From the Bahamas in the 18th century to Los Angeles in a near-dystopian future, actor Sean Cameron Michael has seen it all. Since beginning his career in South African theater as a child, Michael has had the opportunity to showcase his acting range in a diverse set of roles including Richard Guthrie on Black Sails and Grigory Krukov on Shooter. For his role as the smuggler Guthrie, he was considered for an Emmy and a SAG award. He most recently has taken on the role of Old Man Heart on the upcoming Syfy series Blood Drive.
Earlier this week, Blast Magazine spoke with Michael about his passion for Afrikaans film, his attraction to science fiction, and his love of musical theater.
Blast Magazine: Your first major television role was on the South African television series Egoli: Place of Gold. Based on your earlier opportunities, including Egoli, did you initially intend on working strictly as an actor in South Africa or were you always interested in working on American-made films and television series?
Sean Cameron Michael: I started acting when I was 12 years old. I began by doing theater work, mostly musical theater, and then got the opportunity to do television work. This led to Egoli, which was a soap opera. South Africa has tax incentives and tax rebates for international productions, so there are lots of international productions shot there. I am fortunate every time I get the opportunity to go back.
Blast Magazine: You recently completed work on the Syfy television series Blood Drive, where you play the character of Old Man Heart. The show has a really interesting premise and combines horror and science-fiction in a unique way. What can you tell us about Old Man Heart and his relationship to the other characters on the show?
Michael: Blood Drive is set in the dystopian future and is a death-race type show. It will be on the Syfy channel beginning June 14th and it involves a world where the cars run on blood. I play Old Man Heart who runs an organization called Heart Enterprises which is the company that all of the characters are in the death race for.
Blast Magazine: Another of your recently completed projects is the film Last Broken Darkness, where you play the lead role of Sam. While the central plot is very different than Blood Drive, they both are darker projects that captivate the viewer and propel them on a thrilling and emotional adventure. What was it like playing the role of Sam and how did you get into the mindset of a man who has lost almost everything he’s ever known?
Michael: Last Broken Darkness was a project that we’d been working to make in South Africa for a couple of years. It’s a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. The role of Sam was a wonderful opportunity to play a layered character. He’s a single father whose wife died and the world has come to an end because of a meteor shower. It was both a challenging role and a challenging shoot. We shot it over 26 days with night shoots in Johannesburg. It was a very emotionally challenging and draining role to play. Physically, it was also a challenge as it’s a big action movie which was demanding and grueling. There was a great supporting cast in Brandon Auret, who had done District 9, Chappie and Elysium, and Suraya Santos, who is a new up-and-coming actress. It was a great shoot and I’m really excited to do the festival circuit.
Blast Magazine: Since a meteor shower hit Earth and destroyed the world, much of Last Broken Darkness is set underground and beneath the surface. How much of that was special effects and studio work versus actual on-site filming?
Michael: It was amazing, honestly. This was a passion project for director Christopher-Lee dos Santos and he spent a year going over Johannesburg and South Africa to find dilapidated buildings and out-of-commission hospitals. Visually, one will really be blown away by the incredible locations that Chris found. We were fortunate to shoot at a place call Gold Reef City, which is an active working gold mine. We actually shot a couple hundred feet underground. It was quite scary but awesome to be on location.
Blast Magazine: Last Broken Darkness and Blood Drive are both dramatic science-fiction themed projects. Do you prefer to work in that futuristic-type environment, which involves events that aren’t necessarily happening right now, or do you favor projects like Shooter, which is more based in today’s world affairs?
Michael: I seem to have been drawn to a lot of sci-fi projects over the past 20 years. As an actor, I have looked for gritty, dirty, honest and challenging roles. What makes Last Broken Darkness so unique is that it blends a couple of genres together. It is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film but it’s also a drama about friendship, selflessness and forgiveness. The first sci-fi project I did was a miniseries with Bryan Singer called The Triangle, which was shot in South Africa. It’s always about the script though. For Last Broken Darkness, I knew it was going to be a challenging role and I would have the opportunity to show something new or different and that was what I wanted.
Blast Magazine: Besides being a native English speaker, you’re also fluent in Afrikaans. Are you interested in doing more roles where you get to utilize both languages?
Michael: When I flew back over to South Africa a year and a half ago to shoot Last Broken Darkness, I was very fortunate to be able to work on a local South African film. As a South African native, I’m very supportive of the local industry. I’ve been fortunate to work on some Afrikaans feature films which have had theatrical releases in Africa. I try to work on a couple of projects in Afrikaans since it is one of my native languages. The Afrikaans film community has a very strong fan base and so does the Afrikaans music industry. The music industry is actually one of the most profitable languages and styles in the world because it is so supported.
Blast Magazine: You’ve had the opportunity to work on a really interesting assortment of projects in the past, from Black Sails to the 24 film, 24: Redemption. What has been your favorite venture to be a part of?
Michael: It’s very difficult to choose. 24: Redemption was a career highlight because I was a big fan of the Kiefer Sutherland series. I came to Africa to shoot and it was a wonderful opportunity to work with Sutherland and Jon Voight who I had been a big fan of for years. Definitely a career highlight.
Blast Magazine: The films and television shows that you have worked on have taken place around the globe, both on-screen and during filming. Is there a favorite location that you’ve found from these travels?
Michael: Shooter was a very exciting project for me to work on because it was with Ryan Phillipe and Omar Epps. We shot on location all over Los Angeles and Santa Clarita, which I really enjoyed.
Blast Magazine: You’ve been able to work on countless films and television shows during your career. What is the one role you want and haven’t gotten yet?
Michael: When I was younger, I did lots of musical theater and cabaret work. I love to sing, especially music from the 80’s. It would be amazing to work something which incorporates both of those talents, acting and singing. It’s kind of a dream project to be able to work on something that would allow me to sing as well. I’d also love it to be a bit more edgy and gritty, like some sort of biopic on David Bowie.
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