Mike On The Mic
For the last few years, Michael Ealy has been red-hot, jumping from TV to film and back to TV, seamlessly. He recently starred in the sci-fi television series, “Almost Human,” for which he earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Drama Series.
Earlier this year, he starred in the remake of About Last Night, and prior to that on the TV series “Common Law.” He also completed impactful, multi-episode arcs on CBS’ hit series “The Good Wife,” and on the Showtime series, “Californication,” while concurrently shooting the feature adaptation of the renowned theatre production, For Colored Girl’s Only, Who Consider Committing Suicide When The Rainbow Is Not Enough for Tyler Perry Studios and Lions Gate Films.
Prior to that, he was handpicked by Will Smith to co-star in Seven Pounds, and by Spike Lee to join the ensemble of The Miracle at St. Anna. Michael’s riveting performance was lauded in this true story of four Buffalo Soldiers who risked their lives to save a young Italian boy while behind enemy lines.
A student of history and supporter of education, Michael participated in the History Channel’s documentary series The People Speak, based on Howard Zinn’s acclaimed book where one of the historical figures he portrays is “Malcolm X.” He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his lead performance on the Showtime mini-series “Sleeper Cell” where he portrayed Darwyn, a Muslim FBI agent sent undercover to infiltrate a terrorist cell in Los Angeles.
He was tapped by Oprah to star opposite Halle Berry in the Harpo Films telepic “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The TV special received rave reviews and was viewed by over 26 million people. Michael earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for his portrayal of “Teacake.”
The Silver Spring, Maryland native appeared in several stage productions after graduating from college, including the Off-Broadway hits Joe Fearless and Whoa Jack. It would not be long thereafter before Michael nabbed guest-starring television roles on “Law & Order” and “Soul Food.” And he was subsequently cast in the films Kissing Jessica Stein and Bad Company.
While visiting his friends in Los Angeles, Michael heard about auditions for Barbershop. After placing a call to his manager and a few rounds of auditions, he landed the role of “Ricky Nash,” a two-strike offender. In terms of the tabloids, the blue-eyed hunk was named one of People magazines’ “On the Verge” actors in the magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” 2002 and 2013 issues. Furthermore, he was named one of E! Entertainment Television’s “Sizzlin’ 16” of 2004 and appeared on the cover of Essence magazine’s “Hollywood Screen Gems” for their April 2004 issue.
Michael resides in Los Angeles with his wife Khatira Rafiqzada and their baby, Elijah.
Michael Ealy: What’s up, Kam?
KW: Tim [Director Tim Story] managed to reassemble the whole cast for the sequel. How’d he make that happen?
ME: It’s a miracle that everybody’s schedule opened up. I think part of the genius of it was that they made the decision early, and said, “Next summer, we’re going to try to knock this out.” So, everyone kinda made sure that they were available. We also had such a good time making the first one that everybody jumped at the chance to come back and do a sequel with the same cast and same director. That’s an opportunity you just don’t get very often.
KW: And did you enjoy yourself as much the second go-round?
ME: I definitely did, although being in Vegas for two or three months obviously presented a whole new set of challenges, since it’s a place that most people visit for only two or three days. You had the heat and the extreme air conditioning. And also constant, constant stimulation, whether it’s people getting drunk out of their minds, couples getting married, people going to strip clubs, prostitutes or whatever. It’s Sin City! It’s hard sometimes to stay focused on your job when there’s so much going on around you, as well as people following you around. There were plenty of distractions. So, I wouldn’t say it was as easy as shooting in L.A. Location is a factor. If you have to go somewhere to work, it helps to be focused.
KW: As usual, I have a lot of questions for you from fans. Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: This isn’t your first sequel. You also did Barbershop 1 and 2. What is it about them that calls you back, and will you be doing Barbershop 3.
ME: [Chuckles] I think what happened on Barbershop also kinda happened on Think Like a Man, and the irony is that both pictures were made with the same director, Tim Story. It just doesn’t happen often that the movie you shot for $12 million ends up making $90 million. That’s very rare. So, when you catch lightning in a bottle like that, you jump at an opportunity to come back and do a sequel. You’re lucky if one out ten movies you make gets a sequel.
KW: So, will you be doing Barbershop 3?
ME: I don’t even know whether that’s in the works.
KW: I spoke to Ice Cube a few weeks ago, and it looks like a go. It already has a page up at imdb.com, although no director has been named.
ME: Really? Well, they haven’t come to me yet. So, I don’t know anything about it.
KW: What about Think Like a Man 3?
ME: I don’t see why not, if we can bring back the exact same producer, cast and director.
KW: Marcia Evans says: I’m a fan of yours, big time. I think the chemistry you have with Taraji [co-star Taraji P. Henson] in Think Like A Man is awesome. I appreciate the message your characters’ relationship sends to the audience that falling in love can be sexy and respectful.
ME: Thank you.
KW: She goes on to say: I’m a history buff and I love the TV series “Finding Your Roots” with Dr. Henry Louis Gates where he explores the lineage and genetics of some prominent people. When I see you onscreen with those blue eyes, I wonder if you have personally researched your genealogy?
ME: I’ve definitely watched those PBS specials with Dr. Gates. I won’t lie, I’ve been curious, but I haven’t yet initiated a search of my family tree.
KW: Marcia would also like to know whether you have any plans to make any biopics about historical figures from the Maryland or Washington, D.C. area, like Benjamin Banneker, since you’re from Baltimore?
ME: That’s an interesting question because it was a dream of mine for the longest time to bring a film that I was starring in back to the DMV [D.C./Maryland/Virginia] for a screening or a premiere. And I’ve been blessed to be able to do that twice, for Think Like a Man and, recently, for Think Like a Man Too. And now, the next dream of mine, career-wise, is to shoot a movie that takes place there, to showcase the area for what it is. So, Marcia’s question is actually inspiring me to dig a little deeper and to consider playing someone from the area. So, yeah, I will give that some serious thought. If there’s someone I could portray, I would do it in a heartbeat.
KW: Marcia’s final comment is that she enjoyed both Unconditional and Miracle at St. Anna’s, and that she was having dinner recently with friends when they talked about how Spike [director Spike Lee] and the cast didn’t receive enough love for the film.
ME: Yeah, we went to Italy and worked like crazy for three months to make that movie amazing. But sometimes, a picture gets lost in the system. I don’t know what happened, but the marketing campaign wasn’t there. You really can’t afford to worry about it, because it’ll depress you and take you to a darker place. However, we made a good movie, and you can still get it on demand. So, I really appreciate that comment. I don’t know what happened, but it didn’t work to our advantage.
KW: That September release date didn’t help. Everybody’s focused on getting back to work and school after summer vacation.
ME: A lot of factors contribute to how a film fares, and sometimes that includes the release date.
KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I loved your performance as Dominic in the original Think Like a Man because it was realistic and reminded me of my ex who pretended to be a yuppie in the same way that Dominic lied to his girlfriend about what he did for a living to impress her. Is Dominic more authentic and confident about presenting his real self to the world and to his girlfriend in the sequel? ME: Good question, Patricia. Yes, Dominic is absolutely much more confident. He now has two more food trucks, and his career as a chef is on the rise. I think anybody who’s doing well in the pursuit of their dreams is going to be a little more confident than what they were when they first started. What I like is that Dominic doesn’t cave to peer pressure from some of his closest friends who question his drive because he’s so in love with Lauren. He handles himself very well, and he’s very open with everybody, including Lauren, about his feelings. I respect that about the character.
KW: Patricia, whose native language is French, was also wondering whether you speak French.
ME: I do not speak French. I know enough Italian to function in a Spanish-speaking country. French is a language that I probably should know, and I’d like to learn, but I have to work on that. Sorry.
KW: What kind of kid were you? Did you dream of becoming an actor during your childhood?
ME: No, I had normal aspirations. When I was little, I very badly wanted to be Art Monk, the great receiver for the Washington Redskins. Then, in middle school, I decided I wanted to be an architect. I was looking at the work of Frank Lloyd Wright when I was in the 7th and 8th grade, and trying to decide whether architecture was for me. It wasn’t until I was about 19 that I settled on acting. I was already in college.
KW: Have you ever had a near-death experience?
ME: [Laughs] No, I have never had the type of near-death experience most people talk about but, where I’m from, you have one anytime you’re pulled over by the police. When I was growing up, racial profiling was rampant, and you didn’t always make it outta there. I’ve seen friends get beaten up and slammed against patrol cars.
KW: Yeah, when I was in college, I was profile-stopped over two-dozen times,
And the cops always used the excuse that I resembled a supposed perp to pat me down and search me.
ME: Back in college, some friends of mine and I were stopped on our way to a party, allegedly because there was a shooting in the neighborhood, based on a description of the suspects being young black males. One of my buddies was in law school, one was in med school, and the others were upperclassmen. All upstanding citizens. We couldn’t have been further from the guys they were searching for.
KW: Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?
ME: I don’t think I can help you there. My goal is not to be tweeted about.
KW: How do you get through the tough times?
ME: To put it simply, faith and family. That’s gotten me through a lot of the rough years early on, and they continue to serve as a rock in my life now
KW: Thanks again, Michael, I appreciate having another opportunity to interview you. Best of luck with the film.
ME: Okay Kam, I appreciate it, too. Always good to talk to you.
See a trailer for Think Like a Man Too: