Actor Michael Joseph Pierce drops by on Close-Up Culture to talk about his acting journey, creating a web series, dreams of working on a Marvel Studios project, and much more.
Hello Michael, welcome to Close-Up Culture! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I have lived my entire life in Southern California. When I was younger, I started studying and working with a woman named Marie Hitchcock, who was known as the San Diego Puppet Lady at the time, in which the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater in Balboa Park is named after. I started studying Magic, because as a kid I actually thought that was a career choice and started performing magic shows in San Diego.
When I was a teen, I began taking classes in jazz dance, tap and disco dancing and competed in the California State High School Dance Championships produced by David Mirisch Enterprises during my last two years in High School. I am a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) and The Television Academy and I studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles in the early 1980s.
I was just a teenager right out of high school, and I didn’t have an agent. At the time, I didn’t know you couldn’t just call a TV Studio and try and get an audition. But that is what I did. Now they didn’t laugh at me on the phone but I’m sure they did when I hung up, But I was a young actor and wanted to get on a soap opera. I used to watch the Soap Opera General Hospital. So, when I was told “No” you cannot have an audition, I was telling an adult actor friend and they looked at me and said why don’t you just send your headshot and resume to the studio. I had to be schooled in what that was at that specific age.
I didn’t have a headshot or resume. So I had someone who could type, create a resume for me with the limited theater roles I had and I used my High School Senior photo. It wasn’t a headshot, and it was a color photo. At the time only black and white photos were submitted. So I put those two items in an envelope and sent them to the casting director of General Hospital at Sunset & Gower Studios where it was being filmed.
About two weeks later I called the studio and specifically asked for the casting director, Marvin Paige. He didn’t get on the phone but his assistant casting director did and I said, “did you get my photo and resume? I would like to audition”. Within a week I was at the studio working as a dancer in the disco during the Luke and Laura storyline and worked on the show almost weekly for a year in that capacity and received my Union Card through that show and my first Under 5 line.
You recently wrote, directed and starred in a comedy web series called A Barman’s Apertif. What is the project about, and what was your inspiration for it?
I have a background in hotel and restaurant and bar management. I have been a bartender before and managed a nightclub and most of my adult life I have always had a bar in my home. When I have gatherings with friends the bar is always open. When I was in the restaurant and bar business some of the craziest stuff happened (this was in the 1980s).
So COVID happened and we were all sequestered and I needed creativity so I started writing one night with a glass of wine at my computer and that is how it all transpired. I wrote and filmed six episodes – I originally wrote five episodes but felt the need for one more. It is short form content. Each episode is roughly 8 – 10 minutes. I filmed it entirely on an iPhone 13 Pro Max and it’s about a crazy bar owner and the stuff that goes on around him. It is in the editing stage and I hope (fingers crossed) to have it released by the end of 2022 or Spring 2023.
I see you have lots of upcoming projects, including Road To Terzetto and A Lion’s Game. What can you reveal about these projects and your work on them?
A Lions Game is a terrific crime-thriller feature, and I play a character named Alejandro Vargas. I believe it is being released in the fall, I know it is in post production. I loved working on this film.
Likewise with Road to Terzetto. It is a crime-action film with a lot of twists and I have a small role in this. I also believe this is slated for a fall release. This too is in post production.
You have incredible experience in the industry. At this point in your career, what gets you excited about a role?
I get excited about characters. I have worked a lot in television as detectives and police officers but I really enjoy getting offered film roles where I can develop a character and create a backstory and get a bit gritty.
How do you reflect on your journey in the industry, the highs and the lows?
I was an actor in my late teens and into my late twenties. I burnt out. It had its ebb and flow. There came a point I just wasn’t booking any jobs and like most actors I stepped away. During this time I also attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. I was represented by the Carpenter Company Talent Agency and Norah Sanders Talent Agency and I just wasn’t landing any roles. So, I started working in white collar management and stayed there for about twenty five years.
It wasn’t until my 50s that I decided to attempt to get back into acting and it has now been very successful. I am now a bald character actor and I work frequently. I am managed by Maxx Maulion at Kreativ Media Partners. He is terrific with advice and knowledge. I have a few different agents for specific submittals. I have an agent on the East Coast who specifically will try to find projects to submit me to for the South East. I also have a local commercial agent who I don’t deal with too much but if a local union commercial is filming in my area and she feels there is a role for me she will submit me.
My main agent is Courtney Peldon at AQUA Talent Agency. She represents me across Film and Television Globally.
The highs are the bookings and lows are – unfortunately – when you don’t book and you feel like you have done a perfect audition but the reality is you weren’t what the casting director was looking for and you just never know why you didn’t book a specific role.
You’ve worked on so many amazing projects, which role stands out to you the most?
Two roles. My first foray into acting on the soap opera General Hospital because I was so young and inexperienced and I had an amazing year that I worked on that show with really fond memories.
I just worked on a pilot for Showtime called Coercion that was directed by Susannah Grant and based on Rebecca Benders personal story of entrapment in the world of sex trafficking. I portray a Russian Oligarch and worked on that show many days over a month late last year and it was a wonderful experience being directed by Susannah Grant, who wrote the screenplay for Erin Brockovich and many other films and has directed some amazing projects. That is a highlight I will never forget.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
I am a character actor so my ability can run across many different roles. I have acted and worked on so many one off and independent projects. So my goal and ambition is to get a recurring character on a series, that stability would be the pinnacle for me. That and booking a nefarious character role in a Marvel Studios Film! I will keep tweeting Marvel.
Keep up with Michael – https://michaeljosephpierce.com/
Follow Michael on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/michaelpiercesd/