Michael Evans Behling is more than just a pretty face – even though, yes, we all know and love him for his role as “Handsome Dude” on Empire. But looks aside, Behlings is a name to know in the world of entertainment. Rising to stardom for his witty television roles, and beloved for his advocacy work with mental health, politics and animal rights campaigns, Behling has proven to be a force for change.
Although the All American star is a natural in the lime-light, acting wasn’t always his clear path. Behling dabbled in modeling and football before finding his greatest passion working in front of the camera to bring important stories to fruition, and while he may be a true pro these days, Behling remembers feeling “nervous” as “the new guy” on set – which is why it’s one of his greatest joys as an actor to create a safe and welcoming environment for his greener costars.
The Ohio-born actor prides himself on his “ability to make everybody feel comfortable” on All American, and make others “feel at home.” Behling knows all too well the intimidating feeling of being an outsider on such a big production, having worked on Grey’s Anatomy alongside top tier names on television.
“The anxiety of walking onto a show that’s been on for 15 years and they know their characters inside and out, and walking into a show like that, I was greeted with and treated with a sense of family,” he sweetly recalls. “We’re all here to do a job, we’re all here to make the best episode that we can, and let’s continue that. And so for that, i just want to make any guest star, or any co-star that comes onto the set, feel warm, feel comfortable, feel confident.
They’re there for a reason, they were picked. And so hopefully we can collaborate and make something wonderful.” Behling – who dropped out of college and a “safe” career in science to pursue his passion for acting – exudes everything he stands for. During our Zoom interview, his fun and friendly demeanor is known right from the get go as he rocks a “Dunder Mifflin” hoodie and gives me a glimpse at his impressive sneaker collection. He’s the guy next door, someone we all could grab a drink with – and he truly is All American.
Take a look at the full interview with Contrast’s Editor-in-Chief, Michael D. Monroe below.
MM: So my first question is, do you believe in Zodiac signs? And if so, what is yours?
MB: I believe they’re one of my costars, actually. She’s big on Zodiac signs. I’m a Pisces myself, as is she. And so sometimes I’ll say something’s happened, and she says “Oh, yea that’s the Pisces in you.” Haha! I don’t know. I think that there’s something to everybody being born on a certain time in the day. But I don’t know. I guess that is the belief, so we accepted it.
MM: What’s a weird the weirdest fact about yourself?
MB: I mean, that’s an interesting question. I have a third nipple. How about that?
MM: OK, ‘Friends’ episode. I see you. A ‘nubbin.’
MB: Yea. I got a nubin right here.
MM: Do you believe in ghosts and have you seen one?
MB: I have not ever seen a ghost but I do believe that there is energy and there are spirits, yeah.
MM: All right, all right, so now that you’re in season three, how would you say that you’ve evolved as an actor since season one?
MB: Man, I feel like I’ve just been able to drop into this character and not even necessarily with Jordan, but just and all the other things that I’ve done, projects that I’ve been able to do, be able to drop into the character a lot more and just feel more comfortable and confident in the choices that I’m making. That’s probably been the biggest thing that I’ve realized in my own work.
MM: For those who haven’t seen the series, how would you describe it for a first-time watcher.
MB: For a first-time watcher, what you’re going to get the first couple of seasons is a taste of a tale of two cities. You are going to be following this cast, Spencer James, who comes Crenshaw, and gets recruited to play in Beverly Hills. And you just get to see kind of the drama play out from all the eyes of the characters, rather, of what happens when he comes in the real and the realities of these Beverly Hills characters and Crenshaw characters, what people go through in both of these neighborhoods, if you will, and not everything can be bliss just because you come from a wealthy family.
I think that it’s a it’s a cool show because we can touch on these subjects of mental health and police brutality. We can do it in such a great way, in my opinion, that allows the viewer to watch it without feeling bombarded, if you will, with these issues that go on in the world. So, I think that that’s one of the beautiful things about our show.
MM: People always ask actors, you know, how do you relate to your character? But I would like to know what ways you are different from your character in a way that you say “I wish I was like this.”
MB: Let’s see, well, Jordan is more of a high. This season he’s come down. I don’t think that I envy Jordan in a lot of ways, because he is a hothead, he will throw the first punch. I’m more of a diffuser myself, a lover, if you will. I guess something that I would envy of Jordan would be his ability to… his caring. I’m very caring when it comes to my friends and whatnot, but I think that he’s so, so caring to the point where it can almost be overbearing. But in his eyes, it’s out of pure love. And, you know, he just wants the best for everybody. I think always. Which I which I do love. I do love his heart. I think that might envy that.
MM: Right now, the world is sort of in a reset moment, culturally and racially. How do you feel you are playing your role as an actor throughout all of this?
MB: Wow. Well, you know, as an actor, fortunately, you have a voice depending on the popularity of yourself, the popularity of the show, and I’ve teamed up with my clothing line and teamed up with Community, this texting service. With community, I was able to work with them to get the right information out about the election out to people who maybe didn’t even have a clue about the election or who aren’t planning on voting.
And I was able, as you spoke to my community correspondent not too long ago, and she told me that my texting to people allow, I think, at least 1% out of the 180,000 people that I have on my number to either flip or at least get out and be a one first time voter because of the information that I was sharing with them. Thanks to the community leaders, of course, as well. I would also say just giving back, you know, over the course of this pandemic. Trying to give back my time, trying to give back money that my clothing line has earned to those in need, whether it was Feeding America or whether it was to Riley Children’s Hospital. You know, everyone’s in a pinch right now. It’s terrible.
And like you said, we’re kind of resetting and I can see it. You can almost feel it. You want to feel it. But I think that just giving back your time and the amount of money that you can to organizations who are really going to do something with it is what is important.
MM: I like that a lot. When you look back at your career, what would you say is something that has been consistent about yourself and sets you apart?
MB: I would say my ability to make everybody feel comfortable, whether you are.. So my first role, I was a costar, obviously, I was nervous. I was the new cat on the show, just one episode, one day, rather. But as far as All American, any time anybody new is introduced. And I feel like we all do really, really well at this. But I feel like myself, I’m able to just make the person feel at home, especially if they’re new. You know, when I was on Gray’s Anatomy, the anxiety, if you will, walking onto a show that’s been on for 15 years and they know their characters inside and out and into to walk into on a set like that; I was greeted with and treated with a sense of just family almost. We’re all here to do a job. We’re all here to try to make the best of it. And so for me, I just want to be able to make any guest star, any costar who comes onto the set, feel warm, feel comfortable and feel confident.
MM: If you could be on any show right now that’s out, what would it be? The only correct answer, obviously, is Umbrella Academy.
MB: I have now seen that. I haven’t really been watching new stuff, I’ve been kind of catching up on old stuff. Right now. I’m watching The Last Dance; like I’m behind. You know, I guess Ozark got renewed for a new season. I would say Ozark.
MM: The definition of Contrast is ‘to be strikingly different.’ What makes you strikingly different?
MB: Great question. Anybody can say they’re a hard worker, but I feel like I can differentiate myself as a hard worker because, you know, to get into this business, not to diminish anybody else’s drive, but to get into to get into this business, I dropped out of college and dropped out of a science career. You know, I dropped out of that. And to get here, I worked six different jobs at one point back when I was home in Indiana, trying to just to afford classes, headshots, and to be able to just better my craft and to get to this spot.
And now that I’m here, it doesn’t stop and whether I’m working hard with this or whether I’m working hard on training my body to look the part or working with my coach. My motto has always been BNS, which is business never sleeps. It does not matter. It does not matter how many hours of sleep I get, it doesn’t matter if I wrap a 15 hour day and I’m back on set in 12 hours and I have to also read five pages of dialog.