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Exclusive Interview with Former NYPD Detective Sergeant and Actor, Michael Devine Who Releases His New Album ‘Sentinels’

Email:neill@outloudculture.com
Socials: @neillfrazer

Actor Michael Devine is a name to remember with his versatile acting capabilities and wide-ranging talent. In 2020 Michael starred in an all-too real role in the hit HBO series The Undoing. Working alongside leading actors Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, Michael plays the series regular role of ‘Detective Paul O’Rourke’. As a real-life, recently retired Detective Sergeant for the New York Police Department (NYPD), Michael brings a realness to the role, touching on past experiences in law enforcement.

While growing up in Clifton, New Jersey, Michaelfound an alternative passion for music and acting – for which he has had 16 years of success in the industry. In 2011, his fondness for music led him to release an album entitled ‘Songs of Valor and Hope,’ which landed at #1 in four different categories on Amazon Music. With Irish influences and tones similar to that of Josh Groban, the album consists of a collection of cover songs such as “Ave Maria,” “Hallelujah,” “Amazing Grace” and many more treasured classics. Michael has had the honor of performing his music at Madison Square Garden, Rainbow Room and Lincoln Center – and served as the NYPD’s National Anthem soloist. Aside from singing, he also plays the bagpipes. He is excited to release his latest album “Sentinels” with theatre-related ballads a la Josh Groban on August 18th. 

Michael was recently diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus as a result of the 9/11 tragedy. This has affected his singing voice and he is now in physical therapy to try to regain his voice to its full capacity. This diagnosis was a driving factor in releasing this album, as it may be his “swan song.” 

With a long-standing career behind him, Michael can also be seen playing law enforcement roles in other notable films and television shows such as: The Wolf of Wall Street, Law & Order, Blue Bloods, Mozart in the Jungle, American Odyssey, Orange Is the New Black, Big Time AdolescenceThe Post, andAva DuVernay’s When They See Us(a series that brings awareness to the root of the Black Lives Matter movement). Most notably though, Michael played the series regular role of ‘James Tech Padgett’ in CBS’ Limitless.

Michael was actually a 3rd generation policeman – and lost his father in the line of duty. During Michael’s own fourth year as a policeman, he experienced the catastrophic events of 9/11. He was posted up at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral for most of the day doing surveillance work and headed over to Ground Zero towards the end of the day to provide extra support. He spent 12-years in total working for the Chief of Detectives Office and was most recently staffed to relay information to the press. Michael retired from the NYPD to focus on his blooming singing and acting career.   

With his powerful story, moving voice and stacked resume, it’s clear that Michael has become one to watch in Hollywood.

1. You’ve had a successful career in both law enforcement and entertainment. How do you balance these two contrasting worlds, and what challenges have you faced along the way?

You’d be surprised how well these ostensibly disparate career paths actually complement each other. Both being an actor and being a detective serve the same goal: finding the truth. Many people think acting is about telling lies, but it’s exactly the opposite. I’ve honed the ability to identify inauthentic acting whether it’s watching a movie or interviewing a person of interest. Moreover, as a cop, you’re constantly playing different roles; one minute you’re someone’s best friend, confident, therapist—the next you’re their worst enemy. But, yes, challenges were often presented when juggling two careers. I was never guaranteed a day off. I remember booking a role in a major film and on the day, I was to shoot, there was blackout in NYC and I was ordered into work. Any challenges came in the form of scheduling conflicts. Luckily, I had very understanding supervisors who granted me days off when they could.

2. You have an upcoming album called “Sentinels” on the way, how do the songs on the album resonate with your experiences, and how has your recent diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus impacted your singing and music career?

Sentinels took ten years to complete for several reasons. When I started suffering from 9/11-related throat and nose symptoms, I was concerned I’d lose my ability to sing. I was determined to use my instrument while I could. I built a recording studio in my toolshed and would record vocals on good days, sometimes getting in only a few measures. I worked with musicians who would record remotely, and I’d add them into the mix, piece by piece. It was a long and arduous process. Due to the extended duration of the process, as years passed, events in my life or in the world would inspire me and the album evolved. For example, the horrific events of the Sandy Hook shooting prompted me to record Roland Orzabal’s “Mad World.”

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3. What song on the album means most to you and why?

That’d be like choosing a favorite child! To be honest, they each have significant meanings and I don’t hold any in higher regard.

4. With a background in law enforcement, how did you transition into a music and acting career? What inspired you to explore these creative pursuits?

I was an actor and singer before I was a cop; my college degree is in Acting and I had been taking voice lessons since I was in high school. Growing up in Northern New Jersey, I was lucky that Broadway was a short bus ride away and I grew to love theatre. I pursued the arts for several years out of college until, out of nowhere, I felt a higher calling to serve as a police officer. Several years into being on the police force, I discovered interesting opportunities to merge the careers; in 2002 I became one the NYPD’s ceremonial soloists.

5.Your previous album, “Songs of Valor and Hope,” received great recognition. How do you choose songs that connect with your audience on a personal level, and what role does music play in your life?

“Songs of Valor and Hope” was, in many ways, a therapeutic exercise for me. I compiled many songs that I’d performed at vigils and memorials. I used music as a catharsis for my own PTSD from 9/11. I was actually surprised when it climbed the charts on Amazon, topping out at #1. I guess there are many souls out there who turn to music as therapy.

6. You’ve performed at prestigious venues like Madison Square Garden and The Lincoln Center. Could you share a particularly memorable moment or performance from your music career?

I’ve been very lucky to have been able to perform at some incredible venues and so grateful for the opportunities! I was particularly honored to perform at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Candlelight Vigil in Washington DC on the National Mall. I started singing, looking out into complete darkness and as the song progressed, I watched about 20,000 people light candles in honor of fallen officers, many their loved ones. As the son of an officer killed in the line of duty, it was a proud moment I’ll never forget. A sight to behold.

7. Experiencing the events of 9/11 must have been incredibly challenging. How have these experiences shaped your perspective on life and influenced your career decisions?

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After 9/11, I had the profound realization that life is precious and fleeting. Shortly afterward, grateful to be alive, I decided I’d pursue dreams I’d otherwise given up on. It was then I became determined to pursue my love for music and acting in tandem with my police career.

8. As a third-generation policeman, what values and lessons did you inherit from your family’s legacy, and how do they guide you in both your past law enforcement career and your current pursuits?

The perception of law enforcement today is extremely polarized and to many is defined by major (and sometimes abhorrent) incidents. I’m grateful to have grown up in a house where I was able to see first-hand the benevolence, price of honor and depth of sacrifice that predominates the profession. My father was shot by a drug dealer when I was one years old, and he lived in a wheelchair for ten years until he died from complications of the shooting. I learned at a young age how devoted a law enforcement professional is to serving others, literally willing to die to ensure the safety of strangers. That’s how I see the profession and I’m grateful for the perspective which fueled my own dedication to duty.

9.Your recent diagnosis has presented unique challenges. Could you share your journey of undergoing physical therapy to regain your singing voice, and how this experience has impacted your outlook on life and your artistic expression?

Thankfully, this is, for now, my only cross to bear. Many colleagues and many friends are facing catastrophic illness, and so many have died in the years following 9/11, including many good friends. As a singer, this condition presents, admittedly, a set of challenges. Thankfully, I’ve found the right medications and lifestyle changes to counteract the symptoms. I often sleep in a chair to prevent choking up blood or acid. It sounds graphic, but it’s a small price to pay. It’s a reminder that our journey on this planet is short, but the journey is long enough where one can recognize regret. Identify what it is you love, what you’re good at, and pursue it. It’s the effort, not the outcome that matters.

Social Media: Twitter | Instagram | IMDb

Music: Amazon Music | Spotify | Apple Music  

Social Media: Instagram | Spotify | Linktree

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