Michael Beach: Playing the Characters You Love to Hate

(Photo credit: Instagram)

By Barry Anderson

The versatile, classically-trained actor and performer Michael Beach has accumulated a great body of work from award-winning movies to critically-acclaimed TV shows, but for some reason, the super-talented actor has a knack for playing characters people love to hate.

Beach first came to prominence as the charismatically unfaithful husband in Terry McMillan’s adapted novel, Waiting to Exhale (1995), and on the hit medical drama, ER (NBC, 1994-2009), playing a man who infects his ex-wife (Gloria Reuben) with HIV.

Later in his career, he played the cheating husband in the beloved feature film, Soul Food (1997). He continues to act in both movies and TV like on the long-running NBC drama Third Watch and the award-winning movie, If Beale Street Could Talk.

One of his latest project, Truth Be Told, is part of Apple TV+’s new string of original programming, with executive producer and star Octavia Spencer portraying Poppy Parnell, a true-crime investigative reporter and podcaster drawn to reexamine a case she played a pivotal role in years ago.

This comes after a successful run on the hit TV series, The 100, where Michael, once again, played a bad guy, Pike.

“That was one of the more enjoyable characters I’ve played,” explains Beach to BCR.com. “Because even though 99% of the fanbase see him as a bad guy — not just a bad guy, I think he’s the most hated character of that show, which is fine, I don’t mind — I have a lot of empathy for Pike and what he’s been through.

I’ve been hated on social media but I don’t put much stock in it; I don’t argue with people on social media and it’s not my job, it’s not up to me to determine how people feel about a character that I play.”

“I’m a pretty intense worker, but I love to have fun. Like I can’t just be intense like that all the time on the set.

So I really do love joking around and having a decent time in between scenes.”

“Obviously, if there are actors that don’t do that in-between takes, I don’t force my feelings on them.

I let them be wherever they need to be, and I stay away from them needing to go through whatever process they go to.”

On changing his body

One noticeable change about Michael is his chiseled body. Now, at age 57, he’s a self-proclaimed “gym-rat” and in the best shape of his life. His body even graced the pages of Men’s Fitness magazine.

“Two years ago at age 55, I was surprised to learn that @muscleandfitness was gonna put me on one of their pages.

I started reading bodybuilding magazines in the 70s and even though my interest has ebbed and flowed over the decades I was psyched to be in a fitness magazine.

I’m not specially trained or certified as a trainer and my knowledge is very limited about training and nutrition but I keep at it! I make strides forward and I make mistakes but I keep going.”

“Here in 2020 I just started my #newyears2021 resolution to be the fittest I’ve ever been by far! I know it’ll take serious dedication, consistency and a quality diet but I’m calling myself out here on IG to give myself that added incentive to be accountable for doing what needs to be done in order to get what I want!”

Another noteworthy performance for Beach was his character in the film, If Beale Street Could Talk. A role that concerned him because of one particular scene.

“Not just in today’s world and all that’s going on with the empowerment of women and the different kinds of abuse that have been going on in this business, for me to strike another woman on camera, and particularly for some of my past work in Waiting to Exhale, Soul Food, and even in E.R, I was concerned about how that would play.

Oddly enough, I haven’t heard anything concerning that for those particular reasons. I think people are really connecting to the horror of the scene.

It’s a movie about love, trying to understand what’s going on, people have an understanding of what Frank is going through and where he comes from.

What was said was so mean and disgusting. I felt that in the room. Aunjanue Ellis was just fantastic in that scene.”

“I just want to do a variety of things and sometimes it’s hard as a journeyman actor as I am.

A lot of times you play very similar roles because that’s what they want to see you do.”

“I’ve played a lot of good guys and bad guys. I’m always hoping I can do something beyond what I’ve done before.”

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