The Vault Exclusive: Michael McMillian

Posted by Shadaliza On July - 23 - 200925 COMMENTS

Michael McMillian is Rev. Steve Newlin, the leader of the Fellowship Of The Sun Church. Before True Blood Michael played roles in Veronica Mars, What I Like About You, Without a Trace, Big Love, Saved and The Hills Have Eyes II.

There is something off with Steve Newlin, but he doesn’t have a secret career as a porn actor. Michael McMillian gives us a little inside information on Steve and on his own life.

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You come from a small town in Kansas. What makes a Kansas boy want to take up acting and move to LA? Do you come from an artistic family?

Well, to be straight, I grew up in suburb of Kansas City, KS called Olathe. It technically wasn’t a small town, but it was far away from Hollywood. I grew up during a time when there was fortunately a lot of theater available for kids and high school students in the community. So I grew up doing shows like “Guys and Dolls” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and “Oklahoma!” For a while I thought I was going to be an animator when I grew up, or a comic book artist- my sister and father are both good artists- but theater brought a much larger collaborative and social experience along with it. I liked showing off and there were always pretty girls hanging around… I knew by 15 that I wanted to be an actor. Then it became about getting out of the Midwest and getting somewhere where I could achieve that. I started taking it more seriously as I got older.

Which actors did you look up to and influenced you?

Harrison Ford was a household name in my home. My family had its differences, but he wasn’t one of them. Steve Martin, Tom Hanks, Michael J. Fox and Bill Murray were my heroes. We also watched a lot of Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart growing up, and even though the movies were old, those two were just as contemporary in my eyes. I think Jimmy Stewart in particular had a big influence on me. As I got into high school I became obsessed with guys like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly and William H. Macy- that whole Paul Thomas Anderson crew.

What was your first paid acting job? Do you remember what you did with the money?

I got cast as a non-speaking role in WONDER BOYS my freshman year of college. I was basically a glorified extra. You can see me sitting next to Katie Holmes in the first scene. I’m pretty sure I’m staring directly into camera. I probably spent the money on comic books and beer.

Did you have any interest in the vampire genre before True Blood?

I’m a horror movie buff and a genre geek, so vampires have always captured my imagination. I loved movies like LOST BOYS and FRIGHT NIGHT as a kid. I read a couple of the Anne Rice books in high school, but never fully got into any of the vampire literature until TRUE BLOOD came along and I read the Sookie Stackhouse books.

When you first read the script of True Blood, did you like it immediately? What did you think of it?

When I heard that Alan Ball was doing a show about Vampires, I got really excited. After SIX FEET UNDER, of which I was a huge fan, I was expecting TRUE BLOOD to be about depressed, dysfunctional vampires sitting around the dinner table and not communicating with one another. I was surprised to discover how steeped in genre the pilot script was. Obviously that stems from Charlaine Harris’s books, but it was so much more colorful than I had predicted. I loved it. I loved the setting, particularly Merlotte’s, and dug the murder mystery aspect. The moment where Bill walks into the bar for the first time really captured me. It’s an important scene. The whole series spins out of that meeting between he and Sookie. It’s the same moment in the book where the reader falls for Sookie’s world and I thought it translated to the screen very well.

Can you tell us something about how you got the part of Steve Newlin. What was the audition process like? Did you originally audition for the role of Steve Newlin or were you up for another role?

I originally auditioned for Sam, which is hilarious, because it’s so obviously not the right role for me. Sam Trammell is just absolutely a perfect fit. And it showed too, because my audition was pretty lousy… I was lucky casting brought me back in for Steve Newlin. That was episode 3 of the first season, and the part was tiny, but there was talk of it becoming a larger role in the second season. Alan Ball was there, whom I had read for years before on SIX FEET UNDER. He’s the best guy to go in a read for in a room- he really makes the actor feel comfortable- he just gets it. We worked the scene a couple times, I went home, and a few hours later I got the call that they were bringing me on for a couple episodes. True to their word, the role carried over into the second season. It was a rare audition process where this single casting session lead to a series regular role. I kind of slipped in the back door, I guess. I got lucky.

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How was the look of Steve created, how did he come to life? Did you have any say in his looks?

I believe the design came down to talks between Alan and Kelly Kline, our lead hair stylist, and Audrey Fisher, our costume designer. In the first season, I wasn’t around much, and Steve’s look was a bit more generic- sort of a conservative politician. But when the Newlins’ got fleshed out for season 2, the look evolved into something that evoked a TV evangelist style. It was very big and very Texas. Fantastic stuff. So much of what informed me about the character came from the look. Kelly and Audrey did half the job for me.

How did you prepare for the role? Did you read the books by Charlaine Harris?

I read the first 6 books as soon as I was cast in the first season. I’m planning to catch up with the rest this summer. Steve is such a scary character in LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS and I really wanted to stay as close to that original vision as possible, while staying true to what the writers were cooking up for the show. I spent a lot of time researching the Religious Right and watching documentaries, The Bible Network, 700 Club, etc… shows that I thought would be the kind of forums Steve would appear on. I really did my best to watch how these personalities presented themselves in the public eye. I was cast in an election year, so there was such a wealth of political personalities on TV, and Steve being a politician himself, I paid very close attention to the debates and speeches. I wanted Steve to be comfortable and cocky in front of the camera.

Did you model yourself after a particular evangelical personality in order to prepare for the part?

Not one in particular but I watched tons of footage of Jerry Falwell, Ted Haggard, Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen. There’s also a little bit of George Bush in the character. At one point I realized that Steve played the role of spiritual coach at the Light of Day Camp, and I started thinking about some of the gym teachers and football coaches from my high school and middle school back in Kansas… I never played sports myself, but the coaches rule the roost back in the Midwest, where athletics are held in such high esteem, and their presence was always well known in the hallways and classrooms. It occurred to me that Steve is probably a huge Friday Night Lights fan. I think he sees himself as a Coach Taylor type- this evocative and empowering youth leader that young men look up to and want to be.

How would you describe Steve Newlin? Does he practice what he preaches?

Definitely. I think viewers are waiting for his moment of glaring hypocrisy, but I think the character is pretty consistent. He’s dangerous because he thinks of life in dual terms: black and white, right and wrong, good and evil… We are living in times where this old system of thinking is being challenged. It might be outdated, and even more so the leading cause of hate and conflict in the world. But Steve isn’t afraid live and die by the book. He’s doesn’t struggle with confusion. In some ways, he’s one of the least conflicted characters on the show. There’s nothing wrong with himself- it’s the rest of the world that’s the problem. He is on a self-proclaimed mission to save humanity and if he gets enough power, he’ll go for it. He’s also motivated by revenge for his father’s death, which blinds him. He may be more green than he thinks to get the job done.

Are there any characteristics that Steve Newlin has that you also see in yourself?

Geez, I really hope not. Although we’re probably both less cool than we’d like to think of ourselves.

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Combining religion with hate is a very dangerous business, especially when it is preached with a smiling face. Does Steve realize how explosive the situation is that he is creating?

He’s a smart guy. He knows he’s going on TV and stoking the fires, butt I think he’s trying to smoke out the bad guys. He’s actively provoking a war to reveal the true evil agenda of the Vampires. In his eyes, this is Armageddon. God is on his side. The end justifies the means.

The fang-loving fans of True Blood all take side against the FOTS, they are a creepy bunch of course but do you believe that they are right when they say that vampires are a danger to human society?

Well, I mean, they certainly aren’t harmless. Even Bill has his questionable moments. The vampires have gone mainstream, but they still carry out their private system of justice, which is basically, “If you are human and you trespass against us, you are screwed.” I think the scene in the first season where Jessica is turned is all the justification the FOTS needs. Here was this innocent girl who was kidnapped and used as a prop in a Vampire court. She unwillingly lost her humanity. It’s really awful if you think about it. I’d wager if Vampires really did exist, there would be more people on Steve’s side than Sookie’s. In fact, I guarantee that would be the case.

Most of your scenes are with Anna Camp and Ryan Kwanten, what is it like working with them?

I love them both dearly. They really made the season a joy to work on. Seriously, we spent most of our time just laughing and having fun on set. They are two of the cleverest, talented and giving actors I’ve had the privilege to work with. I will never hear a word against them!

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Michael McMillian and Anna Camp

On the Fellowship of the Sun website there are several videos of Steve and Sarah. It all seems so real. What do you think of this marketing strategy?

It’s a really fun move on HBO’s part. In the context of the series, the FOTS Church is supposed to be media savvy, or at least trying to be, so the concept really lends itself to TRUE BLOOD’s viral campaign. I think it gives viewers just that little extra taste of “reality” to watch the show with. It’s exciting that our audience can find canonical material outside of the episodes themselves, and hopefully they will find the FOTS website fun and worthwhile. We sure had a lot of fun shooting it.

Do you check out the True Blood message boards or True Blood fan sites to read fan reactions?

Not really. I’ve kind of learned in the past to stay away from that stuff. There is much love for the show, but the Internet is fair ground, and a lot of people like to voice nasty opinions. And you know what? That’s what the forum is there for. If you don’t like something, by all means fire away. But posters have anonymity that actors or the show creators don’t, and that makes us easy targets. Sometimes the trash talking can get discouraging. But again, that’s part of the job.

Are you aware of the huge internet fan activity, like on Twitter and on Facebook?

Yes, but I’m not involved directly… Again, I think it’s cool that these outlets exist to expand the experience of the show. I hope the audience has fun with it.

Will you be back in Season 3 of True Blood?

Well, we readers of the books know that Steve makes an appearance in CLUB DEAD, which the 3rd season will presumably be based on. But Alan Ball and the writers are switching things up, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that Steve gets out of season 2 alive first…

Has your life changed since you’ve been seen in True Blood?

In a small sense, I’m getting a taste of what it’s like to work on a hit show, which is new for me. It hasn’t changed anything, really, I’m just happy to know that I get to do work I love and people are watching. After all, what’s the point of being an actor if you don’t have an audience? So I’m pumped that we’ve got a strong following. It makes the hard work the cast and crew put into TRUE BLOOD seem worthwhile.

Do True Blood fans recognize you on the street? What do they say?

People are slowly starting to come up to me about Steve. I’ve repeatedly heard how creepy and “hate-able” I am. It’s pretty hilarious. I guess I’m doing my job.

Many of our members have asked if Rev. Steve Newlin is the person (rose clenched between his teeth) in the Vampire Adult Film called “His First Fangbang” that Sookie flips to whilst she is sitting on the couch in her hotel room in Dallas….. Anything you want to tell us?

That is genius. That’s not Steve, but that is a really funny idea. He really is the kind of character that screams “skeletons in his closet,” isn’t he? It would be really fun to explore the double-life of Steve Newlin. If he has one.

What are you personal interests, what do you do in your free time?

Well I’m a huge nerd, really. I’m an avid reader and movie nut. I love comics. I write. I drew all the time growing up and I’m trying to get back in touch with that neglected talent. I love nature… I’ve recently begun to explore some of the better hiking trails around the L.A. basin. The San Gabriel Mountains are another world that I never knew existed. I have a bit of an adventurous bone in my body- I love to travel and explore. Any chance I have to get away from the city and escape I take it.

What are your favorite TV shows that you watch?

I pretty much watch everything HBO does- and this is before I started working on TRUE BLOOD. I love MAD MEN. I love LOST. 30 ROCK is fantastic and I’m a fan of THE OFFICE. Right now I’m more than halfway through the boxed set of THE WIRE. It is almost unbearably good. How these actors and writers pulled of such a rich and complex story and got lost under the radar I will never understand. I am eagerly awaiting the new GAME OF THRONES series from HBO, based on George R.R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE novels. I would kill to play a role on that series. What a great, wonderful and tragic epic. Fans of TRUE BLOOD should rush out and get those books.

You have a series that is In Production called ” Rockville CA ” – can you tell us anything about this series and your role in it?

It’s a web series created by Josh Schwartz that’s up now over at thewb.com. The story follows a group of young, LA hipster doofuses set in a rock club. I play the best friend of the lead guy in four episodes, sort of this hapless, music nerd looking to get laid.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment? Tv, film or stage?

I’m about to make a very cool announcement at Comic Con this week in San Diego about a new endeavor I’m really excited about… Stay tuned. I hope TRUE BLOOD viewers will be excited.



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25 Responses to “The Vault Exclusive: Michael McMillian”

  1. Sanna says:

    Ha, I knew he wasn’t that porn guy! LOL

    Michael seems like a very sweet guy

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    cocoablossoms Reply:

    he looked nothing like that guy to me either.

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  2. lynnpd99 says:

    He seems like a great person. I wish he followed more of the fan boards and activities on Twitter and Facebook, but I understand why he might not. I am glad he’s not the person advertised on that porn movie on Sookie’s TV in her hotel room. Great article, glad to learn more about him and his character.

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  3. I thought it was him.

    Shad…you just ask the best questions…not the same old boring rehashing stuff we hear from all other interviewers. It must be refreshing for cast members to do your interviews.

    His comment about Newlin being more green than he thinks to get the job done, is telling. He’s definitely bitten off more than he can chew with this war against the vampire world. A rag tag group of camp boys and girls probably won’t fare very well against the lightning fast, super strong fanged ones.

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  4. Lou says:

    He seems like such a nice guy! Thanks for the great interview, Shad.

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  5. nkdp says:

    I hope our Rev. Newlin is prepared for this can of worms he has opened up! Something tells me he won’t last to tell the story to his kids or grandkids!
    Michael plays the part very well. Just how much of that greasy kids stuff do they have to put in his hair to get it to stand up like it does?!

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  6. Rowena says:

    Great interview, Shad. Michael does an excellent job portraying the single-minded, vampire-obsessed reverend. I enjoyed getting some background on him, which your interview so nicely provided.

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  7. Great Interview Shad ! I loved this interview. We always hear from the main title characters of the show an rarely hear from the supporting cast. He seems like such a doll. I love his thought process and how he really dug deep to research his character.

    It’s interesting that he originally auditioned for the Sam role. It seems the more we read these interviews, the more we see that many of the cast has auditioned for other roles and been called back. I love that.

    I love and agree his take on the Rev. Newlin character and he plays it so straight – no deviation from the cut and clear, Black & White territory. When I see him onscreen he embodies Steve Newlin – does a fantastic job with the believe-ability of the subtle, …. but kind, evilness of the character. I can envision him staking a vampire with a smile on his face – No Remorse. That is what makes all these characters so delicious – the subtley of the actors portraying them.

    He does a great job playing the role – I hope to see more of him next season. I feel he’s like the Eric character but a different type of evil – the kind that is all wonderful to you upfront but turn your back and he’ll insert the knife ( 400 times ) LOL ! Atleast Eric does not parse words. LOL !

    He does such a great job ! I thoroughly enjoy watching him on TB, especially his interactions with Jason – Just priceless ! He is such a handsome guy too! Of course, too young for me – I could be his grannie – Bill being 173 yrs. old is closer to my age LOL! Does that make me older than dirt?

    Again, thanks Shad !

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  8. toohandsomebill says:

    Terrific interview Shadaliza, Michael sounds quite intelligent and it seems as though he enjoyed your interview as he confided so much to you about himself and his character. Of course, the questions you asked were totally stimulating, not the same old song and dance…Good job!

    Wow, thinking of him as Sam is a bit different. Although he didn’t get the part, Alan Ball recognized Michael’s talents and he is definitely rising to the challenge. Not having read the books past the first, I have no idea what the future holds for “Steve” or the FOTS. The fact that Michael mentioned whether his character survives into a third season makes me wonder.

    Michael does a great job at playing a very creepy and ultimately evil guy disguised as a clown and with each episode the mask fades.

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  9. BBB says:

    That was a terrific interview Shad. It’s not surprising how multi-faceted the TB actors are; and he’s a sharp fella. I wonder if anyone has ever mistaken him for SNL’s Will Forte? There’s an uncanny resemblance.

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  10. cocoablossoms says:

    shad you really are a great interviewer. i read all the true blood articles, but i’m tiring of the same safe and boring inquiries. i think rev. newlin is a great character. michael puts in all these subtle nuances that make what could just be an over the top villain so intriguing to watch. he’s really good. even though newlin just sees in black and white, his character is not one-dimensional.

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  11. willkill4bill says:

    Great interview Shad. I enjoy getting insight from the actors on their characters to see how it meshes with my interpretation. Michael did his homework and it has payed off. If you have an opportunity I’d love for you to interview Kelly Kline and Audrey Fisher. I think they make a huge contribution to the characters persona. If you have already done those interviews point me in the right direction. :)

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    Shadaliza Reply:

    I haven’t interviewed them, but it is on my to do list.

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  12. Vicki Irene says:

    He was on Big Love?!?!?!?! I knew he looked familiar, he was set up on a blind date with Margene.

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    Shadaliza Reply:

    Margene had a blind date? I must be getting old, I don’t remember that.

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    Vicki Irene Reply:

    She did! I think it was season 1, her neighbor thought she was a widow and set her up with someone from church. Anyhoo, he shows up during a rain storm super drenched with flowers. The reason it stuck out to me was the line he told her, it was awful!! He told her something like he was falling for her, he had a “burning in his bosom, it might be a revelation

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  13. Elizabeth says:

    I didn’t realize he was from Olathe..now that’s a town I recognize. Olathe isn’t too far from where I was born (Leavenworth),although I grew up WAAAAYYY out in the boonies of Kansas, in a really teeny little burg of a town. Kansas has actually produced many well known actors, it’s nice to see another one getting some recognition.

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  14. LifeIsNotEasy says:

    Thanks for the interview Shad. I remember him as Henry on “What I Like About You”. Also, thanks for clarifying the thing about if that was Steve Newlin in that adult movie. LOL.

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  15. icanseerussia says:

    i think we will see more evilness out of him when they real action gets started on the part of their plot. i hope he actually leads in that part of the show. also, i am interested in how he will feel when he loses sarah to jason. THAT will be an interesting scene. jason may be in for some trouble, since its obvious the jason character is a box of rocks most of the time. he may be set up by steve. thanks for doing his interview, very interesting things. i like very much that he likes the mountains and to hike. we have some of the greatest hiking in the world up here.

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  16. Julie says:

    If Mike comes across as intelligent, talented, and likable in this article, then he is a million times more so in person. I’ve known him since he was 12 years old and he is the greatest! Great article~Way to go Mikey!

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  17. Anna says:

    Does he have a girlfriend?

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    Shadaliza Reply:

    I know he is not married, but I don’t know if he is single or not.

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  18. Ces says:

    Is there a way to reach mike? Like a website or email add or something? like his acting…

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    Shadaliza Reply:

    He used to have a twitter account, but he closed it. Sorry can’t help you there.

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    Ces Reply:

    Awwww…too bad = ( Just in case you get to come across with an email add or something, please let me know.

    Thanks Shadaliza!

    Ces

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