Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With ... Michael Nouri
March 9, 2015 12:00 AM
By Patricia Sheridan / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Michael Nouri hit the ground running when he co-starred in the 1983 hit film “Flashdance” with Jennifer Beals, set and filmed in Pittsburgh. Since then he has been on Broadway, in movies and on television, appearing in many hit shows including FX’s “Damages” CBS’s “NCIS” and Fox’s “The OC.” He stars in and co-produced “The Squeeze,” about golf and gambling, with Anne Archer. The 69-year-old is also in another film coming out later this year called “Street Level.” He has joined the cast of NBC’s new drama series “The Slap,” which airs Thursdays at 8 p.m.
You once said you could never do a 9 to 5 job.
[Laughing] Oh yes. The thought of a 9 to 5 job makes me cringe. I think it was a very brief stint in my father’s office in a life insurance company that drove me into a career of acting.
How did your father react to your not wanting to go into his business?
I don’t think anybody was ever more relieved to get rid of somebody. It was mutual relief [laughs]. We both acknowledged we were fighting a losing battle there.
He was not excited about me pursuing acting. He wanted me to have job security. I was of an age at the time when job security was not a concern, thanks to him. He had brought me up and schooled me and supported me, so he had afforded me the luxury of being able to choose in a way that he was not able to. I will forever be grateful to him for making it possible for me to follow my dream and my passion. It took quite a few years for him to be really proud of me, but in his lifetime he had an opportunity to enjoy my success. My mom was always very supportive of me pursuing acting because she was an amateur actress in community theater.
You have said it came easy to you and you never felt uncomfortable on stage. But did you ever have that feeling challenged?
Let me amend that first part. It would not be true to say I was never uncomfortable on stage. I am almost always uncomfortable on some level because I’m shy. Probably like a lot of performers, we do what we do because we are overcompensating for shyness and insecurity. I think the most nerve-wracking experiences have been on stage because you are vulnerable and there is nobody to yell, “Cut, we are going to do it again.” You do survive it. Does it shake your confidence? It can, but it is surviving those experiences that builds confidence.
Have you ever been so invested in a character that you find you think in character when off stage or set?
Oh yes, all the time. Most recently with doing “The Slap,” I’m playing this wonderful character that Jon Robin Baitz wrote for me. He is a Greek attorney who represents Zach Quinto’s character. It’s a week since we wrapped, and I said goodbye to my character and I miss him. I created a voice for him, and during the three months we were working on the show most of the time, when I was speaking to myself out loud, I would be speaking in his voice. I would comment on things the way he would see things. So yeah, the characters move into your life.
How long does it take for them to move out?
Eventually it just kind of evaporates and retires to the recesses of whereever those wonderful characters go. I mean, the ones that I am most fond of always stay with me, and I can call them up and visit them when I want. Sometimes when I’m alone, I have a party with all of these people [laughing]. I just have to be sure nobody is watching.
Does being an actor make you a more empathetic person since you have explored and expressed every emotion under the rainbow?
Oh, absolutely. It’s a very good question. Yes, it does generate empathy. It is impossible to portray a character if you have judgment. It can’t be done. If you are playing a villain, you have to find what is sympathetic about that character. You have to find the humanity in every character you play.
Are you comfortable with how it has all worked out?
Well [laughs], at this moment of this day that we are talking to each other because of “The Slap” and this character and this wonderful job that I have just been part of, absolutely, yes. It has been an amazing roller coaster ride, of confidence and moments of fear and insecurity, but the richness I have garnered from going on 50 years in this business, I have been richly rewarded.
One of the greatest gifts I have received in doing this is the awareness of the vital importance of acknowledgment. Acknowledging other people, truth and starting at a young age ... self esteem. If I were a teacher, there would be a required course in self-esteem and all that entails — how to feel confident; how to believe in themselves and focusing on who they are. That is the take-away for me in all of these years of being an actor. It is really focusing on who I am as a person. At this time in my life, I am really grateful for who I am and everything that has led me to this point.
I understand that you meditate.
I do it every day. I started meditating about 43 years ago. So it has been for most of my life. It calms me. It relieves stress. It puts me in touch with the best part of me, which is my heart. It makes me part of the solution rather than part of the problem. When the satisfaction is coming from within, then I just go out and enjoy how plentiful this world is, and I don’t need to be coming from a place of neediness. That is what I mean about being part of the solution.The quality of my life has been immeasurably enhanced.
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