By RYAN KING
Michael Stephen Perry is an actor who grew up in Stephenville and is quickly finding success. He will be starring in an upcoming film titled Residents of Arcadia. His career is taking off, but he seems to come by his talents naturally.
“I was always the class clown, but also very rebellious, black sheep of the family. I’ve loved being on camera since I was 8 years old. My older brothers would come up with short film ideas (vampires, mortal combat fight scenes, etc.) and my mom would film. That evolved into making short funny videos all through my teen years until I, along with five best friends, made a full-length comedy feature when we were 18 years old called ‘The Lost Boys of Shitville,’ about pretty much nothing,” laughed Perry, “besides the random and desperate need to escape boredom at all costs while growing up in a small town.”
Perry began to fall in love with the idea of becoming a professional actor. He decided to move to Vancouver in 2010 at age 20 to attend the Vancouver Film School.
“I’ve done plenty of shorts but recently started booking commercials as the lead spokesperson for NEXX smart alarm and RUX camping gear and of course the Residents of Arcadia movie. There’s also something in the pipeline for 2022 regarding a lead role in another feature film but it’s too early to release any other info,” teased Perry.
When it comes to creating a believable character, the actor believes that relationships with the other characters is key.
“When preparing for a character I start by going after my objectives. What do I want from the other characters? What is my relationship with the other characters? And build from there,” said Perry. “I put myself in the character’s shoes as much as possible. If the character has done something in the scene that I haven’t done in my real life, then I’ll just substitute that emotion with something similar in magnitude that I’ve done in my actual life. I try to react to what is happening in the scene and in that moment as much as possible. It’s a forever craft that you never quite complete but you grow a little more masterful at it with every project. That’s the beauty of it.”
Perry believes that it takes both natural talent and proper training to become a successful actor.
“In my experience talent is only maybe 25 per cent of what it takes get the job, or the call, etc. Training and knowing what you’re doing skillfully is about 25 per cent. Then of course there’s the last 50 per cent-ish, which is just believing that you’re enough to do this. It took me a while to get the ball rolling because it’s difficult to actually believe that a small town Newfie kid can do this, but only once I started believing in myself, and switching my mindset to ‘This is my true path,’ only then things started happening for real,” shared Perry.
While not all of his roles were easy, some also provided unique challenges.
“I once played a sadistic dentist who tied down a man only to rip out all of his teeth. That was a little challenging to drop into,” laughed Perry. “In Residents of Arcadia I’m a bit of a jerk most times, so it was often hard to have that mentality and then off camera be kind and respectful towards other crew members.”
Perry prefers comedic roles, which is unsurprising given his class clown roots.
“Comedy all the way. My dream would be a comedic lead on a TV series. When doing comedy everybody on set has this energy of ‘Let’s be funny,’ so it’s just a great vibe to be around on and off camera.”
His love of comedy is also reflected in the actors he looks to for inspiration.
“Jim Carrey has been one of my main inspirational influencers since I was probably 10 years old. Also Chris Pratt, because the guy started out auditioning here and there and literally living in a van and eating scraps off of plates at the restaurants he worked at and now he’s a global movie star,” said Perry. “And for straight up serious drama I would have to go with Leo DiCaprio. He’s one of the few child actors who’s held it together beautifully his entire life, and one of the most respected and brilliantly talented actors on the planet.”
One of his more memorable moments as an actor came when Perry portrayed an Irishman.
“I did a scene on stage one time where I played an Irishman who was a little bit wacky. Being from Newfoundland, the Irish thing isn’t too hard to tap into. But there was a scene where I killed my brother’s dog and I’m walking across the stage whistling. It was incredibly disturbing, but I could feel that the whole audience was in complete shock. That was a great and frightening moment,” said Perry.
Despite his success and experience, Perry sometimes still gets nervous on the set.
“I cope by just trying to convert the nervous jitters into excitement, sometimes by literally jumping up and down, pumping myself up,” said Perry. “Also an incredible amount of rehearsal with cast members always helps with being nervous. Being nervous is just part of the experience, but you learn to expect it and just roll with it like a roller-coaster-type deal.”
The skills that Perry has developed has led him to a starring role in Residents of Arcadia.
“It’s one of those movies where it’s very difficult to explain the plot without giving away the story, twists and turns etc. It sort of unfolds as you go. I play Steve. My wife, Anika, and I have what appears to be an incredible life. We’re both super successful social media influencers, mansion, pool, the whole nine yards. Then things start happening in our lives which reveal that the lives we have aren’t so perfect after all. A mysterious countdown begins on many surfaces all around our house. People are attempting to break in. As this unfolds, we also find out more and more that my wife and I are not who we appear to be. There’s drama, darkness, action, comedy, and love which is all wrapped up and delivered through a science fiction lens. And the Director (Domenico Cutrupi) pulls this off beautifully. The dude is a total visionary,” said Perry.
Naturally Perry was thrilled when he knew he got the part.
“I found out about it online through the site Backstage.com. It’s pretty rare, but sometimes there’s something special on there like a full-length feature. Directors are sometimes trying to discover new talent on there. I sent the director my audition. He wanted to meet in person where I auditioned again and that was that. I asked the director after my in-person audition, ‘So, who else are you seeing? And what are the chances of me getting this part? Because I really want it.’ To which he replied, ‘You got the part,’ and I held my excitement and played it cool until I got home,” laughed Perry, “and then danced all over my house like a crazy person.”