Michael, thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to talk to us. I just want to say how much I appreciate it, and what a fan of Sense8 I am, and have been since the premier.
Michael is well known for his role as Bug, who was the reason Nomi landed in jail, and as a result, has Bug’s everlasting loyalty. Here’s a clip:
Lana Wachowski is such a well-known director. Was working for her intimidating at all?
Of course! But only because I respect her so highly. After a while, however, it turned into trust.
How did you first hear about Sense8?
I got a call to audition for Bug from my agent. That was the first I heard of Sense8.
What made you decide to get involved with Sense8?
They asked. Simple as that.
Sense8 was a very unique show. When you read the script, did you realize just how different it was?
Not exactly. I knew that the Transgender issues surrounding Nomi were rather revolutionary and that my character, Bug, was right in the middle of that and that it was a very, very good thing.
I was thrilled!
What about Sense8 made you want to be part of it?
Everything about Sense8 made me want to be a part of it. The Wachowskis reputation, the deep, deep heart in the script and in the cast and crew, being a part of history… being on the right side of history! These were and are big deals to me. When Lily Wachowski told me that they check up on people before they are hired in order to see if they are nice… I was hooked.
Can you tell us a little about what it takes to bring a character like Bug to life? What makes him tick? Why he is the way he is?
I see Bug as someone who is very sensitive and feels the need to hide his emotional, sensitive side. I was like that, especially as a young man. If you don’t show your vulnerable spots, then people won’t attack you there.
But the truth is that I was very sensitive, I am very sensitive… like Bug.
To play Bug I would get myself all worked up… like I would worry about Nomi or I would be overwhelmed and full of love and gratefulness for what Nomi has done for me… but when Lana called “Action!” I would try to hide it. I would try to hide that I was full of love and caring and worry and self-doubt.
Like me, Bug tried to protect himself by hiding his emotions and sensitivities.
Bug tried to keep ”a stiff upper lip” and to “take it” and to act “cool”, but when Nomi rescued him time and time again… first by befriending him when he was suicidal in prison (this is my own version of Bug’s history), then by taking the fall for Bug so Bug wouldn’t face a long prison term, then by inviting him back into her life, then by trusting him and confiding in him about the Sensoriums, then by inviting him to Paris… Nomi made Bug feel valued, worthy, alive. He didn’t really understand why she would be so kind to some nobody like himself, “I’m just me, I’m just Bug” he’d think. But it worked. Nomi caused Bug to “wake up” and to admit that he loved Nomi and Amanita and that maybe he even loved himself. “I’m Bug!!!” Bug no longer wanted to hide his love and suppress his natural emotions, his human kindness and love – his Bugness. He’s a LoveBug!
Bug is so open and inclusive, has a tendency to be a little creepy but not at the same time. How do you play a character like that?
To me Bug is not creepy, he’s just out of practice. He has sequestered himself, hidden himself from other humans a lot in order to protect himself. He spends a lot of time on-line and alone, away from people. Maybe he comes across as being creepy sometimes, but he’s just honest. He would totally have sex with someone who looked as hot as Nomi… wouldn’t you?
On-line people can be really, really honest and so Bug just forgets that “normal” people aren’t supposed to say that out loud. He’s out of practice.
It’s not hard to portray this part of Bug, it’s fun, it’s liberating! You should try it!
What’s been the hardest scenes to film and why?
The hardest scene to film was Bug’s entrance in Paris, when I’m disguised as a FedEx guy. The reason it was so hard was because I was trying too hard. I really, really wanted to please Lana and show her how grateful I was. My mistake was that I thought I had to do it all alone, all by myself. I put too much pressure on myself, I was trying too hard.
When I stopped trying to SHOW my gratitude and started being grateful, in other words when I started trusting… trusting the crew, trusting that Lana had my back, trusting myself… this was the real gratitude to Lana emerging… I had learned what she had taught me.
How many countries did you get to go to while filming?
I filmed all over the San Francisco Bay Area, I filmed in Chicago, Berlin, Paris, outside of Paris and in Naples. U.S.A. Germany, France, Italy.
Did you get to meet the whole cast before the special that just aired?
I flew to Chicago and got to hang out with about 9 beloved members of this deep hearted, beautiful, talented cast. Together we all watched the Final Episode aired on the big screen at the Music Box in Chicago along with 700 of our dear friends, the fans of Sense8! That was a trip! So much fun! What energy!!!
We celebrated at Lana and Karin’s deep into the night and morning!
How did you hear about Sense8 getting cancelled? What was your initial reaction to that, and your reaction when you found out Sense8 was getting a special?
I got a letter from Lana. I could hear Lana’s crushing disappointment and along with my own disappointment, that was very hard to take. I went for a long walk in San Francisco where a young and beautiful Columbian woman, Laura, recognized me as Bug. She introduced herself and her German friend. I shared the bad news and we commiserated. I was very sad.
But the truth is also that I kept thinking… “I am so grateful to have been a part of Sense8!” and… “I am so grateful for Season 2!!!”… it was only during Season 2 that Bug became a full fledged regular character.
When I found out about the special I was elated! I was elated for me and my friends in the cast, but I felt very, very elated for Lana. And when I fully realized exactly how it came about… with the fans demands and their creative actions and unbelievable outpouring of love!!!… I cried.
Honestly, I didn’t really stop crying until we finished shooting… no, until the Fan Fest in Rome… no, until I saw the Final Episode in Chicago… no, I haven’t fully stopped crying. Tears of gratitude. I am so lucky to have been a part of this!
Was it hard coming back to film the special after the cancellation?
Was it hard having to fly to Berlin and Paris and Napoli and rejoin my beautiful friends, some of the most talented and nicest actors, directors, camera people, technicians and artists alive? Was it hard to be surrounded by the most beautiful, thoughtful and adoring fans in the world? Partying all night long on the Eiffel Tower? Following Lana and the gang to the best clubs and dinner spots in the world? Hanging out with some of my idols like Lana and Darryl Hannah and Neil Young? Was it hard to be a part of the most beautiful and revolutionary new art and culture? A vanguard revolutionary part of history? Leading the way towards a new compassion, connection and understanding between all peoples throughout a borderless new world while being treated like a cherished loved one by all of those around me? Was it hard?
Why do you think it was cancelled?
Politics. I figure Netflix, like every company, has different factions and opposing viewpoints within the company and that the “play it safe” crowd was temporarily in ascendancy.
Do you think there’s any hope for a third season, and if so, would you come back?
Is there hope? With fans like ours there is always hope. Would I come back? Hell yes!!!!
Can you tell me what the hardest part about filming Sense8 was?
The hardest part was trying to rise to the level of everybody around me. Lana Wachowski, John Toll, Brian Smith, Max Reimalt, Freema Agyeman, etc. etc. I knew that Sense8 was making history and I did NOT want to let anyone down, especially not Lana and especially not myself.
Oh, and the schedule. We filmed HARD!!! Long day shoots and then long night shoots and at the end of the week… long late parties!!! Dance it off!!!
Why do you think Sense8 touched so many people and connected so many through their love of the show?
There are a lot of people in this world who feel left out, ignored, unappreciated. A lot of people know, know, know deep in their hearts that they are good and worthy and valuable people, but they are sometimes shunned or ignored… or worse.
Sense8 says to them… No! You are worthy! You are cherished and loved!
You! You the gentle, the caring and loving! You the compassionate, the emotional and free! You the deep and warm hearted! Come! Come join us! We want you! We need you! We cherish you! You are the ones we want! The beloved! Come! Come now! We love you! And we will win! Together we will win!!!
How hard was filming scenes with Nomi and Neets when Nomi was interacting with the cluster?
It was kind of hard, yes, because, yes, the other actors were there. They were all there and we had to figure out who we could see and hear and who we couldn’t and we shoot fast, fast, fast on Sense8, so there’s very little time to think.
One time, we were in the BugMobile and the entire cluster was crammed into that little space and I am trying not to look or laugh at Toby who is being just hysterical and I look down and there’s Jarred (the world’s greatest lighting guy) and he’s hiding under the table getting some light on Freema or something and I almost lost it… this is too weird! I thought.
Freema and I were always discussing… “Wait, so Capheus is here, but Will is not, right?” “No, no, Will is here, we can see him. But Kala we can’t see, she’s in the club.”
Eventually I learned to just ask Jamie (Nomi). Jamie is some sort of genius about those things. Jamie always knew.
What are you working on now? Any new acting gigs?
“Sorry To Bother You,” a feature film that is blowing the top off is premiering July 6th and I can’t wait!
And I have two one-man plays, “HICK in the HOOD” and “HEART in the HOOD”. They are true stories about my life. I’m a small town Vermonter who lives in a rough and tumble inner-city neighborhood now in Oakland, California – drugs, guns, homelessness… and I love it! I have learned to love it! My neighborhood and thus my play is sort of like “Sense8” in that you end up falling in love with the outcasts, the people who society rejects. The homeless people, the Thugz, the parolees with the hearts of gold… you just fall in love with them! Well, I did.
I play 30 different characters, I sing, I play my harmonica and it’s all based on real, true, beautiful, compassionate people and events.
Next week I am performing “HEART in the HOOD” as a benefit to get hospice care into San Quentin State Prison… I am also working hard to slow down, enjoy life and to hug more nice people!
And lastly, fans have obviously had a big impact on this show. Do you have anything you’d like to say to them?
My beautiful friends, the principles espoused and portrayed in Sense8 are not meant for the screen only! Live! Love! Show compassion! Enjoy your life! Stand up against injustice! Support your friends! Get closer to your friends! Cluster up! Celebrate!
And if you have a friend who is going through something difficult… just be there. You don’t have to say anything, you don’t have to offer advice or try to fix their problems (but you might pick them up something at the store or take their dog for a walk). You don’t have to wail and show them how badly you feel for them. Just sit there nearby. They will feel your love. Just be there.
And lastly my friends, if you would, please come closer now. I have one more thing to tell you. Bend down a little lower, please, I want to whisper in your ear… you are one of us now and I love you. I want you in my cluster and in my life because I have grown accustomed to you and it would be too painful to part after all we’ve been through. I don’t want to be without you anymore. Not one more day apart. I am we and you are we. We are we and we are all together. Coo coo ca choo.