With his confident demeanor, charming smile and a rasping growl to his voice, it’s clear why Michael Xavier was cast to play Logan, the protective werewolf in Space’s original hit show “Bitten”. As he sits across the table from me on the patio at Zakkushi in downtown Toronto, I’m immediately aware that I’m in the presence of someone who is about to do big things. He gestures at my recorder, cracks a smile and says, “Let’s begin.”
Aside from the topic of my questions, I quickly forget that I’m sitting with one of the stars of a wildly popular TV show averaging 1 million viewers each week. Instead, I’m with Mike, a young Canadian actor from Ottawa who had dreams of being a professional athlete before a knee injury put him permanently on the bench. “I come from a big family. I have four siblings, I’m the middle child, so I have that attention seeking behavior. At my house, Sunday, dinner at the table, it’s just like everybody’s performing.”
Michael got his first acting experience when his parents introduced him to an agent when he was 8 years old. He was cast in a small role in the made for TV movie “Captive Heart: The James Mink Story”. It was there he interacted with Louis Gossett, Jr., and he credits that moment with lighting the acting fire inside him. He dabbled in it, but never took it seriously enough to imply it would one day be his career. It wasn’t until after Luther Vandross died, 10 years later, that Michael knew that acting was his true calling. “When Luther Vandross died, I was watching a biography on him, and it was talking about how he was in school and paying for school doing these radio jingles. And he was really good at the radio jingles. So (Luther Vandross) went home and told his mom, ‘I’m dropping out of school. I’m gonna follow my calling in music.’ And after I heard that story I decided I’m gonna follow this acting thing.”
His mind had been set on moving to LA, but his parents convinced him to enroll in acting school in Toronto. “I did two years of college, and I didn’t really connect with the teachers there. They were teaching a lot of different methods all at once, so I never really connected with one of them. Two years after college I was still searching. I felt like I had potential, there was stuff in there that I could really use, but I didn’t know how to get to it. And then I met my acting coach.” Michael said that meeting his acting coach was the most important opportunity he’s had to help launch his career.
The main component of Michael’s success is like most others: hard work. “You have to be the best you can possibly be. You gotta work on your craft, and don’t expect it to just fall into your lap. Stay focused. It’s one of the most competitive fields out there. You have to constantly be thinking about the other guy. There’s always someone out there who wants it a little bit more, so put in the work that shows that you deserve the opportunity.”
Michael has steadily been building his acting portfolio. He’s appeared in several TV series, including Rookie Blue and Nikita, and has larger projects in the works. The biggest project he has worked on to date, though, is Bitten. Based on the Women of the Otherworld book series, the show follows the dual lives the Pack werewolves as they navigate the human world. Michael plays Logan, a psychiatrist and close friend of the only female werewolf, Elena. The show is based, and is shot, in Toronto, and features a Canadian cast.
Michael brought up how important styling is to the production, and to an actor. “I think that the wardrobe speaks before you do. I like to start with the wardrobe from the ground, up. I can’t act in my own shoes. I need to feel the way the character is feeling, and I think that really begins with wardrobe.” When asked about the scenes where there is no wardrobe (werewolves undress before they change from human to wolf, and vice versa) Michael laughs and says, “It’s kinda fun. It’s for the story. But, you know, there’s typically a well-placed sock.”
When he’s not acting, Michael said he loves to write and is also a musician, mentioning that he plays guitar, harmonica, and can carry a tune. A big jazz lover, he was picking out the classic songs playing during dinner and was giving me a bit of a history lesson. His passion radiates, no matter what the topic, and that certainly carries over from real life to the stage. On his list of goals as an actor, he said he’d loved to perform on Broadway, and that he wants to play Sugar Ray Robinson in a biopic of the boxer. On playing a historical figure Michael said, “I think it’s best to embody what they stood for, to embody their energy, than to do an impersonation. You have to research. Acting is mostly about research. A lot of what my job is, is to tell an accurate and effective story.”
Up next for Michael will be Season 2 of Bitten, where we’ll see his character Logan go through a lot of changes, and have his character become more prominent in the story line. He also hinted at a role in an upcoming TV miniseries based on The Book of Negroes. As he heads out he tells me he’s going to meet up with the rest of the cast of Bitten. Everyone has just flown in to begin filming, and it’ll be like a family reunion. He gives me a big hug and thanks me for my time. His gratitude and humbleness are perfectly matched to his charm and cool swagger; the ultimate Canadian star combination. This is only the beginning for him, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.
Catch Season 1 of Bitten on CTV Saturday night’s at 10pm, and watch for Season 2 premiering early 2015 on Space.
Place to unwind
Trinity Bellwoods, I think it (embodies what) is Toronto.
Back to the Future, Malcolm X, A Street Car Named Desire
Hidden gem in Toronto
Interview by Jessica Thompson
Interview photos – Gerrard Rosales
Set photos - Steve Wilkie
Michael’s head shot - Natalie Caine