Interview With Actor Michael Adamthwaite, “War For the Planet of the Apes”

By Ruth on August 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

Several months ago, a particular actor came on my radar so to speak, and I immediately set up an interview with Michael Adamthwaite. Unfortunately, our busy schedules kept this stellar interview from being posted until now. And in truth, it couldn’t come at a better time for Michael as he can now be seen in theaters as Luca in War For the Planet of the Apes. So Michael and I revisited our chat and included this amazing credit to what has become a comprehensive, introspective, delightful interview that I have the honor of sharing with all of you now!

20th Century Fox

RH: It is so nice to get to chat with you today, Michael!

MA: So glad to talk with you too, Ruth.

Busy schedules sometimes can make things very difficult.

I hear ya. I am married, I have four children, and I also live/work on a farm. Sometimes it can be hard to schedule things like this. I don’t always have the same amount of time that young, single actors do.

Wow! That is impressive that you’re able to juggle your personal time and professional career! {pause} Due to your diverse list of credits,  do you consider yourself a character actor?

I personally don’t spend the time thinking about my classification. People have called me a character actor, and I guess that’s an apt description. However, people also call me a voice actor since I have several credits there too. In this digital age, it’s hard to classify anyone as one thing, I think. I just think of myself as an actor, and I do what I can when called upon to apply my skills.

I think you make a valid point there. When I think of a character actor, I’m thinking more along the lines of old-time Hollywood. You didn’t always know their names, but you might recognize their faces, and you’d see them pop up in very diverse roles at regular intervals. I think of a character actor as a good thing.

I’m right with you there. I fully acknowledge that versatility is huge. I am blessed to have had a versatile, creative background as I was growing up. I didn’t really think about it, I just did it. Then I got older, and I started training to be an actor, and everyone started labeling everything the people were doing. Someone might say, “Oh, you’re Meisner.” Or “You’re method.” Or “You’re a character actor.” Or maybe even, “Honey, you’re pre-packaged for the business.” These little catch phrases, you know? I just want to be a professional and not worry about all these labels.

As I was growing up, I was blessed and enriched by my theater background. I did a lot of musical theater. What I remember about that time is that the established norm was this. Everyone behaved. Everyone was on time or was maybe even early. Everyone knew their lines. They knew their songs and choreography and all their dance moves. You just did what you were expected to do, and you had fun even though it was a community show we did here and there, versatility was the key. I just want to do my job and not stop having fun.

You said you had a theater background. So was acting something you always did?

I would say that I got involved before my early teens, maybe when I was ten, and it was something my whole family was involved in. We were over in Victoria, on Vancouver Island at the time. We spent a lot of time as a family doing this. My dad was in the Navy, so we moved coast to coast a lot. But when we finally settled on the west side of the country, we got involved with this program for academic and creative enrichment. The acronym was PACE, and our school district was involved with that program. There were hundreds of kids involved in this show. Fun fact–the son of our program director is now a famous Disney kid. He grew up in this same environment, and I think I’ve known him since he was an infant. Not sure if you’ve ever heard of Calum Worthy from Austin & Ally. It was his mom {Sandra Webster Worthy} who was a real influential person in our lives.

After high school, did you go to film or theater school?

I was very involved with this program during my high school time, and then I decided to go a different way. I veered away from acting and the theater and snowboarded and cooked in this resort town for awhile. Whistler was Fun 😉  I then thought about actually pursuing acting, so I briefly enrolled in a couple of part-time programs, and within a few months, I had an agent. Thankfully, I had the beginnings of my voice work already going so I was able to get a few credits through voice work. Then I started getting seen for regular auditions. Within the first six months, I was able to join the union. I had all my credits, and I just went on from there. But moving to Vancouver was the best thing I could have done because they offered me programs at those schools with great acting coaches where I learned a lot. I think Warren Robertson was the most influential teacher that I could have found.  He was one of the ones who founded the actor studio along with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler from New York. Oh, what a tremendous experience to meet him and work with him on and off for many years. He’s an amazing teacher. One of his students, Larry Moss, of course, is now one of the most highly recognized acting coaches in the world.  So privileged, Larry Moss’ teacher was my teacher.

What was your first professional job?

I was twelve and lived in England at the time and I played a street-wise gang member in the BBC production of Little Lord Fauntleroy, starring Michael Benz. I got paid like 200 quid, and they took us out to the country on trains. There was the amazing New York City backdrop set that was built in the middle of Hertfordshire. I full on had a fight scene and did my own stunts, and I knocked over a vegetable cart. I took a punch and laid a beatin’ on some kid. And the last I checked, the movie was on Netflix. It’s actually a really funny intro to the film  There I am right off the bat playing this accented, New York bully beating kids up. {laughs}

Hey, I’m glad I asked you about that ’cause that was a good story. I have not actually seen this film, but I love the classics.

I cannot guarantee it’s still on Netflix, but it was there for awhile. I did it in the early ’90’s. After I did it, I got like a Beta Max copy of the film. I don’t even know if they called it a VCR. So that’s the first professional job I got paid for.

As I was looking through your credits, I noticed you did some work for Supernatural like so many actors in Vancouver have.

Well, we have the good fortune of having many shows like Supernatural that are shot in Vancouver.  There’s always going to be a certain…I don’t want to use the word allocation… there’s going to be a lot of consideration for “locals”. Everyone here is an equal opportunity employer when it comes to casting. It’s just about who’s right for the job. For certain roles, they give a lot of heavy consideration to the huge talent pool here so we’re very fortunate for that. Supernatural is one of those shows.

Another one is Once Upon a Time. I noticed you had been on an episode of that show as well.

Yes, I was on an episode of Once Upon a Time and had an interesting flashback sequence and again, played a bad guy. {deep sigh} It’s this kind of thing that I do, I guess. {laughs}

I have so many actor friends who are almost always cast as bad guys. Either they are going to end up in jail, or they’re going to die.

Yep, that’s about the boiled down version of it. Death or jail. {laughs} I think that’s going to be the title  of  biography! Death or Jail: A Life in Film and Television. Or maybe we could call it At Times I Have Died and How: A Collection of Tales.

I know you mentioned you’ve done quite a bit voice work. I think you mentioned you were starting voice work at the beginning of your career.

Yes, it was mostly an extension of years and years of getting kicked out of class for making funny voices and being a general nuisance. I grew up with British grandparents. So as I was growing up, I heard my grandfather walking around the house and talking with his nice British accent. I quickly discovered that voices were something I could do to make people laugh and it was kinda cool. Once you realize you’re holding a crowd’s attention and everyone is hanging by the picnic table because you’re funny, you figure out that maybe you can have friends. When you have to move so much as a Navy kid, you try to figure out how to break the ice with people. Doing voices was something I did to be a goof-off. I’m glad it panned out.

And in Vancouver, the voiceover community it quite strong.

There is a metric ton of talent in Vancouver! There is so much material here. While it can be difficult to break into voiceover and establish yourself at first, the benefits are well worth it. I have been teaching voice work for many years–everything from private coaching to small classes to larger lectures–I used to teach college and now I teach at a wonderful school called On the Mic Training (@OTM). It’s a Vancouver-based school that is giving its students foundational and advanced tools to make it in the world of voiceover. It’s really a great industry and it’s very healthy here. We’re one of the most competitive markets in North America.

What can you tell us about your role in Dirk Gently?

Well, I was thrilled to play a role in the first season, and I was so happy that they picked it up for a second season. It’s a BBC America show, and I play a really funny character named Zed. One of the featured men of the Machine (M.O.Ms) Zed along with Ed, played by Christian Bako, chase down our enemies and generally eradicate anyone we deem ready for zapping. Max Landis was a hoot to work with. Samuel Barnett and Mr. Elijah Wood are among the very best people on TV, hands down. Aaron Douglas was our Boss Gordon Rimmer. HE.WAS.EPIC.

What about your current voiceover work?

Well Ninjago is still in full swing and I have had a great time working on such shows as Nerds and Monsters, and most recently working on a wonderful run of Supernoobs. I’m thankful to be pretty much always in touch with the very best people in Vancouver regarding voiceover. There’s not much I don’t get to read for. The real challenge is getting to the studio; most projects in voiceover record on fairly demanding schedules. When you carry a career in film and television and voiceover, you really can’t do all three all the time. But I try; after all, Mom is watching.

Please tell us about your involvement with Hallmark and what have been some of your favorite works with them.

Hallmark has been very good to me as an actor, I have been able to work on multiple projects under their loving care. When Calls the Heart was a lovely role. I played a loving father (Paul Harper) on my way to help a family member a few towns over. Being gone for a few days, my children would need looking after. {The episode was “Heart of the Family.”}In the episode, Elizabeth {Erin Krakow} house sits and tends to the young ‘uns to prove she’s a capable “Hope Valley woman”. Great moments driving a horse-drawn cart over a blast hose. That poor dress.

But perhaps my favourite Hallmark project is a favourite for a very unique reason. Hats Off To Christmas was a story about coming home to lend a hand, address old unresolved issues and discover the power and romance of the Christmas spirit. But for me, it was about working with my daughters. The director (after casting me) called me into his office and basically explained that I was too scary-looking for young actors to play tackle football with, and my character had three daughters. So he asked if my daughters were perhaps capable of working with me and taking direction on the film. They had two scenes–one at dinner in a restaurant, and one playing tackle football in front of the house. It was their most fun day ever with Dad at work. Because as my daughter Lily explained, ” you have to play with us; you’re getting paid “.

The big thing for you now is War for the Planet of the Apes. How did you get involved with that project? Please tell us about your role and tell us about how this was filmed. Any special moments from filming?

It was a great experience going through the casting process. My regular audition was short. Matt {Reeves}, our director, had to catch a plane. Consequently, he only had five minutes, gave me some notes and left. I taped and prayed. I got a callback and to my surprise, I found Terry Notary waiting for me in the back room of our would-be studio. Terry and I have worked together multiple times in the last few years (Warcraft, BFG and now Apes) and he knows how to get to work. He greeted me, we chatted, I aped… Well, I gather.

Luca is Caesar’s Lieutenant and is charged with protecting all Ape family as overseer of the guard in their hidden home. Luca is a Gorilla who predominantly signs only. This offered a particular challenge, but a long career in voice told me I was ready. Performance capture gathers ALL your movement, sound, and facial expressions. This was very much a role that needed stripping down of self. The real challenge was attempting to meet the energy of the seasoned cast. Andy Serkis, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, had all been on board from the very beginning, as Caesar, Maurice and Rocket respectively. They’ve had many years to meld and bond, and here I am joining them.The bar jumped the moment my phone rang. It was a serious wake-up call. Like every audience member, I had no idea what I was in for. Becoming family was the most wonderful experience, one I will always hold dear. Having taken part in this film has been among the greatest privileges of my career and my life. I am a very proud Ape.

Photo Credit: Kristine Cofsky

From my first contact with Michael, I was completely impressed with him as a person and an actor. In fact, as a side note, he was my first interviewee to hear of the delightful Holly Carinci who so graciously orchestrated this interview through her agency HollyWords Publicity. Little did I know at that time that a few short months later, I would be featuring him and his engaging personality, charming sense of humor and incredible insight on my site here.

As for Michael, his stories are some of the best I’ve heard, and his pragmatic outlook on his craft truly made me think about things just a little bit differently. The fact that he balances an acting career, as well as a family, is quite remarkable in my opinion, and I believe it is something that keeps everything in perspective for him and certainly provides that noteworthy humility that embodies all he does within this life. Being a busy mother and entertainment writer myself, one of the things that I recognize and appreciate in Michael is his willingness to treat all with respect, and time and again, I have witnessed his steadfast attention to detail and excitement even over these past few weeks as interviewers asked him similar questions multiple times. His infectious spiritedness and general agreeableness never waver no matter the situation. And his only desire is to highlight the film, his co-workers, and the amazing experiences which he has been privileged to have as a result of his work in the film industry. 

As Michael is now experiencing a degree of success and notoriety because of War For the Planet of the Apes, it would potentially be simple for him to fall into the temptation of taking his career for granted and developing what might be called “big head syndrome.” But even in the midst of his busy life and relative success, Michael remembers his roots and he understands the pitfalls of resting on one’s laurels. Acting is a potentially precarious profession, and this could all end in a heartbeat. But thankfully, Michael possesses the stamina and determination to endure the difficult moments and celebrate each day regardless of what life tosses his way. Michael is one who has entered and still remains in acting for all the right reasons, and in my opinion, he’s going to be around much longer than those “fly-by-night successes” who rise and fall with the breeze.

If you have not had the opportunity to see War For the Planet of the Apes, I would suggest going to the theater and seeing it as soon as possible. Additionally, consider checking out all his links below and following him where applicable. Amongst the myriad of working actors within the business today, Michael is one whose star continues to shine brightly as he perseveres in his quest to bring unique and high-quality stories to audiences all over the world as told through his unique giftedness in the realm of acting.








About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher


  1. Sandra Watts August 3, 2017 Reply

    I was very underwhelmed watching this movie. Not near as good as I had hoped.

    • Author
      Ruth August 3, 2017 Reply

      Sandra, I have not seen the movie yet, but the actor whom I interviewed has done so much more than this movie. And he is fantastic in everything I’ve seen him in.

  2. Sandra Watts August 3, 2017 Reply

    I am sure. I bet that is so exciting to meet and interview people like him.

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