BWW Interviews: Michael Wyatt Cox of WAR HORSE
Hi Michael! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with BroadwayWorld in Omaha!
Absolutely. Thank you!
Let's start at the beginning. When did you know that you wanted to be a performer?
You know, I was always kind of an outgoing kid. I had never really thought of performing as being a job. When I was in 8th grade my mom convinced me to audition for a play that was being put on in town, which was Once Upon A Matress. I really think she just wanted to get me out of the house for a summer, but... *laughs* I remember pretty much falling in love with the whole experience. It was my first time being around rehearsals and cast mates and performances. I especially loved rehearsing, which is such a big part (and fun part) about being an actor. Once I found out that performing was an actual career I was pretty much convinced that that was what I wanted to do.
I went to a performing arts high school and I studied acting at college at Central Florida. I also had the opportunity to have an apprenticeship at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, where I spent nine months both on stage and backstage. That was a big jumping off point for me as well.
Speaking of contributing to performance art both on stage and off, can you tell me a little bit about Smart Mouth Productions?
Sure! You know, that actually goes all the way back to my high school days. I made a couple of friends there, and we have always just kind of stuck together. We always joked around and wrote stuff and filmed pieces just for fun. We ended up in New York together auditioning for various things and we jumped back into it. One of my buddies bought a new camera and some sound equipment and lights and we started to get a little more serious about our sketch comedy. For me it's been a big release and a great way to have fun. Our website is www.smartmouthnyc.com.
Moving back into the theatre, has there been a show or role over the years that has really meant a lot to you?
Yeah. Obviously, War Horse is making a huge impact on me and has been a dream. I would say before that I had the opportunity when I saw a senior to play George in Of Mice and Men, and that was a really great getting to experience that amount of emotional depth and responsibility as a senior in high school. Our director helped us to break down our characters and really dive in. The story made a huge impact on me as well.
You know, when the show was first making the move to New York I waited in line to audition for the show at that time and I couldn't even really get in the door because there were thousands of other actors wanting to audition.
When auditions began for the production I'm in now, they were looking at a lot of people. It was a long process. Once again, I couldn't really get in the room in the beginning. One of my buddies from Smart Mouth, Ben, had an audition for War Horse and after his audition he mentioned my name because he knew how interested I was. I actually got called in off of his recommendation, which is so rare and I was so lucky.
The way they casting director auditioned people was really great and the people there made it one of the warmest rooms I could have auditioned in. It really felt like more of a workshop than an audition. I went in there with my scenes and they just worked through them with me. Sometimes I would be in the audition room for 15-20 minutes just working through stuff, which was so much fun as an actor. I would be nervous, but once I was in the room I felt totally at ease and was able to just enjoy it. After that first initial audition I had about five or six callbacks, which happened over a period of many months. It really was a long process, but very worth it.
Can you tell us a little about Albert, your character in the show, and his connection with Joey (the horse)?
Sure! Albert's very unique and very much a special character. He grew up as a bit of an outsider, and he works on a farm with his parents in a rural part of southern England. He doesn't have many friends and is sort of the quiet kid.
One night Albert's dad drunkenly buys a young horse, which is a riding horse, that they can't even use on the farm. It's up to Albert to raise this foal up to adulthood, at which point the horse will be sold again. Naturally, as I'm sure would happen with any kid, Albert just falls in love with this horse. They sort of grow up together and become pretty much inseparable. Joey (the horse) is really Albert's first best friend. They are very connected.
Albert is a very special kid. He's passionate and he's loyal, and he's full of love and life. The character is wonderful to play.
One of the most talked about aspects of this show is the puppetry behind Joey and how lifelike the character is for not only the cast, but also the audience. What is it like to interact with a puppet of that magnitude and quality?
You know, I think I've always looked at Joey as if he was a real horse. As the audiences find out, the puppeteers really disappear so fast. They disappear and become the horse because they really are masters at what they do. They are absolutely incredible performers and puppeteers. When Joey starts breathing and neighing, he is a real horse.
The fun part about acting with a horse and performing in War Horse is that there are these four different teams that take on Joey. One night it might be these three actors bringing Joey to life, and the next night it might be three different people. Each team infuse Joey with their own personality. In that sense, he's always very different, night after night. There's a level of improvisation that they take on. They all have to start and end at a certain point, but they way they get to those spots is up to them and is very different. For me, that keeps it very fresh and keeps it feeling very real because I have to make sure that I listen to Joey and make sure that we are connecting. The concept of teams is really new to me as an actor and is really an awesome way to do a show.
We are so excited to have you all with us in Omaha and to hear and see the story you have to share with us. Any last thoughts for our readers?
I would say that this play has become very international with productions in Berlin, Canada, England, New York, and Australia, as well as various touring productions. It's really been everywhere. We are very passionate about our version and our production. Once this tour ends, it may be a while before this show can be seen in the United States again. If you have a chance to come see this show, you should absolutely come. It really is a one of a kind piece.