“I think there’s an immense amount to learn from it all, about ourselves and the world we’ve set up and live in” — Mike Archer
We recently caught up with actor Mike Archer and filmmaker who talked about his latest projects, influences in the acting world and life during the pandemic. Here is what he had to share:
Hi Mike, great catching up with you. How has everything been going for you during the pandemic?
It’s been a challenge, but all things considering, for me it certainly hasn’t been as bad as it could have been, and I’m incredibly thankful for that, but that hasn’t stopped it from being an emotional rollercoaster. I know a few fellow actors who have had a much much worse time with it, and some who have left the industry all together because of it.
Who would have thought we would see such a historical event like this? I think there’s an immense amount to learn from it all, about ourselves and the world we’ve set up and live in. I try to keep sight of the positives. It (the pandemic) will end one day and in the greater scheme of things this will all be a moment. I kind of hope people will take something from this and evaluate what is important. It’s been emotional and tough, but I guess that’s what living through significant historical events does — it’s all manner of emotions. We’ve all been given a first hand lesson on priority and compassion. I just hope we can grow from it. I’d like to think I have. Some relationships blossomed. Others didn’t. But I’m ok with that, because I’ve come to appreciate what is important in life.
Please give us an introduction as to when you first got into the entertainment industry:
It’s been an interesting route. I was not one of those childhood protege’, triple threat, types. Growing up in a working class area, I never really grew up with performance aspirations. Yet I was very much into fine art, drawing, painting and sketching, but the town where I grew up in the North East of England has this amazing festival every summer of street theatre and international shows. It started the year after I was born in 86, and defiantly left an impression on me and my sister as we used to look forward to it so much. We would see some pretty intense shows, and then me and my friends would try to recreate what we’d seen. One time, we did our own little circus in my front garden and charged an entrance fee — we raised something like 23 pence (30 cents) and gave it to a woman who worked in a charity shop. I think these were defiantly the first seeds.
As I grew older though, I started to write and visualize my own stories. So when it came to going to university, I wanted to study film production at York, which is a very beautiful old city. For some reason, we would just use each other as actors making our projects — even though there was a whole drama department. Then looking for work in the industry at the end of my course took me into the realm of support artist work and I was bitten deeply by ‘the acting bug’. I think right there and then I decided I wanted to be an actor. I still remember my ex girlfriend at the time, saying that I needed to do it properly, which resulted in me moving to London and eventually studying at a drama school. I still remember my first audition for drama school. It was terrible. I had to perform a Shakespeare monologue and I froze in front of my peers.
The guy who ran the school suggested I should get some theatre experience, so I went and joined a community theatre near where I was living in West London. I ended up doing four or five plays almost back to back. I also managed to be cast in my first movie — Easy Virtue. It was a tiny role, but being on set alongside Jessica Biel and Colin Firth was an inspirational experience. Now that I’ve kind of moved back to doing my own work again, owning a production company called Old Lamp, I kind of think I’ve come full circle. Like I said It’s been a journey. It’s been hard, but over the years I’ve done some great projects and met some truly amazing and inspirational people.
Do you feel like you have grown a lot more as an artist over the years, through your experiences?
Absolutely! But I think I’ve got so much further to go. The older I get, the more I’ve grown into myself and the more I’ve done that, the more I’ve been able to take my life’s experiences to acting. I look back at those early days of my career and I can see myself blooming like some weird flower, but everything I’ve managed to accomplish in my career to some degree, has come about by hard graft and determination and a belief in myself. I’ve defiantly passed from being an innocent and naive young boy to someone who now is unafraid to step into his power. How wonderful would it be if everyone was just truthful and authentic? The world would be such a better place.
I’ve learned to start honoring my creativity. I think that is important. We are all so influenced by social media now to put the best version of ourselves that is acceptable to others when really we should just say f**k all that — do things that honor you and your creative voice! If you do something and walk away thinking and feeling satisfied with the result, then great! If not learn and grow. I hate the comparison game we now play.
What has been one of your favorite projects to work on so far?
My favorite projects generally end up being those that are a challenge to do or have some crazy element to them. Actually, there have been a couple recently. I did a short film called ‘Closet’ which was inspired by a true story close to the writer, about a transgender biker. It was quite moving to play this character and have a direct conversation about the inspiration behind it. But it also challenged me. I found it really moving that the film represented an ideal situation of this writer’s friend being able to express themselves.
Last year, I filmed ‘The Undomesticated’ which was a lot of fun by proxy of getting to play a deeply disturbed man who has trapped his family in the woods. It’s always fun to play the darker sides. I think it was Christoph Waltz who once said “they are just different sides of me”!
But if I had to choose one absolute favorite, it would be playing the lead role of psychopathic killer Dan in ‘Night must Fall’ on stage. It’s a great play and we really worked hard to create a dark and moody atmosphere that transcended into a 1930’s feel. I think I got the best compliment I have ever been given by someone — by the end of the show I wasn’t’ playing Dan, I was Dan! I’m not really sure what that says about me… hopefully that I’m great at my job.
What has been one of the biggest highlights/achievements of your career?
There’s been so many and so diverse. I would say that one of the biggest achievements of my career was writing, producing and acting in the European debut of ‘The Crystal Egg Live’ at London’s premiere immersive theatre venue, The Vaults Tunnels in Central London. I am a massive fan of the works of H.G. Wells, ever since I was a 6 year old, and when the opportunity came up to tackle my companies first live show, I leapt at the opportunity to develop this idea I had.
I always seem to never do anything by halves and what started as an initial idea of doing something small in a black box venue — basically something off Broadway, quickly turned into a multimedia immersive extravaganza, where the audience were very much apart of the story and we used lighting design, video projection and a cinematic sound track to truly immerse the audience in our representation of a Victorian and 1950’s Sci-Fi story. We built a small representation of a London slum town in this grimy old brick tunnel, and a shop in which to tell the story. We went big. We went hard.
It’s always a risk when you put on your own work, but seeing our sold out shows, getting our five four star reviews and being told that it met the approval of various HG Wells societies, was very fulfilling creatively. I also learned a lot from it. I’d love to do the show again, maybe change up a few things, and we are working on turning our adaptation into a feature film.
Oh, and my first sort film as actor/director ‘The Journey of Alfred Small’ just placed a nice finalist position at the 2021 British Short Film Awards as Best short film from the Archives.
Who has been one of your favorite actors/filmmakers you have worked with so far and why?
I’ve met so many wonderfully creative people in the ten plus years I’ve been acting and producing. I know it may sound cliche’, but my partner, Luisa Guerreiro has been one of my favorite people to work with. She continues to inspire me with her own artistic journey and remains incredibly supportive. I’ve done a number of projects with my good friend Ashley Tabatabai, who is an amazing writer and filmmaker/actor. It’s always nice to find a community of like minded people who share the artistic journey.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Right now, I’m working with my own production house Old Lamp on developing a slate of movies and at least two live shows. It’s a busy time. We are developing a period war biopic called ‘Dorothy’s War’ which is inspired by the only woman to go to the trenches, It’s such an interesting and relevant story and a fascinating character study. Alongside this we also have a story inspired by the 1909 ‘Tottenham Outrage’ and a whimsical period comedy in development with another production house.
I was fortunate towards the end of 2021, to shoot on an exciting project called ‘Letters for Lost Lovers’ playing the 12th Century Philosopher and Lover Peter Abelard, which has a very beautiful script. Then there’s ‘Sonder’ which is a short film inspired by the experiences of the directors in the pandemic lockdown, and the awareness of the people around us it brought. Should be exciting to see all these projects on the festival circuits in the near future.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring artists?
Two pieces. First: I’d say know that you want to do it. If you get a job in a bank, or a restaurant, and you find you like the regular hours, the same faces and the certainty of everyday, then maybe stick with that. But if you absolutely have the burning desire that nothing else will do, then be prepared for the rocky road ahead.
Secondly, honor your own creativity by doing what you want to do, not what others think you should do. — if you do the stuff you care about and it inspires your own creative soul, then you won’t go far wrong and people will see that and it will resonate with them. Dare to be different, and dare to be committed. One of the hardest things I’ve struggled with is deciding to take the road less trodden. But that is where we can ultimately find our own expression. Stay on course and don’t allow yourself to be crushed by the no’s and the rejections. Ultimately — just know that we’ve all been there!