Michael Beach is known for complicated characters. Whether it was leading the charge as Monte “Doc” Parker on NBC‘s Third Watch, or years later portraying altruistic drug lord Darius Parker on the network’s Chicago PD, every role he takes has something that doesn’t quite fit. That’s what makes him great—he can blur the lines a bit and push the boundaries of what the audience expects.
That’s on full display in his latest movie Immanence, where he plays a mysterious stranger named Jonah whose arrival creates chaos and prompts a heated debate about the very nature of the universe. It’s a heady film that asks some huge questions, and I had a chance recently to ask Michael several questions about the movie. Read our interview and then watch the film on your favorite streaming platform.
He was involved in the movie early in the process. “I was closely involved in the script. When they came to me and asked me to do it, one of the caveats was that we would work on the script and flesh it out a little bit more,” he explained. “One of the things that I really love about the character is his past and why he’s here doing what he’s doing, what he’s actually attempting to do, which is obviously unknown for quite a while.”
Portraying a mysterious character, though, is not an easy thing to do; many actors can try so hard to not show things to the audience that they don’t communicate anything at all. Michael has a track record of playing parts like Jonah, and there’s one way he keeps that mystery while also still fleshing out the role.
“The thing that I always fall back on is what my character wants and who can they trust or rely on to help them get that,” he told me. “One of the ways you can play so that you don’t give away too much to people is that ‘Oh, in the story, I can’t trust that person,’ so I’m not going to let them in on my thoughts until slowly I realize [I can]. Or maybe I need something from them, so I have to give them something in order to get something back. That’s how I play that type of thing.”
Longtime Michael Beach fans will also appreciate Immanence for staging a Third Watch reunion. One of Michael’s co-stars in the film is Anthony Ruivivar, who spent years working alongside him on the NBC drama, and they have plenty of screen time together in the movie. “We’re the opposite sides of each other in this movie,” Michael teased. “The movie is a kind of a battle between the idea of God and science. So many people think that they don’t have anything to do with each other, or you can only believe one or the other, and this film is having that discussion.”
Michael reached out to Anthony to be part of the film based on their prior work together. “He and I were always battling each other on [Third Watch], and 20 years later he and I are battling each other in this movie,” he said. “Completely different characters, but I always loved the idea of sparring with him because we did it for so long 20 years ago, and so it was great when he said he was available to do this project. The moments that I really enjoyed are those moments, because it’s what’s pushing the story forward.
“Every once in a while you have something that my character Jonah, says and you go ‘Okay, that’s an interesting point,’ and then Anthony’s character Roman will have a counter and you go ‘Well, that’s pretty interesting too,'” he continued. “That’s the battle between these two characters. Summer [Bellessa]’s character Naomi is pretty much in the middle, because she’s somebody that grew up in a religious home, but she’s also an astronomer.”
Immanence is another great addition to Michael’s already impressive filmography. He’s been in plenty of films and TV shows that viewers know and love, and he’s often one of the biggest reasons why people love them. So after decades of keeping us entertained, what keeps him excited? How does acting and diving into characters like Jonah still challenge him?
“I think the challenge is always can I do justice to this? Not just the story, but the character,” he reflected. “I don’t like falling into the trap of false moments like ‘Oh, the character’s supposed to cry here according to the script,’ or ‘He’s supposed to be mad here.’ Is the real ultimate goal that this character cry or that this character make you feel something, make you connect in some way?
“The goal is to push you in a certain direction, and if an actor is trying to do that with these false moments because that’s what it says you’re supposed to do in the script…[If] you don’t really believe it so you don’t really live up to it, so the moment is false, then you’re doing a disservice to the script…What keeps me alive, what keeps me excited, is the idea of trying to be as honest and as truthful and as connected in every moment as I possibly can.”
Immanence is now streaming on Amazon Video and other digital platforms.
Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.