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Michael Welch (The Twilight Saga: New Moon)

Michael Welch (The Twilight Saga: New Moon)

Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner and Michael Welch.  You may not see the name in the tabloids but Welch plays Mike Newton, the human in love with Stewart's Bella, caught between a vampire and a werewolf.  We sat down with the co-star of one of the largest franchises in history.

SHAKEFIRE: There were high expectations for opening weekend, did you fall into that at all and do you think any amount would have satisfied critics?

MICHAEL WELCH: It was pretty clear from the pre-sales that New Moon was going to exceed Twilight’s opening weekend numbers.  Beyond that, I had no idea what to expect.  I try not to anticipate box office results because I have no control over them.

The night of the 20th I went to a Twilight party thrown by our wonderful writer Melissa Rosenberg.  As soon as I arrived I started talking to a studio executive from Summit (nice fella).  He asked me to guess what the film had grossed so far after being out one day, along with the midnight screenings on the 19th.  I guessed a very respectable $35 million, while my girlfriend threw out a $50 million prediction.  I looked at her like she was crazy.  Then he dropped the bomb, $70 million, the biggest one day domestic gross in history!  I couldn’t believe it.  I started laughing uncontrollably.

To get numbers like THAT, some of you must have gone out to see it at least three times by opening day!  You people are crazy and I love you for it!
SF: Obviously Robert and Kristen's faces are plastered everywhere you look so they have issues going out at all.  Do you experience any of the backlash from the fame?

MW: In a lot of ways I get the best of both worlds.  I get to be a part of this incredible franchise, but I don’t almost get run over by a cab in New York because of the madness I create by my mere presence (Like Mr. Pat-pat).  Occasionally, some people will approach me to ask for a picture or an autograph, especially when I’m outside of Los Angeles.  Other than that, I go about my daily routine just like anybody else.  But I don’t mind talking to fans at all.  I appreciate the support.
SF: Were you surprised when you heard that Catherine Hardwicke wouldn't be directing the rest of the series?

MW: No I wasn’t surprised.  Catherine was amazing but I liked the idea of having different directors to give each film it’s own distinct feel.  Barring any creative or financial differences that I’m not aware of, Summit must have felt the same way.
SF: Was it a different feel between the Hardwicke, Chris Weitz (New Moon) and David Slade (Eclipse) sets?

MW: Absolutely.  Catherine is an artist who thrives in chaos.  She leaves much of the creative decisions up to the actors and her process includes a lot of discovery made on set.  Chris is a calm and cool cucumber.  He’s much more deliberate with his direction.  Everything is drawn out before the actors even show up and it creates a much less chaotic atmosphere.  David was the most difficult to work for.  He’s VERY specific in terms of what he does and doesn’t like, from the way you move your head and body to the inflection of your words.  It’s not as freeing as the “anything goes” style of Catherine or the specific but spontaneous style of Chris.  But at the end of the day, it’s the result that counts, and as the director, he’s seeing something that I’m not.  So if we end up with a great film, I’m happy!
SF: What is the one major difference fans should expect from Eclipse?

MW: Eclipse is more intense than the first two stories, as you know from the books.  David is an accomplished horror filmmaker, so I think overall it’ll have a darker tone.  You’ll see a lot more action and therefore it should have a broader appeal to a male audience.
SF: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have set a standard of attending red carpets more relaxed than you normally see (clothes, attitude, etc).  Did this take the preasure off of that and were you able to be yourself more?

MW: Yeah, I think we were all able to relax into it a bit more.  The first premiere was completely surreal and we were pretty much in shock by the whole thing.  The cast knew what to expect the second time around so it wasn’t as overwhelming.  At least not for us O.G.s, I’m sure it was crazy for the wolf boys.
SF: Nothing really has been announced for 'Breaking Dawn'.  What have you heard about it and will you be returning?

MW: It’s true that nothing has officially been set for Breaking Dawn.  My very strong assumption is that it WILL be made, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s broken up into two films.  It would kind of be the stupidest decision in the history of, EVER, if they didn’t make Breaking Dawn.

I would love to come back as long as they’ll have me.
SF: Anything new you can tell us about "Eclipse" that hasn't been told yet?

MW: Not really.  You know the story…  I can tell you that Jackson has a burning fire of intensity inside of him that you wouldn’t believe.  Did anyone see his episode of Criminal Minds?  Unreal.  I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us in Eclipse.

I gotta tell you, I’m REALLY excited about this third installment, friends.  It’s my favorite book in the series, by FAR.  David has a track record of some really great films, particularly Hard Candy.  So I think we’re gonna have an amazing movie come this June.
SF: Do you feel that movie sets are a breeding ground for...well...breeding?

MW: Haha!  Well put…  It depends on the set.  No two sets are exactly alike.  You tend to get very close to people you work with and sometimes that can lead to a romantic relationship.  People occasionally develop set crushes through their characters and it can be confusing whether or not you really feel that way about the person.  For me, those floodgates stay closed tight because of the relationship I’m already in.  Welch don’t cheat.  But sure, it happens all the time.
SF: "New Moon" is the first movie to crack $100 million opening weekend that wasn't a kid's movie or a big budget spectacle.  Do you think that this raises the expectations for the final two movies?

MW: I think the movies will continue to grow and generate more excitement and energy until we run out of books to make movies about.
SF: You've had time to do a few projects in between the movies.  Was that something that was important to you when signing on for the rest of the movies?

MW: It was important for me not to squander this opportunity.  I plan on being an actor for the rest of my life and I know once these movies end, I’ll be back to square one in the eyes of Hollywood executives.  Part of what I wanted to accomplish was to prove myself outside of this franchise while the films are being released over these few years.  I’m very optimistic about a film I worked on a few months ago called Unrequited.  It was a lead role for me and if all goes well, it should be out sometime next year.
SF: What were you feelings about Rachelle Lefevre exit and did you see it coming?

MW: I was very surprised that Rachelle wouldn’t be joining us for Eclipse.  I think she’s an amazing talent and she’s as sweet and outgoing as can be.  I don’t know the details of the split, all I know is that the show must go on and we’ve all treated Bryce like a member of the family.  I think she’s gonna be great.
SF: David Slade famously spoke out against the Twilight series before becoming attached.  Was there any discomfort on the set as a result of those remarks?

MW: If you look at the context of his remarks I really don’t think it’s as bad as it seems at first glance.  David is not traditionally a “mainstream” filmmaker and he was just making an anti-establishment joke against what was the undisputed cultural juggernaut of the time.  He released a statement a little later talking about the “richness of storytelling,” he witnessed when he actually watched the first two films.  I wasn’t offended.
SF: Robert stated that "New Moon" is his favorite book in the series and Kellan stated that "Eclipse" is his favorite.  Which is yours?

MW: Robert is an English actor.  Therefore, as per standard British custom, he is very well versed in the work of Shakespeare.  Since New Moon was clearly written in homage to Romeo and Juliet in terms of story structure, theme, and direct reference, it doesn’t surprise me that this is Rob’s favorite book.  That said I have to agree with Cullen McLutz and go with Eclipse.
SF: Was there any fear in your mind that "New Moon" wouldn't live up to expecations?

MW: No, I was pretty confident in New Moon’s ability to live up to high expectations.  Chris Weitz is one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with.
1. How has the “Twilight” phenomenon changed your life?

MW: Well, I now have an abundance of socks that should last me the rest of my life.
2. Out of all the characters you have played which one is the most like you?

MW: Honestly, probably Mike Newton, particularly when I was in high school.  I’m not like that so much anymore.  I’m changing all the time.  I figure people dramatically change every two years or so until about 26.  Then they change about every five years.  By 50, every 10 years.  That’s just my guess.  I have no idea how life works.
3. Since your real name and your Twilight character's name are the same do you try to go by a nickname with your friends and family now to avoid getting caught unaware by fans calling out your character's name? If yes, what's your new nickname?

MW: I see what you’re getting at, and that’s very clever, but I really don’t mind hanging out with fans. 

In high school they called me White Mike, and sometimes my friends call me Grape Drink.  I think White Mike is self-explanatory, and Grape Drink is in reference to my last name.
4. Are you still receiving socks?

MW: I initially received HUNDREDS of socks, and they trickled in during the subsequent few months after TwilightLexicon came up with the idea.  I haven’t gotten any for a while but that’s ok!  I think I’m good.  I still love you guys for doing that.  No other fans are that awesome!
5. It is said that Kristen Stewart & Taylor Lautner lobbied to add the group date scene into New Moon were you pleased to get more screen time?

MW: This is 100% true.  The group date scene was not in the original script.  The very important moment between Bella and Jacob when he tells her he’ll never hurt her like Edward did was put into a different scene.  Luckily for me, Kristen and Taylor thought it was one of the best scenes in the book and convinced Chris Weitz to talk to someone about getting it back in.

Yes, I’m always happy to have more screen time, but that sequence in particular was a real opportunity for me.  The three-way date is Mike Newton’s best scene in the entire franchise and I’m incredibly grateful to those two for getting me the chance to do it.

It was great to get to know Taylor and of course, it’s always good to work with the Stewart.
6. It is rumored with so many musicians on set (and you being a drummer) that the cast sometimes gets together for jam sessions. Is this true and do you take part in it?

MW: Apparently Rathbone jams in LA all the time.  I talked to him about getting in on it, but he told me he only has a left handed/ left-footed drum kit.  I need to practice drumming backwards if I’m gonna sit in on a jam session because that guy can play!  I don’t wanna embarrass myself.
7. What was it like working with Eddie Izzard on “The Riches”?

MW: Eddie Izzard is a personal hero of mine.  I’ve never seen a performing artist with more bravery, talent, or intelligence.  Working with the entire “Riches” family was a great thrill for me, but when I had a personal interaction with Eddie (which only happened in one scene for one moment), it was an incredible rush.  I only got to hang out with him for about a day and a half, but it was an amazing experience.  I’ve only been star struck twice in my life as far as I can remember.  Once was with Ben Harper, the other with Eddie Izzard.
8. Do you have any other projects coming up?

MW: I have no work lined up at the moment.  But I can let you know what to I’ve BEEN working on if you don’t mind!  Here are some movies to watch out for over the next couple of years:  Unrequited, Rough Hustle, Lost Dream, My Suicide, The Grind, and The Coverup.  Now on DVD:  Day of the Dead (zombies), American Son (moving), Remember the Daze (dazed and confused for 1999), and An American Crime (depressing).  And if you live in just about any country OTHER than the United States, you can get All The Boys Love Mandy Lane.

Thanks for all your support everybody!  Ya da greatest!!

Interview by Kara Johnson