You can’t watch thirty minutes of television without seeing Michael Bunin a couple times. He shoots a zillion commercials a year. You’ve seen a bunch of them, trust me. They are very funny.
Michael has an uncanny ability to mix a likable guy-next-door vibe with cutting humor and the sort of insight that only the best stand up cats display. He grew up in Vegas and is one of those guys who knows everybody in town, theater or otherwise. On camera, his skill is so sublime that he can turn invisible (I’ve seen him do it.) in a crowd, or with a turn of his head, take all the focus for himself. He is one of the most capable and consistently working actors I know in Los Angeles.
Also, if you are foolish enough to sit down at a table with him to play some cards, he will keep you laughing the entire time he is emptying out your wallet. Seriously, it’s like aikido or something.
We were chatting about entertainment the other day, and theater, and storytelling.
Me: In the past few years, LA has felt to me like this giant machine that just churns out content. It’s like this factory that assembly-lines out as much stuff into the multi-platform universe as possible. Where does the modern, classically trained actor fit into this?
Michael: That’s one way to look at it and I think it’s accurate to a point. A lot of the content it churns out is very good, so to quote a very famous acting teacher… This is the business we’ve chosen.
Me: How do you balance doing those jobs that pay the mortgage with those jobs that bring you genuine fulfillment? Like, do you make a conscious effort to do say, a little Strindberg once in a while, or do a Shakespeare festival every couple years?
Michael: I’m an actor who is very simply looking for an acting job. Like any profession some jobs are better than others but I’m an actor and it’s my job to act. I am always looking forward to being on stage doing long form improv, that said whether it’s commercials, TV, kid shows, a movie, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s all acting in some shape or form and the more that you think it doesn’t satisfy some sort of need the harder you have to work to make it so. I’m not perfect…
Me: Whoa, whoa, let’s not get crazy…
Michael: There are some gigs that I just don’t necessarily enjoy right away but you have to try to find a way. That’s the job. At the end of the day I’m very lucky because I get to do what I like for a living.
Me: Many years ago in New York, an agent chastised me for wanting to work in the theater. He insisted I make a choice between the theater and what he called “show business. What’s the difference to you?
Michael: I don’t know that there is much of a business difference. I remember early on talking to some agents and managers who didn’t want me to pursue theater. I took that to mean that it’s less money. Each business has its ups and downs, good and bad so for me finding representation that is on the same page as me erases having to make that choice.
Me: What do you think about theater in Vegas?
Michael: I’m a big fan of what A Public Fit is doing. There are a lot of talented people and theaters in my hometown. As a Las Vegan it’s very exciting. I would love to see all the Vegas theaters get together to create a community that helps new theaters open, and pushes for the success of the whole community. If all these theaters can grow together, could be one hell of a scene.
Me: What are you working on right now?
Michael: I am lucky enough to be back playing the role of Jeff on NBC’s Superstore again this season. The cast is great, the writing is great. They give me really fun things to play. This is a very fun gig! I also have a recurring role on the Amazon show The Last Tycoon.
Me: That sounds like a busy year. Final word?
Michael: This isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. There is no such thing as a short game here.
Me: Aint that the truth. Otherwise, where would a couple of codgers like us be at this point?
Thanks for the sage words, kid. See ya on the flickering light box.