By Kate Oczypok | November 27, 2017 | People
Tony Award-winner Michael Cerveris is a busy man. Between juggling roles on Amazon's The Tick, Fox's Gotham, and the upcoming Steven Soderbergh series, Mosaic, for HBO, Cerveris has managed to also record a new holiday album with his band Loose Cattle. The actor and musician chatted with us about doing it all, and how his small-town upbringing influenced who he is today.
You’re a busy man! Can you tell us more about your acting projects you’re working on such as The Tick, Gotham, and Mosaic?
MICHAEL CERVERIS: Mosaic was really a fascinating project. It’s potentially groundbreaking as to how stories are told on TV from this point on. It was really interesting to work on it as it wasn’t a traditional script. I was really only given the scenes we’d be doing on a particular day. We weren’t able to do a whole lot of background work or character investigating. You really just had to show up and be very present and in the moment because that was sort of all the information you had. Sometimes characters had to shoot several different scenes different ways depending on who’s story they were following. That meant you had to also be able to let go of what you thought you knew from one version to the next and kind of be in this new present version. It’s an interesting challenge as an actor to do essentially what you’re always trying to do, to be in the moment and very present. It was really you’re only option.
You’re in a band called Loose Cattle. What's this we hear about an upcoming holiday album?
MC: I formed Loose Cattle with my singing partner Kimberly. We’ve been going since 2011 and we intended it to be fun, casual, and a loose thing that was based more on playing music than where it was going to take us. I play guitar and sing, Kim sings too. We have a core group of musicians that play with us all the time and then other fiddle players, mandolin, and banjo, depending on who’s available for any given gig. We gathered them all together for these Christmas singles.
Every year we do a Christmas single and get together a day or so before Christmas and we’d learn a Christmas song, make a quick recording, and put it up on the web as a free present to the world, to friends, and family. After a few years of doing that we thought maybe we should do more songs and put them into an album. I’ve always loved Christmas music. There’s just something about songs that are written for a particular time of year that mean so many different things to so many different people. This album is for people who struggle through Christmas sometimes. It has more heartening, encouraging and jolly songs but also has a lot of songs that are honest about that it’s a difficult year for a lot of people.
What do you love most about performing live?
MC: I love at the very basic level the communal experience that live performance is. I’m not sure audiences understand that they really are half of the experience. Standing in a room by yourself with nobody there is not all that satisfying. Whether you’re playing music or doing a play it’s got its roots in a deep human need. It’s rare these days we have shared experiences in the same time and place. I think when we get to do that we get to recognize our humanity and shared humanity—faults, struggles and occasional victories. We’re all trying to get through life in the best way we can and coming together in one place to recognize that kind of thing really moves me and means a lot to me.
You were born in Bethesda, Maryland and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. Do you feel like where you were raised contributed to who you are today or were you always itching to get to the city growing up?
MC: All of what I remember growing up is really Huntington. I wasn’t really that kid who was dying to get out to the big city. I loved my life in West Virginia. As a kid I didn’t have the vision to even think about what I might do. My dad was from Pittsburgh and my mom was from Massachusetts and they met at Julliard. We were exposed to a lot of culture and the world beyond the county lines in West Virginia. Even though I grew up in a small town I was being exposed to a lot of the world. My parents would drive us to Cincinnati to see the symphony or to cultural events in my hometown. I felt satisfied and perfectly happy there. My parents were concerned I wouldn’t be able to explore everything I could in West Virginia. There was a chance to go to Phillips Exeter for my last couple years of high school. I struggled in a deep way with my decision to go there. Even at the age of 15 or 16, I recognized I was really happy where I was and could imagine myself always living there but somehow knowing that if I left I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be content with life in Huntington again. Another piece was me knowing I should push myself, and stretch, and learn more. I decided to go to the school and I think it was the right decision. I’ve been in West Virginia a lot more often these days. I’m going to sing with the Huntington Symphony for a Christmas concert. As I get older, as much as I’ve been grateful and happy and proud of everything I’ve gotten to do, there’s a part of me that still wants to just live in a small town and have a very simple life. I know I’m romanticizing that to some extent.
If you could make a musical about anything what would you want it to be about?
MC: I really love animals. I’m a dedicated dog owner. I have an adopted dog named Evangeline—a rescue from down south. I had a dog for 16 years before that. I’d love to do some kind of musical that would involve real animals or puppet animals.
What’s next for you?
MC: It’s interesting right now, a lot of things I’ve been working on the past year or so are all kind of happening at once. Between The Tick coming out on Amazon a little while ago, Mosaic now coming out and Gotham which has been more fun than I knew was possible on a TV show. Loose Cattle will work on our first record of mostly originals once the holiday stuff dies down. I don’t have any stage plans at the moment but I’m sure I’ll be back soon. I’m enjoying all the television work right now. There’s not any one sort of big project looming right now, which is fun but of course always scary because like most actors I think every time a job ends that will be the last job I’ll have!