Getting to know J. Michael Trautmann

The first time I was introduced to the name J. Michael Trautmann was through a movie review written by a colleague of mine who had the good fortune to see 96 Minutes when it premiered at the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX.  I remember this because not only was she raving about the movie and the performances by all the young actors involved so were a number of other critics.  Cut to the winter of 2012 when I had started a casual relationship with a little show called Shameless, except this time I had no idea that the guy playing one of the Milkovich cousins was the same guy who played the troubled Kevin in 96 minutes.  In fact it wasn’t until through the power of social media, namely Twitter, this fact came to my attention. Luckily for me not only have I had the pleasure of engaging in a couple of conversations with J. Michael I recently had the opportunity to interview this talented young man.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
I started stage acting when I was 6. It was more an outlet for my ADD before I could play sports, but I loved the attention. And my parents were thankful to not have me ruining their things and our house anymore. I continued theatre throughout school, along side athletics, because I’ve always enjoyed jumping into my role’s life and mind and it was a wonderful balance to the sports I loved playing as a kid. After 7th grade, when I basically stopped growing, I had the thought that a career as a professional athlete wasn’t very plausible. I decided to put that energy on stage and make a decent commitment to acting and arts as a sophomore in high school. Film and TV came into realm after college.
How did it feel the first time you booked your first significant role?
96 Minutes was a game changer for me. A lot was happening in many different aspects of my life in 2010 and I was revived by my booking the role of Kevin. After reading the script, I knew the part was mine to lose and I felt absolutely blessed to be given the opportunity to act in that project. I was a no-name compared to my fellow cast mates, but I held my own and felt I was able to shine in that film. Afterward, more doors started being available to me to step through and I will always appreciate the multitude of lessons afforded me by that project’s experience.
What advice would you give to those who are wanting to become an actor?

My 3 Cs: Confidence, Courage and Comfortability. Art is subjective and as an artist, an actor more so, you have to build a thick skin while trusting in yourself and brushing off the doubt that arises, as well as the constant rejection. Talent is necessary, but you need to have bravery to use your skill properly and the comfort to have it come off as second nature. The more comfortable you are in your own skin, the better you’ll come off in any given character’s. You can’t take yourself too seriously, but your professionalism will allow others to respect and want to work with you.
Dedication and perseverance are keys to success in life. You’re gonna get knocked back, even smacked down from time to time, but the strong of will are able to push through it and continue forward, collecting valuable info and insight through their mistakes and setbacks. The ability to apply this knowledge is the real secret to success. Don’t think you can: know you can and do it.
Who do you look to for guidance on what kind of career you would like to have in this industry?
Honestly, myself. I know what I want to accomplish and how I want to navigate that path. My faith in God helps keep me level, but if I had to choose another, I’d say my dad. I want to make him proud and he instilled in me the desire to be a great man. As far as my career’s strokes and day-to-day movements, I pride myself on the team I have built up around me thus far. I love my managers and my agents and look forward to enhancing each facet of my brand as I continue forward.
What kind of characters do you find to be the most challenging?
Non-fiction. Real, actual people to portray. Their boundaries are set and there’s a significant amount of research involved. I would say right after that are popular fictional characters. I played Link in a short film in college that has yet to be seen, but I remember I had to stay true to the character, it wasn’t mine to create. He’s left handed, so I had to be mindful of changing my dominant arm. I grew up loving him and the Zelda stories, so I had a significant idea of what and where my parameters were. The fans have an established idea of who they are and what they should be, so you have to keep all of that in mind as you bring them to life through yourself.

You starred in the 2011 film 96 Minutes (loved it by the way) and at the end of the film your character Kevin was the only one we didn’t know the fate of; what do you think happened to Kevin?
Thanks, I’m quite proud of that film. Well, in the final scene at the prison, between Dre (Evan Ross) and Carley (Brittany Snow) he tells her that Kevin ran his mouth off and got shanked in the yard, so we know how he died…woulda been fun to film that and give the audience that gratification or at least for it to be shown what happened to Kevin, but it was never to be seen in the script.
Can you tell us a little about your character in A Resurrection and what it was like to work with Michael Clarke Duncan?
Eli is a troubled youth, consumed by his brother’s death and his outrageous attempt at restoration. I was on constant “brood” for most of the scenes. MCD, may he rest in peace, was a beautiful man and a wonderful actor. Being on set with him was relaxing and awe inspiring. He was a fun loving, consummate professional with a very gentle demeanor contrasting his massive size and booming voice. Absolutely loved working with him!
@Dani_DesChamps wants to know what it is like working with Dennis Cockrum on set of Shameless?
DC is an intense actor and I gravitate to that. He plays our father superbly. Off camera, he’s a hilarious guy. I remember in the season 3 episode “May I Trim Your Hedges?” as we all walked down the back alley, he would always crack an off-hand joke just before our director yelled action. Really great guy to work with. Nothing like the character he plays in Shameless.
@JustATexGirl wants to know what drew him to wanting to be a part of Shameless & more specifically a Milkovich on the show.
Lol, the audition for it. I didn’t get to pick my part, but I love playing Iggy Milkovich. I originally auditioned for Lip Gallagher and then was called in to audition for Mickey. Casting and the producers saw something in me that they liked and we all just waited for the right character to produce itself. Iggy fits my style perfectly. He’s a f*cking badass.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can share with your fans?

Bout to go to Atlanta to finish filming Treehouse and I’m really excited for everyone to see that film. I believe it will drop in March. A few feature films here at the end of the summer, too. One dealing with school shootings that I’m eager to sink my teeth into. I have an upcoming project called Men of Granite about a group of immigrant boys in the 1940s who win an Illinois state championship playing basketball; it’s a really heart warming story about social class stigma and the American Dream. Hope to start filming this winter!
I’ve also been working on my EP album. For all my hip-hop heads, I hope to be finished after completing two or three more tracks.
As for right now, A Resurrection drops on DVD August 6th and is available now OnDemand and on most download platforms, such as iTunes and XBoxLIVE.
And last but not least on behalf of the fans of Shameless is there any chance we will be seeing Iggy Milkovich in season 4?
God, I sure hope so!
The Milkovich family has been getting deeper story lines and I’d love to have the fans learn more about Iggy. Honestly, if I could choose a story line, I would wanna team up with Carl and go be South Side Chi hooligans! I love the support from the Shameless Fans, they are truly the best and most devout!
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