Michelle Lukes is one of the most talented actresses I know. Whether saving the world during Cinemax’s Strike Back, or showing off a different side on the big screen, there’s nothing that she can’t do and do well, in addition to being a wonderful human being off-screen.
We spoke recently about what she’s been up to, how she’s portrayed Edie in various incarnations of All the Way to the Top, and what she took away from being part of this skewering of the Hollywood struggle. Catch up with Michelle in our interview and be sure to check her out in All the Way to the Top!
Brittany Frederick: You’ve been busy in the years since leaving Strike Back. Catch me up on what you’ve been doing recently.
Michelle Lukes: I’ve had a finger in a variety of pies, until COVID-19 hit, obviously. A feature I was in called Go Back to China premiered at SXSW before going on to have a theatrical release. Another feature I was a part of called Samir, which was funded by Warner Bros., did the festival circuit last year.
I’ve been lucky enough to play some really exciting characters in the gaming world which I can’t talk about, so don’t ask me! Most recently I did an episode of MacGyver for CBS which was so fun! It was just such a positive experience and reminded me exactly why I love this job so much. Plus, I got to work with the brilliant Sebastian Roché who is just gold.
BF: Which brings us to All the Way to the Top. The web series is not the first time you’ve played Edie; can you explain your history with the character?
ML: I’ve played Edie several times before this web series came to fruition, in All the Way to the Top‘s various incarnations. She’s been English and American, and I’ve played at her at readings, on screen and on stage. We’re friends now.
BF: What was it about the project that you loved so much to stay associated with it for this long?
ML: Working on this project was challenging and required me to step out of my comfort zone, which I’m not mad at. (laughs) I think it’s a good exercise once in a while! In any profession, when we push ourselves, it facilitates growth. And as an actor, trying new things helps you get really clear about your brand and where you see yourself in the world.
BF: Comedy is a whole different lane from the dramatic work that you’re known for. Do you find it as challenging as drama?
ML: Being funny is something that comes quite naturally to me in my personal life, but being funny on television is a whole different ball game. The two are not mutually exclusive, and it’s actually quite technical, if you can believe that. You know there are a multitude of classes you can sign up for here in Los Angeles where they “teach” you how to be funny? True story.
Anyway, whatever the genre, there’s always a danger of overthinking things, but comedy being such an elusive skill is so relentlessly drummed into us by the industry that it’s hard not to.
BF: So did you learn anything from All the Way to the Top that helped you grow as a comedic actress? Or anything else that you’re going to take away from the series as a whole?
ML: All the Way to the Top was a great masterclass for me. I wish I could go back and have a do-over now that I’ve watched it back, and seen what works and what absolutely doesn’t! Ah, the luxury of time. And hindsight. It would be amazing if the show went to series – with me in it of course – and I got the chance to play Edie over an extended period of time. That’s when the magic happens.
The biggest lesson for me was how much legwork and self promotion is required when you’re creating and funding your own project. I have to admit I’ve always struggled with this aspect of the business, and find selling anything deeply uncomfortable. I’m definitely happier as the sheep and not the shepherd! Having said that, the experience was a valuable lesson in so many ways, and ultimately reaffirmed the fact that I’m probably not meant to be a producer anytime soon.