Mike Doyle: Lights, Camera, New York City
Mike Doyle is an actor, director, and a true New Yorker. I got to know Mike through friends out in SAG Harbor, but had a feeling he would have some excellent picks for New York City living, dining, and arts. Of course, he did not disappoint! Mike’s feature film debut, Almost Love, was a hit and mid-pandemic highlight. Read on for Mike’s tips for the best of New York City and Brooklyn, and dive into the creative process as a writer and director.
Tell us a bit about yourself! What path brought you to acting? What brought you to NYC?
Both sides of my family are from New York City. The Italian side is from Harlem. And the Irish side is from the Bronx. I grew up mostly in Connecticut about an hour north but would come into Manhattan two or three times a week to audition for commercials and do some catalog print work when I was a teenager. Looking back, it’s kind of nuts that I was allowed to come into the city on my own, but there you have it. I went to undergrad in Washington DC then moved straight to Manhattan upon graduating. I ditched my degree in economics and became a waiter at the Paramount Hotel and started taking acting classes. Fortunately I was able to get some work, but not the kind of work that I wanted at the time as an actor, so I auditioned for drama school and ended up going to Juilliard. Since finishing drama school in the late 90’s, I’ve lived between Los Angeles and New York City. And though I love them both, New York is my home.
What are some of your favorite spots for a great meal in NYC?
I recently moved to Brooklyn, and now I am that guy who lives in Brooklyn, and only talks about Brooklyn. I love it so much. There’s a feeling in Brooklyn that is similar to the way New York felt when I first got here. There are a lot of young people doing really cool things in the culinary world. Some of my favorite places include Frankies 457, Lucali, Ugly Baby, Wenwen, Greedi Kitchen, La Vara, Daigo Sushi, Vinegar Hill House, Rucola, Al Badawi, Buttermilk Channel, Sociale, Royal Palms (where are you can have a drink and play shuffleboard), Long Island Bar, Brooklyn Social, Brooklyn public. Hungry Wolf for coffee.
Do you have any recommendations for great small businesses or boutiques that are off the beaten path in NYC?
Cabin Modern in Cobble Hill has great Scandinavian mid century finds, Woods Grove is great for a last minute gift, Wanderlustre, Leif, Tiny Jungles is an amazing new plant store on Court St, and I love Mexico in My Pocket.
What are your recommendations for experiencing unique NYC culture? Are there any interesting theatres or unexpected activities you love in New York?
Brooklyn Academy of Music has everything – music, theatre, film. I jump on TodayTix to get last minute affordable tickets to shows on and off Broadway. Royal Palms which I mentioned above is this amazing shuffle board place in Gowanus which feels like a hip, throwback to 1950s Miami. Brooklyn Botanical Garden has an incredible bonsai collection. If I have a free day, I just jump on a Citibike and take off – sometimes over into Manhattan, and sometimes I just allow myself to get lost and find some neighborhood hang that is new to me.
Ok, let’s talk about directing! What inspired you to start directing?
I’ve always wanted to direct. I’ve been very fortunate to make my living as an actor, but there is a lot of downtime, and during that time the impulse to be creative is still there. So when I was working on Law & Order SVU, I got tired of answering the question what I was going to do for the break, and finally said I’m going to direct a short, without having any idea of how to do that. But I found that talking about it made it real, and after a few months of conversations and a lot of dead ends, I was directing my first short film. That film, Shiner, premiered at the Tribeca film festival, and launched my directing path. After that, the next step was to direct a feature film. I had many ideas, but most of them were very ambitious, until I realized I wanted to do something that I could pull off in the summer… and that’s how Almost Love was born.
How did the story for your feature film, Almost Love, come about?
I love movies about relationships, whether there are dramas comedies or romantic comedies. I try to live my life with a healthy sense of humor because I know that even the most tragic events someday in hindsight can be crafted into a funny story. With this film I wanted to tell a story about a group of friends who were at a point where they were all spinning their wheels in different ways. I wanted to make some thing relatable, as many of us find ourselves spinning our wheels professionally, emotionally, and in relationships. I also wanted to create a friend circle with a leading gay couple, but put them in the context of three other couples to show what’s universal about being in a relationship – the ups, the downs, and all the in betweens.
What has been your favorite or most fulfilling moment on set as a director?
I’m not sure there is one specific moment, but there’s this incredible thing that happens when you are directing a film, and that is this incredible sense of presence. There are so many things to worry about, and so many problems to solve at any given point, but once the camera starts rolling that’s all that exists, and everything else slips away for those two or three minutes of the camera rolling. Then when they yell cut, the flood comes back.
What is next for you?
I work as an actor on a show here in town called New Amsterdam. We are going back for our fifth and final season in July. After that, I have a few projects that I’m attached to direct, but it’s anyone’s guess really what is next. That’s the life, which at times it’s very challenging, but I think it’s that uncertainty that fuels me to always do more.
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