Interview: Michael Wouters

Michael studied Jazz piano at the Conservatory in Utrecht with Bert van den Brink, Jasper van het Hof and Michiel Borstlap with a minor in theatre acting. He studied film acting in Los Angeles with Anthony Meindl and Jenny Krater. He has performed in various indie features and national commercials in the USA as well as in numerous (inter)national short films some of which were nominated in the festival circuit. As a music composer, songwriter and producer he has worked with a.o.: Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx, Billy Preston, Lisa Simone, Jennifer Holiday, Brown Hill and Leah McCrae.

Michael Wouters

What made you move to Hollywood?
The opportunities in the entertainment industry were my main reason to move to the USA. I have had a music production studio in the center of Amsterdam for many years and have worked with numerous American artists who were flying me to NY, MIA and LA to work on their productions. A few years ago I started acting in LA and then tried to ‘convince’ people in the Netherlands that ‘I too could act’… but I found it easier to find work in LA than in the Netherlands, so it just seemed like right thing to do. I consider LA the Olympic Village where you can train and work at the highest possible level of professional acting. There is no other place in the world where you can meet so many ‘film minded’ people.

What is the main difference between Holland and Hollywood for an actor?
In my experience the main difference is that Holland has a very small market which is mainly dominated by actors who have studied at the renowned theater schools (Amsterdam and Maastricht) or who’ve risen up the ranks through soap series. As a newbie (older than 25) it’s almost impossible to be taken seriously in the industry, to audition for films or even to enlist in acting classes. Whereas in LA people don’t really care about your background. If you fit the role and you nail the audition… the part is yours. So there are more opportunities to break into the market and become a working actor. Sure there are more fish, but it’s a way bigger pond. The audition process is very different here. Film companies hire casting directors to take care of the casting process and agents submit their talent or you self submit if you don’t have an agent. In Holland the casting agencies represent the talent as well, so they pre-select in a different way.

What is an advantage (and/or disadvantage) you have as a foreign actor in Hollywood?
The disadvantage above all is the accent. No matter how hard you work on it as a foreign actor, Americans will always find something to point out that you’re not one of them. Sometimes when I walk into ‘the room’ and say: “Hi, I’m Michael”… I get “Oh where are you from?”. I’ll try anything from ‘New York to Pennsylvania (Dutch) to divert their attention, which works from time to time. But going up for a typical American part with a typical local accent is always a challenge. And it’s not only the accent, it’s about truly understanding their local culture. We Euro’s look very similar to Americans on the outside, but we still have a very different culture, making it also harder to really understand and play a local guy from the mid west for example. And for such parts there is simply enough choice for the casting directors. However being foreign gives an European actor the ‘exotic factor’. Being able to speak foreign languages (that to Americans sound authentic enough) or foreign accents is absolutely a plus for certain roles. For the supernatural/ fantasy roles an accent is quite often a nice bonus and lots of filmmakers love to bring that into their production. They believe it distinguishes them from their peers. And who am I to argue with them?

Michael Wouters starring in Operation Dunkirk

Where do you see yourself in five years? What director would you love to work with?
I’d like to continue to grow as an actor and script writer, working on bigger, better and more professional productions. Being able to just make a living of my creativity without any distracting side jobs. Of course I’d like to book a few TV roles in interesting series within the next five years and act in challenging film productions, but most of all I just like to remain happy in what I do on a daily basis. My list of ‘wish-to-work-with-directors’ is pretty long but to name a few: Tarantino (before he quits), Wes Anderson, Terry Gilliam, Ron Howard, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Verhoeven, Alex van Warmerdam, Anton Corbijn, Roel Reiné.

What is your Hollywood Highlight?
My H’wood highlight? Literally: making it all the way up to the Griffith Observatory on my mountainbike in one go… Oh that’s not what you meant? Actually every film I make is a highlight to me. It makes me so happy to realize that I’m not working in some office cubicle anymore (been there, done that) but that I’m getting paid to act: major HIGH L.I.G.H.T.!!! Writing wise: to work alongside an award winning script writer on one of my original scripts. Music wise: having received a handwritten letter from Rosa Parks for a tribute song I wrote for her, which has been recorded by Patti Labelle. Counting my Hollywood blessings e’ry day!

Well, this was a lot of fun. No really… ! I would like to thank Carla and HHC for this interview and if I can help any aspiring actors or filmmakers by answering any questions they might have about coming to LA, I’d be happy to help out where ever I can.

IMDB Michael Wouters: Click here!

 

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