Devon Michaels' GilmoreGirls.org Interview, 05.09.06 ...
In a case of art imitating life, Gilmore Girls actor Devon Michaels is a real-life Yale graduate who plays Bill, a Yale Daily News writer, on the show. When Michaels was ten, he was exposed to classic pieces of theatre (Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon, Antigone in Greece) on a family trip to Europe and within a year asked his parents if he could take acting lessons. A full-fledged actor since his early teens, Michaels performed both on and Off-Broadway before making the move to southern California to further his career. He has gone on to appear in Frasier, The West Wing, and Numb3rs; and is currently working on a couple of short films. As Bill on Gilmore Girls, Michaels portrays a sweater vest wearing newspaper man, but in real life he's much more of a fun and relaxed guy (with a better sense of style, no doubt).
GilmoreGirls.org recently fielded fan questions specifically for Devon. Read on for Gilmore gossip in this exclusive Q&A.
Question: I'm very un-Hollywood, so I don't know anything about the casting process. How did you go from doing theater in New York to ending up on Gilmore Girls? —Amelia, Alberta
Devon Michaels: It was a pretty long road actually. After some life-changing experiences working with people like Joseph Papp and Mandy Patinkin, I wanted to have a 'normal' life as a high school senior, so I took a break from professional acting and just had a lot of fun. By the time I finished college, though, I had been out of the industry loop for half a decade, and it was quite a chore to get my career going again. (I hear Yale degrees are usually a good thing when it comes to finding work, but in the fickle world of entertainment it's hard to say). A lot of the casting directors in NY only knew me as a child actor, and I suddenly had to prove myself in a much larger pool of competition. Plus, since I wasn't a kid anymore I also needed to consider other little matters like, say, paying my rent. So, I moved to LA, hoping to find more lucrative work in film and television. I love New York. And I'm sure I'll end up living there again at some point, but the move made sense.
I was fortunate enough to get an audition for a guest-star role on "Invisible Man," a show on the Sci-Fi Channel at the time. Booking that part got me the agent I still have today, and one of the first general interviews they set up for me was with Mara Casey and Jami Rudofsky (the Gilmore Girls casting directors). They called me in to read for a role that same year, but I didn't get it. After a few years passed and I had added more TV credits to my resume, they thought of me again when they were looking for a 'Bill.' From what I hear, my vibe reminded them of a writer who used to work on the show, so I think they were kind of rooting for me even before I auditioned for it. I just had to make sure I didn't suck.
Question: I see on your IMDb resume that you graduated from Yale with a degree in Theater Studies and Psychology. How does the Gilmore Girls portrayal of Yale differ from the real thing? —Ann, California
Michaels: Well, before I got this role I had only seen a couple of episodes of the show, so to be honest I'm not sure how it portrays Yale outside the Daily News. One thing I can tell you is that the set looks very accurate. The hallways look just like one of the main classroom buildings on campus, from the floors to the wood-paneled walls. Even the font used for the room numbers is exactly the same. Also, I suppose I met my fair share of Paris-type overachievers while I was there.
Question: It seems like your character, Bill, wears a lot of sweaters and vests. Have you ever thought about asking the Gilmore Girls wardrobe department to make him look a little more stylish? After all, Bill's girlfriend did break-up with him recently. Maybe an updated look would help him get back on the dating scene. —Mary, Minnesota
Michaels: You are preaching to the choir on this one, Mary. Probably my most frequent topic of conversation while on set. I talk about it all the time with the other actors, purposely upping my volume in hopes that the producers will overhear. I've also tried (subtly) to encourage the wardrobe supervisor to consider some of the clothes I brought with me instead. All to no avail. I do understand why they decided to go that way with the character though. This is TV, after all. And they only have a few short seconds of screen time to introduce new characters to the audience and have those characters' jokes immediately resonate. Bold costume choices are an efficient way to speed that familiarity along. Almost like putting a few seconds of a new pop song in a commercial so that people are already humming along when they hear it on the radio.
Question: If Bill was to hand pick his girlfriend, would she be more like a Rory, Paris, or Lane? —Jenni, California
Michaels: Hmm... for my first couple of episodes I kind of thought Bill's whole Paris-hating thing was maybe disguising a stunted, adolescent crush he had on her. But when I got the script for 'A Vineyard Valentine' and saw that he had a girlfriend all that time (whom he must've loved, since the breakup "devastated" him), I had to reevaluate. I'm not that familiar with Lane -- I think I've seen only one episode with her. But I do believe Bill has a tremendous respect and affection for Rory. And who knows where that respect and affection could lead? Especially while he's in vulnerable post-break-up mode. Wow, I'm getting a little too into this, aren't I. Especially with my girlfriend sitting right here. I love you, honey. (I really do.)
Question: In "Friday Night's Alright For Fighting," you had a scene that involved a yo-yo. Did you have to brush up on your skills and whose idea was it to incorporate the yo-yo? —Michael, Washington
Michaels: Great question. The yo-yo was written in the script from the get-go. And yes, I definitely had to brush up on my skills. I probably hadn't tried a cat's cradle since I was in elementary school. The producers were a little worried about it too, I could tell. They specifically asked my agent a couple of days before if I knew how to do the trick. Then one of the executive producers whom I'd never met showed up to see how I was doing. They had a couple of people coaching me on set. One of the props guys officially, but then a couple of the other crew-members came around and helped out too. Valerie from Wardrobe took pictures to document the whole process. It was hilarious. But it was also just really nice 'cause it took some of the pressure off me in terms of it being my second episode and the biggest role I'd ever had on TV. I just had to focus on getting that yo-yo to do its thing, so the rest became automatic -- I knew the lines were great and I already felt I had the character down.
Question: Is there a cast member who you haven't worked with yet that you'd especially like to have a scene with? —Dani, Louisiana
Michaels: Well, of course it'd be terrific to have a scene with Lauren Graham or Edward Herrmann, though I'm not sure how the heck that would happen really. I briefly worked with Kelly Bishop once doing a reading in New York, but it was a long time ago and I'm not sure if she'd remember me. I do think it'd be fun to have a scene that had both Bill and Doyle. I've met Danny Strong at a couple of auditions, and I think our characters have some weird similarities which would make for an interesting scene.
Question: A lot of fans are pretty worried about the Palladinos departing for season seven. How do you think the cast and crew will react to them being gone and entering a somewhat new atmosphere? —Chloe, Tennessee
Michaels: It's hard for me to comment on that, being fairly new to the whole 'Gilmore' world. But I do know that everyone there is extremely dedicated and professional. And I think the unique heart and voice the Palladinos gave the show is strong enough and clear enough to survive their leaving.
Question: How long does it take to film an average scene? Are the Yale Daly News computers actually hooked up to Internet and working? —Melissa, Minnesota
Michaels: That varies quite a bit depending on the number of characters, the number of background actors needed, and what the director really wants to accomplish with the scene. We rehearse a couple of times, then go to make-up (if we haven't been already) while the crew sets up the lights and everything. That's when the stand-ins (or 'second team') take over so the crew can see what they're doing. After 45 minutes or so, they call us back in and we do maybe seven or eight takes of the 'master' shot. Then usually there's some more repositioning of the lights (and sometimes walls!) while they move the cameras around for close-ups. We usually just do two or three takes on each of those. All in all, I'd say an average scene takes somewhere between two and four hours. And they usually have three or four scenes planned out. Doesn't bother me since I'm usually only called in for a day or two on a given episode. But for the regulars and the crew who are there pretty much every day, it can be quite a grind.
As for the computers, nope. Not connected. If a particular screen's not in a particular shot, then it's not even on. If it is in the shot, the props people hook the monitor up to a laptop they have hidden underneath the desk (sending an appropriate visual). It's pretty cool really. Just feels weird sometimes to be typing on a keyboard that's not having any effect on the screen of words you see in front of you.
Question: Other than Gilmore Girls, you've also been on some pretty popular TV shows (Numb3rs, The West Wing, Without a Trace, etc.). Do you have a favorite on set experience? —Talisha, Georgia
Michaels: Being on Frasier was a huge thrill. There's nothing like the excitement of a live audience. And it was fun to play sort of 'bad-guy' roles on Numb3rs and Without a Trace. But I guess I'd have to say my favorite on-set experience was The West Wing because I was already such a diehard fan of the show when I went on, and so I was there both as a happily-working actor and a crazed star-struck admirer.
Question: Are there any actors who have careers that you'd like to emulate? —Heidi, California
Michaels: Robert Downey Jr., Sean Penn, and Donald Sutherland are all very talented actors-I-admire; as are Ed Harris, John Goodman, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Gene Hackman. Great actors with great careers. On the actress side, let's see... Emily Watson -- I think Breaking the Waves is one of the least seen greatest films of the last twenty years... Meryl Streep -- there's a reason she's a classic... Laura Linney -- a consistently odd but consistently excellent body of work... and my girlfriend, Brenda. She's not famous yet, but she will be. And I can't forget Allison Janney. I never thought I could learn so much about acting by having half a dozen lines with someone.
Question: What are your dreams and aspirations as an actor? Do you have future projects in the works? —Luis, Texas
Michaels: I'd love to work more in film as well as television. Some fun combination of edgy, independent films and big blockbuster movies on my plate. And, in general, it'd just be nice to have more stability by getting a bit further along in my career. Either with a series regular role on TV for a couple of years or with a string of good film roles. I just want to keep working and collaborating with more and more talented and creative people.
Right now I'm working on a couple of odd little short films with a few friends. ...And I'm still out there auditioning. (Wish me luck).
GilmoreGirls.org would like to sincerely thank Devon for taking time out of his schedule for this interview. If you'd like to discuss Devon's Gilmore Girls character, Bill, or any other newspaper staffer, you can do so in the The Yale Daily News thread on the GilmoreGirls.org Forum.
Back to GilmoreGirls.org ...