice for hopefuls looking to break into acting for television.
"It took me a while to learn this – but find your thing. The thing that makes you funny, or the thing that you find funny. Or scary, or sad. Hone in on all the things you think are “right” about you and do not even bother examining what you think are your “flaws” too much. The casting net is so wide these days – people are sending tapes into LA from Australia, Africa, China, etc. – so kind of revel in your weirdness, or unique-ness. If they want a sarcastic brunette with a peg leg and a British accent, the are probably going to find that person thanks to the Internet and cast them. But there is only one you, and you can do “you” perfectly – eventually someone or some project is going to require “you.” And if you put yourself out there enough with theater or shorts or whatever, they will find you when they need you.
On working with acclaimed talent for Another Happy Day.
In this film, Michael was in the company of amazing talent like Kate Bosworth, Demi Moore, Ellen Barkin... the list goes on.
"That acting is always fun and it is always a challenge. No matter what age, experience level, or type of career you have. We all kind of have similar hurtles to jump over. On ANOTHER HAPPY DAY, George Kennedy told me entertainment was “the best business” and said “You know, we get to do the greatest thing.” You could tell he just loved to be working. But also, as many amazing movies as he got to do like COOL HAND LUKE or THE DIRTY DOZEN, he said there were plenty he got passed up on or wasn’t right for. He accepted that as just being part of the life of an actor. He was amazing to work with."
On getting into the mindset for his new psychological film, Circle.
"I really worked intensely on what Eric’s history looked like. CIRCLE is a very psychological film and everyone in the film is in intense danger every second and reacts differently to that. So based on how Eric was depicted in the script, I tried to really get inside his head. What were his parents like? What was high school like? Did he fit in, or no? He is more rational thinking and methodical than a lot of the other characters in the story, so to me it felt like he had been in high stakes scenarios his whole life – from athletics to time in the Peace Corps – that kind of stuff. Knowing all that about him helped me feel authentic in the middle of all the sci-fi chaos that occurs in the movie. The shoot itself was fairly grueling; we had to stand still in our spots for twelve-hour days. I just tried to use that feeling in my work. We shot the movie in order which was a blessing – every day I got more and more tired and so did poor Eric. So it all worked out for the best!"
On his greatest nugget of wisdom for aspiring performers.
"Make your own stuff. Do not wait around for the phone, you will go nuts. And I do not even mean like “Go out right away and make a movie!” It can be anything. A play you put up with your friends. A short film you write and film on your iPhone. Get into a cool improv class and play. Acting in film and TV means waiting around a lot for someone to give you permission to do what you love. Give yourself permission. Have fun. Remind yourself while you are doing it. Do not always make something with the intention of it having to be some huge life or career changer – just have fun and take risks. Do something low risk that let’s you stretch. I have never had a single bad thing happen to me when I have gotten my friends together to make something, even if we do not always love the end result."
Stay up to date with Michael @thenardelli on Twitter!