EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Twilight’s Michael Welch On Life After The Saga
The young actor talks about shooting the popular franchise and his upcoming projects.
Twilight fans know Michael Welch as Mike Newton from the saga. But the 24-year-old star has been acting for more than 10 years. He co-starred in the hit TV show Joan of Arcadia back in the early 2000s, before he was cast as Bella's friend in the popular film franchise. The young actor has also guest-starred in a number of other TV series, including Law & Order and Bones.
Welch talks about Twilight, his upcoming projects and singing Adam Sandler's Chanukah song in front of his classmates in this exclusive interview.
You’ve been acting since you were a little kid. What drew you to act?
I always loved to perform. Every year at my elementary school talent show I would tell jokes and do impressions. This is where I initially discovered the excitement and joy of being on stage. At age nine, I went to an acting class, not with any intent to try it professionally, just as an outlet for my energy and as a place for creative exploration. After a year, I really began to develop an instinct and a passion for it, so I wanted to give it a try. My family already lived near Los Angeles and had a steady income so there was no pressure on me. My parents were nice enough to let me pursue it and provided me with all the support I needed to have success. I was very fortunate.
My natural skill set as a young boy fit really well with what it takes to be an actor. Acting encouraged me to develop everything I loved about life, and I was willing to completely dedicate myself to it. The combination of natural talent, work ethic, great teachers, and organic development with no added pressure gave me a foundation that has afforded me a career with relative longevity, in my short life at least. I have a long road ahead of me.
You’ve finished shooting Twilight. What are you going to miss most about filming the saga?
I really enjoyed playing Mike Newton. It was a fun, uncomplicated role that I connected with pretty easily. I'll miss Mike, but mostly, I'll miss hanging out and working with the people who I made good friendships with over the years. Making these movies kind of felt like summer camp. We would all get together once a year, far away from home, usually for about two weeks in my case, and create something together. We worked hard, but mostly, we just had a lot of fun.
Twilight has been a part of your life for many years now. What was the last day on set like for you?
I just tried to just take everything in with gratitude and joy. Experiences like that don't come around very often, so I really wanted to enjoy the moment, share it with my friends, be proud of what we had all accomplished, and be happy to have been a part of something so incredible.
What’s the funniest fan experience you’ve ever had?
The first time a girl cried when she met me was the funniest experience to me. I certainly wasn't laughing at her vulnerability, just at the situation. I almost felt like a con man, like I had somehow tricked this poor girl into thinking I was a really important member of society, that my very presence should cause her to shake and bring tears to her eyes. The first few months of the Twilight experience were really wild. It was 0-100 overnight. One minute I was just some dude, the next, crowds of people were screaming at me and some girls were suddenly crying at my feet. It's hard to describe what that's like.
You co-starred in Joan of Arcadia and you’ve appeared in lots of other TV shows, including Criminal Minds and Bones. Would you consider returning to television?
I would love to return to TV. There used to be a hierarchy in status, with films being seen as more legitimate or important than television for an actor's career. This is not the case anymore, as evidenced by Dustin Hoffman, Glenn Close, William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Laura Linney, Zooey Deschanel, Don Cheadle, Taraji P. Henson, Jeremy Irons, Steve Buscemi, etc., not to mention Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen. TV is consistent work, which is the best thing you could ask for as an actor. It doesn't matter how famous or successful you are. At the end of the day, we're all just trying to work.
I read that you sang Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song to explain the holiday to your middle school classmates. Are you still a Sandler fan?
I'm a huge Sandler fan. Happy Madison was headquartered right next to the Joan of Arcadia production office on the Sony lot, so I would run into him all the time. He was my "Hey" buddy. Whenever we crossed paths, I said "Hi," and he would say, "Hey, buddy." I certainly hope to have a more significant interaction with him down the road, preferably by working with him.
As far as the song goes, that's true. My assignment was to explain the holiday to my Gentile classmates. So I pulled out a fake guitar and sang the Chanukah song, leaving out any inappropriate language. Luckily, I was in a home school at the time with about eight kids, and the teacher was my best friend's mom. So I got an A.
If you could work with any actor or director, who would you pick?
I really love Darren Aronofsky. He always draws the most profound and moving performances out of his actors. And his films make such deep, unique statements about life that always ring true to me. I think he's an extraordinary artist and a master of his craft. It would be the thrill of a lifetime to work with him.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
My career has had many highlights. Every experience is a highlight as far as I'm concerned. My first job as Young Niles on Frasier opened doors for me out of the gate. I played Ian Mckellan's son in Ibsen's An Enemy of the People about a year later on stage. Star Trek: Insurrection was the first film I worked on. My appearance in Stargate: SG1 as Young O'Neil got me some incredible recognition in the Sci-Fi community. Joan of Arcadia was my first (and only) series and was on for two years. Of course, Twilight brought everything to another level. And since then, I would say that Born Bad has been the best post-Twilight indicator to my fan base that I have some range as an actor.
What advice would you give other young actors?
Acting is a beautiful thing but it's not for everybody. If you want in, you've got to go all in. If you're looking for the external amenities that come with a successful career, the fame, fortune, lifestyle, don't bother, it's not for you. If you have an inner drive to express yourself, to entertain, to inspire, to feed a creative hunger, to give a gift, to change the world, no one can stop you. Just put in the work, be unrelenting about your goals, and don't sabotage yourself, and you'll be alright.
You have a number of upcoming projects. What can you tell me about them?
Thanks for asking about that. Born Bad is now out on DVD and Unrequited will be out on DVD soon. Of Light and Darkness is in development and moving along nicely. Watch out for Chasing Eagle Rock and Rough Hustle. And most recently, I've finished filming The Boys of Abu Ghraib and Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch, both of which should be out later this year.