Thursday, August 13, 2015

'Middle-class actor' Michael Dempsey talks shop: Exclusive interview

NORWALK, Ohio — It's the rare actor or actress who can say he or she has been able to support themselves in the business.

"I'm proud of that because 90 percent of (actors) don't get to do that," Michael Dempsey said in a recent interview in Norwalk, Ohio with Cary's Comics Craze when he was visiting his brother Tim, a Sandusky, Ohio-based attorney.

"I'm considered a middle-class actor. I'm not a giant star, (but I) work constantly," Dempsey said.

An even more elite number of people have legitimate rights to call themselves a long-time good friend of an Academy Award-winning actress and one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. (More on who that is and how Dempsey met her after the break. I'll give you a hint: She has played a member of the X-Men multiple times.)

Michael Dempsey/Courtesy of Tim Dempsey
Aside from the occasional side job, Dempsey, 57, has been supporting himself as an actor for the last 32 years.

"I've been a professional actor since 1983," he said.

Dempsey and his brother grew up in Lakewood before Dempsey moved to New York, where he made a name for himself working in commercials. Since 1993, he has lived in Los Angeles.

"I left Cleveland when I was 23," Dempsey said.

He and his brother said he has had three "big" commercials — Febreze, Morgan Stanley and Preen — over the years. Dempsey said his "first big one" was for Jif peanut butter that aired about 15 years ago.
Logo courtesy of

Most recently, Dempsey plays Kenny in the Bank of America card commercial in which his character consistently misses basketball-like shots. His T-shirt doesn't make it into his gym bag, trash  bounces off the receptacle at a gas station and a head of lettuce crashes onto the floor of a grocery store, having hit the front of Kenny's shopping cart.

Then during a basketball game, he nails a shot in a game during a rec game. Kenny points to the stands as if to say, "See? I told you I could do it."

"They used Take 2," the down-to earth Dempsey said, smiling over the fact he hit nothing but net on the first try. "They filmed for four hours, but they used Take 2."

The commercial had a lot of play during the NBA playoffs, championship games and NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.

Michael Dempsey/Courtesy of Tim Dempsey
About five years ago, the Febreze ad aired.

"I'm laying on the carpet and they play charades over me. I'm smelling the carpet; they think I'm doing a clue," Dempsey said.

The Morgan Stanley commercial, which takes place at a wedding, aired about eight years ago.

"You think I'm the father of the bride, but I'm the financial advisor," Dempsey said.

In the Preen commercial, his character had one word — "flamethrower" — he used to attempt to get rid of weeds.

"At the end, I say I better get Preen," Dempsey said.

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

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

Check back here at CCC as Dempsey talks about arresting Teri Hatcher's character on "Desperate Housewives," his role as a security guard on "The Big Bang Theory," what genre of acting he enjoys the most and how he "stumbled into" acting at the age of 15.

Dempsey's resume on Internet Movie Database includes 104 movie and TV credits. Some of his TV roles were on "Castle," (in which his character had scenes with Nathan Fillion's Richard Castle and Detective Kate Beckett, played by Stana Katic) "Weeds" and four episodes of "Roseanne."

"I am proud of him and amazed by his talent. I enjoy the roles that are different than who he is; they must be the most challenging," said Tim Dempsey, who describes his brother as persistent.

The attorney was asked what he thinks it is about his brother and his talent that he's been able support himself as an actor.

"He is persistent and loves what he does," he said.

Good friends with a Bond girl 

And who exactly is this well-known actress Michael Dempsey knows so well?

None other than Halle Berry, who won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2002 for her dramatic role in "Monster's Ball."

Berry infamously played Catwoman in the much-maligned self-titled 2004 bomb and assisted Brosnan's 007 in "Die Another Day." There were rumors her tough-as-nails character, Jinx Johnson, might get her own film. Marvel Comics fans know Berry as the weather-controlling mutant Storm in the "X-Men" franchise.

It was 1986 when Dempsey's manager, Vince Cirrincione, introduced him to Berry, who was an up-and-coming actress at the time. Cirrincione introduced her as another actor from Cleveland, where she was born Aug. 14, 1966.

Dempsey helped Berry audition for the short-lived ABC TV series, "Living Dolls."

"I ran scenes with her," said Dempsey, who describes Berry as "stunningly beautiful."

As soon as Dempsey saw her talent, he knew Berry had potential.

"If she doesn't swallow her tongue (when she speaks), she'll be successful because she's a good actor," Dempsey said. "She's tough. She's just as nice (in person) as you think she is."

Courtesy of
While Dempsey and Berry have become good friends, they've never worked together. … Technically.

However, Dempsey played the Sheriff Dugan in two episodes of "Extant," the sci-fi series starring Berry, who plays the main character, Molly Woods.

"I didn't get to work with her, but she was the star of the show. (Dugan) got taken over by the aliens she was trying to stay away from," Dempsey said.

Over the years, Dempsey has become so close friends with Berry that when they are together and someone asks her how she got her unusual first name, she gives him the floor for the explanation. At this point, Dempsey gave a broad gesture, miming Berry gesturing to him and saying, "Mike. …"

"Her mother named her after Halle Bros.," Dempsey said, referring to an iconic Cleveland department store.

Come back to CCC for more from actor Michael Dempsey!


  1. I thought he looked like Burl Ives in the one shot where he finally makes a basket

    1. Ha! I hadn't thought of that, Christine, but I can see the resemblance.