In the calm before the New Moon storm, I had the chance to catch up with Michael Welch, who plays the smitten high school boy who longs for Bella Swan in The Twilight Saga.
Celebrity Extra: Things must be getting really crazy for you as you gear up New Moon’s opening (nationwide on Friday, Nov. 20). Are you going to be able to get any sleep at all this week?
Michael Welch: Funny you should mention that, because I’m running on very little sleep as it is. It is crazy. I didn’t see how it could get any bigger than Twilight, but it seems like we’re gonna be topping ourselves with New Moon.
CE: Of course I have read all the books, and I know Mike Newton features prominently in New Moon, but I’m wondering how much a screen time he gets in movie. Is it comparable to Twilight?
MW: I haven’t seen the movie yet, but from what I keep hearing, my screen time is at least comparable to Twilight, if not a little bit more, which is fantastic. That great scene in the book — that awkward three-way date between Mike, Bella and Jacob — was not in the original script for New Moon. There is a very important moment that happens between Jacob and Bella, and they just took that moment out and put it in a different scene. Luckily for me Kristen (Stewart) and Taylor (Lautner) lobbied the director to get that scene back in the film, because they thought it’s a really funny scene. It sort of takes that very awkward Mike-asking-Bella-to-the-prom moment and taking it to the next level. So I am very grateful to those two for asking to get that scene put back in.
CE: Was that scene fun for you to shoot?
MW: It was so much fun to shoot. I am really glad I had the chance to do it. It’s just one of those moments — and I think we all have these kind of moments in life — that’s just a perfect storm of awkwardness and embarrassment. As an actor it was certainly a lot of fun to do; as a character, Mike didn’t enjoy it so much.
CE: I have to tell you, when I read the books, Mike Newton was really irritating to me — but I absolutely love your portrayal of him. You make me like Mike. How much of Michael Welch do you bring to Mike Newton?
MW: Thank you very much; that was very sweet. One of the things I noticed right away about Mike in reading the book and the script was how similar he was to me and my high school experience. I had an almost identical situation: a girl I was head-over-heels in love with who was into somebody else.
CE: Was he also a vampire?
MW: Ha! As far as I know, he was not a vampire. But I think that unrequited love, particularly in high school, is something everyone can relate to. I brought a lot of myself into it. I tapped into my own high school experience. I always felt that Mike was a great character; I just needed to bring it out of him.
CE: Along with you as Mike, I love watching Anna Kendrick as Jessica.
MW: I know — she is amazing, isn’t she? She’s a really smart actress. The way that she describes Jessica is that she is every girl ever. She is just a very typical kind of high school girl, and she has a lot of fun with it. And it’s funny because she is totally opposite of that character; she’s nothing like her.
CE: I also heard that you originally auditioned for the role of Edward — is that true?
MW: Yes, I did. Usually your agents will send you in for the main roles, but if you’re not right for that, you try for the “lesser” roles. I will admit, Edward was not my best audition. I did my best, but it wasn’t really working. When I went back in to read the second time, it was for Eric Yorkie. I played that big and kind of obnoxious. It was close, but it still wasn’t working. Eventually we found the right fit with Mike. It just felt right to me, and I think it worked out perfectly.
CE: What have been some of the crazier or stranger things that have happened to you at Twilight fan events? I would love to go to one of those, but those screaming girls scare the heck out of me!
MW: I totally understand! But, it’s certainly not as crazy for me as it is for the Big Three: Rob (Pattinson), Kristen and Taylor. I actually just heard that someone set off a fire alarm at a hotel Rob was staying out so they could get him outside the hotel so they could meet him (Author’s note: Do not try this yourself; it is a Federal offense!). Nothing like that has happened to me.
Some of the more intimidating experiences have been with some of the Twilight Moms, who overall are really great and wonderful. But I have to say, I have been attacked by a cougar on one or two occasions. But overall they are really not that bad; they’re not harmful. They’re great.
CE: Has the incredible international success of the franchise opened doors for you that you might not have had opened otherwise? Do you still have to audition for things, or do people say, “Get me that Mike guy from Twilight”?
MW: I have been getting more offers now than before Twilight. It definitely has opened doors for me, career-wise. I am certainly not at the point where people are kicking down my door, but I’ve always felt that the best way to build a career is one brick at a time. I’m taking things as they come, and trying to build this career organically and from the ground up and have a good foundation. I want to be here for the long haul; I want to do this for the rest of my life. I’m not looking for anything instant.
CE: Can you tell me about your lead role in the movie Unrequited (which opens next summer, a week before Eclipse)? It’s looks like a really good psychological thriller.
MW: Unrequited is really exciting. It was a lead role for me; that was definitely a door that opened up because of Twilight. Basically it is about a young man who is — let me put it this way: It is a departure from Mike Newton, certainly, but in a lot of ways, it’s what would have happened to him if he’d had a psychotic break and decided to kidnap Bella. The simplest way to describe it is it’s a modern-day take on Misery. Really, at the end of the day, it’s about love and the effect that love has on people. It explores the idea of what love is and how far some people will go to hold onto love. I think it’s a unique film in that this character, who does all these horrible things, is actually pretty sympathetic at the end of the day. If the film is effective, you should be rooting for him, because you see the process of his meltdown and see the unraveling, and you can understand. I am very excited about the film, and I hope that a lot of people get to see it.