Regardless of the genre, Michael Mosley owns every scene he’s in. The Iowa native can deliver laughs with ease, as made apparent in shows like “Sirens” and “Scrubs,” or he can drop a major dramatic anvil on the heads of viewers, which he’s doing with his latest string of projects, including “Ozark” and “Seven Seconds,” a pair of high-profile Netflix shows. He is versatile, relatable, and in the opinion of this publication, one of the most underrated actors working in the business today.
We recently sat down with Mosley to discuss the emotional heaviness of his recent roles, his approach towards comedic performance, and how his 12-year-old self would have been super psyched about getting to kiss Margot Robbie.
TrunkSpace: We have some unrealistic expectations for this interview because you’re one of our favorite people to watch onscreen, so we’re expecting nothing but insightful responses and wittiness. (Laughter)
Mosley:: (Laughter) Okay. Well here we go. Just throw a pitch and I’ll knock it out of the park.
TrunkSpace: Your new Netflix series “Ozark” is some dark storytelling and your character has gone through some heavy life stuff. When you’re performing in a character-driven, emotionally drenched project like this, does the material trickle into your own headspace? Does it become a heavier job when the material itself is heavier?
Mosley: Yeah, it definitely does. And the world is heavier, so it all kind of feeds into itself. The last couple of years… I was on “Sirens” and I was telling dick jokes in an ambulance, so to come to this and have everything be so heavy and weighted, I was really very nervous about it. I haven’t done heavy shit like that in awhile. When I was on “Castle” playing this killer, that stuff would get a little thick at times, but this guy was a victim. He’s often kind of high on his horse about where he saw himself spiritually and where he saw others spiritually and stuff like that, but he was not a bad guy or anything. This is happening to him and he was just kind of navigating through it.
TrunkSpace: You mentioned how you haven’t done this type of heavy work for awhile. Did you put yourself in a position to step away from comedy after “Sirens” in order to distance yourself from being seen in that light?
Mosley:: Not at all. When I first started out, I was kind of the serious actor. One of the first gigs I got was for a drama on NBC where it was this really heavy show, and then I started getting these comedies. Bill Lawrence picked me up to do a pilot for him and then he put me in his last season of “Scrubs” and then all of a sudden I was this funny guy, which is great. It’s so much fun. It’s a fun way to make a living because you’re just on set with your friends busting each others’ balls all day and they roll the cameras and you try to crack each other up. I don’t know what happened. I shot a comedy pilot last year that didn’t go, and then I got in this movie with Rob Reiner coming out called “LBJ” with Woody Harrelson, and that was heavy. Then I don’t know… this year has been a heavy year. I don’t know why. With “Ozark,” and then the next thing I’m doing “Seven Seconds,” which is on Netflix and we already shot… that thing’s fucking dark, man.
TrunkSpace: Not only dark, but it’s also very politically and socially timely, right?
Mosley:: Absolutely. I guess that’s the darkness of that conversation in our lives right now is that it is very real, very poignant, and yes, it’s definitely the backdrop of what we’re doing on “Seven Seconds” in Jersey City.
TrunkSpace: You said you started out as the “serious actor” and then things veered into the comedy lane. From our standpoint, comedy is either a “get it” or you “don’t get it” situation because those beats and the timing can be difficult. Did you find that it just came natural to you?
Mosley:: I think with anything, you’re as good as the guy in front of you or the girl in front of you. With “Sirens,” me, Kevin Daniels, and Kevin Bigley were a little rock band. We all had our instruments and we knew how to play, and by the second season, they were just letting us rip and go to town and go crazy. Timing to me is with another person. It’s like the timing that the two people or three people or four people have is kind of unique to them. That’s as far as I can speak to it because I don’t really know why some of that stuff works. I’ll go in for something and they’re not laughing at me at all as I’m auditioning. Sometimes I’m flat, and then sometimes somebody gets it.
TrunkSpace: Regardless of how a project is ultimately received by viewers, do you view each one as a success based on the experience you had working on it and what you learned about yourself as an actor?
Mosley:: Yeah, for sure. “Ozark” was fun. And it was weird as hell and unique. We’re down in Atlanta out in the woods floating around in lakes and shit. It was really great. I didn’t really know what was going on in the show very much. Watching the show, there’s 20 storylines going on all the time… different people and different things. There were so many trailers on set and Mason, my character, never knew what was going on outside of it. We all had our own worlds and Bateman was kind of stringing it all together.
Working with Bateman was a blast. He’s really good in the show because he’s such a good actor, and I don’t think we’ve seen him like this… when he’s pleading for his life in the pilot, it’s unreal. He also has this kind of natural likeness about him as we’ve always known him to have. So it was really wild getting to act with him and doing this really intense, epic stuff, and then they call “cut” and he’d be cracking jokes and busting balls with the crew. The more I’m in this business, you kind of run into these people who are effortlessly in control of themselves… folks that have an ease and you trust them. They’re like a good quarterback.
TrunkSpace: “Seven Seconds” is based on a Russian movie. It seems like a bad time to be involved in anything Russian.
Mosley:: (Laughter) Yeah, right?
TrunkSpace: In all seriousness, the show is very topical as we previously mentioned. Did that put extra pressure on everybody involved to make sure the show hits the right tone and point of view knowing that it’s meant to say something specific about what is going on in our society today?
Mosley:: Absolutely. We were so careful, and I hope we did it. With something like “Seven Seconds,” we just want to make sure at every point we’re not taking anything for granted… not making any assumptions and that nobody’s opinion is coming out in a way that’s not there to encourage discussion and discourse and to protect those that aren’t being currently protected right now.
TrunkSpace: Both “Ozark” and “Seven Seconds” are Netflix shows, which means they’re rolled out, per season, all at once. For an actor, how does that experience differ for you than something like “Sirens,” which took a more traditional approach?
Mosley:: Well, a couple of things. When you’re doing a network broadcast, you kind of have to beg people to show up to the party. You’re on Twitter saying, “Hey, please watch my show. It’s on Tuesday at 8:00.” With the streaming, you don’t have to do that. It just kind of lands. I haven’t been on any social media begging anybody to watch “Ozark” or anything. It’s just there.
Also it’s a premium subscription, so their pedigree is just a little bit different. They’re not afraid of anything over there that I can see, so that’s great. You get to do kind of crazy stuff.
TrunkSpace: Well, and like you mentioned previously with “Ozark,” there are so many storylines going on at once that being able to stream it all at once helps keep everything tight for the viewer.
Mosley:: Yeah, there’s that too. Also, with network broadcast TV, they’ll change the show as it’s airing based on how well it’s doing or how well the show next to it is doing. So as you’re shooting episode 6 on a broadcast network television show, episode 1 is airing and if episode 2’s numbers drop, they’re going to go into the writers’ room and episode 8 is going to be completely different and now the show’s completely different. They have to get in there and tinker with it, whereas on Netflix, there’s none of that. They let creators take the ball and run with it.
It’s great because it allows creators to find their sea legs and figure things out and it lets the cast get comfortable with themselves, lets the crew get tight, and everybody becomes completely cohesive by the end of the process. The real vision gets to be honored, which is kind of difficult in broadcast television.
TrunkSpace: What aspect of your career would 15-year-old you be most impressed with? Is there a particular project or somebody that you worked with that young Michael would be super psyched about?
Mosley: I don’t know. Getting to kiss Margot Robbie on “Pan Am” was pretty cool. (Laughter)
You know, you play cops and robbers and you get to fly an airplane… you get to do all this crazy shit that you never expect to do. That stuff is just super crazy, like going out to Jersey City and spending a week hanging out with the homicide detectives and having dinner with them, talking to them, listening to their stories, and cracking jokes with them. And meeting the homicide detectives and vice detectives and cops in Manhattan and having dinner with them. These are crazy, wild things that you never would expect that you get to do. Or when I was in “Pan Am,” we went to a flight simulator and I was flying a plane with Mike Vogel. Not a real plane, but a computer plane that moved and stuff. Or going to Mozambique, shaving my head, and hanging out with a bunch of marines. This is the stuff that’s just kind of crazy and wild and fun about the job. Hitting your mark and saying your lines is one thing, but where the plane takes you is bizarre.
“Ozark” is available now on Netflix.