PASADENA, Calif. — When Michael Weston decided he wanted to be an actor, he sought the advice of his father. This promised to be a wise choice since Weston’s dad is veteran actor John Rubinstein (“Desperate Housewives,” “Parenthood”).
But the counsel wasn’t what he was looking for. “He said, ‘If you can do anything else, do it,’” recalls Weston seated in a hotel alcove here.
The problem was he couldn’t do anything else. Well, baseball, maybe, way back. He proved a promising player in high school, but threw his arm out, ending a burgeoning career.
“I always liked to mess around. I was the class clown in those ways. But I never saw myself up on stage,” he says, leaning back on the beige velveteen couch, his arm resting on the back of the sofa.
“But my dad was an actor and my mom was an actress. So it was in my bones all along. I just didn’t really know it... To me, I loved sports so much, but what I loved about acting is that it’s a team sport as well. You have this elaborate team and you all collaborate in a deep and personal and creative way and in an intense, sort of athletic way, and you create this thing. One component can’t do it on his own. You have to have each other, look to each other, and trust each other. I love that aspect of it. It was a deeper, more complete sport to me.”
Though his parents divorced when Michael was 12, he remembers watching the erratic nature of his father’s job. “My dad... has spent a career feeling when it’s good it’s good, and when it’s not, it’s hard. It’s painful and you have to be very resilient and have to check your ego at the door and invest in the best qualities of the work,” says Weston, 42. “I learned that from him. I took his advice seriously. And as I did it, I realized that I was OK with the rejection, with the ups and downs of it, and the unknown,” says Weston, who changed his moniker because there was another actor with the same name in the actors’ guild.
He recalls that his father had spent months refining a play only to have the New York Times theater critic bury it on opening night. “My dad worked with so much love and heart in what he did and just gave himself to it. With a play, you work for weeks and weeks and weeks and finally put it out, and then some guy comes in and in one night can shut it all down. I remember he took it so personally. It broke his heart... I remember seeing how hard he took it and also remember seeing him get on his feet and go back into the next thing. There was something about that. I found it very heroic.”
But he comes from a line of heroic artists. Weston’s grandfather was the famous classical pianist Arthur Rubinstein.
There’s some of that daring in Weston’s latest role as the intrepid Harry Houdini in Fox’s new series, “Houdini & Doyle,” premiering next Monday. It pits the famous duo — magician Harry Houdini and “Sherlock Holmes” author Arthur Conan Doyle — against the Victorian underworld when they are conscripted to assist Scotland Yard.
Acting may require audacity, but Weston says, “The gutsiest things one does in life is to be truthful, open yourself up. The intimacy that one finds with one’s spouse, those are the scariest moments of my life. This stuff is scary, and it’s hard and it’s what you do, but I love it to my toes. But to me, the triumphs in my life are the ones ingrained in me in some dark part of myself. And to break that crust and to find the better human being within it where I really exist and where I am a deeper, better human, those are the triumphs for me.”
Costarring in an absorbing miniseries marks only one of Weston’s latest challenges. He and his wife, singer Priscilla Ahn, are the parents of a 5-month-old baby boy.
“I’m a loving dude and care deeply about everyone in my life, but I don’t think I’ve experienced this kind of love in my life. This kid, it hits a chord in my guts, it’s just something else. I sit there and look at him, and you’re instantly relearning everything about yourself. You see this little pure, innocent thing, and he’s already open and good in all ways, and it restores your sense of hope in what’s good in the world. It’s an amazing feeling. It shakes the foundations of everything you thought the world was about.”
The Crypt Keeper rises again
We have to wait a year but TNT and M. Night Shyamalan are reviving the old Crypt Keeper and “Tales from the Crypt,” that haunted comic books first and then HBO. The anthology will feature horror blocks, the way “American Horror Story” does. The first season will pay tribute to the slasher movies of the ‘80s, subsequent sections will visit other horror categories ... Speaking of horror, the cult classic “Mother May I Sleep with Danger?” is being redone by Lifetime, Sony and James Franco, set to air on June 18. Ivan Sergei and Tori Spelling, who costarred in the first film, are reunited in this spooky remake. Franco will star.
Investigation Discovery to host event
Like Comic-con before it, the Investigation Discovery Channel is holding an IDcon in New York come June 11. Fans of the all-crime network (who are predominately women) will seize the chance to meet their favorites — Joe Kenda, “Homicide Hunter,” Paula Zahn, “On the Case,” Chris Hansen, “Mind of a Murderer,” etc. The event will be held at the Altman Building and will offer all kinds of killer treats including a chance to serve as a walk-on (or maybe a dead body) on one of the shows. Admission is free, but you must register to attend at https://idcon.eventbrite.com, first-come, first served.
Private eye back on the case
Next Monday Acorn TV will begin streaming a whole new season of Guy Pearce as the rebellious and cheeky “Jack Irish.” Already the veteran of three TV movies, the Australian private eye deserves his own series as interpreted by the terrific Pearce. Though he’s been super successful in projects like “Memento” and “L.A. Confidential,” Pearce tells me he’s not so sure he likes performing. “I don’t know how much I do like acting. I feel I’ve always used acting in my life as a survival technique that’s why I don’t really feel at times that I’m a real actor who does his homework and all that stuff,” he says.
“I got into acting when I was pretty young. It is a survival technique sometimes... the fear of being uninteresting, the fear of looking scared, a response to perhaps when I was younger and was thinking about something and my mother would say to me, ‘Get that miserable look off your face.’ ‘Oh, I’m not miserable.’ Now somebody pays me to do it. I constantly question it, and I constantly question the value of it and see that it sort of perpetuates those insecurities.”