Its 2:38 PM
Welcome to the first edition of “8 Questions with…..”of 2020. For those who are new to the blog,8 Questions is a interview series of some of the most interesting folks I come across. I send them some questions and they answer back in their own words,I don’t alter anything anyone says,this is their interview. We have done a few of these and I’ll provide a link at the bottom so you can read the others….
A brother of mine,Mike Ferguson,shot a TV series last year called “Death Squad”in Armenia. It debuted last year and the cheetah and I caught several episodes and were pretty impressed. It was a great take on a old genre and it was looked amazing because of the location of the show.
While everyone in “Death Squad” did a great job,I was really impressed with the actor who played “Ethan Brooks”,Mike Markoff. Not only did he look great onscreen,had some great acting chops but he looked absolutely lethal in handing a veriety of edged weapons (knives,machetes,etc. ) The more we watched the show,the more I wanted to talk with Mr. Markoff. So I reached out to Mike Ferguson for a little networking (yep,even we bloggers do network) and asked him if his fellow actor and brother-in-arms would be willing to do a interview.
And as you are about to read,Mike Markoff was up for a little chat and we are pretty glad he did. He has a lot to say and I’m going to get out of his way so he can answer his 8 Questions….
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your current project.
Well, my name is Mike Markoff, I’m 33, and I’m an actor that hasn’t had a haircut in 2 years. Every time I consider it, a role comes along that demands long hair… and though keeping it long might limit me- I’ve found that I always get cast as the most interesting character this way. I’m not trying to be the normal protagonist or leading man that everyone relates to or admires. I’d rather show you all my fucking baggage and force you to relate me by showing you the aspect of humanity we typically ignore or frown down upon, then leave you wondering if you hate me or love me. I’m currently prepping for a line-up of some interesting characters in a few features coming up: a Middle-America serial killer, an anti-hero-esq outlaw in a Western, and a drug pusher set in 1980’s Charlotte. As you can imagine, none of those directors asked me to cut my hair. Shit, maybe I should change my stage name to Samson… that would be fitting?
What was it like growing in Chicago? What are three of your favorite memories growing up there?
Growing up in Chicago was a damn blessing. There is no better city for high prowess theater and no-bullshit acting training. I don’t have to name the theaters or the industry rockstars that came out of them. There were countless resources in the way of acting training and performance at my fingertips that I took advantage of from a very young age. There is enough commercials, films, and TV shooting there as well to get a start and beef up that old reel and resume before you take on New York or LA.
Memory 1: as a young teen I would show up at the Columbia College Film school and crash auditions (essentially it means showing up to auditions without being invited). I booked some cool roles that way, got some footage, and got an agent at a very young age because of it. 1104 S. Wabash… I still remember the damn address and that was 20 years ago.
Memory 2: I know this is so cliche, but fishing with my dad throughout Illinois and Wisconsin, are the happiest memories I think I have. The nostalgia is so intense that I take fishing trips frequently between gigs. I have forced my girlfriend to come with me all over the country on fishing trips. I enjoy that my instagram displays a lovely juxtaposition of actor footage and me catching 90 pound sharks in Key West (I throw them back,don’t worry).
Memory 3: Sophomore year High School Gym class. (I know, said no one ever). They had a program where instead of typical gym class you could be in a supervised weight room. I was a pudgy kid. It was here where I began the journey to knowing and being in control of my body. At the end of sophomore year, I had lost 40 pounds of fat and gained 10 pounds of muscle… one week after sophomore year ended I got cast in my first feature at 15 years old where I had to get half naked with a girl and get killed by Robert Z’Dar. And to think earlier that year I was too nervous to ask any girls to the school dance.
When did you know you wanted to be an actor? Who was your biggest supporter when after you chose this path?
I knew pretty young that I wanted to be an actor. At the time, I really wasn’t very good at anything else. My report card had a pretty average vibe to it, I was batting last in little league… but I was crushing the theater game as a funny little fat Jewish kid. I was in Fiddler on the Roof like 3 times. Did I know that 20 years later I’d be decapitating zombies with a machete, mounting horses, and verbally abusing fictional people with eloquent aggressiveness…? You’re damn right I did. It was all a part of the plan.
My parents were totally supportive, I wish I had some cool story about how I struggled to express myself or that I courageously overcame adversity… but nah, my parents were very “new age” growing up, gave me trophies for finishing my chocolate pudding and shit. I had it good.
What was acting class like for you? Which elements came easy for you and which did you find more difficult? What was it like performing in front of your peers and family?
I’ll take this opportunity to talk about 2 people I studied under that I credit my endurance, range, and fortitude to:
Anthony Abeson is the reason I book roles. Pure and simple. He is an extraordinarily accomplished acting coach, a fiercely kind human being, and he’s my fucking Dumbledore. You can be up on stage in front of him, not knowing what the hell you’re doing, and by some kind of magic… this man can elicit the best performance out of you that you didn’t know was possible. I won’t go into his techniques here, but I recommend any actor to buy his book: Acting 2.0 , and not just because Jennifer Anniston recommends it (and she does), but because it is pure, simple, brilliance. If you’re in New York, audition for his class. There are maybe only a few left like him on Earth.
Ted Hoerl was my Meisner Method teacher when I studied at Act One Studios in Chicago. I was 19 years old, which was way too young to be in his class- for a lot of reasons. So many actors like to talk about the Meisner Method, how they studied it a bit in collage, did some of the classic exercises (the repetition exercise is the one everyone loves to muse about). But when I speak to actors that claim to use it, I get confused because it doesn’t sound at all like what I went through in class or how I use it. Ted Hoerl’s class isn’t about training the ability of the actor, its about training the responsibility of the actor. I’ll leave out the grueling process of what it means to take on the emotional past of a character and having the courage to marry it with your own… I’ll just say this: when you take on a role, you have a responsibility to go to the emotional places required to do that role justice. This level of work means a lot to me. Stories mean a lot to me- they’re important. If you want to be a character in a story, you better have the capacity to fulfill what is required, and if you try to fake it because you think you can imitate emotions well… fuck off and go audition for a sitcom instead (No disrespect- those present whole set of different challenges). I recently played a role in a film Kentucky as an abusive, child-molesting father (a true story I might add) and I’m not sure I would have been able to fulfill the responsibility required for that role without the methodology I learned under Ted Hoerl.
What was your first paying job as an actor and what do you remember about the experience?
My first paying job was on the film “The Rockville Slayer” starring Joe Estevez, Linnea Quigley, and Robert Z’Dar. It was shot in Galena, Illinois. As a 15 year old kid, I had a scene where I make out with a naked girl, and then get brutally murdered. I was essentially the lead of the film for the first 6 minutes before my untimely death. Its a good thing I got killed off first because my acting was shit. As my first time acting on film, and as virgin… it was a coming of age experience.
What have been the three best pieces of advice anyone has given you?
“Don’t ever try cocaine” – A Random person on set told me that who saw me drink 4 cups of coffee in one hour (I never have, but my characters frequently do, so I’ve snorted a fair amount of powdered sugar)
“Do or do not. There is no try” -Yoda
“Psychology is bullshit” -My Dad’s advice when choosing electives to take in school.
You play “Ethan Brooks”,a soldier who is a edged weapons master in the new series “Death Squad”,how did you get the part and what was filming the series like?
You handled several different edged weapons in the show so expertly,where did you learn how to handle a blade?
Shooting 24 episodes of Death Squad in Armenia was one of the most gratifying, challenging, and downright badass experiences of my career.
I got the part the old fashioned way… I auditioned. While preparing for the audition, I remember I read the basic character description, and thought I better make him a hybrid between Jack Burton (Big Trouble in Little China) and Johnny Cage (Mortal Kombat). I walked into the room with that swagger, and they let me improvise the scene- which is fortuitous because they ended up letting me improvise most of the entire shoot. The director, Dan Goldman asked if I’d be willing to cut “the hair” and I mentioned that it would be a terrible waste of my charm if I did.
Filming was intense, often they were 16 hour work days, 6 days a week sometimes. Armenia is a beautiful country, but we shot in dilapidated communist buildings, ruins without running water, and basically every glorious shit hole in a 30 mile radius. This was actually amazing, as an actor, interacting with a real environment amplifies the performance.
It was great to have so much time with a character that I grew to love so much. We shot the equivalent of 8 feature films… that’s a lot of time to spend with a character. Due to the nature of the shoot, we didn’t have a proper shooting schedule so we almost never knew what was being shot the next day until late at night, you don’t know if it will be a scene from episode 2 or episode 19… so you have to know your character intimately, have scholarly knowledge of the entire script (that’s 800 pages bro), make decisions quickly, and be confident about it.
Yes, you mentioned Ethan Brooks is a master of edged weapons. My foray into swordplay began at a young age. I was fortunate that my high school had a fencing team, I trained and competed in Sabre- a style of fencing that is a little more aggressive and consists of slashing and cutting in a manner not so different from classic dueling, swashbuckling, and broadsword battling. I became captain of the team my Junior year. I attribute my success as a fencer to my imagination and vigor… virtues the catholic prep school opponents lacked.
In my 20’s I left the industry for a while and got lost overseas for quite a many years in Asia and Europe. I was ‘washed ashore’ in many faraway places, but found myself in New Zealand at one point, where I landed a gig doing sword fighting stunts on the TV show Spartacus. It was there where I learned to fight with Roman short swords… which just so happened to be of similar size to Ethan’s machete.
What are your three best moments in filming “Death Squad”?
One of my favorite moments of filming in Death Squad was actually not during filming. As described before, the shooting schedule for Death Squad was intense, but there was a special time in the morning where I would invite my cast mates to my hotel room for coffee. I called this time ‘Coffee and Contemplation’. Admist all the chaos, Coffee and Contemplation was a sacred time, a peaceful ritual, an opportunity to shake hands with the oncoming day. Mike Ferguson and Josh Han would come to my room, I’d make a fresh brew of Coffee, and we would lounge around, remind ourselves how lucky we are, reflect on the previous day, often muse about the day to come. It was like ‘Coffee and Contemplation’ gave us a layer of armor, some type of assurance that whatever may come- we will fight the good fight, and walk into the battle with our head held high. It was one hour that we completely owned, an hour of utter peace, and a routine hour that solidified what will be a lifelong friendship with 2 of the best guys I’ve ever known. Michael Schwartz usually couldn’t make it because he had more lines to memorize than anyone else- but that sexy bastard is a lifelong friend too.
2nd best moment was also not during filming. It was the night we all arrived in Armenia, and the boys and I (not knowing each other at all) had what you would call “a night out on the town”. We swore to never talk about it to anyone. So I’m not going to. 🙂
3rd best moment was the day we got to shoot 70 floors underground in a salt mine. This place was fascinating, terrifying, and uniquely beautiful. As an actor, you typically are on plaster-made sets and mock locations, this was the real deal… other worldly, and exactly the type of place where a biological weapons lab becomes a post-apocalyptic zombie playground.
Is there a role you would ever turn down due to content? Explain why you would either do it or refuse it.
Like I said earlier, I’m committed to telling stories, stories need characters, and those characters often have to reflect the most agonizing aspects of humanity. It’s my responsibility to do my part in telling that story, no matter the circumstances. As actors, our range to play characters often only extend as far as our empathy allows us. Which is why I find intolerant actors sort of boring.
Which do you perfer to play and why: a good guy or a bad guy and why.
Oh man, the ol’ good guy or bad guy thing. Actors love saying they like to play the bad guy, don’t they?
I refer to Bruce Campbell who once said “Good…? Bad…? I’m the guy with the gun.” And in doing so birthed the era of the Anti-Hero. Goddamnit I love those kinds of characters. I think because they in some way are so damn real. Heroes will eventually let us down, and villains, if given the chance, have the opportunity to surprise us with an undeniable act of kindness.
I think it was Sirius Black that mentioned that we all have darkness and light inside of us. Pretty sure that’s true. I don’t care if my characters are good or bad, just as long as they have a varying cocktail of both. Then you have something to work with.
Yes, I just quoted Harry Potter and Army of Darkness to answer a very simple question, that’s probably the biggest insight of me you’ll get in this interview.
If you could play any role,what would you play and why?
Anyone or anything in the Tolkien universe. My fantasies and dreams all take place in Middle Earth. They always have. That is the way I see the world. For some odd reason, those characters motivated me at a time in my life when I was thousands of miles away from anyone who cared if I lived or died. They give me courage. I would like to return the favor.
The cheetah and I are flying over to watch your latest film but we are a day early and now you are playing tour guide,what are we doing?
I’m afraid the visit would be rather boring to most. When I’m not shooting, I spend my time at my LA apartment with my beautiful girlfriend KC, and my adorable cat, Luke. I try to stay completely focused. I keep my head down. I workout. I audition. I try to book, and I leave to go shoot. I come back, I do it all over again. I cook 3 meals a day, I bake bread from scratch, and plan to take over my little piece of the world. I’m in love with my existence.
I like to thank both Mikes…..Mike Markoff for taking the time to talk with us and Mike Ferguson for helping me get this very cool interview.
You can can keep up with with Mike Markoff is doing by heading over to his personal website and follow him on his IG page and his IMDb page. He is a very busy working actor so expect to projects coming our way soon.
Feel free to drop a comment below as well……
Thank you to our readers as well…..you are what makes doing this blog is all about.
You can see the other “8 Questions with….” interviews simply by clicking the link.