Michael Berryman, a kind-hearted man with a face for the silver screen, talks about his life and experiences in the movie industry. He is one of the celebrity guests at this weekend’s Red Deer Comic & Entertainment Expo.
Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, Berryman grew up with a rare birth defect known as hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia which is the cause for his unique appearance. The condition is the cause for Berryman’s lack of hair, fingernails and sweat glands which make it difficult for Berryman to be out in the sun.
“My father was a U.S. navy surgeon, and during World War II, was sent on a secret mission to Nagasaki and Hiroshima after they (the U.S.A.) dropped the bombs to see the effects of radiation,” Berryman said. “When he came home, he and my mother were happy to be reunited which consequently resulted in a second child, me.
“I was the second born and I had a whole bunch of birth defects which is, obviously, from the radiation damage to my father from being at ground zero for an atom and hydrogen bomb.”
Though he plays the villains on movie screens, Berryman is actually avidly against aggression and violence.
“I learned a lot about reality, humanity and medical situations growing up as a child,” Berryman said. “I dealt with bullying and learned what makes someone a decent person and what makes someone a tool.”
When he was older, Berryman moved out on his own and went on to university which is where his career would really begin.
“I had my minor in art from university, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I did open up a small gift shop in Venice, California and a very famous producer walked into my shop.”
Berryman’s career first started in 1973 when the producer for the 1975 cult-classic Doc Savage, George Pal, heard wind of Berryman’s appearance from his son who was the owner of the antique shop that neighboured Berryman’s store and approached him regarding a role in the film as Juan Lopez Morales, the hidalgo’s chief coroner.
“I said ‘Maybe this’ll be fun’,” Berryman said. “So I worked for two days at the estate of Herald Lloyd and I had enjoyed it so much.
“Afterwards, George wrote me a letter of introduction to the Screen Actors Guild.”
After he finished filming for his role in Doc Savage and became an official member of the Screen Actors Guild, Berryman was still at a loss for what he wanted to do with his life. He said that he was planning to continue running his small gift shop and eventually move to Alaska.
“Before I got a chance to do that (move to Alaska), I got another phone call,” said Berryman. “That phone call was from George Pal’s casting directors, Micheal Fenton and Jane Feinberg. And they were casting for a very famous movie that won seven Oscars, and that movie was called One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
During the filming of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Berryman said they had used a real mental institution for filming and had actually spent time with patients at the institution for acting notes.
“It gave me an opportunity to learn my craft, what takes place on set, and I was fascinated with the entire process of film making,” Berryman said.
He said the best advice he’d ever received on acting was from when he worked with Milos Shwarman who told him to look into the lens and, “Imagine that you’re having a love affair with that lens.”
“It was the best advice anyone has ever given me on acting,” Berryman said. “It’s stuck with me, even till this day.”
Berryman said that his main influences on his career and acting styles include Michael Landon and Brandon Lee.
“It was more of the directors, music and other productions that changed how I work than other actors’ influences,” said Berryman. “I’m really inspired by the works of Rod Sterling and Joss Whedon.”
The theatre screen was unable to contain all of Berryman as he’s also been in television shows such as The X-Files, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He’s even made an appearance in the Motley Crue music video for Smokin’ in the Boys Room.
“One of my favourite roles of all time was the guardian angel from The X-Files, in Revelations,” Berryman said. “I played Owen Jarvis, a guardian angel who’s protecting a boy.”
Berryman said he will be excited to see all his fans in Red Deer during the expo. And he will have some simple advice that he has learned along the way.
“Don’t take yourself so seriously and make sure that you laugh at least once a day,” he said. “I want you to be lazy, because it takes 27 muscles in your face to frown and it only takes three to smile.
“So have a lazy day today.”
Meanwhile, fans across the province are gearing up for a weekend full of cosplay, vendors, industry panels and celebrity guests at this weekend’s Red Deer Comic & Entertainment Expo. Berryman is one of the celebrity guests set to appear at the event along with Helena Mattsson, Robert Bailey, Morena Baccarin, Taryn Manning, Chloe Bennet and Nicole Marie Jean.
The Expo runs June 11th-12th at Westerner Park. Admission is $29-$99 and can be purchased via www.reddeerexpo.com. Children aged three to 11 pay $9 online or at the gate.