Glass meets actor and producer Michaela Conlin, star of US hit TV show Bones

Few can boast a lifetime of doing what they love and following their greatest passion and actor and producer Michaela Conlin, star of Fox’s hit television show Bones, is one of those few. From the humble and adorable beginnings of a five-year-old girl, active in local community theater, she is now highly lauded for her role as the feisty forensic artist, Angela Montenegro, in Bones.

She has also appeared in movies such as The Lincoln Lawyer alongside Matthew McConaughey and Enchanted alongside Amy Adams. On the eve of the mid-season finale of the phenomenally successful Bones, we talk to Conlin about the role that has made her an American household name these last 11 years and her forthcoming, highly anticipated indie film Baby Baby Baby, in which she stars opposite award winning artists Kelsey Grammar and Dennis Haysbert.

_57A3909Michaela Conlin photographed by Nicole Nodland

Was acting a dream of yours as a child?
Yeah, it was. I did a play when I was in kindergarten and I felt very connected to it, even when I was very young, and thankfully my parents were very supportive of it.

What was your first role?
In kindergarten I was the Gingerbread man. My first theatre job where I got paid was in the King and I in Pennsylvania.

Your parents are Irish and Chinese-American. Would you say that you’ve had any unique experiences growing up in a multicultural home?
Growing up in Pennsylvania, I think certainly in our town, it was definitely unusual at that time. There was definitely always an interesting mix of food in my house because my mom cooked Chinese food, but we also ate Philly cheese steaks, hot dogs, pierogis and a lot of local Pennsylvanian food. But my mother was born in Queens New York, so her experience growing up in New York was more influential, I think, than her being Chinese.

_57A4023Michaela Conlin photographed by Nicole Nodland

Tell me about attending the prestigious NYU Tisch School of the Arts (notable alumni include Adam Sandler, Kristen Bell and Debra Messing). What was that like for you?
It was incredible. It was a very competitive program. I went in as an undergraduate. It was really formative. I was exposed to so much theater in New York City at such a young age. The professors they bring in are really incredible and the way the program is structured and built is just really smart. So many of my friends to this day went through that program with me. It was a really, really special time. I really enjoyed it.

Was NYU somewhere you knew you always wanted to attend? What led to you making that decision?
I did. I knew that I wanted to be in New York. New York is only about two hours from my hometown and my Chinese side of the family still lived in New York and the surrounding area. As a kid we would go in all the time and see theater. I knew that that’s where I wanted to be. There are only so many programs that are really strong theater programs in the city. So yes, NYU was always one of my top choices.

After 11 seasons as Angela do you feel any strong likenesses with your character after all this time? Has she changed you in any way over the years?
That’s a good question. Yeah, I always felt very connected to her, even before I got the role, which is always helpful when you’re auditioning for something. I initially really responded to how forthright and strong and direct she was. She was just very comfortable with herself and in her own skin. And was comfortable telling people what she thought, which I think is a really interesting character trait.

She’s just a really strong-willed woman and I responded to that initially. Definitely after playing someone for 14 hours a day for 11 years, she’s definitely had an influence on me. We’re pretty similar in some ways. I think she’s a little bit more willing to tell people how she feels about them. She’s not worried about making a mess in that way. I really have a lot of respect for her.

_57A3933Michaela Conlin photographed by Nicole Nodland

You recently produced indie movie Sparrows Dance. What inspired you to start producing? Are there any specific types of works you find yourself attracted to?
A good friend of mine, Noah Buschel, who is a writer and director out of New York City, who I’d been talking to about producing said, “I’m doing this movie and we’re shooting on a soundstage in LA. I’d love to have you produce it.” I did it for a while while shooting Bones, which was really crazy at that time, but the movie was a small project and I learned a lot. I’m really proud of the movie. I think it was really well done and he’s gone on to do some really great movies. I like small, sort of dark stories. Those are the interesting ones.

The upcoming film Baby, Baby, Baby recently won a Vanguard Audience Award in Austin. I’m sure it’s wonderful getting such praise so early on. What was your favorite part of filming the movie?
It was a really fun movie to do. A friend of mine wrote and directed it, an actor named Brian Klugman. I liked the character because she was different than other people that I’ve played. She’s not the most likeable person.

Was it enjoyable to play someone out of your usual roll, someone who isn’t everyone’s favorite person, and step outside your own box a bit?
It’s always fun to do different things. Especially since the rhythm of our TV show has a structure that’s very specific structure Bones. It’s nice to sort of break that rhythm and do something that’s written differently and edited differently, you know, see through the eyes of somebody different. It’s always really good to use different muscles when you’re not shooting the show that you’ve been doing for a long time. It was nice.

Which do you find to be more personally rewarding, acting or producing?
I don’t know. I haven’t done enough producing to say really, so if you can ask me that question in five years, maybe I’ll have a better answer for you. I think they’re really different. You know, acting is very physical and is very active and you have to use your body and your voice and integrate all those things together. The experience I had on Sparrows Dance was more cerebral and you have to use different parts of yourself. It was very different.

What would you say is the most rewarding and unexpected thing you’ve gained from your life of acting and working in the arts?
Not to take things personally and to work really hard. I feel really fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I guess the unexpected part is the challenges are different every day when you’re on a set. You sort of don’t know what’s going to be thrown at you. But the rewarding parts are endless. You get to grow as a person, you get to have really strong connections with the crew and the cast that you’re working with. You never know where you’re going to be working and who’re you’re going to be working with, so it forces you to adapt very quickly.

If you could tell your younger self anything at all, what would you have to say?
Relax and have fun. Those two things. I think when I was starting out I was so worried about getting a job and getting another job. It’s your life and what you do every day, so I think I would say that.

In terms of enjoying it more or just for your own sanity?
Both. As an actor, you are your business. There’s no real separation between those two things. So it’s not like you go to a job and then you leave it. It was hard to figure those things out as a younger person. So yeah, enjoying it more, for sure. But that’s something I think you learn as you go on in life anyway.

by Sandra Leal

Photographs: Nicole Nodland
Styling: Penny Lovell
Make-up: Fabiola
Hair: Sascha Breuer

The mid-season finale of Bones airs tonight on Fox