Check out our interview with actor and comedian Michael Judson Berry.
Michael is currently starring in the feature film ‘Milkwater’ opposite Molly Bernard and Robin De Jesus. The film is performing quite well on the festival circuit, winning “Best Screenplay” at the Brooklyn Film Festival and “Best Narrative Feature” at the Indie Street Virtual Film Festival.
Michael’s hilarious impersonation of the Schitt’s Creek character, Moira Rose and her quirky show “QuaranTeaTime” has gone viral across social media! Following the sweeping Emmy Award wins for Schitt’s Creek, Michael’s TikTok video of Moira Rose accepting her Emmy is everything fans have hoped for. Even Emmy Award winner, Catherine O’Hara, approves of Michael’s viral impression of her character Moira Rose, saying “He’s really got it down. And he writes funny dialogue for himself too. He’s really good.”
Follow Michael @mjudsonberry
Hi Michael, please tell us a little about you?
I am an actor/writer from Syracuse, NY. My Dad is a Lawyer, former musician, and occasional Motorcycle Racer, and my Mom is a Clinical Psychologist who ended up having to give the “sex talk” to my class in Catholic School…Needless to say, I had an interesting upbringing. I got into theater when I was six and have been performing ever since! Along with acting, I’m an avid traveler (My fabulous older sister is my go-to travel buddy), old Hollywood aficionado, and coffee shop connoisseur.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
I’m a “Fun-loving Cultural Antiquarian”
How did you get started into acting?
When I was six my Mom took my sister and I to audition for a local production of The King and I. We both ended up getting cast…my sister hated it, but I loved it! After The King and I, I was cast as the understudy to Oliver in a regional production of Oliver. I’ll never forget the first night I went on for the lead, sitting in that spotlight belting out “Where is Love”, that was the moment I fell in love with performing.
How has this changed your life?
I’ve definitely led a more non-linear path than most of my friends who chose “traditional” professions. Being an actor, I don’t have the stability or consistency that comes with having 9-5 job, which can be very difficult and stressful at times. But on the flipside, I’ve had some incredible adventures all over the world, with a lot of truly wonderful people. Even the many, many “survival” jobs I’ve had over the years having given me the opportunity to meet some extraordinary people; and I think working those jobs has made me a more empathetic and patient person than I would have been otherwise.
What is the best and worst part of being an actor?
The best part, for me, is the opportunity to escape real life for a moment, for both me and the audience. I love a telling a story and going on a little journey together…especially if it’s a comedic one!
The worst part is the instability. It can be quite nerve-wracking to finish a contract and have no idea when I’ll book my next show.
Tell us about your work in feature film “Milkwater?”
“Milkwater” is a beautiful film written and directed by Morgan Ingari. The story follows a young woman named Milo (Played brilliantly by Younger’s Molly Bernard) who rather rashly decides to become a surrogate for an older gay man she meets in a bar. We get to follow Milo’s emotional journey over the course of her pregnancy, and how it affects her already existing friendships.
I play Teddy, the boyfriend of Milo’s best friend (Played by the wonderful Robin de Jesus). Much like the Ted on “Schitt’s Creek”, Teddy is a very sweet, yet slightly oblivious guy who definitely provides some of the lighter moments in the film.
I feel very fortunate that everyone who worked on “Milkwater” was really friendly and fun! I had an absolute blast filming this project…even on the days when I had to run around outside in shorty shorts and flip flops in freezing cold weather!
What is the feeling to have won the “Best Screenplay” at the Brooklyn Film Festival and “Best Narrative Feature” at the Indie Street Virtual Film Festival?
Immense pride! I’m thrilled for our fearless leader Morgan Ingari. she put so much hard work and love into this film. These accolades are very much deserved!
How do you prepare for a role?
I actually had very little time to prepare for this part. I received my audition scenes around 9am and had to have a tape sent to the casting director (The fabulous Matt Glasner) by noon! So, I made a quick decision that Teddy would be kind of like Alexis from “Schitt’s Creek”…if Alexis was a young gay man living in Hell’s Kitchen, and then I built from there. Luckily, Morgan Ingari is a very supportive and patient director and would let me improvise and play within the script she’d crafted. So, I just tried to give her as many options as possible while still staying true to her vision. It also helped that all of my scenes were with Molly Bernard and Robin de Jesus, who are both phenomenal and very playful actors.
What other projects you have been part of?
I’ve done a lot of productions over the years, but two favorites that come to mind are The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at Florida Studio Theatre, and the National Tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot.
Curious Incident was such a wonderful experience! I got to play seven different characters, each with a different accent (I love dialect work!), with a truly outstanding company of actors. It’s such a beautiful story, and I loved how ensemble based the production was.
Spamalot was truly a dream come true! I’ve been a huge Monty Python fan my whole life, so getting to do their show for a year and to perform it all over the country was incredible. I also got to meet Eric Idle! He came to see Spamalot when we played Los Angeles, and after the performance he came right up to me and said I was really funny! I didn’t think any experience would be great as that night, that is until Catherine O’Hara also said I was really funny!
What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?
I’ve always leaned towards more comedic roles; I love making people laugh. Laughter is so cathartic and such a gift, so being able to give people a little chuckle is the best feeling in the world.
Now tell us about your popular TikTok show “QuaranTeaTime?”
QuaranTeaTime has been such a happy and joyous accident! I realized this past winter that I could do a pretty solid impression of Catherine O’Hara’s character, Moira Rose, from “Schitt’s Creek.” So, when we went into lockdown, I thought it would be funny idea if Moira had her own pandemic talk show. I thought it would give me a sense of purpose, and my friends and family a much needed laugh. Now, almost 100 episodes and over twenty wigs later, it’s become an unexpected “International streaming sensation.” Along with Moira, I’ve worked in other characters, including the rest of the Rose family, Britney Spears, Cher, Henry Cavill, and a host of other original characters. It’s been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done!
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
All of the messages and comments I’ve received from people all over the world, saying that I’ve made them laugh and feel happy during an extremely difficult time. It’s an honor to feel that, in my own small way, I’ve made so many people happy and given them a little mental respite.
How would your best friend describe you?
I wasn’t sure, so I texted her, and this was her response:
“The most lovable goofball who will make you laugh until you pull a stomach muscle but will also sit up with you all night to talk through a dilemma or have a good cry together. Michael is the only person I can text a vague Bette Midler reference to, who will come back within 3 minutes with the song I was looking for. He is empathetic, intelligent, and always looking to grow or try something new (which I consider one of his most admirable and inspiring attributes). He also loves a morning routine and poop jokes.
Michael encourages me to splurge on the timeless jacket or Springsteen concert tickets (and he will also borrow the jacket and accompany me to the concert) but will just as strongly encourage me to put down the credit card when I’m about to buy something atrocious. Michael is an old soul whose taste in movies and music charmingly reflects that, and his ability to rock a “grandpa sweater” is bar none. Our friendship is one of my most cherished gifts.
So, to summarize: Goofy, smart, loves a poop jokes, old soul, and the absolute best bud a gal could ask for.”
What’s next for Michael Judson Berry in the last months of 2020?
I wish I knew! This is such a difficult time for actors, so I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m definitely going to keep making my QuaranTeaTimes, which will probably involve acquiring more wigs and fabulously outlandish outfits! I have a few more projects I’m beginning to work on, so hopefully those will come to fruition. Other than that, just enjoying some quality time with friends and family, and staying as positive and healthy as I can.
What is your own definition of happiness?
Being content with who you are in the moment that you are in.
Much of my personal worry comes from thinking about the future or regretting decisions I’ve made in the past. I find I’m truly happiest when I am living entirely in the present and enjoying every second of it!
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Dame Maggie Smith! Maggie Smith is my favorite actor. She’s worked with some of the greatest artists in history in some of most acclaimed venues in the world, and I would LOVE to have lunch with her and hear her stories. If Judi Dench could join us as well, that would be amazing, I hear she and Maggie are good friends.
Best advice ever given?
Over the course of my whole life, my Mom has periodically repeated the “Muppets Take Manhattan” quote, “peoples is peoples.” I don’t know if this is necessarily advice, but it always felt like it. It felt like my Mom reminding me that, at the end of the day, no matter where you’re from or what you look like, we’re all equal and we’re all special because, “peoples is peoples.”
Do you support any charity?
Yes, I am a big supporter of the LGBT Center in NYC. They do such amazing work that helps countless people. Their website is https://gaycenter.org/
Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?
In a perfect world, where all dreams come true, I have my own talk/sketch show like The Carol Burnett Show. I’d love to host something like that, where I am part of a regular company of actors, and each week we welcome a different guest star.
Then of course during the hiatus between seasons I’d get to do wonderful plays like The Importance of Being Earnest, Boeing Boeing, or Richard II at different regional theaters around the country. Oh, and I drive a brand-new Volvo and have a small dog named Captain Jack.
Favorite song? Why?
“Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” – I love the message! It’s a reminder that life is short, so live, laugh, and love as much as you can!
What do you think of Social Media?
I used to be really bad at it, up until a few months ago I only had Facebook and Instagram. Recently I’ve grown to embrace and love it! I think we’ve entered a new and exciting sort of technological vaudevillian age, where artists like me can pop on a wig, sit in our kitchens, and still reach people all across the world. I’ve had a great time discovering the amazing amount of talent on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Although, I will admit, Twitter is still a bit of a mystery to me.
Where we can follow you?
Quote: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Singer: Sammy Davis Jr.
Actor: Maggie Smith
Painter: JMW Turner
Author: Amor Towles
Movie: A tie between Mary Poppins (Childhood favorite) and Clue!
Travel Destination: Tie between Antarctica and Egypt
Sports Team: Chicago Cubs
TV Show: The Durrells in Corfu
Book: It’s a tie between The Little French Bistro, by Nina George and Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
Photo Credit: Ryan Baker