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November 27, 2023 4 min read


The actor and producer talks wrapping up 2023 with two projects – The Engagement Dress and The Dirty South.



“Winning the game with five minutes left on the clock,” is how Mike Manning describes his 2023. It’s fair to say this year has been an unusual one in the acting world after the SAG-AFTRA strike paused production and promotion for most of the film and TV industries from July until November. Usual business is now resumed, however, and just in time for Manning – “Now it’s over and I’ve just had two films release on the same day,” he says.

And, the two projects show nothing if not the Emmy Award-winning actor and producer's range, with light-hearted rom-com The Engagement Dress offset by grittier tones of action-packed film The Dirty South. However, it comes as no surprise to long-time fans of the 36-year-old as since first appearing on screens at the end of the noughties, he's travelled a wide-ranging career path that’s taken in everything from Teen Wolf, Hawaii Five-0and Days of Our Lives.

Head below to read our chat with him on The Engagement Dress, The Dirty South, why he’d like to try sci-fi next and the advice he’d share with his younger self.


Hi Mike! Congratulations on The Engagement Dress. It seems like the perfect rom-com to immerse yourself in in the winter months! What was your highlight of making the project?
The highlight of The Engagement Dress was truly working with the cast. We shot the film in Kentucky, and, to me, the experience felt like theatre camp. We spent so much time together in the hotel and on set and then on the weekends, we would go horseback riding, out to dinner, out dancing, etc. We all bonded quickly and it made for a special experience. Plus, Angel Prater, my co-star, is my new favourite person, so there’s that.

In contrast, The Dirty South looks like a nail-biting watch! What would you say is the biggest thing viewers will take away from it?
Matthew Yerby, the writer/director, is from Natchitoches, Louisiana, where we shot the film. I had never been to Louisiana at all, and the area where we shot was pretty rural – so the entire film has a ‘small town vibe’ to it. I think when audiences watch the film, they’ll realise that the town is sort of a strong character of the movie as well. Also, working with Willa Holland and Shane West was cool. They’re both pros and great to be with on set. I’d do another movie with them in a heartbeat. I think audiences will love what Willa brought to the film – her, Shane, and Dermot Mulroney.

The two projects show your ability for tackling jobs with such contrasting genres. Is there a realm of film/TV you’d like to explore that you haven’t yet?
You’re right. These two films could not be more different. I don’t do many rom-coms, so it was fun to slide into that genre for a bit. I’ve been lucky enough to be a lot of dramas, thrillers, horror films, so probably not those. One genre I haven’t really stepped into much that I would love to is Sci-Fi, specifically with superheroes. I’ve loved comic books since I was a kid, so anything with heroes or superpowers would be fun. I’d love to play a character in that world. If Zack Snyder, Patty Jenkins, or James Gunn are reading this – let’s go!

You’ve got a very impressive CV under your belt, not least featuring two Emmy wins! What are the biggest things you’re looking for in new parts these days?
Aside from superpowers haha, I’m looking for roles that will challenge me, force me to step out of my comfort zone, cause me to truly change and transform to a character who is vastly different than who I am as a person. I’ve played a lot of characters who are slight alterations of my own psyche. The last 10 plus years have been busy, with This Is Us, Days of Our Lives, Teen Wolf and The Bay, and I’m grateful for those shows. Now, for the next 10 years, I want to play at least a few character traits that audiences haven’t seen from me before; something that they’ll watch and say, ‘Wait, is that Mike?’

If you could share one piece of advice with your younger self, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self not to worry so much. When we’re younger, everything is life or death. Everything means so much because, in many ways, we are experiencing those things for the first time. I think I put too much pressure on myself as a youth. I’d tell myself to stop and smell the roses a little more, to not worry so much about getting everything perfect. A mantra I’ve recently adopted is, ‘Perfect is the enemy of great.’ People worry so much about getting it 100% right that they will miss opportunities, they will fail to launch, they are too afraid to take risks. That’s something I’m still working on, but I’m much better now than I was.

What’s one other thing you have to tick off your to-do list today apart from this interview?
I’m currently on re-writes for a script I’ve been working on. It’s an adventure sci-fi. The project will be, fingers crossed, one of the biggest things I’ve been involved with so far in my career, so I’m excited. We have excellent talent attached and an amazing team. I don’t wanna say more and jinx it, but yeah, that’s happening today. And getting ready to pack for the holidays. I’m heading back to Colorado to see my family so that’ll be a nice break from the hustle. Oh yeah and I should probably wash my dogs before I go, so that too.

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