Your new movie The
Headmistress - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you
tell us about your character in it?
a simple sense I would say The
is about a young woman (Mara)
who is knee deep in debt and is quite stressed about her financial situation.
However, she inherits a lakefront inn from her father where she in turn
takes a group of potential buyers to visit the property in the hopes
of putting those said financial worries behind her. Unfortunately,
she learns of a terrible secret that is tied to the property, and it is a
grave threat to the entire group. As it pertains to Donovan, let's
just say he is a bit unlikable to say the least. He's the smartest
guy in the room and if you don't believe me - just ask him! Donovan is a
successful commercial real estate professional who is all
about himself while severely lacking empathy, compassion and couth along
the way. He is homophobic and misogynistic but most of all Donovan is
all about the mighty dollar. He simply wants to get in quickly to buy the
property while steamrolling everyone and anyone in his path.
What did you draw
upon to bring your character to life, and how much Thomas McCarthy can we
find in Donovan?
I have many, many flaws in the real world, fortunately I don't have too
many of the traits Donovan possesses. So you won't find too
much of Tom McCarthy in Donovan. At least I'd like to think you won't!! Here's a quick story that ties into your question about how much of my
real life characteristics are found in Donovan. Back in the fall of
2021 directors Chris Micklos and Jay Sapiro [Christopher
A. Micklos and Jay Sapiro interview - click here] held a private screening for the
cast, crew, family members and close friends at a theater in Madison,
WI. Afterward we all had a few drinks at the bar downstairs in the theater
to catch up and talk to some of the people that came to support the movie.
During the 1 hour or so we were socializing 3 separate and complete
strangers came up to my wife Christine in a light-hearted manner and said
they "wanted to meet the person who was married to Donovan in real
life" to confirm if I indeed was a somewhat normal and decent person
in the real world. My wife was quick to say I'm a complete 180 from
Donovan personality-wise. However, she got quite a kick out of those
3 encounters! One of the things I drew on was the fact I do like to try
and be funny with quick-hitting oneliners with my close friends and
family. While much more crass in nature, Donovan has many moments where he
throws out crude comment after comment and almost pauses for effect. So
that felt extremely organic to me.There are some things from my past
that bubble to the surface now and then, which I won't get into here, that
really allows me to dig deep when I have to express anger. These same
things from my personal past also allow me to tap into a condescending
side that you saw in Donovan. I can only speak for myself but I do
get the sense actors like to play against their true personalities. I
definitely feel that way. Never in a million years would I say 95% of
the things Donovan said in the film. I'm quiet when you first meet me, a
bit insecure and passive in nature overall. Therefore, to be able
portray someone like Donovan where you just "let it rip" in
terms of what comes out your mouth without having a care in the world
about the consequences made playing him an absolute blast. I felt this
sense of freedom in a way. It was the most enjoyable character I've played
in my career to this point because of how different Donovan is from Tom
How did you get involved with the project
in the first place, and what drew you to it?
was doing my daily audition submissions as an actor and perusing the
various websites I subscribe to. I came across the breakdown for The
on the Backstage website. I submitted for the project and
the roles of Pete and Donovan because both their character descriptions
interested me and in turn drew me to the project. Much more so than the
fact it was a horror movie. Pete was described as "salt of the
earth" in the breakdown and Donovan as "aggressive,
arrogant and an Alpha male". Initially I was asked to only read
for the role of "nice guy" Pete. After reviewing that audition
Chris and Jay asked me to read for the role of Donovan instead. I guess
they preferred the jerk side of Tom McCarthy versus the nice side of me!
extent can you identify with The
Headmistress's approach to horror, and is horror a genre at all
dear to you?
I probably shouldn't admit to this since I've been in a few horror genre
feature films over the years (Creep Van, Torment: A Love Story, Irrational
Fear), but horror is not remotely near and dear to me at all - but here it
goes... I never watch horror films. Ever. The simple fact is I don't like
to be scared or sit on the edge of my seat. This goes back to when I was
just a kid up until now. I am waaaaaaaaaaay too anxious of a person to put
myself through that torture! As an actor I really enjoyed the approach the The
took (i.e. Chris, Jay and Glenn). They made things
feel very, very suspenseful with many of the camera shots they chose along
with many of their decisions as it pertained to lighting. The lack of
gratuitous killing in the film was also something I loved. I am not a
blood and guts guy as I just stated. But man oh man... did one ever get
the sense something awful could happen at any second. I loved that.
What can you tell us about
Headmistress's directors Christopher A. Micklos and Jay Sapiro,
and what was your collaboration like?
and Jay were awesome! They were always very open to any thoughts or
comments I had as it pertained to any scenes or takes we were working
on. They definitely knew what they wanted but they were very
open to hearing my thoughts and not making me feel afraid to expound upon
them. Case in point, there was a scene in the film where we were having a
heated group discussion. Then things became a bit personal between Donovan
and Pete (Tom Dacey Carr). I asked before one particular take if I could
go off script for a line or 2 because I had a thought as to what I might
say if this was me in a real life argument with Pete. Chris and Jay
said no problem and trusted me. It was just a small thing and nothing
fancy but I wanted to say it on an earlier take. After I received the
greenlight I blurted out "F**k you pizza boy", and the line made
the final cut. My point is I was not afraid to ask to improvise just a bit
and that's because of their collaborative nature. Chris and Jay
are both very patient guys, that's for sure, and they like to laugh
as well which always helps keep things relaxed on set. I find that
extremely important. History has shown me throughout my career that
walking on eggshells on set while shooting a movie is a recipe for poor performances.
Period. Chris and Jay also put up with me and my "did you get what
you want?" nonsense after many of my takes which drove them up a wall
I'm sure. But they still talk to me to this day so I guess I wasn't too
A few words about
the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
on-set atmosphere was awesome for some of the reasons I listed above in
the previous question. What I haven't mentioned yet and ties into this
question is the cast themselves. The cast was an absolute home run to work
with and hang out with! Yes, we definitely worked hard on set but we
also had our share of laughs and great conversation as well. My fellow
castmates absolutely crushed each of their respective roles in my opinion.
There were so many instances in real time right after I was in a scene or
watching a scene, as it pertained to a fellow castmate's performance, where
I thought "Wow. Damn. That was flipping good." After watching
the final cut of the movie my "suspicions" regarding everyone's
performance was accurate. I was truly blessed to work with such a talented group
of actors. Better yet, and more importantly, I was also blessed to work
with a bunch of very nice, kind, positive and supportive actors. I was
fortunate beyond belief.
projects you'd like to share?
I am wrapping up a couple feature film projects this summer. I'm one of
the lead actors in a movie called Phoenix Reborn that's
shooting in Michigan. It's based on the true story of a high school
baseball phenom from the mid-1980's who severely injured his knee and
almost died from the injury due to a blood clot. It's a story about love,
perseverance and resilience. I play the father of the star player. I
am also coming down the home stretch on a feature film that shoots in
southern Indiana called Comfort Zone. It's a
psychological thriller set to the tone of addiction, guilt and
loneliness. I have a supporting role where I play a very dark, disturbed
and cunning doctor.
What got you into acting
in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the
actually stumbled into acting later in life. I never had any dreams or
aspirations of being an actor when I was a child or during my younger years.
Zero. Zip. Zilch. I had no interest in acting whatsoever. I never had
any formal acting education or training until I was in my early 40s.
I was a suit and tie guy in corporate America right out of college and
worked in that arena for almost 20 years. I graduated from the
University of South Carolina and moved to Chicago shortly thereafter. I
was in financial services right out of school until I was 35. Then I
changed career paths and started working in commercial real estate in The
Loop (Chicago). I decided to take an acting class in my early 40s to
try and improve my confidence when speaking or presenting in front of
people. I was immediately bitten by the proverbial acting bug and
here I am at age 55.
What can you tell us about your filmwork prior
to The Headmistress?
focus for much of my career has been independent films. Even though I live
in a great theatre town like Chicago I've always leaned hard toward the
camera side of things. Part of the reason is I am a bit of an introvert.
I'm pretty quiet and shy until you get to know me - then I'll definitely
open up. Those 2 characteristics led me to filmwork where
playing things a bit smaller or "minimizing" things was
something I've always been more comfortable with versus playing things
bigger, which is often required in stagework. In theatre , as the saying
goes, you must project and play to the back row. I was never very good
doing that. I play and project much better to the first row! I have done
some theatre and after every production I always feel like I've improved
my acting mettle per se. It scares me to where when it's over I feel
stronger and a bit more confident. My path in the filmworld has been
pretty straight forward. Meaning I started doing student short films and
then moving into non-student short films and eventually feature
length films. There hasn't been a particular overall film genre I've
pursued or favored. However, over time I have noticed the roles I've been
getting cast for in film the past 4-5 years have leaned heavily toward
those that have been mean-spirited, evil, abusive, corrupt, angry and
would you describe yourself as an actor, and some of your techniques to
bring your characters to life?
terms of how I would describe myself as an actor, and I think most would
agree, I am a rather tall one. I 'm 6' 3". Rimshot! OK. I guess I'm
not a funny one apparently. My nonsense aside, I describe myself as
being on the more dramatic or intense side of things. I tend to play
things toward the heavier side of a character versus the lighter side if
all things are equal in a sense. I think part of the reason why is that I
like to joke around in real life so I prefer playing against myself as I
mentioned earlier in the interview. It all depends on the character
I'm playing and what the role entails as to what techniques I use to bring
them to life. I'll most often use my imagination when developing a
character. Although I will also draw from my personal experiences in life
as well as bringing physicality into a role. Especially if my character
has a minimal amount of lines.
(and indeed actresses) who inspire you?
a fan of the well-known actors who have a certain gravitas in the way they
carry themselves. They often play things low key while coming across as
truly being themselves on camera. I love guys like George Clooney, Denzel
Washington, Brad Pitt and Kevin Costner. Those are the actors that I
truly admire and aspire to be like.
I love acting, I am not a fan of watching movies. I do study my craft for
sure in terms of watching clips of certain actors or certain scenes. But I
don't watch many movies where they serve as entertainment for me.
I've never seen movies such as Star Wars, Titanic, Indiana
Jones, Jurassic Park, any Marvel or
DC movies. However, at my wife's urging, I finally
watched The Godfather last fall and man oh man was I missing out!
Outstanding! I would say my favorite movies of all time in no particular
order are Airplane, Caddyshack, Hoosiers, Shawshank Redemption and
and of course, films you really deplore?
deplore any and all science fiction (see Star Wars) or adventure/fantasy
type films like the Harry Potter movies. I've simply never had any
interest in those genres. As a kid I struggled to keep up with the
plotline in both genres so I'm sure that had something to do with my lack
of interest. Lastly, my family and friends know this about me and think
I'm weird for this, but I also will not watch a movie with horses in
it. They shake their heads whenever this comes up and I can't say I blame
them! Again, it goes back to when I was young. I always associated horses
as being part of a "period piece" film that tied into Western
frontier or medieval-themed movies most times. Thus, as a youth I
definitely "deplored" those 2 time periods when it came to
watching films where either one was featured as the backdrop for a
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
website, social media, whatever else?
Anything else you're dying
to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
all set! I'm pretty sure I said everything I had to say... and then some!
Thank you Mike for your questions and the opportunity to talk a bit
about myself and The
Headmistress. I appreciate it very much. I truly
enjoyed it. Best to you going forward and enjoy your summer!
for the interview!