Actor Miles Doleac has a giant boulder, tomb of snakes, and an archaeologist’s whip-cracking skills to thank for his career as an actor and filmmaker.
We caught up with the thesp to chat about his role in The CW’s Containment.
How does one become an actor, writer, director, professor and producer? Am I forgetting anything?
Through many twists and turns and a healthy dose of old-fashioned stubbornness, I suppose. Acting was my dream since childhood. I came to academia second-hand. The short version: I was living in Los Angeles, mostly working in food service, and, through a fortuitous happenstance, I met a History professor from UCLA, a man named Scott Bartchy. I had always been interested in the History of the Ancient World, especially early Christianity, which was Dr. Bartchy’s area of expertise. He suggested I sit in on a class he was teaching that next semester. I did. Interesting thing about Dr. Bartchy. He was an accomplished historian and a hell of a jazz pianist. An academic and an artist. And his creativity was on display every day in the class or seminar room, across the handful of courses I took with him. I remembered a time when I was interviewing at North Carolina School of the Arts, where I wound up attending undergrad. The Assistant Dean of the Drama program said to me at the time: “if there’s anything else (other than acting) you love in the world or can see yourself doing to make a living, do that. Don’t come here. This program and this business is not for the faint of heart.” At the time, it was that statement that convinced me that NCSA was exactly where I needed to be. It rang in my ears again when I started taking classes with Dr. Bartchy. I came to love History, in some ways, as much as acting and, since at the time my acting career had stalled for the moment, diving into academia and pursuing a subject and a vocation that was also becoming deeply meaningful to me seemed to be the right decision. I mean it was. Everything that’s happened since bears that out, including the fact that I happened to be starting my PhD at Tulane University just in time for Hurricane Katrina, which was, of course, a terrible, terrible time for the city of New Orleans and the Gulf region. But, in the wake of that tragedy, Hollywood really invested in Louisiana and there I was on the ground floor. All these opportunities were suddenly swirling around me; opportunities I was never afforded in New York or L.A. One of those was getting to work with some incredible independent filmmakers, who inspired me to start making my own films. It all seems like so much kismet now.
And is it teaching that you do full-time, and fit acting gigs in around that?
I do teach full-time and it’s getting to the point where I very nearly act full-time as well. I truly feel like I have two jobs and devoting enough time and energy and passion and preparation to both can prove a delicate dance. I just have to really, carefully manage my time and schedule, but when something really matters, you make sure it happens. I’ve worked too hard for too long to have it any other way.
Was teaching always your intended vocation?
Nope. I’ve wanted to be in movies since my dad took me to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. But teaching has come to mean a great deal to me.
Who do you play in Containment?
I play Captain Lee Scott, the National Guard captain tasked with security around the quarantine zone. He’s been charged with making sure no one gets in and no one gets out, which turns out to be a less straightforward task than one might imagine.
Is your character black and white… or more a shade of grey?
I think most of us are grey to some extent or another and that certainly goes for Scott. He has a very specific, very regimented, nuts-and-bolts way of looking at things and that doesn’t sit well with some, especially Lex Carnahan (David Gyasi’s character), who has very personal reasons for wanting to see the crisis resolved and getting people out of the quarantine zone as quickly as possible. The two men begin as seeming opponents, almost vehemently so, but the writers of this show are too smart to keep it as simple as that.
Is it fair to say TV has been good to you?
It has. It seems like, especially over the last couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to do some very interesting things, but I’m always looking for the next challenge, the next great role.
Has the type of dramas we make changed over the years, you think?
I think the biggest shift is that television has gotten more filmic and just better. Television scripts and the execution of them is so good now. I think HBO was at the forefront of that shift with shows like THE SOPRANOS and SIX FEET UNDER. The pay cable format allowed those shows to tread to places you just couldn’t go on network television. But it forced even the networks and certainly the expanded cable universe (like AMC or FX for example) to re-evaluate, to start taking more risks. And the entire medium was elevated as a result.
When did you begin on Containment? Think it’ll be a regular gig for you?
We shot in the fall of last year. I started about halfway through the season. Will it be a regular gig? I think that depends on a number of factors beyond my control, starting with how audiences respond to the show, but I have a feeling it’ll strike a nerve.
When was the last time you were sick? Was it contagious?
Who has time to get sick? I had a bout of flu maybe a year or so ago now. It was a rough three days. But it takes a lot to sideline me. If anything, I’m relentless. I’m hopeful that maybe I have mutant healing abilities, although I haven’t confirmed that as yet.
People seem to get over their ailments quicker these days – do you agree?
Yeah, I think modern medicine is capable of some pretty amazing things.
How do you think the health authorities will react to Containment?
I think it’ll probably hit a little too close to home. We were shooting when news broke of the Zika outbreak in South America. Before that, it was Ebola; before that, Bird Flu. Part of what makes this show great is that it’s so possible … and terrifying as a result.
I imagine the writers made sure that everything is pretty accurate in the show? Did you learn anything new?
Before doing the show, I’d actually done a bit of research on various plagues in the ancient world, so it was very interesting to compare institutional responses to this kind of outbreak in the modern context. I did learn about this “four-foot rule” which is the proximity at which one dramatically decreases one’s chance of contracting most contagions. That plays a prominent role in the series.
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