Interview: Fairly Legal’s Michael Trucco “The most important thing in developing my craft was learning the stage”

Michael Trucco on Battlestar Galactica, his new show, Fairly Legal and how he got started in acting!

Actor Michael Trucco

If you’re a fan of Battlestar Galactica, you know Michael Trucco from his role as Cylon Samuel Anders. Now, he’s a million miles away from that part and in a new USA series called, Fairly Legal.

In the show, he plays San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Justin Patrick, the ex- husband of the show’s main character played by Sarah Shahi.

Michael participated in a conference call where he talked about how he got started in acting, doing theater and how he approached his role in the show.

Fairly Legal airs Thursdays at 10/9c

How did you got involved with the show and what drew you to the character?

Michael Trucco: I guess the process was a little over a year ago.  I had just finished completing work on Battlestar Galactica.  You know, that series came to an end.  I was looking for work and for another show and to get into another project.  I liked the idea of Fairly Legal being 180° turnaround.  That’s the complete departure from the tone of a show like Battlestar Galactica and that was attractive to me.

I think it’s important for an actor to look for diversity in their roles and I like the idea of playing a human being, for one.  I like the tone of the show, the light-hearted, the dramady so to speak and the character interests me.  I’m a son of a police officer, and so the aspect of law and prosecution interests me greatly.

You  studied criminal justice in college, so is there anything from your studies that you can apply to your work on Fairly Legal?

Michael Trucco: We’re going a ways back there.  I don’t really retain much from the first couple semesters of my criminal justice studies.  No, I would say it has more to do with growing up in an atmosphere of law, being in the household of a police officer that informs my role more than anything that I started to study in college.  When you went to college, you take some very general classes and I never got into the specifics of criminal justice because I changed my major so early into the process.  Once I discovered the theater at Santa Clara and once I got into the theater program, I never got into specific criminal justice studies.  So, I would say that the majority of the experience I bring to the role really has everything to do with growing up the son of a police officer.

There’s such great chemistry between you and Sarah Shahi.  Did you find it was instant between the two of you or did you guys take a bit of time for it to gel?

Michael Trucco: The chemistry between Sarah and I is something that we discovered on set.  To use a term instantaneous is probably inaccurate.  It was more something that you develop as the scenes go on, but it definitely developed in the pilot.  You know, when you’re thrown into a scene with somebody and you’re half naked, there’s not a lot of room for discussion.  You just jump right in and sometimes the dynamic works between two actors and sometimes it doesn’t.  And Sarah and I were fortunate to discover that there was a good rapport.  There was a lot of trust between the two of us.

You do have the slightly rabid fan-base behind you after all of those shows, did you feel like there was more pressure on you coming into this one because you knew that you were going to … something different?

Michael Trucco: Yes, that’s probably fair to say that there is a certain amount of pressure to deliver your next role when you do have a fan-base as potent as the Battlestar Galactica family.  There was certainly a lot of curiosity to all of us on that show on Battlestar—what are you going to do next?  Where can we see you next?  That was a question we got more often than not, “Loved the show.  Where are you going to be next?  Where are we going to see you?  What are you going to turn up in?”

Before Fairly Legal presented itself to me, that question … moving in the back of my head.  I don’t know.  Oftentimes, actors don’t have the luxury of picking their part.  You go from one project to the next and you hope that you find one that fits you and that you’re suited for and then they see that you’re fit for it.  This one came along and—I don’t know.  It’s so early in the run and it’s so early in the season that I don’t know what the feedback is and if it’s going to be embraced by the fan-base, but I mean I’m hoping it will.

In any other legal show, this would be the hero.  This would the lead, but you’re not.  How do you approach the character?

Michael Trucco: Clearly, the show is centered on the character of Kate Reed, and you know that she’s been dealing with … Kate Reed with the other characters and her assistant Leo and her stepmother and her ex-husband, who I play.

But, in terms of the character, you know, I don’t really see it as a deficit or a disadvantage.  I think we explore the stereotypes of male and female characters on its head in this show.  And that could make a certain challenge in playing a character that is the male prosecuting attorney who would be the driving force behind the show and having to take a step down in the presence of Kate Reed.  She sort of drives … you know.

In the show, you guys are a former married couple.  Did you guys get together beforehand to create any sort of back story?

Michael Trucco: No, we didn’t—Sarah and I had not met.  Well we met when I was testing for the role, Sarah was obviously cast in the project and then they were bringing people in for what they call chemistry reads to work opposite of Sarah and to see what the dynamic … work out.  So, Sarah and I met briefly in that process.  And then when we got to shooting, it was pretty much fly by the seat of our pants.

What we have discovered is that we created backstory throughout production, in the process of shooting.  Instead of actually having time to do homework and sit down pre-production, we created our history during production.  We tried to put little subtleties into certain scenes and certain times that wasn’t—things that were necessarily on the page that I think translate well.

There’s just certain times when there’s a scene between Sarah and I, between Justin and Kate, in which there’s a familiarity that only two people who have been together for a certain amount of time, particularly who have been married and living together, they do.  In the way she might reach over and take a sip out of my coffee cup, we don’t make a big issue out—there’s certain characteristics, the familiarity, that we found during production in the midst of filming and I think that sort of informs our back story.

What’s your advice to actors?

Michael Trucco: My advice to actors, oh.  Yes, get … to a theater.  That’s my advice to actors.  If you can, put some in any shape, form, put some work up on a stage.  Whether it’s in … study or monologue studies or actually it could be local theater or Equity … or even Equity Theatre, but do some work on a stage.  Pick up a play.  For me personally—was the most important thing in developing my craft was learning the stage.  That would be my advice.

I’ve noticed that the roles that you have taken are usually opposite strong female characters.  Are you attracted to roles that have strong female co-stars in them?

Michael Trucco: I guess so.  I think that has more to do with the people who create the shows and the state of entertainment more than … my input.  Look … I just that’s the formula for good drama, for good entertainment.  I just seem to gravitate towards those roles.  I like, I really like playing opposite actresses like Katee Sackhoff and now Sarah Shahi.

These are women who, in my opinion, may raise my game so to speak, you know.  It’s like you know the … who sports when—you play tennis with a professional tennis player, it’s going to raise their game.  If you ski with a professional skier, it’s going to raise your game.  I find myself doing my better—my best work when I’m working with people like Sarah and Katee.  So, yes, I hope that I’ll get a chance throughout my career to constantly be surrounded by strong leading women.

Can you talk about how you got started in acting?

Michael Trucco: Yes, I got interested in it in high school, in theater particularly, but I grew up in a small town, you know medium size town in the Bay area called San Mateo, just south of San Francisco.  I didn’t think that as a kid in high school and grade school that acting wasn’t something that made itself—wasn’t presentable to me.  I just figured that was something that happened to people in Los Angeles and New York.  I didn’t know what the path was.  So, I went in college with the intention of being a criminal justice ….  My father was a police officer and it’s the reason that was going to also go into some form of law enforcement, but I went and discovered the theater program in college.

I auditioned for a play simply just to have some extracurricular activity in the meantime while I was studying.  And, a long story short, the head of the theater department at the time at Santa Clara University sat me down in her office and talked me into taking a course for non-majors, which is going to be one semester called Acting for Non-Majors.  Upon completing that course, she talked me into coming over to the theater department and actually changing my major and study with them and taking a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater Arts.

From there, it was like a light went off in my head and it was such a moment of clarity that, I guess that’s the whole purpose of college is the vocational purposes … you want to do with your life.  That feeling of getting to study— You know, actually the first time to go to school for something you want to do and not just feeling in sense of obligation of having to go to school.  But to actually get to study what you want to do and want to pursue for the rest of your life was an amazing feeling.  I mean, look, that gets back again to it’s a tough business, you know.  Just because you study theater doesn’t mean there’s any degree certainty that you’re going to get a career.  So, I just—I don’t know.

I went—I took the long, slow, hard road.  I’m certainly not a Cinderella story on the paper.  There’s nothing great to write about overnight sensation.  I started on the stage.  I stayed in the area for a couple of years.  I moved to Los Angeles because I started to get auditions for film and television in the San Francisco area and I kept hearing that, “You’re doing great, kid, but we cast the part out of L.A.”  It was one of those situations where if you can’t beat them, join them.  I knew that if I was going to do this for real and forever, I had to position myself in the best way possible and that was to move down to Los Angeles and get myself in. And, I just started doing a lot of theater when I got—a lot of local theater and just kept plugging away.

Sooner or later, the right person saw me in the right show at the right time and somebody said, “Hey, I can represent you,” and then from there, you just—one little part at a time.  The next thing, you start building this house of cards and one level at a time.  It just gets bigger and bigger and bigger and so flash forward to here we are today and I’m fortunate enough to be talking to you and discussing life on a series.  So, it’s good.  It’s all good.

Do you plan, though, to do theater again?  Or, if you keep getting television roles, will you not?

Michael Trucco: You know, I hope to, yes.  I can’t say when and where.  There is something very appealing about getting back on stage at some point.  It is the truest sense there is, you know.  It’s as raw as it gets.  You get a character from start to finish.  There are no second takes.  The feedback is instantaneous and … it’s a great place to be.  It’s a great place to learn your craft and I haven’t been on stage in a while and I hope the opportunity presents itself at some point.

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