I recently got the opportunity to talk to Joel McKinnon Miller about his role in JJ Abrams new film, ‘Super 8’. Here, Joel talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on the film and about how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Joel. Thanks for taking the time out to speak to me about your new film ‘Super 8’. I’ve watched the trailer and it looks fantastic.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of the film before, what is the general plotline?
Hey Matt. ‘Super 8’ is about a group of teenagers from small town in America in the 1970’s who write and film a movie. They end up getting more than they bargained for in the form of military cover ups and aliens. To me ‘Super 8’ is like a cross between ‘E.T.’ and ‘The Goonies’.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play Charles’ father. Charles is the director and ringleader of our band of young filmmakers.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I got involved with ‘Super 8’ by auditioning for the role. I think I got the part because I looked like I could be the father of the actor playing Charles (Riley Griffiths).
The film stars Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths and Ryan Lee – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? It must have been great to work with JJ Abrams, who is foremost recognised as one of the best directors of the 21st century…
When you first start working with a young cast you’re not sure what to expect. It was clear from the beginning that these were some talented kids that showed up prepared and ready to work. Quite professional. The lead role of Joe is played by a young man named Joel Courtney. This was Joel’s first film and he is terrific. I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot more of him as well as Elle Fanning in the near future. It was a treat to work with JJ has well. JJ wrote and directed ‘Super 8’. He was very clear as to how he wanted the film to look and feel. It was like JJ had the whole film already shot in his mind. He was able to move from one shot to the next – briskly and yet with incredible ease.
If you encountered an alien creature on a set of train tracks – what would you do?
If I came across an alien on a train track I would stop, look, turn and run like hell in the opposite direction.
Let’s talk a bit about you Joel. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I grew up in a little town in Minnesota. When I graduated from high school I left for college (also in Minnesota) and started out as an opera singer. I eventually switched to musical theatre. After college I auditioned for John Houseman’s The Acting Company and toured the United States for three years performing Shakespeare. This experience brought me to NYC where I worked off-Broadway as well as regional theatre in and around the east coast. During this period I met my future wife (we’ve been married 27 years), had two children and set out for Los Angeles in 1991 to start a career in film and television.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in acting?
I would suggest they get as much experience as possible. Go to classes, study at a university or a conservatory, sign-up to act in student films, virtually work on anything that comes along. When your break does come along, you are ready.
What is currently on your I-Pod?
My I-Pod has a lot of Bruce Springsteen on it, various opera pieces, some great blues from a local L.A. artist named Keb Mo, bluegrass (Jerry Douglas), a little U2, Sinatra, Buble, and a bit of ska.
You’ve had a number of different roles on a range of different mainstream projects – who has been your favourite actor to work with so far and who has given the best advice to you?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with many famous actors and directors. Each one has left me with a new lesson learned. I would have to say the person that I enjoyed and learned the most from would have to be Bill Paxton. I worked with Bill for five years on a HBO series called ‘Big Love’. We filmed the pilot in 2004 and ended our run in 2011. So it was more like 7 years off and on. Our scenes would work in one or two days and we would have the best time. We were both always prepared and ready to give our best. We would often end our day with a beer and we’d talk about the show and our families and how fortunate we were.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
Our economy here in the U.S. as well as around the world has currently got my attention. Like it or not…
What’s coming up for you in 2011? I hear you’re in post production on a film called ‘Rushlights’…
I’m a very fortunate actor in that I have terrific representation. They’re always working hard to find another show or movie for me to audition for. ‘Rushlights’ has been in post for a while and hopefully that will be out there soon. I have just worked on a show called ‘Workaholics’. You have to have faith in yourself and the folks that are working with you that we’ll just keep this train rolling.
Thanks for the interview!