We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Paul Gardner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael Paul, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
THE most important factor in my success, IS my brand. If you’ll stay with me here, you’ll know what I mean exactly. See, as you well know, in the entertainment industry, branding is absolutely vital. In the early stages of my acting career I realized that I was being asked to audition for a lot of police officer, military and authority figure types. However, I am fortunate enough to have the look of a killer as well, so there has been a lot of that. Some might call it typecasting. Early in my acting career, the typecast was good thing. I guess the bald head makes me both intimidating and recognizable. I mean, who could forget this mug right? I kid, but really though. Look at my pictures. I look like I could kill your grandma or something. Which I would never do, I’m sure she’s a nice lady. Hehe Anyway, at first, it was tough for me to comprehend that anyone wanted to film me or at least audition me for roles because of what I look like. Then one day in 2014 while I was doing stand-in work for Glenn Moreshower (The Resident) on the tv show Dallas, the camera man commented to his assistant how much the camera loves my face! Awe shucks. Seriously though, I had to ask what he meant because I really didn’t know. I respected his opinion very highly. He says “well it sure as heck doesn’t mean that you look like Brad Pitt”. Ok ego back in check suddenly. He continued saying “there was a lot of character in my face and that’s a good thing. It’s the lines and imperfections and uniqueness all it’s own”. Seriously though, that comment made me understand that I have a look. It is unique and I need to OWN it. I began to wear my brand like a blanket. I signed with Linda Mcalister Talent Agency. The top agency around. Linda and her great team knew where to put me. They knew what roles to submit me for. They have opened doors to auditions that I never could have dreamed of, and they send me out to the right ones. This allows me to be familiar, confident and awesome because it’s the kind of role that fits me. There is a saying in this industry. Actors will book the roles they were meant to play. That sounds so ethereal but it’s so true. Every role I have booked since has been absolutely the perfect role for me. Things were going great, and constantly getting better. My career reached another level after one summer playing Uncle Fester in the Addams Family Musical. You see, I had a hard time thinking that I look like uncle fester. I set my ego aside. After all, I’m an actor, this is what we do. I embraced and welcomed the fact that I may even look like Uncle Fester, but also that the Vagabond Players Theater group in Terrell Texas would approach me to audition for the role. I had never done theater. The cast was full of amazing theatrical talent with amazing voices. I had to start from scratch. I didn’t even know how the rehearsal process worked. Look, I had been in front of the camera for years but never a live play, where I had to sing! A couple local actors who I have a lot of respect for told me that this was a great opportunity for me to stretch my talent. I wouldn’t be arresting anyone or killing anyone so indeed it was outside my norm. At first I was terrified. However, the new me likes to embrace things that are difficult and scary. If it scares me, it must be a big deal. That’s where opportunity resides. I studied Uncle Festers mannerisms and voice and did the best damn Uncle Fester I could. Whether it was a good performance or not is not up to me to say or think about but it changed my career yet again. I really began to OWN my look even more, and my talent was improving as a result. Playing live in front of an audience was new to me, but acting is acting. After we closed I was literally over the moon with confidence. I began to kill my auditions as we like to say. I went in confident. I knew I was in the room for a reason and I needed to show my talent. Getting in the room is one thing. Booking is another. Two national commercials later and I couldn’t be more blessed. So. That brings me full circle back to your question. I can honestly say that the level of my success has been in direct correlation with my level of commitment to my brand.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a film and TV actor. My resume contains costarring roles on network TV shows like ABC’s American Crime. As well as principal roles on national TV commercials like Discovery Garage Rehab with Richard Rawlings and Big O Tires. Being on a production set and working alongside some of the legends in the industry has been my biggest thrill since day one. Name dropping is not really my style, but at least a little is important for you to know where I am coming from. Working as a background extra and a stand-in for the TV show Dallas was the beginning of it all. I was fortunate enough to work in the presence of Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and so many other talented actors. Being on set and studying their technique and process was priceless for me. It was like acting for TV 101. You literally could not pay for that kind of education in this business. Working as a background extra was great, but when I began to feel more comfortable on set and made lots of new friends, it began to feel like home. It felt like I belonged here. For the first time ever, it felt like this was something I could do for the rest of my life. The industry welcomed me with open arms. Most would say that it is a tough industry and not welcoming at all, but that has not been my experience. Soon, working as a background extra was not enough for me. I needed more. I took acting classes, got some good head-shots, auditioned for some local short films and began to establish a resume. Soon I began to establish a reputation as both a killer and a cop. Little did I realize at the time but this would be the foundation of my branding. My look is very important, but my understanding of what my look is would be even more important. Finding out early in my career what roles I look like I should play, was absolutely above all else the most important thing at that time. As actors we have to submit for auditions for roles that fit us. Then, eventually my talent agent iwould be submitting me for the kinds of roles I that fit my brand. Are you making a film or TV show? Do you need somebody arrested or killed? Do you need a general in the army? A soldier? I’m your guy. Those are the kind of roles that i fit best because I AM in the security business as an armed officer when not acting. I AM a military veteran. I AM not a killer, but that’s where the acting comes in. Frankly I have to admit, sometimes it can be very cathartic taking my frustrations out on some helpless victim. For me it’s all in good fun and I get paid for it. It’s funny, my life has come full circle in so many ways. When I was 10 years old I would play army in the woods with my friends. Now 40 years later, I’m getting paid to do the same thing. How crazy is that?
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Gosh I am the wrong guy to ask about favorite spots in the city. See, I live in the country. Lol However, I do get to town sometimes and my friends and I can be found listening to some live rock music, or you might catch us at a cigar bar. I’m the outdoorsy type, so local lakes and campgrounds are a good place to find me as well. I love tasty street truck tacos and belting out some karaoke. The ideal weeklong trip for me would consist of a road trip to the mountains like Aspen or Red River NM for camping and fishing. Early to bed and early to rise for some rainbow trout. Back to camp by lunch for a quick nap and fresh fish over an open fire. Evenings around the fire with good friends and maybe a bottle of wine is all I need. I always try to eat at the Mom and pop type restaurants when I am out because I like the variety, and I make an effort to suppor local businesses.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There have been so many good people that have helped me along the way. However, by far, the person most vital to my becoming an actor is Jenn Gotzon (Frost Nixon). It was one of my first movies ever and I was doing background work. She was kind enough to open her world of acting and show me clearly what my future could hold. Her strong Christian faith and her personal values have been a good example of how to be successful as an actor. Always paying it forward, and willing to support others. She changed my life because she took the time to encourage and support someone she barely knew. That is something I will never forget.