Friday, August 14, 2015

Actor Michael Dempsey talks about his career: Exclusive interview

NORWALK, Ohio — Being surrounded by high-school girls who praised his "Music Man" performance in high school was one of the things that compelled Michael Dempsey to pursue acting as a profession.

Michael Dempsey/Courtesy of Tim Dempsey
Having the senior girls say how cute he was — and how good he was on stage — made quite the impression on him.

"I stumbled into it," the 57-year-old man said about getting into acting. "If I'm going to be honest it was the girls."

Dempsey, a professional actor since 1983, talked about his career recently with Cary's Comics Craze in Norwalk, Ohio when he visited his brother, Tim, a Sandusky-based attorney.

During his career as a self-proclaimed "middle-class actor," Dempsey has been in about 400 commercials, 50 plays and 10 feature films.

"I've done 50 guest spots on television," he said.

One of those guest spots was playing a security guard in "The Big Bang Theory."

As he did on an episode of "Castle" when he played a victim's father, Dempsey's character interacted with the two main stars — in this case, Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons, better known as their nerdy characters, Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper.

"They were trying to get into George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch," Dempsey said.

Not many actors can see they played a cop who arrested Teri Hatcher.

But that's exactly what he did when he played Detective Murphy during his eight-episode run from 2009 through 2012 in "Desperate Housewives" — his longest recurring role.

"I got to arrest Teri Hatcher. I also got to act with all four of them," said Dempsey, referring to the other "Desperate Housewives" stars.

"I usually play authority figures on stage. I have a loud and compelling presence," said the friendly actor, who is jovial and personable. "I play a lot of detectives, cops and coaches. It's just my look."

Dempsey got his first taste at acting when he was 15 in "Music Man." His director requested he come up with a page-long biography of his character. So the teenage boy wrote about his character's relationships with his family and community members in 1910 Oklahoma.

It was during the third rehearsal when the director shared with Dempsey that he saw potential in his acting chops.

"The director called me over and said, 'You have some talent, so I'm going to expect more from you than less,'" Dempsey recalled.
Michael Dempsey/Courtesy of Tim Dempsey

After his "Music Man" performance was when the girls, mostly seniors, surrounded and praised the teenage Dempsey and pinched his cheeks.

"In that moment, I thought, 'Can I do this for a living?,'" he said.

Dempsey left the Cleveland area at age 23 to pursue his acting career. He moved to New York and studied at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Lauren Becall, Robert Redford, Edward G. Robinson and Danny DeVito are some of the most notable alumni.

Actress Halle Berry, a one-time
Bond girl, remains good friends
with Michael Dempsey.
He found his manager, Vince Cirrincione, who still represents Dempsey. ("I've been with him for 30 years," the actor said.) While in New York, Dempsey earned a reputation for doing great work in commercials.

"I was able to make a living. I was probably one of the top 10 commercial actors in New York for six or seven years," he said.

Three years into his professional acting career, in 1986, Cirrincione introduced him to actress Halle Berry, who also is from Cleveland. Dempsey helped her audition for the ill-fated "Living Dolls" TV series and the two have been good friends ever since.

"She's just as nice as you think she is," Dempsey said.

(For more about his friendship with Berry and Dempsey's most notable commercials, read the first part of CCC's exclusive interview with Dempsey.)
This is Michael Dempsey's mug shot
on the Internet Movie Database.

In 2000, Dempsey started his own film company.

"I called it Lakewood Pictures because I grew up in Lakewood," he said about the Cleveland suburb.

"I've done about six short films I've starred in and directed," Dempsey added.

As his Hollywood career continues, he wants to become a director and producer since those jobs will develop the skills he already has.

Dempsey was asked what advice he has for potential actors.

"Do theaters. Do plays because the audience will tell you everything you need to know," he said.

When asked to elaborate, the actor — who enjoys doing theater above all other acting possibilities — said the feedback is immediate; by being in front of an audience, an actor or actress will be able to tell if they are holding the audience's attention. Also, Dempsey said one's castmates can tell you how you're doing.

"Stage is the actor's medium. You can't be an actor in a classroom. You have to do it in front of people," he said.

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