Mike O'Malley '88 acts and writes in Los Angeles. In addition to roles on two current television shows, "Glee" and "Parenthood," he's published and produced plays in New York and Los Angeles, starred in the comedy "Yes, Dear" and in the action series "My Own Worst Enemy." His movie credits include "28 Days," "Pushing Tin" and "Deep Impact." You'll recognize him from his many screen roles, but might not realize he started as a UNH theater major.
Q: Are you living your dream?
A: My dream was to play center field for the Boston Red Sox.
Q: What happened?
A: I didn't even make the varsity at Bishop Guertin High School. I think my dream died in about 1983. I'm hoping desperately for a kind of "Heaven Can Wait" episode in my life where I buy the Red Sox and force myself to play center field. But that's unlikely.
Q: You never know.
A: The Red Sox are co-owned by the former partner of UNH grad Marcy Peterson Carsey '66, Tom Werner. So there is one degree of separation between owning the Red Sox and UNH.
Q: You're married with three children. I know because I read it on Wikipedia. You're on Wikipedia.
A: I know. Some of it's accurate. Some of it isn't. That's what happens when you have an encyclopedia edited by whoever wants to edit it.
Q: How do you balance career and family?
A: Thankfully we live in a time when, for the most part, if you decide that you want to be a parent, you can become one—whether it's through adoption or the old-fashioned way. When you decide you want to be a parent, it's got to be your first obligation. The hardest thing about being a parent and being in movies and television is sometimes you're away from home for an extended period of time, but I have friends who are salesmen or work in different fields and their jobs are very demanding, too. The hardest thing is parenting when your job can be going at all times. At the end of the day, there's e-mail to answer, text messages, phone. It's hard. The long and the short of it is, you have to decide that it's what you want to do. And you have to participate in things with your kids outside of the home, away from the home, because your home can be your biggest distraction—you have your computer, you have your mobile device. One of the ways I do it is coaching T-ball and basketball. I've offered to teach my daughter's ballet class but she's not interested in that. I told her I took Theater Dance at UNH a number of times; I barely graduated that class. If you're a theater major you have to take dance. Ask Gay Nardone all about it. She's still there.
Q: I'm sure you learned many valuable lessons in that class.
A: Yes. Not to go into dance. Not to consider dance a part of my repertoire. It's good when you can narrow down your fields of expertise.
Q: How old are your kids?
A: 7, 5 and 3.
Q: And your wife, what's her work?
A: She's a school psychologist.
Q: It all sounds very normal.
A: It's pretty normal. That's what everybody says when they come over here. It's a quite normal life. But it's designed that way.
Q: Do you ever get back to New England to watch the Red Sox?
A: I was at opening day this year. I used to get back a lot more before I had kids. It's getting harder and harder to come back while the kids are at school. They have games. Unless I'm at work, I'm not going to be like: "Hey, where are you tonight?" "I'm at a Red Sox game." But I also like to save the hall passes for playoff games. We watch all the games here and hope for the best.
Q: You're known for your baseball cap. Red Sox?
A: UNH. I've been wearing UNH lately for Dick Umile and the hockey team. They almost made it to the finals last season. We'll be rooting for them next year.
Q: What UNH experiences have stayed with you?
A: One of the things that was just amazing about UNH was just the quality of friends that I met there. I was involved in an organization called Freshman Camp, which is actually no longer there. I was in a fraternity that's no longer there. I was very involved in the theater department. It was a place where real quality friendships could be made. Those friendships have sustained me through all of the ups and downs I've gone through in life. The friends that I found there—especially when I was in New York struggling to be an actor and a writer—we would put on plays. Two of my UNH friends, Rick Munroe '88 and Jack Mungovan '88, were actors in my plays. We had a little theater company. All the people I went to school with—who weren't even actors—came down to support the plays. I gotta say there had to have been 30 people from UNH at my wedding in 2000. Twelve years after I graduated. Real strong friendships.
Q: That maintain your connection to New Hampshire, I imagine.
A: New Hampshire was so important to my upbringing that my wife and I started two scholarships for my former professors, Gil Davenport and John Edwards. They were instrumental in giving me opportunities—so we started scholarships for both of those guys. My mom was a career counselor at the adult learning center in Nashua. We've given a fair amount of money to them. New Hampshire made me who I was. There's a lot of people giving back to people in Los Angeles, and not enough people giving back in New Hampshire. I'm not going to be living in New Hampshire any time soon, but Nashua, the place where I grew up, and Durham, the place where I went to school, and Portsmouth where I lived the summer after I graduated, those are formative places of my life.
Q: You act and you write. How do the two compare?
A: I love acting. The problem with being an actor is not everyone sees you the way you might see yourself. So the opportunities that you hope for may never be given. I'd love to play an action hero. I'm unlikely to be cast as one. That's just the way things go. As an actor, you're not getting all the opportunities you'd like. I don't mean to diminish the opportunities that I have had. I still have to go out there and hustle for a job and hope for the best. I'm not sitting at my house turning down scripts. It's not like, What would you like to work on this week? You have to really hold out hope that someone will see you in the light in which you which to be seen. I got to be a spy on a short-lived TV series on NBC, "My Own Worst Enemy." It was me and Christian Slater. I was his best friend. I got to play a guy who was going around shooting guns and taking care of bad guys, so it was fun. Then that ended. With the writing no one's stopping you from writing down an idea, examining a philosophical question, or dramatizing a situation that you think is interesting. No one's preventing you from doing that. They may not want to stage it. They may not want to shoot it. They may not want to spend $2 million making a movie out of it, but you can still get up and do the doing. You can still dream that it just might happen. A writer can sit in his or her room and try to write a novel in the hopes that it might be of interest to some people and it might get published. No one's stopping you. In acting, you're often stopped. You go in and you audition. You want to be seen for a role and you're fighting other people and only one person can get it. That being said, I've been very lucky this year; I've been able to participate in what can only be dubbed a phenomenon, which is "Glee."
Q: You've been nominated for an Emmy for your performance in "Glee." How's that feel?
A: I'm happy to just be working, but it's phenomenal to be included in that company and to be acknowledged for your work. Anyone who's an actor just wants to act, just wants to do something their proud of. To be included with the best of the best, that's fantastic.
Q: In one episode your character defends his gay son from a bigot. I wonder what inner well you drew in that powerful moment.
A: Chris Colfer, the actor who plays my son, Kurt, has such a deep reserve of emotion available to him as an actor. It is easy to act opposite a person who is as awesome as he is. In our scenes, I just put my attention on him and listen, and react. Also, I think most parents would agree that bearing witness to the "life-pain" encountered by their child is harder to handle than their own personal struggles and pain—primarily because a parent feels responsible for introducing their kids to a world where people can be cruel. Being a father of three, it is easy to draw upon my own experience and love for my real children and my hopes that for their happiness and use it as an actor.
Q: You must have to really believe in yourself to keep going in this field.
A: I would say that's the most difficult thing. You have to get a tremendous amount of joy from the work to withstand the rejection and ridicule. It's certainly not nice to read some comments, people tearing apart your personal appearance. Or you've worked really hard on something and someone's completely trashing your performance. You're writing something you care deeply about, and it gets nasty. That being said, anyone who goes into this field has been forewarned. From the time I said I wanted to be an actor, people who hardly even knew me were warning me about it or making jokes about what restaurant do you work at. People just assume that you're going to fail. If you're stubborn and, well, some of is obviously a belief in yourself. But if being challenged in that way motivates you, that's one of the reasons you keep going. I'm going to prove people wrong. If someone's saying, Wow, it's really tough and you're going to have a lot of heartbreak, if somebody saying that prevents you from pursuing it, well, certainly, you're not going to have a chance.
Q: You have to take it. You have to move on. Can you laugh about it sometimes?
A: Oh, I laugh every day.
Q: What makes you laugh the most?
A: The fact that we just get uglier the older we get. That's the funniest thing. There's no denying it. Anybody who tells you differently is lying to themselves and the people around them. I look at myself and say, Wow, no wonder they came up with vows. No woman would decide to stay with me. I've been aging ungracefully for years.
Q: In that case, what super hero would you like to be?
A: I used to joke Aquaman but then they used that on "Entourage." I would have to say Superman. I would probably want to be Superman, because it's time they bring back a super hero with a gut.
Editor's note: In February, Mike O'Malley '88 will do staged readings of his play "Diverting Devotion" at UNH as part of the Arts for Life celebration.blog comments powered by Disqus