INTERVIEW: Michael Grant talks with TV STORE ONLINE about The Secret Life Of The American Teenager

 Michael Grant, "Ethan" on ABC Family's The Secret Life Of The American Teenager talks with TV STORE ONLINE about the series, as well as his work Private Practice and most recently, Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

TV  STORE ONLINE:    Michael, has anyone ever told you that you look like Sam Rockwell?

GRANT:   No!  But he's a really cool guy.  So I'll take that comparison.

TV STORE ONLINE:    I know you grew up in Tennessee....What were like a little kid?

GRANT:   Yeah I did.  I lived in Tennessee  before I moved out here to Los Angeles a few years ago.  I think that I was a good kid.  I didn't get into too much trouble.  Tennessee is really great.  It's a great part of the country, and there are so many beautiful forests and it's really quiet.  

TV STORE ONLINE:   Growing up...What do you think it was that inspired you to pursue acting?   Was there a film that you saw that really influenced you for example?

GRANT:   There were a few things....When I was growing up I was studying to become a classical pianist and that kind of led me to one thing and then another.    I took some improvisation classes.  I did a few things back home in Tennessee.    I got hooked up with a local talent agency. Then I took some acting classes, and not long after that I got an agent out here in Los Angeles, and eventually moved.   As far as performances go....I really love Johnny Deep's performance as "Jack Sparrow" in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN [2003-current] movies.  I also really liked what Heath Ledger did as "The Joker" in THE DARK KNIGHT [2008].     Those performances are absolutely incredible.

TV STORE ONLINE:   What do you think inspired you in those performances? 

GRANT:   Just that they were and are phenomenal performers.   And I think that I saw that they really believed that they were those characters.   At least for me, when I saw Heath Ledger as The Joker I didn't see Heath Ledger, I just saw that character.    The same with Johnny Deep as well.   It looked like they were having so much fun.  Those characters have such a range too.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Going back to something you mentioned a moment ago....You grew playing the piano and started to compete as a pianist at such an early age...How easy did the piano come to you?

GRANT:  When I was really little.... I think I was only two or three years old at the time when my mom enrolled me in a kids music class.    When I was four years old I went to my mom and asked her if I could learn how to play the piano.  My mom let me try it out, and I just stuck with it.   I don't know how easy or natural anything came to me because with anything it takes a lot of work to learn to play.   I'm still playing today even though acting has become the focus in my life.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Do you enjoy listening to all types of music?  Or are you one of those musicians that sticks to what they play?

GRANT:  I listen to a lot of classical piano, but I like a lot of different stuff too.  I like Coldplay, Kings Of Leon and Jack White.  The White Stripes too.  Those are some of my favorite groups.  I like to listen to Bill Evans.  I love listening to jazz pianists.  I enjoy flipping through the radio stations often.  Recently, I've really gotten into Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis.  Those guys are really great.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Your musical experience has seemed to integrate itself into your young acting career and in the characters you've played....

GRANT:  Right, it really has.   That was especially the case for that episode of Private Practice [2011] that I did.   I remember reading the breakdown for that part at the audition and thinking about how I would be a perfect fit for that character and  about how much that I really wanted that part.  

TV STORE ONLINE:   Your performance in that episode was really great....  Plus the whole storyline served as such a moral dilemma...

GRANT:  Yeah, absolutely.    It was an interesting experience.   It was great to work with that cast.   The character was facing the choice of not being able to walk or not being able to play the piano.   I think it also speaks to the character's priorities too.  He was so focused on playing the piano, and also, it came down to that connection that he had with his grandfather, and how he thought that if he couldn't play the piano any more, his grandfather wouldn't love him.    His grandfather was his last living relative.  I don't know if I can relate exactly to that scenario myself, but I understood the priority of the character and the risks that character was willing to take.

TV STORE ONLINE:  That scene when your character is being operated on while at the same time playing the piano is pretty interesting...

GRANT:   I was actually playing that little keyboard in the scene.   It was interesting, because up until the night that we shot that, they hadn't decided what the piece of music would be that I should play in the scene.   When they decided, I was fortunate because I was already familiar with it so it all worked out.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did The Secret Life of the American Teenager [2011-13] series come to you?

GRANT:   That was such a blast to do.  It was really lot of fun.  I auditioned for "Ethan" and was fortunate when Brenda Hampton, the show's creator, cast me as a reoccurring character for Season Four and then as a regular on Season Five.     The character just grew and he started to have relationships with some of the other characters and it just grew out of that. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   I really appreciate your work on the series...I really liked how they started "Ethan" out as this troubled kid that had some darkness in the eyes and then grew him into this quirky kid with a big heart.   There was a great storyline there for you too....When Ethan gets involved with the pregnant "Kathy"....

GRANT:  Thanks.  I did a lot of work on Ethan.   Especially for his back story.  I really put a lot of thought into him, because unlike Ethan, I was lucky to have two loving parents growing up.   They had given me a note in one of the auditions that they wanted Ethan to be more "street".  So I went out and spent some time on the street just to see how that would feel.   I did little things like that, so I could try to get into his head space and see what it would've been like to grow up as he did.

(L-R) Julian Acosta with Michael Grant
TV STORE ONLINE:   The Secret Life of the American Teenager was a series that was very heavy on moralities...As an actor are you aware of that stuff?  Do you see those things in the scripts?  Or do you not pay attention to those types of things to focus on the character work?

GRANT:  Reading the scripts...You pick up on those messages and different themes and the other things that the writers were trying to bring to the forefront of the show.  As an actor, I try not to involve myself in that because it's really from the writer's world, and it was their show.    I just focused on the character and how he was interacting with the other characters.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How about that episode near the end of the series?  The episode where you had to dress up as Santa Claus...

GRANT:  Right.  That was fun.   It was Christmas In July on set.   We shot that episode in July.  It was really hot.  I had never really been dressed up in a full Santa suit before that and I really considered it a privilege.  Not many young actors can say that they got to play Santa Claus on television.

TV STORE ONLINE:  As moral as Secret Life of the American Teenager was...Not only can you tell others that you got to dress up as Santa, but that your character Ethan also got to proposition a girl for sex with money, play keyboards in a musical number, and survive getting stabbed in the calf...

(L-R) L. Scott Caldwell with Michael Grant
GRANT:  Yes!  That's right...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you think that you, Michael Grant, brought to that character of Ethan that wasn't already in the script?

GRANT:   Well, originally Ethan was written as a cocky kid.   I think that was because there was a lot of stuff that he was trying to cover up.   I think that I tried to bring as much heart as I could to it.  Without trying to sound too cheesy or anything, I hope that I brought heart, connection and love to it.    It's not always written on the page, but I think that Ethan was really looking for acceptance and I hope that I was able to help him with that.

Cierra Ramirez and Michael Grant
TV STORE ONLINE:   There seemed to be a great chemistry between yourself and Cierra Ramirez as Kathy...How important is it for you as the actor to have chemistry with someone who you're working with?

GRANT:  For me, I always like to have chemistry with the person I'm working with.   Working with Cierra Ramirez was really wonderful.   We got along with each other very well.    Having chemistry with the person that you're working with always just makes everything easy too.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Same thing with L. Scott Caldwell who played Ethan's foster mother on the series? The two of you seemed to really connect.    Being such a young actor yourself and having the opportunity to work with great veteran actor like L. Scott Caldwell, do you learn anything from the experience?

GRANT:  So much.  On set training is so valuable.    It really helps you stay on your game.  Chances are, if you're feeling tired , the crew is as well. So you suck it up and give it your all so everyone can go home together.    Working with someone as great as "Scotty" you learn about focus and priorities.   

TV STORE ONLINE:   Where do you see yourself going from here?   You've had these great roles on Private Practice and The Secret Life of the American Teenager...But how and where do you want to be challenged next as an actor?   Is there a type of character you'd like to play in the near future?

GRANT:   Well, I really love watching what Leonardo DiCaprio does.  I love the stuff he did in films like THIS BOY'S LIFE [1993] and THE BASKETBALL DIARIES [1995].   I really want to move in that direction.  I want to do films like that.  I want to sink my teeth into films that have great stories and have great casts.  That's the ultimate goal.

(L) Andre Braugher (C) Michael Grant with
(R) Andy Samberg as "Lt. Jake Peralta".
TV STORE ONLINE:  How about your recent appearance on Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine [2013]?

GRANT:  That was so much fun.   It might have been the most fun I've ever had on a set.   The character I played "Trevor" was a fun part.   Working with Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher was so much fun too.  Those guys were so great.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Your character is a graffiti artist that draws a penis on a cop car...Did you have to practice drawing a penis?

GRANT:  I did.  They had a professional graffiti artist there and he was so cool.  I really gained a lot of respect for graffiti artists. I thought those guys were  just spray painting  the side of a building.  He taught me how to hold a spray can and where to spray...Then afterward I got to practice spray painting penises .  Who gets to say that they did that at their work?

TV STORE ONLINE:   You are a big football fan aren't you?

GRANT:  Totally...I'm from Tennessee so I'm a huge fan of the Titans.  I love the Titans through and through.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Will the Titans make the playoffs this season?

GRANT:  I feel like we can make a wild card spot this season.  We were looking pretty good before Jake Locker got injured.   I think if Jake Locker comes back after our bye week and starts to throw well, then I think we can get that wild card spot.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Last question....What do you have coming up next?

GRANT:  I finished an indie film called ZOE GONE that should be coming out in 2014.  The director Conor Allyn just wrapped up another film with Mickey Rourke.  So I hope people will watch for that and check it out when it is released.

For more with Michael Grant please visit his official website HERE:

Labels: , ,