From the Vehicle of…Michael Hyland

by Sara Israel

Don’t get me wrong, I love writers—I am a writer.  But for those of us who write words to be said out loud, we’re kind of stuck if we don’t have actors to speak them.  Preferably really good actors.  And so I’ve extended my pursuit of how artists work to include the Headquarters of nearly every Los Angeles-based actor:  the vehicle.

First up is Michael Hyland.  I first laid eyes on Mike when I saw him in Center Theatre Group’s provocative production “Of Equal Measure.”  I first met him in a mutual friend’s living room in front of a television airing a Yankees playoff game.  (I have the right to call it a “Yankees game” and not a “Twins game”—his team of choice—because the Yankees won.  To the victor belong the spoils.)

One of the really cool things about Mike as an actor is that he is equally adept with the classics (he is an a2 Member of The Antaeus Company) and gritty, contemporary fare (he appears in the film “Natural Selection,” which just swept the awards at South by Southwest).

Okay.  Onward. . .

Me: I’m asking this of all writers’ desks, so it’s only fair that I ask it of actor’s cars, right?  On a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you clean up your car before taking photos for me?

Mike: I will say zero, because I actually waited a few days to take the photos until the was significant “actor” detritus in my car, so that is kind of like a
negative 2 on the scale.  I did, however, fan out my scripts etc, so I will re-add
the two points for a sum of zero.  Was the answer to this supposed to just be a

Me: Well, it was supposed to be on a scale of 1 to 10!  Which doesn’t include “zero.”  So you’re already being difficult!  Moving on:  How much time each day do you typically spend in your car—on average?

Mike: I will say an average of five hours.  Today, for instance, I drove to my voice over agency in Burbank and then into Hollywood to make some head shot postcards.  This afternoon I am driving back into Hollywood to be a reader for a casting director, and then I am headed to Studio City to watch a taping of a sitcom that I shot this week.

Me: This is the TV Land pilot currently called “Soda Jerks,” right?  I want to make sure I get that plug in for you.  And for TV Land.

Mike: Yes!  My work was pre-taped, but I want to go cheer the cast on.

Me: Five hours feels to me like a lot of time in a car for one day.  To throw out a New York State Thruway reference, that’s a “road trip” from Albany to Buffalo every single day!

Mike: Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” is pretty much on a loop these days on my car rides.

Me: Until a couple of months ago, you had a full-time job, which you’ve recently left in order to free yourself up for a wider range of acting pursuits.  Which is a huge “leap”—Congratulations!  How have your driving habits changed since leaving that job?

Mike: Five hours is a lot, but my job was as a car messenger, so I would do all of the aforementioned kind of stuff and also make deliveries all over town.  At that point I was in my car about 12 hours a day, so I am making significant progress.  I am really tired of driving.

Me: No doubt.  It also explains the tremendous mileage on your speedometer!

Mike: I have a great book on tape suggestion:  “Blood’s A Rover” by James Ellroy and read by Craig Wasson.  It’s a gripping 26 hours of enjoyment.

Me: Wait, that sounds a little sarcastic.  Are you being sarcastic?  Because for me, “26 hours” coupled with “gripping” and “entertainment” is kind of an oxymoron.

Mike: You’re right.  “Gripping” is not really the right word.  It is genius though, and although I could have knocked it out in about a week, I rationed out my listening of it for about two months because I didn’t want it to end.  So good.

Me: I’ve already called you out on this privately long ago, but now I’m going to air it to the world. . . well, at least the portion of the world that reads this blog post.  Once upon a time, in downtown Beverly Hills, I spotted you in my rear view mirror.  You were driving your car (in practically stand-still traffic), and talking non-stop. . . to no one.  You didn’t notice me in the slightest.  It felt like a very L.A.-car experience for me.  And your look, as you spoke, was very, very passionate and emphatic.  Do you remember what your explanation was?

Mike: I think I said, “At least I wasn’t picking my nose.”

Me: Yes!  That was exactly your first comment.

Mike: And then maybe I said that “I had put my phone on speaker phone because I do not have a hands free device,” which is true.  I have been pulled over once already for talking on my phone and the second one counts as a point on your driving record.

Me: Our public service announcement for the day.

Mike: But that explanation could have been B.S., because I do talk to myself an awful lot in my car.  Twelve hours a day in your car can make anyone snap.  And I also often work on monologues and stuff while cruising this great city.

Me: Yes, your ultimate explanation/theory at the time was that you were working on a monologue you were studying with Antaeus.  You even said at the time what that monologue was.  It was a weighty one, but I don’t remember which.  Is this ringing any bells?

Mike: Yes!  Now that you mention it, it was an Agamemnon monologue from “The Greeks.”  In it, he is convincing Clytemnestra that he must kill their daughter so that the gods will allow them to sail after Helen.  Very beautiful monologue.  He speaks of the sea as “that grey shifting ghost.”  Beautiful.  The thing is, Sara, I may have just been singing.  I do a lot of that in the car too.

Me: It was not singing!  I know what enthusiastic singing looks like, even through my rearview mirror.  I can’t say I have other first-hand experience of what impassioned recitation from “The Greeks” looks like, but that’s what we’re gonna go with here. . . I’m moving on to these photos you sent me, which is all stuff I can “prove.”  I see some headshots peeking out from an envelope on your backseat.  Now granted, you are the first actor for this “official series” of mine, but my perception is that a pile of headshots is the requisite actor-car accoutrement.  Has there ever been an occasion that you were without a headshot when you needed one?

Mike: I can’t really remember a time when I needed one and didn’t have it. There are so many ways to direct people to my picture and resume these days: IMDB, LA Casting, Breakdown Services and probably a personal website soon.  If I didn’t have a hard copy it’s no big deal.

Me: Another example of “print” being dead.  But speaking of “print”:  Sides and scripts.  I see both in your car.  How long do each linger there?

Mike: The length of time that they linger varies quite a bit.  I am not a real organized person in the traditional sense.  I have so many different things that I am working on as an actor that I sort of need to see stuff in front of me to remember what I am working on next.  If it’s on the top of the pile, it is the highest priority.  If it’s in the front seat that means it is number one, if it’s in the back seat, I have already either learned it, performed it or I am superstitiously holding on to it because I am still hopeful of booking it.

Me: Is it someone’s birthday, or do Power Rangers just inspire you?

Mike: When I took these photos I was headed to the post office to send my nephew, Keegan, a birthday card.  He’s six.  I sound like a cool uncle, right?  Well, coincidentally, I just had that same card returned to me because I put the wrong address on the envelope.  So dumb.

Me: Is that a regular open mug in your cup holder?!  Do you drink your coffee in the car that way?

Mike: Yes! I do drink it that way.  It has recently been Earl Grey tea with honey,
though.  I am a little obsessed with that mixture these days.

Me: Finally, your trunk:  You didn’t include any photos of it.  When you sent me your photos you alluded to the fact that the trunk is full, but that it isn’t actor-related stuff, so you were withholding photographs.  [Note: Mike subsequently did send me a photo of the trunk’s contents, posted here.  This is either because I am completely awesome and deserved this photo, or because I bullied him into it.]

Mike: My trunk has jumper cables, jack stands—I fixed my own brake pads one time and I am still bragging about it—

Me: As well you should!

Mike: A blanket, engine coolant and a bottle of power steering fluid.  There is also a plastic clothes hamper from the 99 Cent Store that is supposed to contain all this junk, but doesn’t.  Also, a pair of Ugg boots that were given to me by the costume department when I filmed “A Christmas Carol.”  But a guy who fixes his own brakes can’t really rock Ugg boots publicly, so they never got past the trunk.

Me: Maybe not any “guy,” but an actor who fixes his own brakes and wears Ugg boots?  I can actually buy that.

Sara Israel is a writer and director living in Los Angeles.

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