April 06, 2013 | posted in Filmmakers
Encouragement from a teacher was key. Michael Chernus, actor in “He’s Way More Famous than You,” stumbled upon his profession when one of his teachers suggested he join his junior high school drama club. He was cast as Gandalf in his junior high production of "The Hobbit" and “never looked back.”
“I was hooked,” says Chernus. “I knew I had to do this acting thing for the rest of my life.”
After junior high in Rocky River, Ohio, he enrolled in a summer theater class at the Beck Center in Lakewood, Ohio. “And this is where it started to get really serious,” he says. A self-proclaimed “nerdy kid” found his calling in acting and the theater. “It gave me a sense of belonging, of community, of self-confidence and identity,” he says. “And there were cute girls!!”
After a few years of acting in community theater, he auditioned for Juilliard, the prestigious performing arts academy.
“And much to my amazement, I got in,” he says. “And I spent the next four years … at Juilliard working my ass off … learning more than I ever thought possible.”
After several roles in theater, he made his way to film. In his first film, he had three or four lines at the end of Adam Rapp's "Winter Passing." He continued doing plays in New York City, until Kirt Gunn “took a chance on me” and cast me as one of the leads in the independent film "Lovely by Surprise."
That’s when he started building his film resume.
But it was not an overnight success. It was tough, he warns those hoping to get into the business.
“If … you know deep down in your bones that you simply must be an actor … do whatever you can to be a part of something where you get to act.”
He’s a huge proponent of doing readings and workshops of new plays, and getting to know admirable writers. “Develop a deep and profound respect for the craft of acting and those who have come before you,” he says. “And then you eventually should probably move to New York or LA.”
But for those of us still in Cleveland, we get to live vicariously through this hometown boy. So if you are debating about seeing this film or another, Chernus has this advice: “You should see our film because I'm in it and I'm from Cleveland,” he says. “And, as you know, Cleveland loves all things Cleveland.”
And he hopes audiences will love the film, especially since it will be his first time seeing it with an audience. “Here we go!!!” he replies.
– Anne M. DiTeodoro
Photo: Halley Feiffer and Michael Chernus. Photo by Janet Macoska.
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