Exclusive Interview with Actor and Comedian Michael Judson Berry

Growing up in Syracuse New York, Michael Judson Berry began his acting career at the young age of six, when he got his first comedic role as a Prince in a local production of ‘The King and I’.  Michael’s passion for acting lasted throughout his childhood and he continued to pursue his dreams. Since then he has come a long way, receiving a BFA in Theatre Arts from Boston University and an MA in Classical Acting from the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.  He also had the pleasure of touring the country as Patsy in the National Tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot.

Along with acting, Michael has extensive experience working in casting agencies for TV/Film/Broadway in both LA and New York. However, after working in the “business” side of the industry, Michael deeply missed auditioning and performing, so he returned to acting. He recently completed his first feature film. ‘Milkwater,’ opposite Molly Bernard and Robin De Jesus. The film can be seen at film festivals such as Atlanta Film Festival, Brooklyn Film Festival, and Indie Street Virtual Film Festival. ‘Milkwater’ recently won “Best Screenplay” at Brooklyn film festival.

During quarantine, Michael decided to put his comedic acting skills on TikTok, in order to bring some happiness into the world. His impressions of the Schitt’s Creek character, Moira Rose, have gone viral throughout social media. Michael hilariously created his show, “QuaranTeaTime with Moira Rose” on TikTok which has millions of views and followers to date. He writes and performs skits of Moira Rose, in many different outfits, wigs, and in any situation imaginable. Not only does he do impressions of Moira Rose, but he also includes cameos of the entire cast throughout his skits. Emmy Award winning actress, Catherine O’Hara, has acknowledged and praised Michael for his impression of her Schitt’s Creek character Moira Rose. See below for her full quote!

“Yeah. Somebody sent me a clip of [Berry] on Instagram. And he does Moira in different situations. He did Moira tasting a beer for the first time. He’s really good at it. He’s really good. I mean, it’s a hard accent to imitate only, and I didn’t mean it to be, but I think it’s really hard to imitate because it ridiculously inconsistent. And I think when most people try to do it, they try to be consistent. And that makes it not sound like Moira to me. But he’s really got it down. And he writes funny dialogue for himself too. He’s really good.” – Catherine O’hara

Fans love Michael’s impressions, outfits, and skits so much, that he has created merch with his catch phrase “Oh, Hello You!” for his fans to buy!

A member of the LGBTQ+ community, Michael now lives in Jersey City, and in his free time he loves traveling the world (he’s been to all 7 continents!), spending time outdoors, watching old movies and BBC shows, riding motorcycles with his father, and taking improv classes. Michael hopes to one day be on SNL.

Michael also recently starred in the feature film ‘Milkwater’ opposite Molly Bernard and Robin De Jesus. The film performed quite well on the festival circuit, winning “Best Screenplay” at the Brooklyn Film Festival and “Best Narrative Feature” at the Indie Street Virtual Film Festival.

I got the chance to chat with Michael and this is how it went down;

Hi Michael and welcome to OLC! How have you been? How have you been keeping safe and sane during these crazy times? 

I’ve been very lucky during the lockdown.  I have a car, so I’ve been able to split my time between my apartment in Jersey City with my roommate and Upstate New York with my family.  I also have a friend who has been out of town for a long time, so I can stay at her house whenever I want to be alone.  Being able to safely go to a few different places has been a huge advantage and a big part of maintaining my sanity!  As far as safety goes, I see very few people outside of my social bubble, I always wear a mask when I go out, and I wash my hands a LOT. 

Another way I’ve kept my head has been creating projects for myself.  QuaranTeaTime has definitely been the most exciting and time-consuming project that I have.  I’ve also been getting better about doing at-home workouts, practicing my knitting, and I’ve even started writing a few scripts with friends!   Overall, I just keep myself as busy as possible. 

So tell me how did you discover your passion for the arts?

When I was six, my parents took me and my older sister to see a production of Beauty and the Beast up in Toronto, and I remember thinking it was the most beautiful and awe-inspiring thing I had ever seen.  I came out singing the songs and told my Mom that one day I would be up on stage too.  After that, my Mom took to me to audition for a local production of The King and I, where I was cast as one of the many royal children.   I had one small moment in the show that got a laugh every night, and little six-year-old me thought that was the greatest feeling in the world.  Ever since that first laugh on opening night, I’ve been hooked!   

Who has been your biggest inspiration in your career and why?

Growing up, I’d say there are three actors that I idolized and always wanted to be like.  First it was Cary Grant.  I saw Arsenic and Old Lace when was very young, and I thought he was just brilliant.  Between Blockbuster and the local library, I rented a lot of wonderful Cary Grant movies.  He was so funny and charming, and I wanted to be just like him!

Second is Peter Sellers!  I had all of the Pink Panther movies on VHS and spent so much time practicing the Inspector Clouseau accent and studying the timing of his jokes.  I think I developed my love of physical comedy from watching Peter Sellers. 

The third is Robin Williams!  I obviously saw his movies and thought he was magnificent, but it was the CD of Robin Williams: Live on Broadway that had a huge impact on my life.  I memorized that whole show!  I tried to learn all of his accents and voices, and I would perform bits of the show for my family and friends.  I think that show is where I developed an ear for imitation, from trying to mimic all of Robin Williams’ different voices.

Honorable mentions would be everyone from I Love Lucy, Laughin’, The Carol Burnett Show, the Monty Python crew, Mel Brooks’ movies…Oh, and I was obsessed with the movie Clue! 

This TikTok has gone absolute banana’s, so tell me what lead you to the social media platform?

I am not tech savvy at all, nor am I very knowledgeable when it comes to pop culture or social media.  When we went into lockdown, I only had Instagram and facebook.  But when QuaranTeaTime started to become popular on Instagram, I thought I’d explore this TikTok thing I’d heard about.  When I first started posting I was told I was doing TikTok wrong because I didn’t do any of the song or dance challenges, I just would put on a wig and filmed sketches, but inexplicably it’s gone really well!  I like the challenge of taking a sketch and whittling it down to 59 seconds…which for someone as long winded as me is a real challenge!  But yes, I’ve grown to really love TikTok.  There’s such a variety of really talented people who do all kinds of videos!  I find it very entertaining and inspiring!

Tell me about your show on TikTok called “QuaranTeaTime”, what’s it about and how did you come up with the idea for it?

QuaranTeaTime is basically a little talk show where I do a parody of Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek.  A few times a week, Moira pours a cup of tea, and offers her very specific perspective of living in quarantine.  I’ve now added the whole Rose family, along with about 20 more characters and impressions of people who stop by to for a cup of tea and a “chinwag” with Moira. 

I came up with the idea after my roommate (who does an excellent David) and I did an “impersonation challenge” early in the quarantine where we did Moira and David bickering.  I thought it would be hilarious to have a show with David and Moira sipping tea, since she often drinks tea on Schitt’s Creek.  My roommate wasn’t interested, but he did lend me a wig he had from an old Halloween costume.  So, I popped it on my head, set up my phone in my kitchen and improvised a monologue as Moira.  I didn’t think anyone would actually watch it, but now over 100 episodes, millions of views, and 33 wigs later, I’m still at it!  It’s all been such a wonderfully unexpected surprise! 

What would you say are the best and worst parts of being an actor? I can imagine it would be very challenging?

There are so many challenges to being an actor, and everyone deals with them differently.  For me, the greatest challenge is the lack of stability.  Not knowing when your next job will be or how much you’ll be paid makes it very difficult to make long term plans, and to lay down roots.  Most of my jobs take me all around the country for months at a time, so creating a home and maintaining relationships can be very challenging.  

That being said, I’ve met so many incredible people from all over the world that I never otherwise would have crossed paths with.  I’ve been paid to travel all over North America doing a job that I’ve dreamed of doing ever since I was six.  I love to travel and to meet new people, so I enjoy that aspect of what I do.  I just hope that after quarantine I find a more healthy and sustainable balance.   

Tell me about the feature film you were a part of called ‘Milkwater’, what’s it about and who did you play?

Milkwater is a funny and very heartwarming film written and directed by Morgan Ingari and starring Molly Bernard.  Molly plays Milo, a young woman who feels abandoned by friends living more “adult” lives, so she rashly decides to become the surrogate for an older gay man she meets at a bar. As the pregnancy progresses, we see how it affects her relationships with all of the people in her life, and how she grows as a person. 

I play Teddy, the boyfriend of Milo’s best friend, played by the fabulous Robin De Jesus.  Teddy is outside of their friend group, so he provides a lovely perspective on what Milo is going through.  Much like Ted on Schitt’s Creek, Teddy is very wide-eyed and sweet, and often is just happy to be included…he also has an affinity for super short shorts. 

It won “Best Screenplay” at the Brooklyn Film Festival and “Best Narrative Feature” at the Indie Street Virtual Film Festival, how did that feel?

I was thrilled for our fearless leader, Morgan Ingari!  She worked so hard on this movie and was so meticulous and clear when it came to filming.  Along with being a brilliant filmmaker, Morgan is a very kind, warm, and generous person, who established a very friendly and fun-loving tone on set.  I could not be more proud to be a part of Morgan’s vision, and I hope that she and the film keep winning these very much deserved accolades! 

How do you prepare for a role like that?

I had very little time to prepare for this role.  It was a last-minute audition that I had to film while running between day jobs.  I didn’t even have time to read the script! But the scenes I was given seemed very funny, as did the character, so I assumed Milkwater was a crazy comedy.  Again, bringing it back to Schitt’s Creek, Teddy seemed like Alexis, but if she was a slightly spacey gay man living in Hell’s Kitchen…so that’s how I played him.  Once I booked the role, I was on set in less than a week!  I remember my first day on set, Morgan came up to me and said she really appreciated how big of a choice I made and that I really stood out from the other actors…that’s probably because they all had the sense to read the script!  Luckily Morgan liked what I did, though, and she made my wacky choice fit into the world of the movie, and even let me improvise a bit here and there, which was a lot of fun!     

What kind of roles would you like to play in the future?

A few years ago, I got my Master’s in Classical Acting from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, where I primarily focused on Shakespeare, and received a lot of physical comedy and clown training.  So, I would love to do more Shakespearian comedies, like Much Ado About Nothing and Love’s Labour’s Lost.   While in grad school, I played Richard II in Richard II, and it’s still my favorite role I’ve ever done, so I would also like to tackle that again but in a professional setting.

Along with Shakespeare, other dream roles include Robert in Boeing, Boeing, the Emcee in Cabaret, literally anyone in The Play That Goes Wrong, and really anything Noel Coward, GB Shaw, or Oscar Wilde…I just love clipped, British comedy.  Maybe one day I’ll get to do Lady Bracknell but as Moira!  

I would also love to work on a sitcom!  I used to work in TV casting, and it’s such a fun world.  I think it would be amazing to create a role in a sitcom and get to explore that character over multiple seasons.  But, of course, if SNL called, I’d be there in a heartbeat!  I’ve always loved sketch comedy, and doing big, larger than life characters.  

Where do you see your career in 5 years time?

I wish I knew!  Ideally, I’m on SNL or a hit sitcom, and in between seasons I get to do wonderful productions of plays like The Importance of Being Earnest or Private Lives…and maybe a fun indie film here and there.  But it’s very hard to plan right now, so I’m trying to just enjoy the moment, which does not come easily to me.  I’m such a dreamer.  My head is always in the clouds, fantasizing about “what could be.”  But I’m right now, I’m enjoying creating my own content, and all of the challenges that come with that.  So, for once, I’m going to just enjoy the present and go for the ride as much as I can.  

Your favourite comedy show or sitcom?

That’s so hard, there are too many!  Growing up, I watched a lot of The Nanny, Will and Grace, and The Dick Van Dyke Show.  I also watched a lot of wonderful BBC comedies on PBS; my favorites were Keeping Up Appearances, Are You Being Served, and Waiting for God.  More recent favorites are Schitt’s Creek, Archer, Ted Lasso, Arrested Development, and Derry Girls! 

What does the rest of 2020 hold for you?

It’s hard to say what’s going to happen professionally, mostly because this pandemic has had such an immense impact on the entertainment industry.  But I know 2021 will bring a lot more QuaranTeaTimes, a lot of time spent with my family, and probably some horribly knitted scarves.  I’ve really enjoyed flexing my writer muscles, so I think a lot more scripts will be written as well. 

 Social Media:

  TikTok 

  Instagram 

  YouTube 

  Website: https://michaeljudsonberry.com/

neillfrazer@hotmail.com

Written By: Neill Frazer

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