An interview with PHILIP MICHAEL | CALEB/CONTROL | VMA 2022 | April/May Edition
We are accustomed to thinking that the worlds of sports and filmmaking are worlds apart, convinced that they have no points of conjunction with each other. If we delved deeper into what governs a climb to success, we would find that these two seemingly distant worlds are united by the same factors and mindset.
In both cases, the difference is made by the process behind the performance in support of talent and skills of the performers, made up of discipline, sacrifice, perseverance, and creativity that give strong direction and channel each performer's potential to the fullest.
As a testament to how human multipotentiality can be a force that leads to success, we have with us today Philip Michael, a 1st generation actor who plays the role of 'Pepper' in "Mamma Mia the Movie" and 'Joshua Udenze' in RTE Ireland's soap opera "Fair City".
English screenwriter and producer, and also a World Champion in Taekwondo, Senchido, Kickboxing who has been able to find with stunting a junction between the various arts, theatrical and sports. All disciplines, by the way, in which Philip has been singularly successful.
With the script "CALEB" and the project "CONTROL" Philip confirmed his talent and determination here at the VMAs as well, winning four awards in April and two awards in the May 2022 Edition.
• Hello Philip and welcome to this space dedicated to the success stories of our winners! Let's start immediately with the first questions: how did your passion for theater come about? Did the one for theater come first or the one for sports first?
First thanks for having me. They were both closely related. I remember during my summer break in boarding school back in England I used to watch westerns and started to learn horseback riding when I was 8. I was always a dreamer and had an eloborate fantasy imagination so I’d pretend I was in one of the films. But the main thing that made me want to be a thespian was when I was back in Nigeria during the summer break and I watched Harrison Ford in ‘Witness’. There was something about that film that created a passion. The movie itself was very thrilling and haunting as an 8 years old; watching another kid, my age, get hunted by grown dangerous men, yet something about that movie made me want to be like Harrison ford initially. And it was great seeing him in the Star Wars franchise. Secondly, Jackie Chan and Jean Claude Van Damme movies inspired me to get into martial arts and Acrobatics but I didn’t gain the opportunity till much later as with theatre. Every Friday and Saturday night in London during my teens I would watch Friday night action. From 8 pm till midnight movies like No retreat, no surrender 1 & 2, Jackie Chan films and more would air and that would be my escapism and dream. The. During secondary school I started dram classes which was my absolute favorite. However, getting into an actual Drama school you discover you never actually knew what acting was about. By then I was in my 20s.
• We know that you attended the prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Dramatic Art in London. What is the most significant thing you remember from that experience?
The Struggle. Nothing came east for me and I only truly bloomed to the top in the third and final year. I’ve always felt like I started at the bottom and struggled in everything in my life and had to work so much harder than everyone else. There were no hand outs. I almost quit in my first term but the voice inside me said keep going. The experience was tough. Voice work was very precise. Getting rid of your accent to become standard British and clean up your articulation then learning accents so that you can switch consciously rather than having a habit you can’t control. The Meisner technique was so essential. Extremely hard for me until the third year. I bloomed ever so so late but on time lol. I feel that’s what helps me now in my career. The pursuit regardless of struggle.
We did so much in drama school. Movement, acting through song (music), voice, improv, dialect and Meisner. It was incredibly intense. Could be from 8am – 9pm all week. So what I took of great value is patience and pursuit.
Some people have a higher advantage. They start higher up the ladder. Like way higher. If you don’t, DO NOT WAIT FOR ANOTHER PERSON TO HAND IT TO YOU. Cultivate your vision, research how others have done it from the bottom and try it.
• You are also a World Champion in Taekwondo, Senchido, Kickboxing and your artistic talent is known for 'Mamma Mia the Movie' and 'Fair City', which was awarded with several prizes. According to your multidisciplinary experience, are there any commonalities between the worlds of theater/cinematography and sports?
The discipline. The work with technique. The vigorous hours. The pursuit for mental health stability, which for me came through my Christian Faith. Knowing there’s a heavenly atmosphere accessible. Other commonalities is dealing with the negativity of others, the challenges of others and peers and getting to have confidence in your craft. Never compromise your journey.
• What have these sports taught you significantly that you take into your life as an artist and what do you take about "being an artist" into your life as a sportsman?
Again, the discipline. And don’t let another person’s rejection influence your life call. Learn to work with people and not just for them. Focus on YOUR dream than all your energy to bring someone else’s dream while yours is stagnant. Work hard and smart. Be patient. As an actor where I use my imagination it applies in my sport. If I shadow box I create string imaginary situations of what could possibly happen and how it affects me emotionally and I learn to deal with it there so that if I face it with an opponent I’m cultivated and ready. I hope that all makes sense.
• What is the mindset that has allowed you to build your personal success in the various disciplines?
Some people have a higher advantage. They start higher up the ladder. Like way higher. If you don’t, DO NOT WAIT FOR ANOTHER PERSON TO HAND IT TO YOU. Cultivate your vision, research how others have done it from the bottom and try it. As an actor I have had so many major auditions and have lost it due to not having the right hair style or too tall, too short, too dark, and more. So this is where creating your own work comes in and networking and finding the right team. I’ve had a lot of success by not waiting on others. Pursuing my purpose. Even recently won my first boxing belt at my pro boxing club. Twice. These things help remind me that success is a mindset and can be applied to everything to lay your hand to do.
• The natural junction of your talents could only be stunt. How did the idea of creating JAM come about, becoming co-owner of a major stunt and movement facility that has tailored to many Marvel and Netflix productions and helped prepare many artists such as Jennifer Lopez, the late Chadwick Boseman, and Mila Jovovich?
Well I’m mainly an actor who can do their own fight choreo and stunts depending on how big the stunt is. JAM was created by my hood friends Travis Wong (major stunt coordinator), Aaron Toney (Double for Anthony Mackie in Marvel) and Jake Huang (Stunt performer and Coordinator). I used to work at Travis old gym White lotus uner Mrs Carrie Ogawa Wong. When they made JAM I initially just worked front desk with all my soul then was offered managing position. After a short amount of years they held a surprise party and gave me a good percentage of the gun ownership for all the hard work. So that’s how that came about. Through all our hard work we created incredible relationships in the industry , hence having major studios use our facility to train their A list actors and provide rehearsal space. The goal was also be pioneers to bring a safe and great place for current and future performers including general public. So we also teach stunts, parkour, martial arts tricking, gymnastics and audition technique via myself.
We’ve worked with so many major artists it’s been such an incredible honor. My sister went crazy when I said I booked Sony productions with Viola Davis for 7 weeks at our facility.
• You are also an active screenwriter and producer. By whom or what do you get inspiration for your written production?
Good cinematography inspires me. Musical scores get my mind and emotions creative. And incredible persomers. Denzel, Jason Bateman, Christian Bale, Meryl Streep and so much more. I was tired of just having inspirations. During the pandemic I also watched a lot of movies on networks I won’t mention that were so bad in my personal opinion and I thought “if a movie as awful as this can be put on this famous network then what’s stopping me creating something?”
To add, so many Mamma Mia fans also messaging asking when I’m making something else. I’d get like 50 messages a week of different conversations but the fact they reach out inspired me.
That being said, the main thing would be my past. I’ve gone through so much in my life, back in Nigeria and london, stateside and more. These have so many potential stories to be shared on screen. I also pull from my humor and childhood experiences. I pull from great conversations with family, friends and strangers and use them in my performance or writing.
• At the VMAs you won with two projects: a script titled 'CALEB,' a high kinetic action thriller, and 'CONTROL,' a short thriller/action film of which you are a producer. How did the idea for writing 'CALEB' come about and what convinced you to produce 'CONTROL' instead?
For Control, my UK agent Wendy Lee saw one of my acrobatic and action clips from my gym sessions and sent to her friend writer/director Nigel Bristow. He was inspired, wrote a script and we collaborated. I then raised some funds while he raised the rest. I co hired the actors playing along myself as I was the lead. It was my first fight coordinating job and we hired Joey Ansah (Bourne Ultimatum) to consult which was great coz when we met in uk he was so happy with my choreo that we just trained together back in the uk before flying to Belfast to shoot.
The script ‘Caleb’ was inspired by a multiple things. 007, Guy Richie, news on human trafficking and just my imagination that never ever stops. I would literally be having lunch with a friend or at the movies and boom ideas pop up. My aim now is to get ‘Caleb’ produced. I would love to contact Viola & Julius’ company Juvee productions because of promoting diversity. But I have others in mind too. There are also actors I have in mind for the roles to pitch to and try and attach. I just need to get a literary manager or agent because of protocol and fulfilling my word.
• What, if any, are your plans for the future? Would you like to anticipate anything?
I want to create a mini series and movies of various genres. I want to bring work to LA and UK and provide opportunities. I want to inspire others to create. And I want to , drum roll please, get Marvel and DC to fight over me to be the next superhero hahaha. Oh and be a Jedi. I’ve already co-produced and fight coordinated a Star Wars fan film called Exile: a Star Wars story. But I didn’t get to be a Jedi or sith yet lol. Goal currently is to get CALEB produced. Pitch to studios and networks. Maybe Netflix, maybe BBC. We shall see.
• Since there are so many young talents among our readers who are often struggling with their multi-potential being, what suggestion would you like to give to stay steadfast and not get lost in the sea of your own creativity?
Stay connected to loved ones and friends. Don’t use people for your self-gain. Invest in them and ask them to invest in you. Cherish friendships as they will always come and support you. Don’t procrastinate. Become accountable to yourself. Become accountable to another that will hold you to your word. Take breaks. Go on holidays, experience the world. Invest in yourself. Every day counts. Never ever allow abuse with any work relationship. Work on the quality of your work. Do not let any producer, performer, colleague or person with influence get your to exchange abusive or immoral personal favors for opportunities. Support one another.
• Thank you for this inspiring interview, Philip, we are happy to have had you among our winners, and we look forward to hearing from you again here at the VMAs. Is there anyone in particular you would like to dedicate these last lines to?
Thank you very much for this opportunity and all the readers. It was SPLENDISHOUS. I made that word up and it’s toggle spreading haha.
- CONTROL | OFFICIAL TRAILER -