"With One Look" I fell in love with two-time Olivier Award actor Michael Xavier after seeing him in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway, starring as "Joe Gillis," opposite Glenn Close's "Norma Desmond." Michael is giving a dynamic performance whose character portrayal of "Joe" is very real and down-to-earth. My favorite "Joe" moment in Sunset Boulevard, without giving too much away, was when "Joe" stood up for himself/what he believes in and took control of his life. That is kind of person I always strive to be (even if I don't achieve it every time).
I was beyond excited when I called and Michael answered. Make sure you catch Michael's performance in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard at The Palace Theatre (47th & Broadway) through June 25th only! Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I don't remember who or what inspired me but my earliest memory was at around six years old I went up to my Mother and said "Mum I want to be an actor." She replied with "Go on then, do some acting for me." Surprised and embarrassed I said "No way!" Here response; "Well you'll never make an actor then." She assumed my shyness equated to poor acting ability but she's come to realise I really meant it!
2. You are making your Broadway debut in the revival of Sunset Boulevard, starring Glenn Close. Most people are just excited to have a Broadway debut at all in their career, but yours is starring alongside one of our nations most revered actresses. What were the first thoughts that went through your head when you found out you got the role of "Joe Gillis"? Well, initially I knew I was auditioning to play opposite Glenn in London's West End so it never even occurred to me that we would end up here on Broadway! When I landed the role I thought "WOW! Not only do I get to play this fabulous role and sing this amazing Andrew Lloyd Webber score with a 52-piece orchestra (English National Opera Orchestra) but I get to act opposite the legend that is Glenn Close!" It didn't sink in until the first day of rehearsals just how wonderful this whole experience was going to be.
3. What do you relate to most about "Joe"? What is one characteristic of his that you are glad you don't possess yourself? How do you feel your struggle to achieve success as an actor is similar to "Joe's" climb as a writer? Joe's willingness to please is something I can relate to. I can be a people pleaser and as I've gone through life I've realised it's an exhausting quality as not everyone is going to love you or what you do. I'm glad I don't possess Joe's characteristic of "selling out" and settling for an "easy life" but ultimately an unhappy one. I'd rather struggle and be happy in myself than be a kept man! Anyone who has ever worked in the creative industry knows success is often achieved through a struggle but it's how you cope with the knock-backs. Being able to stand back up after a defeat is an important quality in this business and in life. I feel it's the times that I've struggled that have made me a better actor.
4. I saw Sunset Boulevard a few weeks ago and was very impressed by it. You really held your own throughout the show. There is a moment in the show when "Joe" hears some harsh criticism about the script he is pitching to Paramount, however, the person critiquing is unaware of "Joe's" presence. Has there ever been a time in your life when you overheard someone saying something about you and they had no idea you were nearby? If so, what did you feel in that moment and after looking back on it, what did you take away from that experience? Thank you. Wow, that's a great question. This business can be tough at times and yes I've experienced many things being said about me but not in direct earshot. Lots of rumours and gossip fly about so I tend to try and filter out the noise but it really hurts when you hear something negative about you (especially when it's from someone you would call a friend). You have to thicken your skin and ride the storm if you want to stay in this business. There have been so many times I've wanted to quit! If you can ride the low times, the highs are incredible!
5. I secretly applauded "Joe"when he walked out on "Norma Desmond" after becoming fed up with the charade as it's also starting to affect his own career. When have you walked away from something that you thought might help you, but turns out was only holding you back? What opened up for you after this walk out? I always trust my gut instinct. My mantra has become "follow the character, not the money." When I've turned down auditions or job offers that I didn't really believe were right, it's always ended up being for the best as a better job comes up.
In life, sometimes if people are holding you back it's good to let them go. If they don't want to support you they shouldn't get a seat at your table.
6. Another favorite "Joe" moment, which I'm coining as your "Joe-dropping" (instead of jaw-dropping) scene in the show is your pool scene. How do you keep that chiseled body? Have you had a wardrobe malfunction yet? Does the attention you get from that scene ever get to be too much? Joe-dropping! Haha! I like that! Well thank you for the compliment.
I have a very strict diet that I stick to and I work out six days a week. It's all very dull but if I ate what I wanted there wouldn't be much water left in that pool! I had a day when I took off my trunks (back to the audience for those who haven't seen it) but then I couldn't find the strap to my robe and spent most of the song trying to cover myself up. Hilarious and terrifying in equal measure!
Hmmm, does the attention get too much? Well, I don't like it when people are taken out of the story so it's great that as the narrator I have the opportunity to gesture a kind of "sure I sold out" shoulder shrug which tends to break the ice of "how do I respond to this?" At stage door I'd much rather hear "I loved your performance of a difficult character to play" but it's flattering to get "loved the swimming pool scene!"
7. What have you learned about acting or life from working with Glenn Close? What is funniest thing to have between you and Glenn either during rehearsal, the show, or off-stage? I've learned so much from working with Glenn! Professionally; How to find the truth in every second, not just moment. How to trust yourself. How to enjoy the audience as a collaborator and not something to be afraid of.
In life: Just enjoy every moment! Glenn makes me laugh a LOT. We're always giggling away about something or other. On stage we're always both very professional but off-stage I'm always teasing her about not being very good or moving her quick change items for laughs! She loves/hates me for it!
8. You recently posted a picture on your Instagram from Sunset Boulevard's opening night. You said this was your favorite picture from that night. What made that your favorite picture? When you look at that picture now, what memories go through your head? It was my favourite (excuse my British spelling of the word) photo of the night because a door was opened and a breeze of freezing cold air whizzed through the carpet and we all reacted so naturally to it. It wasn't posed, it was real, fun and happy. The memory of a great night. One of the best nights of my life!
9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Being able to relax about the future. I'm a worrier and I need to chill out by ten percent every day, not one!
West End & UK productions include starring roles in Sunset Boulevard with Glenn Close (Won Best Actor BWW UK Award), Love Story (Olivier award nomination – Best Actor In A Musical), Into The Woods (Olivier award nomination – Best Supporting Performance In A Musical), Shakespeare’s The Wars of the Roses, Show Boat, Phantom of the Opera, Assassins, The Pajama Game, Spamalot!, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Pageant, Soho Cinders, Sweet Charity, Hello Dolly!, Wonderful Town, Oklahoma!, Mamma Mia!, Miss Saigon and The Mikado. TV/Film roles include: Never Let Go and Gnomeland.