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Interview: chatting with Michael Paul Chan of TNT's 'The Closer' and 'Major Crimes'

When "The Closer" premiered on TNT seven years ago, no one could imagine the success of the show or that it would produce a spin-off in the form of "Major Crimes." The LAPD detective series starring Kyra Sedgwick comes to a close with the series finale on Monday, August 13th on TNT. Immediately after the finale, the premiere of the spin-off, "Major Crimes," will air.

Spotlight-On-Entertainment talked to actor Michael Paul Chan, who plays Lieutenant Mike Tao. Chan is one of several cast members who will continue his character on the new show which will be led by actress Mary McDonnell. 

Michael, who grew up in Northern California, has appeared in more than 200 hundred movies and television projects, working with everyone from Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Robert Redford, Michael Douglas, and such legendary filmmakers as Michael Mann Oliver Stone. 

Although the actor was reluctant to share any show spoilers in this interview, he did share his thoughts on acting and his thoughts on playing the character that has been his most successful role to date.  

Check out the interview with Michael below: 

What was your parents reaction when you told them that you wanted to be an actor, were they surprised?

MPC: My mom passed when I was a teenager.  She was a big movie fan, and I imagine she'd be just beside herself knowing how things have turned out.

You started the Asian American Theater Company. What inspired that?

MPC: I was a founding member of the Asian American Theater Workshop.  Except for our founder, we were all new to acting.  We were trying as we still are today, to define, or to find the Asian-American voice in American literature which led to the theater workshop. It later became a "company" after I'd left to pursue a career in Hollywood.

What are some of the challenges in running a company like that?

MPC: One of our first shows was about skewing Asian-American stereo-types. We were rehearsing in what was then the Kearney St. Workshop.  Some in the community felt what we were doing was offensive, as they were not schooled in satire.  A gang of kids came to one of our rehearsals, and there was a confrontation.  Satire was explained in detail...peace prevailed!

Do you remember your first day on the set of “The Closer?” What was that experience like?

MPC: I hadn't seen the pilot yet, and asked if I could run up to the production office to see a little bit before we started the days filming.  I watched the opening few minutes and was hooked!  I ran down to the make-up trailer and saw Kyra and was giving her praise!  She was so sweet and that continued for 7 seasons. 

The show has a lot of positive fan support. What do you like the most about interacting with fans?  

MPC: I always find it so rewarding when the audience is paying attention to what we do.  My career leading up to "The Closer" was filled with a lot of villains and the like.  When Tao happened, they all seemed to disappear.  I always used to hear: "You always play the bad guy".  Haven't heard it in 8 years!

How did you spend your break from the show? Do you work on any other projects or did you take an actual vacation.

MPC: "The Closer" has given me the opportunity to be picky about what I do.  I just finished a short film ["The Happiest Person in America"] that I was thrilled to do, and I did it for free.  I started surfing again, and I'm into bicycles and motorcycles. 

The show has been groundbreaking in terms of being a major show with a female lead, especially a crime drama. What are your character’s views on having women in the police department?   

MPC: Equal opportunity for all, mine and Tao's opinion.

We’ve gotten to see your family in an episode centered on you in the past. How did that episode come about?

MPC: James [Duff, creator/executive producer] asked me what I'd like to see happen with Tao, and I mentioned something to do with my family...  and Voila!

What has been your favorite thing about playing your character over the past several years?

MPC:  My favorite thing about this character- In the beginning I followed the writing, and that led me to whatever I'm putting out there.  I was so used to playing characters with accents or extreme one dimensional behavior, characters with large masks to hide behind.  With Tao, I feel very exposed.

What would you be doing if you weren't an actor?

MPC: If I wasn't an actor...well at this stage in my life, I'd hopefully be retired.   I never had a back-up plan, something to "fall back on".  So, that being said, if I wasn't an actor, I haven't the faintest idea!

Do you watch any other TV shows?

MPC: I watch “American Pickers,” “Pawn Stars,” “Mad Men” and the Golf Channel.

An all new episode of "The Closer" airs on Monday, August 6 on TNT with the series finale airing the following Monday, August 13th. 

TNT's new crime drama "Major Crimes," will premiere on Monday, August 13 immediately following "The Closer" finale. 

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