TAEM interview with actor Michael Adam Hamilton

TAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine is excited to present actor Michael Adam Hamilton to all of our readers. Michael is not only a well-rounded actor, but has had much experience in the other facets of motion pictures. His work can also be found in the web series ‘Pink Slip’ which we feature in our magazine monthly.

Michael, our magazine is closely followed by many college students who are studying acting. Please tell us why you chose to take up this career and who was your greatest inspiration for doing so.

MAH- Honestly, this career initially found me. My sisters were all doing a show at Biddiford City Theatre. My mother picked me up from football and didn’t have time to “run me home”.  So, I ended up in the lobby of this amazing community theater, bored. There I was, still sweaty and dirty from practice, waiting on my sisters when the director, Michael Hjort, came rushing out to speak with people signing others in.  “Great!” he blurted out. “Are you here for one of the French resistance fighters?” “No”.  I plainly uttered. Long story short, I ended of doing the show “A Little Princess” and falling in love with all of it. Acting was actually a side bonus that I developed skill and interest in.  What really drew me in and what I still love is the feeling of community, of getting together with a bunch of people you otherwise would never know to create this common thing.  I had a natural talent for singing, which had been nurtured by chorus and a musical family (all three of my sisters were at one point in Musica De Filia, the girl singers of Maine). The singing initially was what gave me opportunity.  I bounced from one musical to another at City Theater. I was blessed enough to not even understand the stress of the audition process until around three years later.  I didn’t understand, “I may not be cast.”  I was just there to have fun. I learned from some great directors and actors in this community. In particular one person I owe thanks to is Michael Donavon, who cast me in many shows and gave me great opportunities. He also handed me my first disappointment, which turned out to be a great joy. We were doing Grease and I of course wanted to be good ol’ Danny Zuko. Who doesn’t want to be Danny? Well I think at the time I was 15, maybe 16 and Michael told me I wasn’t ready, I didn’t “have the guy yet”. They ended up using a guy named Tim who I think was 25. But Michael asked me to be Sonny. Here I am thinking I know the show from the Trevolta movie. Sonny is a short, fat, funny man, that’s not me! I’m not sure what I said to Donavon, but he somehow got what I was thinking. But, he challenged me: “This is your role, be it! Be my Sonny!” It ended up being one of the most memorable and fun characters/shows I ever did. And I was Sonny! I found all the quarks, the things that made him tick and I believe this is really when I became an actor.  The best thing about this lesson was what it taught me about acting: Do not judge! Understand. 

TAEM- When did you begin training for this and where did you take up the schooling for it?

MAH- Well, I somewhat answered this question in your last inquiry, but I can certainly expand. My initial training was not a class, nor a book. It was not a specific technique or length of time to be completed. It was just being there. Being with great community theater actors who had been doing this 30, 40 years, just for the love of it. And they wouldn’t say “now I am going to teach you about acting” No, they would just ask me questions. And I would answer and I never realized I was “Building A Character” or “creating a back story.”  I was just asking the questions and that’s all we ever really do. You cannot materialize emotion from the idea of that emotion or you are lying, it is false. The feeling comes from the asking and is a natural and real byproduct. This is beautiful and a relief, because it really takes the pressure off. I don’t have to do anything to be good, or right or deep. I just have to really ask myself about this material I have and my answers, whatever they may be, wherever they may take me are right. It may not be right for the director or Casting Director. But, it’s right for me.

I had an interesting experience the other day with one of the great Hollywood Casting Directors, Michael Testa (there are a lot of us around, Michaels that is.) of Shaner/Testa Casting (Cold Case, Make It or Break It, The Ringer). I went in for one of the shows they are currently doing, and when I got the sides a few things about this guy immediately occurred to me. Not the least of which was: this guy is sneaky, he’s conniving and he is jealous. All of which require higher comprehension and intelligence. I knew why he was all these things and I had my reasons justified in the writing.

Well, the audition started and Michael stopped me about two lines in. “This guy’s really dumb” He went on to explain how simply this kid was motivated. I literally took my head and gestured a twisting motion saying “that’s just a little adjustment” smiling. Well, it was a huge shift, one that I tried to pull off, not very well. He said “good job”, I said “thank you” and I left, Knowing that role was not mine and fighting the feeling of you idiot how did you complicate that so much!? Then, I really asked myself, would you have seen it that way, if it was you, in this guys circumstances? And no, of course not, I already made my choices and they were true and right, because I had asked the questions.  Sure they weren’t what Michael was looking for and yes you definitely need to honor the Casting Director and Writer, once you realize where they actually want things to go or you are just an egomaniac. This, I of course did to the best of my ability. But, really in the end I was just happy that real, intelligent choices had come to me. And I was happy to realize that role was not for me and that was okay. Because the guy I envisioned, I saw, I liked him better and he was real to me and he exists out there too, waiting for me to walk in and play him. So, thank you! Mr. Testa for being a great CD who actually bothers to guide through an audition and allowed me to have this experience and let it be an encouragement that not getting the part or having the same choices that others make is not a bad thing, in fact you are probably on the right track.

TAEM- We understand that you have included modeling and dance has been part of your training. How have these given you confidence in your career ?

MAH-  Well modeling has not ha! Ha! My experience with that world was entirely negative and I cut it short!  I could go on for a long time about that, but negativity seems a waste, so instead I’ll focus on the positive in my life: dance. Dance has literally made me who I am in so many ways.  When I first started, it was very similar to acting: Sisters were into it I was along for the ride. But that experience of dance shifted when I was fifteen. I went to see a dress rehearsal for Cinderella put on by Maine State Ballet. I was a bit bored hadn’t danced in quite a while and was mostly just waiting for it to be over so I could take my girlfriend of the time to a state tennis tournament with me.  We were sitting in the seats flirting when a young man, John Pina, playing the Jester, flashed into my peripheral vision. He was doing these crazy, huge, jumps in a circle and I was glued from there on out . Got home told my mom “mum I want to dance again!” after a short cooling off period, she let me try it again. I started a couple days a week and was way behind the other girls in my class. But the obsession set in. I loved the structure, the technique and of course, the community. Like so many of us, I had a very tumultuous youth at home. A huge divide existed between my mother and my father and I seemed to be the only one bridging that gap. I faced questions and pulls to which there seemed no resolve. Ballet was my solace. A place I could be and go inward, focus on the moment, the movement at hand. To be honest, I really believe that ballet saved my life and definitely my brain. Without this world I wouldn’t have had anything of my own that wasn’t being marred by family bulls*#t. Mrs. Linda MacArthur Miele and Glen Davis deserve many thanks from me for this period of my life. She was a solid, motherly and wise presence I needed at the time and he took me under his wing and helped me catch up on the technique.

Since I started ballet those many years ago, I have done 100’s of shows of all different levels, from a tiny stage in Yarmouth, Maine to the Ford Amphitheatre Summer Series.  But, the constant was the community and the inspiration of watching a production come to life.  I had struggles throughout this time, but dance was always somewhere I could go to refuel.  Specifically to acting, dance has given me a freedom in my body, which is rare, a unique skill set, which helped me book my first SAG commercial, dancing with Keira Knightley and a place to draw on during the frustrating times with which this career is riddled. I highly recommend some type of movement to any actor, young or old. The experience is a whole person one: Mental, physical and is you believe in it, spiritual health.

TAEM- Tell us about your first performance in front of a camera, and your emotions when doing so.

MAH- My first performance in front of a camera, professionally, was a LUX commercial alongside Keira Knighley over the Thanksgiving Holiday 2004. I was overwhelmed to say the least. The rehearsal process was unique because it was a technically challenging ballroom spot. We all rehearsed a few days and then Keira came in and had to be caught up. We shot in downtown Los Angeles at one of the old theaters there. I will never forget walking into the set for the first time. I had been downstairs doing paperwork, hair, makeup and wardrobe. We rehearsed in the hallway and when the crew was ready the 2nd AD (assistant director) brought us up. It was like walking into an 1800’s ball.  The lights, the colors and then all this equipment. You look just a foot to one side of the set or another and the façade died. I couldn’t get over how this little world seemed so real on the monitor, but when you stepped back it was all manufactured.

Then, the shooting began! It was fast. Block quick, rehearse for camera, relight and then she came out. Wow! Beautiful gown, wig, perfection and so tiny. I pretty much forgot all my choreography right then. We went through the rehearsal a few more times and then I heard it “picture’s up”. The classic clap sticks came out and a smile spread across my face. “This is it, this is real”. After the first set up, the “wide” I got my first lesson of film: Remember exactly what you did! Because now we started the “coverage” piece by piece, beat by beat. They covered all the angles and for the next two days we shot the same 45 seconds of movement in everyway I could imagine. I watched a camera on the crane, watched it slide in on a dolly. Keeping focused on what I was doing was a job in itself, of course Keira helped.

I think as a first time experience I could not have asked for anything more perfect: A great, clear director, a bunch of pro co-stars and a natural structure (dance) to help me remember blocking and dramatic moments. I felt so grateful the whole time and definitely was even more sure that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

TAEM- We first saw you in the television series ‘The War at Home’ in 2006. How exciting was this for you ?

MAH- Again the War At Home was the perfect first “Guest Star”: live studio audience TV is great comedy training ground and Andy Cadiff (director)  is second to none in this genre. Working with Michael Rapaport was a whirlwind. The energy this man brings to work every day was simply astounding. Kaylee Defer was such a sweetheart to work with and made me feel like a part of the family right away, something I will always be thankful for. A particular moment I remember as a clear lesson was when shooting the Hebrew Tutoring session. I had gone over the sides with my coach dozens of times and had every turn worked out. So we ran it for the audience. Fell flat as can be. I saw Andy whisper to a writer; perhaps a producer and then he sauntered over. “Try this”. He threw a paragraph of new lines at me and bam! There in front of 100 plus people, I had to make them real, the first time they came out of my mouth. It was amazing and laugh they did, which obviously felt good.  I was sad not to have gotten a re-occurring part on that show, but it surely holds a special place in my heart and I thank Andy for showing me the wonderment of Multi-camera, live studio, comedy.

TAEM- The following year you were in a number of productions which included the film ‘Pirate Camp’, the short ‘Jessie’, and two television series ‘CSI: Miami’ and ‘Without a Trace’. Please tell us the themes behind all of these and about the roles that you played in them.

MAH- Well, a very common phrase that you will hear among entertainment types (managers, casting directors, agents etc) is “find your casting” This was definitely the year that happened for me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in tune enough to hear the call right away and neither were my reps at the time. Silly of me, considering it was practically screaming at me! “You are a leading man, but you are the nemesis bad boy.”  My reps and I kept being stubborn and sending me in for “the lead” and I kept getting cast as guys named Brad. In fact within 3 years I had played Brad (Jessie) Bradford ( Pirate Camp) and then Brad again ( Nowhere ). I also got to take on Nick, Luke and Craig. Seeing a pattern here? Well I was dense enough to miss it for quite awhile. The only non-leading cocky boy name that came up was Eli and that’s only because I was the Jewish, slightly sweet cocky boy.  But, lesson learned: Embrace your casting.

The funny thing is, I love my wheelhouse, these bad boys get to do all the fun things and make all the good choices. I highly recommend it. The unfortunate downside to the nemesis can sometimes be the canned-stereotypical dumb jock. He can be a lot of fun, but gets old.

More specifically about shooting some of these projects. CSI:MIAMI was the day I truly started to feel like I could actually smell the food the big boys were cooking. The scale of this show is astounding. They are sometimes shooting three episodes at once. Working with 2, 3 different teams. I am totally guessing, but I would say at least a million an episode. That kind of money and professionalism just does something to your mindset. It’s like Damn! This is it! This is the big time! When you have an additional AD (Assistant Director) bring you to holding where the 2nd AD brings you to set where the AD shows you blocking and you finally meet the director, it’s quite something.

If you do ever get a chance to watch the episode, notice the way I fall when shot with an arrow. This was the source of a painful lesson. The first time I fell was a full scale, all out, craning shot with two full swim teams racing, 100 plus extras cheering, everything and everyone was in play. It was at this point, that I quite naturally took an arrow to the chest and fell, as I felt natural. Unfortunately this great take was a “print and move on” kind of take and very unfortunately my arm was trapped in this awkward, twisted, turned back kind of position. I then of course got to match that amazing pose all day long (so much for a natural fall!) Next time I am dying at the hand of an arrow and being filmed I am going to practice and make sure it’s a comfortable way to fall on wet cement for 8 hours!

Without A Trace was an interesting one. It was a pretty small Co-Star, but obviously a great show on a great network with amazing producers.  The audition was minimal and so was the character breakdown. So, after the callback when I booked it, I was ecstatic but, not really sure what I was getting into. When the courier delivered a shooting script I was in for a world of shock: I was playing a Frat boy who took advantage of and raped emotionally vulnerable, fat girls! I read it a couple of times. It was heavy, horrible treatment of young woman, crass language, entirely dehumanizing. I wasn’t sure I could do it. One of my sisters had struggled with weight and was in college; it all hit too close for home for me. I called her. I thought it over and then it occurred to me: Yes, my character was a horrible human being, doing horrible things, but really what was the episode about? It was about uncovering the reality that no person should ever be treated like these girls were. No one deserved that. And if there were young woman and men out there who could watch this dramatization and learn that lesson. Something that could potentially save them tons of grief and potentially the ultimate tragedy, I decided it was worth it.  It still wasn’t easy though and I was apprehensive arriving on set, knowing the things that would have to come out of my mouth that day. Then, the young lady playing the large young woman we all abuse did a very professional and sweet thing. She one by one knocked on all of our doors and said something to the effect of “I want you to know it’s okay, and don’t worry about me. We are all telling a story here and it’s an important story to be told.” I was very impressed by her throughout the shoot.

TAEM- Tell us about the other actors that you played along side of and how you interacted with them upon the sets.

MAH- You keep asking me questions I just answered with my blabbering answers Ha Ha. I’ll tell you about a few more people though.  When I did CSI: Miami. I was already dead by the time Horatio (David Caruso) got to the scene, but I still got to watch him work and it was a thing of beauty. I swear, that man has an aura around him when he’s on set. Everything changes as he approaches, he is Horatio and Horatio is such a defined character with the mannerisms and speech that there is no doubt who runs this show. I noted these things and was duly impressed, but the real shocker didn’t come until a few years later when I was at the park with my wife and son and we ran into David with his son. What a quiet and unassuming man. He spoke with a slightly different accent and was anything but Horatio Cain. I was very impressed by this.

TAEM- For the next two years you performed in the short ‘Zombo’ and two more television series, ‘Gigantic’ and ‘90210’. Please tell our readers about these productions and your performances in them. 

MAH- “Zombo” was a brief shoot for me, but was a really fun and creative concept. The writer and director Alberto Belli said “what if all Zombies aren’t bad? What if some of them just want to be like us?” Enter Zombo the kind hearted Zombie who wants to be in musicals. Working with USC film students is a pleasure and I highly recommend it to any up and coming actor. Not because these directors will one day go on to make you famous (although they very well may) but because the air on these sets is thick with inspiration and learning. The reality of Hollywood often has not hit most of these young people and all they have is the dream, the means and some of the knowledge which is a great combination.

This was one of the first sets I was able to bring a family member to. My little sister Rachel was in town and able to come the nights we were shooting. Alberto (the Director) was so sweet to her and I’m pretty sure she developing a short lived crush.  Since then I have gotten to have friends and family along on projects and it is always a pleasure.

It seems like you are basing the Chronology of my career on good old IMDB, which is a sensible thing to do. Unfortunately the way they list things often takes them completely out of order. When started? When in Production? When Aired? When filming? When released? Thus many of my credits are very out of order. One of these is “Gigantic.” This is one of my more bittersweet stories/memories. First off it is where I originally met Ben and Debby Wolfinsohn as well as Zachary Ray Sherman, all of whom I thoroughly enjoy working with and have had the privileged to work with at other times (especially Zach).  Now that the wonderful part of it is shared let’s begin the crazy saga of “Gigantic”.

I got the audition last minute on a Saturday, which is unusual, but not entirely unheard of.  I was mid rehearsal for a ballet, I think it was “The Nutcracker”. I rushed over right after, sweaty and a wreck.  But something about the combination of it all really brought to life the character that was Nick. He was full of energy, a renegade, impetuous. And I went in, half-cocked, barely off book and was pretty sure they would hate it. But I figured what the hell and had a lot of fun with it. Well they didn’t hate me. Evidently they called me back for a chemistry read that week. Unfortunately, I never got the call from my manager. There I was, thinking I had flopped the audition and they wanted to read me with the other lead that Monday.  I get a call Monday early evening. “Where were you for the Gigantic Chemistry read?” Naturally emotions flew! “What are you talking about” etc. After the anger and shock had settled, I was pretty sure that just like that, my first great opportunity had come and gone and I had missed it. Then another crazy phone call came in. “they really liked you at network. They watched the tape and they want to attach you first, contracts are on the way” What! What!? Did I just get cast in a pilot! Talk about from low to high. By the time the contracts did come it had gone from a pilot presentation to a show set to go to series. Just like that my life had changed.  We went into production. I met my first film world co-stars. We went out to lunch, rehearsed, all was well. Working with Ben was great, it was just a bunch of people getting together and having fun.

Here’s where the story goes Hollywood again. Unbeknownst to me, good old Noggin, soon to officially be “The N” was going though quite an evolution. The old directors and programmers were out and the new ones wanted to be “hip” “Hot” more like say WB, which was ironic, because they were also on the verge of a buyout. So these oh so ingenious producer, network types decided: we need a make over. Let’s just abandon the old shows and ways. “Degrassi” made us great, who cares. “Daria” holds our fan base, it’s not where we are going and they did it, they abandon everything in the pipe line that was from the old guard, opting instead for cutting edge work like “Beyond the Break” did that make it a full season? And, you guessed it Gigantic was one of those casualties, as well as another show I was attached to that never even shot called “The Block”. Now,  “The N” had a new image to promote and my rollercoaster ride continued. We finished shooting; I eventually saw the product and everyone crossed their fingers. But, to no avail. The show sat on a shelf for three, maybe four years, until the FAILED execs over at “The N” said, “we need to return to our roots” what a novel idea. They went back to the archives and said what did we have before we shot ourselves in the foot? Oh, this cute little show Gigantic, that was unique. But let’s buy it from the genius minds who conceived it and make it ourselves. Let’s recast the Male leads as an Asian and a white chick and then we will really have something. Ben, Debby, Zach and I were out and just like that, “Gigantic” was somebody else’s baby. I took it pretty hard, but there it is, the bizz in show business. When creativity collides with something….else. The new version of the show, no offense, does not even close to measure up.

TAEM- You have also been a series regular in ‘Pink Slip’ which we proudly show in the Web Series section of our magazine. We understand that you wore a number of other hats while working in this prestigious series produced by Muriel Campbell and Executive-Producer Robert F. Campbell, her husband and well-know producer of ‘Law and Order: SVU’. Tell us about this series and of the work you do in it.

MAH- Well I originally came to “Pink Slip” as an Assistant Director, with one of my producing partners and good friend Bernie Gewissler. It quickly became apparent that Mrs. Campbell was extremely creative and resourceful.  Despite this fact, she could not do every job herself. Bernie and I stepped in as producers and helped navigate her through the logistics of making a web series. Muriel was dissatisfied with the working relationship with her first Max and learned that I was an actor. She had me read for her and immediately offered me the part.  We re-shot episode one and have been going strong ever since.

“Pink Slip” has been an amazing experience for me in so many ways. First off, it fills that theatre void of a family you go back to. I have gotten to work with the same crew and some cast members for years, which is such a privilege. “Pink Slip” was also my first film project that gave me time to get to know a character. Max has grown and so have I. Getting to know him has been hilarious and interesting.  As a producer and all around film maker Pink Slip has been an education to say the least. It is no mystery that web series in general and especially ours operate on a shoestring budget, but Muriel somehow always finds a way to bring it to life with virtually nothing. I have told her many times how inspiring she is. To have an idea in the winter of her life and bring it to life with nothing but drive and the support that drive attracts is a kick in the ass for all of us with a basket of excuses. I could go on for hours about all of the things Mrs. Campbell has that make her a great executive, but the biggest is one is she leads by example. She never just hands anything off. She has her finger on the pulse of everything that is happening in her production and as a result it keeps moving. That being said, Muriel knows how to ask for and accept help, which is another great quality in a leader. She surrounds herself with talented people and let’s them go to work.

Bob is another reason for Pink Slip’s success and a personal inspiration to me. He is the silent but strong presence that supports and comforts Muriel when it seems as though everything is going wrong.  You would never know that this unassuming, kind, man produced one of the most successful TV dramas of all time. His humility and sincerity are boundless. Bob was the first person (besides “my people”) to make me feel like a star and he always has. He treats you with the greatest respect and I intend to emulate him in many ways in my business as I progress.

TAEM- This series is well watched by our readers and looks like a fun production to be in. How do you interact with the other actors on, and off, the set?

MAH- We have a ton of fun! Joey (Jason Ellefson) and I laugh non-stop on and off the screen. Over the years we have become really good friends and sometimes it is hard to stop the banter and shoot. Kaitlin Snyder (Suzie) and I have always gotten along very well, but while Jason and I are chatting She and my wife are actually usually having a lot of fun, ironically enough.

Susan Grace (Aunt Pauline) and I have known each other quite a long time, and she’s one of my favorites. She is always a pleasure to work with and a riot when not shooting.

I would say generally speaking about the cast of “Pink Slip” there is real drive and inspiration there. These are people who love to and want to create and are willing to take the action necessary to do that. I have been very blessed to work with such giving and patient people and hope we can continue.

TAEM- There are a number of new projects that we understand that you are working on, and wear many hats with these as well. Please tell us all about them and when our viewers may possibly see them.

MAH- That’s a pretty broad question, I will do my best. You can currently catch a film

-I was in and Second Assistant Directed called “Division III : Football’s Finest” on demand for most major providers, Itunes, Amazon and some retail locations.

-I had another feature come out a few weeks ago called “Breaking Wind” which is a spoof on the famous Twilight series, appropriately titled. I play one of the leads in this somewhat-silly-but-funny-if-you–like-that-kind-of-thing movie. My character, Ronald, leads a pack of “noob” vampires against Bella, Edward and the clan. You can catch this one on Amazon, Itunes, Redbox, Blockbuster, and most major retailers.

– I have three features slated to come out this Spring or Summer: The Trophy, in which I play the character of Ryder, and also did some co-writing on, A Perfect Ending, starring Barbara Niven and John Heard, in which I play the character of Aaron (Barbara’s and John’s eldest son) and Blood Cure starring myself and Mackezie Rosman, which is a Vampire psycho-thriller.

You can find many of my TV appearances on I-tunes and Netflix such as CSI: Maimi, CSI: Las Vegas, Without A Trace, The War At Home, Shameless and Zombo.

The thing I am currently most excited about though is a project I have been working on for five years called “Wonderful Darkness”. I wrote this movie, which is based on several people’s real experiences.  It follows the life of a young man on the verge of a professional soccer career who loses his vision and must learn redefine his strength through classical ballet in a journey of self-discovery, where he realizes there is no such thing as a tragic fate.

I am in the beginning stages of pre-production for this film and trying to build a following please find the movie on Facebook and follow our progress!!

You can always find out what is going on wit me by going to my website: Michaeladamhamilton.com

And follow me on Twitter @themichaelh or like on Facebook Michael Adam Hamilton

Thanks and have a blessed day!

TAEM- Michael, it looks like you have your future well in hand and may change the face of the motion picture industry as we see it today. We want to thank you for the time you spent for this interview with The Arts and Entertainment Magazine and wish you much luck in all that you do. Please keep in touch so that our readers can closely follow you career in the years to come.

TAEM