I love Michael Boatman! So when I saw that he followed me on Twitter I freaked out! I took that opportunity to ask for an interview and he said yes! (Another freak-out commenced!)
In learning even more about him it was interesting to read that he was born in Colorado, but like me, was raised in the Midwest where he developed his love of acting and further honed his craft at Western Illinois University. I’m not only a fan of Boatman’s talent but of his career. He is one of the few actors, and few black actors who have created and maintained a successful career, appearing on hit after hit show and movies.
From being featured on landmark shows like China Beach, to his unforgettable and hilarious role on Spin City, to Arli$$, Boatman has established himself as an industry favorite. And with countless appearances and recurring roles on other uber successful shows like Law and Order SVU, Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy, The Game, Gossip Girl and The Good Wife among many others, Boatman has successfully maintained an incredible career demonstrating his flexibility as an actor who deftly vacillates between comedy and drama. I was also surprised to learn that he is an author of horror novels! Now, we will see him alongside his good friend Charlie Sheen in the new FX comedy, Anger Management!
I was super excited to find out how Boatman has created and maintained such a fantastic career. Check out our hilarious interview below!
It was all about sex. Or at least the potential for some serious heavy petting. I met a girl in my junior year of high school. She was very popular, a member of the theater department. She accosted me in the hall one day after school and actually struck up a conversation. I was hopelessly shy, horrible around girls, but I did have the wherewithal to crack a few jokes. I think I did a stupid impression or something. The girl actually smiled at me. Then she laughed. Holy sh-t! She told me I was funny, and that I should come to the auditions for the spring play, which were being held after school. She told me she'd be there, so I went.
What was your first job?
My first professional acting gig was playing an usher in a McDonald's commercial. This was back in 1984. The commercial also featured James Brown. We were hawking the new Chicken McNuggets. I had to eat so many of those things that I haven't been able to go near a chicken, or any other animal's "nuggets" since then.
Though you are more known for your comedic roles, you have done drama. Which is easier, and why?
I find them equally challenging. Comedy is, of course, more fun. But I've managed to make my way on both sides of that divide because I take them both seriously. But with comedy, you can never take yourself too seriously. In either case, you have to be willing to be vulnerable.
You are well known for your role on Spin City as Carter Heywood, a gay character who was the head of Minority Affairs in the Mayor’s office, or as Wikipedia hilariously describes, “A gay black man with a suicidal dog named Rags”. You won a GLADD award for this role. Did you have any apprehension about playing a gay man? What feedback did you receive about this character from the public?
I had some apprehensions. I didn't want to do a stereotypical "gay" character. Then I realized how much I was going to get paid and I immediately took a slew of male lovers to get over it. But seriously, most of the "concerns" came from well-meaning conservative friends, who questioned whether America was ready for a gay black man on television every week. Ultimately I ignored those people, and I'm glad that I did. Playing Carter was definitely one of the highlights of my career. I've gotten so many letters and praise from the G.L.B.T. community. When someone tells you that your work helped them hold their head up during tough times, or kept someone from committing suicide because you gave them hope that the world could accept them despite their sexual orientation, you realize that those fear-based concerns are really unimportant.
You are enjoying a fantastic career, having been a central cast member on three major TV shows (China Beach, Arli$$ and Spin City-the last two of which were in production at the same time!) You’ve also had many guest roles on notable shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, The Good Wife and many others. (I loved you as Malik’s father on The Game as “punk ass” Chauncey! You seem to have worked consistently as a highly sought after actor. To what would you attribute your consistent career? And what was it like being on two shows at the same time?
I think that being flexible, as an actor, makes all the difference. I've managed to avoid being typecast as a "comedic" actor or a "dramatic" actor. I do both pretty well, and I enjoy them equally. I also believe that longevity makes an actor stronger. As time goes by, we become better at what we do... The greatest performances I've seen are by older actors. Something about life experience only increases an actor's bag of tricks, and his or her confidence. As for being on two shows at the same time...one word...TIRED. I loved doing ARLI$$ and Spin City. We shot them at different times of the year. When Spin wrapped for the season I had about two weeks before ARLI$$ geared up for production. So it worked out just fine. And since one shot in New York and the other in LA, I racked up a helluva lot of frequent flyer miles!
Given you are friends with Charlie Sheen, what did you think of his media meltdown?
Like any friend would be, I was worried about him. I love the guy. He's one of the most generous, bighearted people I know. Ultimately though, you realize that all you can do when a friend is going through a difficult time, is to support them, love them and hope for the best. He's also one of the most media-savvy actors I've ever seen. Things aren't always what they seem with that one. So when you think you're watching a "meltdown" watch out! He'll be laughing all the way to the Old Rich Actor's Home.
What is your role on Anger Management?
I play "Mike", Charlie's neighbor and confidante. I'm a recently divorced, very angry, very lonely "neighborhood watch" type fellow, who spends way too much time raiding Charlie's pantry and hoping to nail one of his hot patients.
What’s been your favorite role so far, and why?
I loved Beckett, my character from China Beach. He was darkly funny and increasingly haunted. He was probably closest to the real me. I loved Carter's grumpiness, and the fact that he believed himself to be the smartest guy in the room. (That room happened to be the whole world.) But I loved playing Stanley Babson on ARLI$$. The comedy on that show was fast and furious, very broad. Stanley was always apoplectic, hopelessly frustrated and world-weary. I had so much fun on that show.
Is there a role you’ve always wanted to play?
Othello, of course. God it sounds so cliché-black actor longs to play Othello...but what the hell? I love Shakespeare, and look forward to being decrepit enough to play King Lear. I played Prospero in The Tempest back in college. I'd love to try that again now that I have a few gray hairs on my chest and my balls have dropped.
As an author of horror novels, what intrigues you about this genre?
I love thinking about the most horrible things. I'll be in the middle of a perfectly lovely event, a family reunion or one of my kids' recitals, and suddenly I'll think, "This is sweet, but what if the girl playing Cinderella suddenly turned and tore the Fairy Godmother's throat out?", or, "Gosh, Uncle Frank looks great, but what if he suddenly vomited alien parasites into the punchbowl?" I'm constantly thinking things like that, so it seemed natural for me to start writing them down. I love monster stories. Not so crazy about slasher-flicks and torture porn. Why write about some a--hole in a Tim Curry mask chopping up stupid teenagers when you can have a vampire do it with a little style instead?
Who are your inspirations? (personal and/or professional)
As far as actors are concerned, I'm a big Monty Python fan. John Cleese is my hero. I also happen to worship at the church of Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor from the classic Doctor Who series. I also believe that Meryl Streep is the greatest American actor of our time. My writing heroes range from David J. Schow, to Stephen R. Donaldson to Octavia Butler.
Any upcoming projects?
I'm in a funny film called Bad Parents, a comedy about crazy soccer parents in northern New Jersey. That's still in post production. I'm returning to The Good Wife in a few weeks, and of course, Anger Management is coming up. I'm also involved with Save the Children as a celebrity spokesman. Their latest project is called Numeracy Boost. I did a funny video with some of the folks over at The Daily Show to promote that.
Writing-wise, I just landed an agent to represent my latest book, Last God Standing. It's a comic, epic fantasy about God and what He's been up to lately: When Yahweh realizes that much of the human race no longer really gives a crap about him, he decides to give up most of his powers and take on a mortal life. There's only one problem-all the other defunct gods want his old job, now that the post is empty. The now mortal Yahweh has to fight the gods of antiquity, smooth things over with his angry martial arts master girlfriend and keep his mortal parents from murdering each other-all while also saving the world from a homicidal new GOD. Soooo...I've got THAT going for me.
As you can see Michael Boatman has a LOT going on! He's talented, fun and funny, but most of all seems to be a very humble guy who appreciates his fortune. And I love that! A HUGE thanks to Michael Boatman for taking some time out to talk with Cocoa Popps! He did not disappoint!
What are some your favorite Michael Boatman characters?
Check out the premiere of Anger Management TONIGHT on FX at 9:30 EST!