Michael Marisi Ornstein, 46 anos, actor, pintor, escritor, argumentista e realizador com mais de 25 anos consagrados às lides artísticas. Ele é, claramente, um artista com muito potencial e com muito talento para ser explorado. O seu site oficial (link) é um bom exemplo disso.
Na televisão portuguesa é praticamente um desconhecido. Vimo-lo recentemente na SIC no papel de Frank Davis na série "NCIS: Los Angeles", onde participa a actriz portuguesa Daniela Ruah.
No entanto, é no papel de Chuck Marstein (uma personagem com um síndrome de masturbação compulsiva...) na série "Sons of Anarchy" que ele é actualmente reconhecido mundialmente. A série, cuja 2ª temporada terminou nos EUA em Dezembro de 2009, chegará aos ecrãs portugueses em Março deste ano, através do canal FX português.
Responder a esta entrevista via email foi um desafio que o Michael aceitou de imediato com enorme simpatia e disponibilidade (e ainda teve a amabilidade de nos enviar uma foto autografada especialmente para esta entrevista e para o nosso blogue!).
Aqui ficam as interessantes respostas do Michael Marisi Ornstein às perguntas do Sons of Anarchy Portugal. Assim que for possível, iremos proceder à sua tradução para português. Até lá, podem fazer copy/paste das perguntas e respostas para o Tradutor do Google e deste modo obter uma tradução para português. Obrigado.
1 – Michael, you’re a painter and an actor with over twenty five years of professional experience between New York City, Cape Cod, and Los Angeles. You’re also a writer and a film-maker. How would you describe yourself?
Michael Marisi Ornstein - I’m an artist who uses many different artistic disciplines in order to express what I’m thinking and feeling. If something I’m feeling is best expressed in a film, I’ll find an affordable way to make it into a film. If it’s a song, I’ll use the three chords I know and record it as a song. If it’s best expressed as a painting, I’ll paint it in colors. I view all these modes of expression as tools that I can use to get the job done. I guess, what I’m really doing is documenting the thought or feeling, so, if you look at my entire body of work, you are looking at a documentation of my life in one long stream. My acting work is different because my job there is to serve the writer and director of the given piece and I take that responsibility very seriously.
2 - You filmed “Time Away (link)” in 1996 (re-edited in 2009), the first digital video feature ever made. Besides that, you’re currently making the "painted films", little movies about your paintings. Do you have any personal project in mind or an idea for a big budget movie that you could direct one day?
MMO - “Time Away” was a film about my life at the time. I wrote it in three days and had to get it on film as soon as possible. So, I found a way to do that through Digital Video, which was an entirely unknown medium at the time that I discovered through a guy named Winston at B&H Camera in NYC. This film didn’t come along the way other filmmakers do it, which is to write a script and raise money and get a crew, a cast, a director of photography and a producer, etc. I had no money at all. This film was made out of sheer necessity of needing to express what I was going through at the time. I put the camera and mic on a credit card, got my friends together, and somehow, we ended up with a movie. My friend JB Miller describes it as a “Painter’s Film” and I agree with him. It’s the same sort of idea with the small films I make with my paintings. My paintings of people are already stories, really. In my mind, I’m painting stories and sometimes, I write the stories down from their perspective, their narrative. These films of the paintings encompass my paintings, my writing and my filmmaking. They also include my acting, now that I think of it, because I record the stories by myself. My intention was not to do that, the intention was to have other actors record the voices, but since I live in a rather isolated place, it’s difficult for me to record other actors. As far as my aspirations for further filmmaking, I love what Carlos Saura did in his Flamenco Trilogy. I saw these films long ago, immediately after they were released, and they’ve stuck with me as inspirations. I flow with them very personally and agree with what he is doing, having the process be the performance. This is the concept I have always been working with. I’m currently working this way with a screenplay that I wrote. I’m working on it with actors in front of a live audience so that the process of developing the script becomes the “performance.” So, we’ll see what comes out of that.
3 – Your paintings are provocative and evocative, with the preponderance of intimacy themes. There’s also a wildness and spontaneity of composition of the drawings. Can you describe the creative process of your artworks? Where do you get your inspiration for your oil paintings presently?
MMO - Yeah, my paintings are not tame. Another artist once described them as “dirty”, meaning “unpolished.” I don’t paint in order to create pretty pictures of people, places and things. I do not paint from models or from landscapes. I certainly do not paint in order to put forth clever ideas based on the exploration of what previous artists have laid the groundwork for in the past. I’m not painting from any particular school. I’m not painting to win awards or to be shown at the Whitney. I paint for the same reasons that Arthur Rimbaud put words together. It’s basic alchemy through mysticism, which is something that Portugal can understand, as so many of the wisest Jewish mystics were from Portugal and Spain. My paintings are about inventing new colors and new language. That’s what I’m doing. Rimbaud did it with words and I’m doing it through colors. To me, painting is a mystical and serious business. Conjuring up these images is not up to me. My job is to open up to whatever feels like coming through at any given time and I do my best to catch up and get the images onto the canvas in an honest way, boiled down to their simplest form. There’s a mystery that I go out of my way not to know the answer to, because I rely on the perpetual process of diving deeper and deeper into what it is that I’m dealing with. I never set out to paint a particular image – what I set out to do is to get to a place in myself that is open and clear … I turn off my conscious ‘thinking’ and paint. It’s similar to dreaming in the sense that there’s no ‘time’, no ‘right’, no ‘wrong’, no ego, and, most importantly, no irony. There is only color, movement and layers. When I’m in this place, I can feel the dishonestly of a single stroke and undo it through a breath, bringing me back to the process. I like to leave the “finished” images in a place that’s still “unfinished” and somewhere inside of my process and not give in to the natural temptation to “present” a finished image to the viewer. I like for the viewer to “meet” me half way in creating the image. I feel that’s really important, for the viewer to take part in creating the image by bringing their imagination to a particular piece and collaborating with me in order to bring the piece to life. My paintings look different from day to day. They change with the light and with the mood of the viewer. My paintings on paper are meant to be backlit. Colors not visible to the naked eye come alive when light is streaming through these paintings. For all these reasons, I view my paintings as living organisms because each time a viewer looks at them, they are brought to life. I believe that my paintings require a viewer to interact with them in order to become whole.
4 – You live in Cotuit (link), Cape Cod (Massachusetts), with your wife and two babies. What's it like living in Cape Cod, far way from big urban areas?
MMO - We’ve met some very cool people here who we like a whole lot. Our daughter goes to a wonderful nursery school with deeply caring teachers. I love my local fresh market and local restaurant that serves some of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. But, on a larger level, it’s very isolating for us here, both creatively and personally. We moved here to provide a healthy atmosphere for our children to grow up in and what we are learning is that the school system is worrisome and there’s very little attention being paid to the young people of the community, which it’s clearly hurting the youth. The community leaders seem to be indifferent to the youth, which I find to be an enormously unfortunate reality. The creative community here is also very territorial and is atrophied as a result. There is very little ethnic or artistic culture here, which is a huge problem for us. So, all in all, it’s my current feeling that it would be healthier for our children to grow up in an area where they can experience an array of different cultures through the people, the art and the foods, etc. That’s how I’m feeling just now, anyway. That place sounds like New York City, which is an international urban city. My city, which I still consider my home.
5 – Let’s talk about Chuck Marstein and the TV show “Sons of Anarchy”. How it came up the chance to work in this show?
MMO - Kurt Sutter invented this amazingly unique character and I was lucky enough to be given the honor to play him, which I’m deeply thankful for.
6 – How did you prepare to play the role of a character with a compulsive masturbation syndrome?
MMO - The way Chuck was written, it was clear to me that he’s a substantial person with a huge obstacle in the way of his being a functional and “normal” person. He’s obviously very smart, but can you imagine him in a boardroom, giving a presentation of annual financial results with his hand down his pants? I gave a lot of thought to building a life for him that occurred before the moment he was saved and picked up off the floor by Otto in the first scene he appeared in. What led him there? What led him to being the accountant for Lin? What gave him the strength to develop his survival instincts that he uses to overcome basically any situation that’s thrown at him? What kind of madness manifested itself in a tic that causes compulsive masturbation? That’s the genius of Kurt. To create such a sea of complications in a character and then to root it firmly in a place where it’s believable. I took the given circumstances and put my focus, 100%, on the other actors who are the most truthful and honest people I have ever worked with. Also, of course, humor plays a huge part in all that, which is what makes Chuck so much fun. We had a blast.
7 - Did you bring any of your own personality into the character? Was there any improvisation or was it all sticking to the script?
MMO - No improvisation at all, it’s all there in the script. I brought a lot of my own personality to it, sure, filtered through the given circumstances of the character, cause that’s what actors do.
8 - What was that like working with Kurt Sutter and the rest of the Sons of Anarchy writers, the crew and the cast? Do you have real life friends in the show?
MMO - Kurt and Katey are very close friends of mine. When working creatively, it’s a benefit to working with people who you already have a working relationship with. Musicians do it all the time and so do directors, writers, actors, filmmakers, choreographers, businesspeople, chefs, etc. Working creatively, there’s an element of challenging someone to the limits of their scope, in a healthy way. If you already have an established relationship with someone and know their capabilities, you have a certain freedom in that challenge, because you trust the person you’re working with is going to go as far as you want them to go. I’ve known Kurt for over twenty years. We met in acting school and worked closely for two whole years through a rigorous Meisner program with Kathryn Gately and became very good friends. The scene between Otto and Chuck in the prison was one of the greatest joys of my creative life. Katey was the first person outside of our immediate family to hold our daughter. She happened to be in NYC right when Lena was born and came over to meet her. Kurt and Katey also own a lot of my paintings, which to me is deeply meaningful on many levels. They produced a benefit exhibition of my paintings to raise money for L.A.’s Downtown Women’s Center, which helps the women on Skid Row. In fact, in all the plays, films and television shows I’ve worked on, SOA is the most personal to me because of the respect and genuine affection I have for everyone I’m working with. I consider everyone involved in this show to be a friend of mine. Working on this show is like cooking for my family. I’ve never felt more at home, never felt in better hands, and have never worked so hard to deliver.
9 – Season one or season two: which one did you enjoy most?
MMO - I see them both as one continuous flow, y’know, and love them both.
10 – Will Chuck Marstein return for the Season 3?
MMO - There’s a red Cardinal that lights on my holly tree every now and again. I never know where he goes when he goes and I never know if he’s ever coming back. Chuck’s like that bird. Who knows?
11 – We’ve seen you recently in the second episode of the new TV show “NCIS: Los Angeles” as Frank Davis. It was a small role. Will he come back? Have you had the chance to meet the beautiful Portuguese actress Daniela Ruah (Special Agent Kensi Blye)?
MMO - Don’t know, but it was fun to play a guy in a suit. Sadly, I did not get to meet the beautiful Daniela Ruah.
12 - Who amongst the people you've collaborated with have really influenced your work and creativity?
MMO - I had two very important teachers. Stella Adler and Anna Sokolow guided me through an initiation into a very serious old world sensibility toward being an artist and a person. Steve Again, the painter, through our conversations in Sandilino’s on Bleeker Street, taught me a lot about seeing things and a lot about integrity in all manners of life. Teachers like Michael Howard, Kathryn Gately and Loyd Williamson guided me further through all that. Aside from these friends and teachers, everybody I’ve ever met and worked with, everybody I’ve ever come in contact with in any way has influenced me in one way or another.
13 - Is there someone in particular whom you'd like to collaborate with in the future?
MMO - I’d love to collaborate with Tom Waits, but I’m in a long line.
14 – You are a regular Facebook (link) and Twitter (link) user. How much is important for you to keep in touch with your fans?
MMO - I think it’s very important for artists to communicate with the people who are receiving their work, because the audience is the reason for any show, exhibition, record album or film being in existence. A creative expression without a reception from an audience is meaningless. I think the most important function an artist can serve is to move people. Aside from that, I think it’s very important for artists to communicate beyond their work. I mean, look at what Kurt is doing with his blog and with Twitter. So, yeah, I really enjoy communicating with people on Twitter and Facebook and find inspiration and even collaboration there. It’s very important to me. Lately, I’ve been taking care of my two young children and haven’t had as much time to be online, but I’ll be back in touch soon.
15 – Have you ever been in Europe? Would you like to visit Portugal one day? We strongly recommend you!
MMO - I have been to France and Italy. I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy. I have dual citizenship there, so I have an EU passport. My mother’s family is from Sicily and my father’s is from Russia. My wife’s family is from Greece and Spain. My wife and I place great importance in our ancestry. I’d very much like to live in Europe one day, to give my children that experience. I would love to go to Portugal, I always wanted to go there. I want to walk the streets and explore the history, the culture, taste the food, see the art, the technology, the architecture, meet the people. There is a large Portuguese community in Hyannis and I find it to be the most vital community on the Cape. Also, I lived in a Portuguese neighbourhood in NYC when I first moved to the city and found the people to be very friendly, family oriented people. I was invited into their homes, they cooked amazing meals for me, foods I am still basing a lot of my cooking on. So, yes, absolutely, I would love to visit Portugal and would also love to exhibit my art there. That is something I would absolutely love to do.
Muito obrigado, Michael, por esta maravilhosa entrevista!