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Interview with Michael Lee Joplin, star of Blinders
By James Whittington, Monday 31st August 2020
Blinders3

We've already heard from the director of Blinders, Tyler Savage and one of its stars, Vincent Van Horn so we thought it would be cool to chat with its other star, Michael Lee Joplin.

HC: Was there one person who inspired you to become an actor?

MJ: I started acting in middle school really, but I had a wonderful theatre teacher in high school in Austin Texas, a Brit from Manchester, named Beryl Knifton. She instilled a love of acting and Shakespeare for me at an early age. I'm lucky to have had a lot of great teachers and mentors along the way. My acting teacher in college, the late Mr. Stephen Gerald pushed me along and more recently the Meisner teachings of Laurel Vouvray-Smith. My dad also made me watch a lot of movies that were probably inappropriate for my age, so when I was really young, I had a love for Jack Nicholson, DeNiro, Jimmy Stewart, and Toshiro Mifune.

HC: When did you get your acting break?

MJ: I did a lot of theatre in high school, but my first paid gig was at the Vortex Theatre in Austin. I played the gentleman caller in A Streetcar Named Desire. I was 18. It was a formative experience. I got to see some real masters of the stage at work. Michael Miller jumped into the role of Stanley with two week's notice and knocked it out of the park. Our original Stanley actually went on an alcohol induced bender and went to New Orleans and we didn't hear from him again. I got to be seduced by Blanche who was played by Austin stage legend Margaret Hoard.

HC: Are you a fan of psychological drama?

MJ: Very much so. Some of my favourites are Psycho, The Shining, Cape Fear (DeNiro and Mitchum versions), Memento. I tend to relish the darker side of film, music, and art. First couple of times I took acid in college I'd end up watching Psycho. Looking back it sounds so torturous, but it was really fun at the time. I promise, I'm not like Roger in real life y'all.

HC: Did you have to audition for the role of Roger?

MJ: I did not have to audition! The role fell into my lap. The biggest dream scenario for an actor. I had just moved to Los Angeles. I'd only been there for a couple weeks. I met Tyler at a party at my new place where I moved in with Alex Dobrenko, who plays the cell phone repair guy in Blinders. Vincent was at the party as well as we are all old friends from Austin. Tyler took notice of me and Vince's friendship and shit talking to each other. I think Tyler and Dash were already looking at Vince for the lead role. The next night Alex and I did an improv comedy show and Tyler came out. Word is he went home that night and texted Dash that he found their Roger. Right place. Right time.

HC: What did you think of the script when you first read it?

MJ: I liked it a lot. It changed quite a bit from the first version though. There was a social media influencer angle that was much more prominent in the early versions. Tyler and Dash were very open to discussions about the story and dialogue through the whole process. They also let us improvise some during rehearsals and shooting. The script definitely evolved and those guys put in a ton of work writing it.

HC: Do you get nervous when you set foot on a set for the first time?

MJ: My theatre background is vast and I thought all of the butterflies were behind me. But this is the first time that I've played such a big serious role on film. Most parts I've played previously were either comedic or just smaller and one dimensional. I hadn't experienced shooting a story out of order where I was a main character to the story so I was a nervous wreck the first week of shooting. I had many conversations with Tyler where he probably thought I was a maniac. But after the first week of shooting I got really comfortable with the collaborative process of a film shoot.

HC: Was your interpretation of Roger based on anyone you know or have heard about?

MJ: I'm a very passionate guy. When I'm into something I can obsess about it. Whether that's acting, music, or basketball. I can deep dive. So, I think I examined the parts of myself that can obsess over someone or something. I also have a friend from college who I based a lot of the character on, mainly his ability to charm people, and his unwavering anchor to his principles. One of those people who nobody is lukewarm about. You either love him or you hate him. I took some of those ideas when I was thinking about playing Roger. I also was deep into the idea that Roger was in a submissive relationship with Sam, and that love for her, which was largely unrequited drove him to do a lot of the bad things he did.

HC: How difficult is it to play a character such as complicated as Roger?

MJ: I think the difficult part is just resting in those dark places for too long. I would go to Echo Park and just watch people and just get into my bones that I was following someone for some reason to do right by Sam. Some of that work proved valuable on set before shooting a scene to get my head in the right place, and some of it was just plain weird and creepy. I think it's good to use your imagination fully but also remember you are acting and to take breaks and take care of your mental state.

HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?

MJ: Laying low during the pandemic. Working a little bit, making a lot of music and painting. I have some short films that I shot that I'm continually editing. So hopefully I'll get that stuff done soon. But I'm mostly watching movies and playing video games with the homies.

HC: Michael Lee Joplin, thank you very much.


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