In the unexpected breakout film “God’s Not Dead: A Light In the Darkness,” viewers are being introduced to Mike C. Manning, who has been on the rise over the past few years with appearances in a number of films and television roles. This year seems to offer Mike quite a few opportunities to impress and charm viewers and it is a good time to get to know the young actor on the rise. In an exclusive interview, Mike talks about getting to work on “God’s Not Dead: A Light In the Darkness,” and shares a few key insights he has learned as a working actor.
What was the initial appeal for you about portraying Adam and working on “God’s Not Dead: A Light In the Darkness”?
MIKE: Initially, I thought the script was an interesting take on the “God’s Not Dead” theme of the first two films in the series, and as I started to work on shaping Adam as a character, I really came to like the challenge of how much his character transforms throughout the film and some of the struggles he faces.
How would you describe who Adam is as the film progresses? Does he become someone worth admiring more after the church destruction?
MIKE: I think there are times in all of our lives, especially as young adults, that challenge who we are as people, shaping us into who we ultimately become as adults. We see Adam going through these challenges. He made a BIG mistake, and he does all he can to seek forgiveness for that mistake. I think we can at least admire him for that.
How would you describe “God’s Not Dead: A Light In the Darkness” for viewers interested in the film?
MIKE: If they’ve seen the first two, it definitely sticks with the theme of taking the lead characters on a journey of discovering their faith and how that faith interacts with the world around them. If you’re interested in the film already, go see it. If you haven’t seen the others, but are in the mood for a film that is about characters searching for meaning, forgiveness, love, family – that is what this film is about.
What is it like working alongside the talented ensemble on “God’s Not Dead: A Light In the Darkness”?
MIKE: Since half the story takes place in a college setting and the other half in a church setting, it was as if we were literally shooting two separate movies. I had the majority of my scenes with Samantha Boscarino and then of course David A.R. White. I think there was only one scene where I was with the rest of the cast. When I saw the film in its entirety for the first time, I remember thinking, “Oh wow, that’s how these scenes ended up.” I think the cast all did a great job.
Who did you get to work with most in the film and what was that experience like?
MIKE: David [A.R. White] and Samantha [Boscarino] were so professional and easy to work with. Samantha and I especially had some pretty emotional scenes together. We had met during the casting process, and I remember being glad when I found out it was her they cast in the film. A lot of our scenes required trust and being comfortable with the other person.
Do you have any favorite scenes that you can share from working on the film?
MIKE: Without giving too much away, the scenes that we shot in jail and in the library are my favorites.
As an actor, what has been the one thing you have taken away from the experience of working on “God’s Not Dead: A Light In the Darkness”?
MIKE: A lot of the responses have been really positive. Fans of the film seem to like my character and connect to what he goes through in the story. My main goal was to do justice to the struggles that Adam faced in a way that audiences could potentially see a piece of themselves in those struggles, in his mistakes and how he chooses to fix them. I feel like I did that.
What is your proudest achievement working on “God’s Not Dead: A Light In the Darkness”?
MIKE: I think there are things happening in the world today that contribute to division, hatred, etc. between groups that don’t see eye-to-eye. I think the main message of this film is creating a dialogue between the two opposing sides. This film doesn’t say, “This is right, and this is wrong.” It tries to encourage a conversation between both religious communities and the non-religious communities.
You also worked on TEEN WOLF. What did you appreciate about working on that show?
MIKE: My FAVORITE moment working on TEEN WOLF was when I was fighting Linden Ashby. There’s a scene where he dropkicks me against a door. I remember thinking, “I’m getting beat up by Johnny Cage!” I loved that character in Mortal Kombat as a kid.
You also worked on the new film “Ice the Movie,” now available on Amazon. What did you enjoy about working on that film?
MIKE: We shot “Ice the Movie” during the winter in my home state of Colorado, which was great because it gave me an opportunity to go back and visit family/friends around the holidays. I play the love interest of the lead actress Maddison Bullock. While filming, I was surrounded by so many talented skaters (some of the actors were also professional skaters), so I definitely had to push myself to keep up. I played hockey as a kid, but skating on figure skates is a whole different animal. I have so much respect for professional figure skaters now. The freezing temperatures, the training, the competition and politics of the sport itself – they are forces of nature.
What can you share about your project “Lost In America”?
MIKE: “Lost in America” is a feature documentary about youth homelessness in our country, why there are so many youth on the streets, how they got there, and what some are doing to help them. We are premiering at the Nashville Film Festival next month, and then hopefully releasing to the world later in the year. For this film, I worked with director Rotimi Rainwater and an amazing team of producers to really tell the honest stories of youth living on the streets, so audiences know what is truly happening in our country. The film includes interviews with Halle Berry, Rosario Dawson, Jewel, Jon Bon Jovi and others.
You seem to be drawn to projects with big social themes. Is that a deliberate choice or fortuitous turn of events and opportunities?
MIKE: It is absolutely a choice. Years ago, a friend was involved with a documentary about child abuse. I fell in love with the story and ended up signing on to help make the film. I began producing documentaries as a form of creative activism, and shortly after, co-founded Chhibber Mann Productions with fellow actor/producer Vinny Chhibber. We both recognized the potential for film and television projects to impact certain social issues that we care about, and have been creating those projects ever since.
Are you actively involved with any charities? Which charity do you work with most? And which would like to see your fans become more involved with and support?
MIKE: I am actively involved with a number of charities that are all doing really important work, but the one that currently has my heart is Boo2Bullying. I’ve been involved with the organization as an Ambassador since 2012, and then more recently, I joined the Board and became the Director of Development, aiming to bring more programs to schools in California to help youth and communities combat bullying. We create programs and online content aimed at creating a dialogue around the issue of bullying, to help find ways to decrease incidents of bullying online and in schools.
What has surprised you most about your career so far?
MIKE: Sometimes people will come up to me in the airport or grocery store and say, “Hey I know you from – ” and I think they’re going to mention one of the larger projects that I’ve done, and then they will talk about a short film they saw at a film festival, or from a play that I did at a local theater. That’s always fun. I guess that’s a good sign that they remembered. It could have been great… or it may have been terrible, but at least it was memorable. ☺
At this stage of your career, what do you think you have learned from the roles and projects you have worked on?
MIKE: I absolutely have a greater amount of respect for the level of work it takes to really be a good actor. And listen, I’m not saying I’m going to win an Oscar any time soon (although I certainly wouldn’t be opposed), but as a kid, when I was sitting in my living room dreaming of one day being on TV, I never realized how hard others train to make the “acting” part of it all look so easy.
Then what are the perks of where you are in your career right now?
MIKE: Sometimes I have people that help me pick what to wear, which is nice. I am terrible at dressing myself. If it were up to me, I’d wear a T-shirt and sweatpants every day of my life. When I’m required to dress up and when people help me, it works out much better.
Has there been any great advice you have gotten about working as an actor?
MIKE: For Disney’s “Cloud 9,” we shot a lot of the movie in Utah during a blizzard. My first day on set in the middle of my scene with Dove Cameron, my lip froze and cracked. My FIRST SCENE with Dove, and my face freezes! We got through it and can laugh about it now, but I remember it really bothering me that week. I was talking to the actor who played my father, Jeffrey Nordling, about it one night. He said to me, “Mike, you can’t let it bother you. You just have to go out there, give it your all, be vulnerable in front of the other actors and the camera, and then go home, forget it, and trust that the director will make the scene look ok.” It was such a casual conversation, but those words have stayed with me over the years – the idea of trusting the team and at the end of the day just letting it all go.
What advice would you offer to other upcoming and aspiring actors?
MIKE: I would tell aspiring actors, “You have to enter the world of being a professional actor with 100% commitment, to realize that you are the CEO of your own company. Push yourself to be the best version of that company you can be. Like in sports, you have to train to be a professional athlete. It takes years, and an athlete can’t take more than a few months off without getting rusty. It’s like that with acting. Take classes, learn, respect the work, and then surround yourself with positive people that will support and push you to reach your goals.”
Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can share that fans should keep an eye out for?
MIKE: Yes! I just shot a mini-series for Amazon called “Six Degrees of Separation” that will be out later in the year. I’m pretty excited about that. I have a few other projects in the works and will be posting about them as they come out. On social, I’m @mikecmanning.
To see more of Mike’s growing body of work, be sure to check out the film “God’s Not Dead: A Light In the Darkness,” which is currently out in movie theaters, and “Ice The Movie,” currently available on Amazon Prime for streaming, and also be on the look-out for his new project “Six Degrees Of Separation” coming out later in 2018 on Amazon Prime. More about the film “God’s Not Dead: A Light In the Darkness” can be found by following the film on Twitter @GodsNotDeadFilm and you can follow what Mike is up to also on Twitter @MikeCManning.
“God’s Not Dead: A Light In the Darkness” trailer:
“Ice The Movie” trailer: