THE BAUM! – MICHAEL ROSENBAUM
Any true comic fan-boy knows that Lex Luthor is the true king of all bad guys, but in the world of television and ‘Smallville,” the only person that could take such a standard depiction of evil and turn him into a leveled, complex, and multi-layered anti-villain is the always incredible Michael Rosenbaum- a man who easily helped to redefine the superhero genre as a whole, making it safe to say that the former CW star is easily one of the best actors out there when it comes to live-action work. However, extraordinarily multitalented, the worshiped star is not just an actor, but also a singer, musician, podcaster and entrepreneur, consistently producing mountains of his own quality content across every outlet of media as he builds his own brand. Whether Rosenbaum is in front of the camera, on stage, or in a voice over booth, his influential voice and abilities shine through, and it’s easy to see why he’s had such a knack when it comes to dominating entertainment, always keeping one step ahead with the rapid changes that have come as technology and social media alter the scope of the industry.
A voiceover king whether it be for his podcast, video games, or cartoons, the hard-working star can do more with the spoken word than many actors can do on while being seen hours on screen. Wanting to throw himself into the work and make it the absolute best that it could be, Rosenbaum keeps his vocal chords primed, keeping his skills fresh by doing impressions of some of the great voices of this century, and with Christopher Walken, Keanu Reeves, and other amazing impersonations up his sleeve, it’s easy to see why the clever talent is such a pro at keeping the attention of audiences everywhere- and truthfully, utilizing his Walken impression for the role of Ghoul on “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” was nothing short of a stroke of genius.
No stranger or newbie to loaning his pipes to the cartoon world, Rosenbaum has been doing it for most of his career, using the medium to only further perfect his acting skills. Knowing what a role will call for and what tone is needed is what the versatile actor is known for, and it’s no different for voice-overs. As the lead of the video game “Yakuza” may require the celebrated actor to be more serious, games like “Batman: Arkham Knight,” and “Lego DC Super-Villains” call for a more comedic performance, and the skilled performer always understands the complex balance between the two, easily making him one of the most sought after talents when it comes to booking the voices behind our favorite toons.
And with shows like “Smallville” making its rounds on the streaming services and coming up on its 20th anniversary of when it began, Lex Luthor himself and his co-star Tom Welling are taking time at comic conventions to celebrate the notoriety they have received from the show, charitably giving back to the fans that made them. With no press, no cameras, and no filming, the highly revered stars are doing events at night after the conventions are over inviting small groups of fans out for what they call “Smallville Nights.” During one of these events, the actors impressively make fun games for the attendees- like a private reading of a script while they invite some of the crowd onto the stage to perform other roles, showing that the dedication and love of his character is not wasted on Rosenbaum. Constantly putting the fans first, the benevolent star seems to have no intentions of forgetting the show that made him a superstar, or the people that idolized him for it.
But while it may seem that the busy artist already has a ton on his plate between acting on screen, lending his voice to games and toons, and giving back to the fans, those endeavors barely scratch the surface of all Rosenbaum has his hand in. Recording two podcasts that air weekly and bi-weekly, “Inside of You” and “In Love with Michael Rosenbaum and Chris Sullivan” have already proven that the intuitive star knows how to cultivate a hit, with the personable host constantly aware of who might make a fantastic guest. Not just wanting his friends on his show, finding actors and celebs with interesting stories to tell has been yet another specialty for the savvy talent, with Rosenbaum utilizing his time with them as he skillfully gets them to open up for some of the best interviews out there. And again, true to form in putting fans first, what inspires the actor to continuously come back to the format is the letters he receives from listeners to tell him that his shows and interviews have made an impact on their lives.
And even with two podcasts under his belt, the “Sorority Boys” star still manages to take on even more. Growing up in Oceanside, NY one of the greatest things about the beloved performer’s childhood was to be able to synchronize a song to a moment in his life, and remember where he was and who he was with when he first heard it. When the incredibly talented podcaster hears the song “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago, he can pinpoint an exact moment in time when he went to his grandmother’s house on as a child- and clearly, that love for music has paid off and paved the way for the multitalented Long Island native to dabble in harmonies himself. With his band Left on Laurel, Rosenbaum and his fellow musicians have released a new album in October, and having already had a few great concerts overseas, the singer/actor is learning that music is an integral part of who he is as an artist and performer, with everything he listened to in the car while growing up serving as a precursor for the music he would go on to make as an adult.
An actor, podcaster, voice-over expert, musician, philanthropist, and all around bad-ass, it’s easy to see why Rosenbaum is conquering every facet of entertainment, and it’s also safe to say that even though he might have played the villain of the Superman story, we were right to idolize him for all those years as our personal superhero. With plenty on the way and even more in development from toons, to music, to live-action roles, WINGMAN sat down with the energized star and learned all about what he is currently working on, and what else he would love to do.
WINGMAN: You have two podcasts that come out weekly; “Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum,” and “In Love with Michael Rosenbaum and Chris Sullivan.” I know how much time it can take to edit one, so please tell me you have an editor of some sort.
MICHAEL ROSENBAUM: It’s kind of a machine, believe it or not. I wouldn’t be able to do it all myself, I would fall apart pretty quickly, so I surrounded myself with great people. I have a great editor, whose name is Mia, and she edits both “Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum,” and “In Love with Michael Rosenbaum and Chris Sullivan,” and is the engineer for “In Love.” We also have a guy named Ryan, who is my engineer- and you hear me talking to him during the show while we are doing the podcast. I also have a guy named Bryce who does a lot of my social media, and tries to get us out there for more visibility. So we have a whole team out there to get people to listen to it and discover it more, and it’s hard.
WINGMAN: What made you want to start one podcast, never mind two?
ROSENBAUM: I never thought that I would have a podcast. A friend told me that I should do it, and that he would take care of everything. So I started doing it, and it’s been tough, and it didn’t get easier for a while. As grateful and happy that I am to be doing the podcast, and how much I want to keep doing it, it’s not like I can sit back and do nothing. I have to get guests that I think would be interesting, or guests that I am capable of getting- guests that I really have to beg and plead in order to get bigger names on the podcast. It’s about building relationships, building trust, talking to their publicists, and having their client listen to a specific episode podcast, and then have them tell me they don’t want to do the podcast. It’s almost like an actor telling someone to watch a scene that they are did in a film to show their ability. My buddy Dax [Shepard] came on the podcast, and he loved it so much that he wanted to do it. Now he has one of the biggest podcasts in the world. People ask if I am pissed that he started a podcast, and of course I’m not upset. I wish some of his listeners would stay with me, sure, but I am happy for him. He asked if he could use my producer, and I said absolutely- because at that point we were just getting going and weren’t making money, and I told my producer that since he is supporting a family to go over to his podcast. Well, his podcast blew up and took off, so I told my producer to go with Dax, and that I would find someone new. It was a bit of a shitshow, but at times your ego is thinking “Fuck man, I have a great show, why aren’t as many people tuning in?” Then you have to reel yourself back in about your success, that your show is affecting people, and that’s it! Success isn’t based on how much money you make or how many downloads there are. It’s based on if you got any purpose out of it.
WINGMAN: One of my favorite guests that you have had was Kristin Kreuk- it was so insightful, and since you have known her since she was so young, it was fantastic fodder. What was your favorite part about that interview, and who has been your favorite guest so far?
ROSENBAUM: I have had some great guests. Some guests that were even greater, and for me, I like when I am surprised by a guest. And what I mean by that is; if I don’t know much about them, or they don’t know much about me, or don’t have much in common, and they are able to open up and give a piece of themselves, so much as to just be vulnerable or be open about something, at which they don’t realize the impact that they have on the people around the world that are listening. I get emails all the time, as well as tweets, and letters from people, and they tell me about their mental health issues, that they have lost someone in their family, or that they suffer from anxiety or depression, and it’s just a way to relate. We all have something, and that’s what makes us human. Everyone will say “Look at that guy, he’s got his shit together,” and he doesn’t. I just emailed with a friend that we thought had the perfect life , had everything going on, and I thought “I bet he is stressed out of his mind, doesn’t stop working,” and I just asked him if he wanted to be on the podcast [chuckles.] He told me that it was the third time I had asked him, and that he was too busy, and a little short with me. I had asked him three months ago to be on, but that’s fine. If you get short with someone so small, then you are stressed out about a lot of things. It’s relatability, like when people come up to me at conventions or on the street and remember me from my television and film projects. When they come up to me and say that my interview really helped them get through something- it makes my day. For Kristen’s interview, it was one of the first interviews that I did over the phone because she was up in Toronto or Montreal. It was a true test for me, because I am Facetiming, but at the same time, there isn’t that warm, right there sort of connection. We know each other, and we’re friends. I have always loved Kristen, and think she is an amazing human being. It was very dynamic, and she opened up about trying to enjoy “Smallville,” and her notoriety. She was very forthcoming and open about things which helps me as an interviewer, because the true test is when someone doesn’t want to talk about anything, so they keep changing the subject, and you are trying to get them back on track. People can see right through the bullshit when they are listening. If you listen to my conversation with Zachary Levi, Rainn Wilson, or Jenna Fischer- they all bring things that are very personal, and they are fantastic. Stephen Amell talks about his divorce, which he never talks about. We are actually doing another wine together for his company; Nocking Point Wine. Last year, Tom Welling and I had our own subscription wine called PureEvil, and it looks like we are going to be working with them again.
WINGMAN: Cartoons have been part of your work for quite some time, whether it be superheroes, “Jackie Chan Adventures” or “The Wild Thornberrys.” What is most exciting for you to be part of; a cartoon or video game?
ROSENBAUM: One of the most stressful things for an actor is to look good, put on makeup, know all of your lines, and with voice over you don’t have to do any of that. You just have to know the script, look the scenes over, and then you give a couple different versions of the role. If you have a good enough director like Andrea Romano who directed me in “Justice League,” then that’s really good. I like it because it’s very laid back, there isn’t as much pressure, and you can have fun. It’s like you are a kid in the candy store, doing voices that your mom hated! It’s just as hard as acting. Getting voiceover work is harder than getting work in acting. I must have gone in on five different animated Netflix series, and video games, and thought I kicked ass on them all! I think to myself, “Are they even listening to these tapes, because I thought I nailed that shit!?” It’s frustrating no matter what, and you have to learn to let it go. That is one thing that I have learned to do no matter if it’s a movie or a show, I throw my papers away and leave the audition there. I love voiceover work whether it be shows, movies, or games. Just to play these characters is like being a kid all over again.
WINGMAN: You’ve done So many different voices in a lot of projects. What has been your favorite, and why?
ROSENBAUM: There was this game “Yakuza,” where I was the lead voice in that- and I loved that. Being the voice of The Flash was pretty awesome, because he was the fun character and definitely the comedic relief. Doing “Jackie Chan’s Adventures” was so much fun, and we did eight episodes in one afternoon. I do some narration and was the narrator for a “Lord of the Rings” special a few years back, which was incredible. I loved doing characters in “Batman Beyond,” and when Bruce Timm who was a writer and producer on the show would tell me to do my Christopher Walken impression for a character.
WINGMAN: One project we loved was “Sorority Boys” with Barry Watson and Harland Williams. Was there ever any talk of a second one, like “Sorority Boys 2: House Moms”?
ROSENBAUM: Harland Williams, who played Roberta on the film, and I had an idea for a film, and since we aren’t doing it anymore, I can just tell you. Barry’s [Watson] character has a kid that’s in college now, and she is being harassed, and our characters start to get worried about if she would meet guys like us, so we go undercover at the college as sorority ladies to be their protectors. We sat down with the producer Jason and the writer Greg Coolidge- who wrote the first one. We thought that we would have a chance to do it, even if it was low budget- and if anyone is out there listening, all we need is a million bucks and we can make this movie [laughs.] There are times when you are beginning your career and think that things are beneath you and will only do certain projects. Now, I just want to have fun! What could be better than shooting “Sorority Boys 2” with Barry Watson, Harland Williams, and my friend Greg Coolidge? That is absolute fun, and I would totally do that for a month or two.
WINGMAN: From what I’ve read, you also like to sing and play music. What is your favorite style of music to play, and who were your inspirations?
ROSENBAUM: You can tell when you listen to my music that I am trapped in the 70’s. I love the 80’s, I love The Wallflowers, The Eagles, I love a little country, I am from southern Indiana. The lyrics and music that I write are about lost love and trying to get by, the good times, the good feelings. Songs like “Right Side of the Canyon” that I wrote is about two people that come out to California that can’t quite get it together, but are pretending that they do. That’s what people do; they pretend that they have their shit together and that we are in this continuous repeat stage. The right side of the canyon is where everyone wants to be on, and everybody always seems to be on the wrong side of the wrong things. It’s where I live, and I sing about The Canyon Country Store and buying spirits at The Canyon Country Store. Are the spirits the “American Spirits” cigarettes, or the spirits of Jim Morrison? When I think of songs and music, right away I have a vision. When you hear your favorite song, you think of whatever that song is. If you put on Chicago and I hear “If You Leave Me Now,” I remember getting off the Thirteen South freeway at the Southern State Parkway on Long Island Expressway and going to my grandma’s house. I close my eyes and see the black and white railing that takes you off the exit ramp, and I remember that song playing. If you think of a song, you can probably remember where you were, and who you were with. What inspires me is a song that has a melody, has a meaning, that you can listen to, and I think there is definitely some songs on this album that the band Left On Laurel made that people will feel good and just drive. I say it’s driving music because it’s a little bit beach rock with some Eagles, and Wallflowers all mixed in. People are really responding to it, and I am really proud of it. The guys in the band are Kent, Carl, Danson, Tom, and I – and we all worked really hard on this album. I can listen to mostly anything, except for most of today’s shit!
WINGMAN: One thing we love about you is your generosity and willingness to work with charities. Talk about the ones you work with most.
ROSENBAUM: I am really hands on with a couple of them, especially as of late after I had a life change. It’s one thing when you Venmo somebody $100 for a charity. But, it’s a big difference when you see firsthand the people that you are helping and it is more hands on. I joined this non-profit organization called Food on Foot which is one of the best nonprofits out there. It has an 85-90% success rate of getting homeless people food, a job, and an apartment. There is nothing better than helping the homeless, especially the ones that want a second chance at life. For me to go on a Sunday for three hours and meet these people, and see them making an effort to make it work, it makes a difference when you see people that want to have a second chance, a job, and a place to live. It’s really hard, so we really help them. Another charity is the Ronald McDonald House, which is all across the country, but it’s an unbelievable organization that houses children that are going to surgery, or are sick. Every Tuesday night I go over there and have a movie night. I brought over the movie “Casper,” some juice boxes, and my own popcorn popper, and I make fresh popcorn. These kids and their parents have become my friends, and I spend a couple of hours with them, making them laugh. As Billy Joel says, “To forget about life for a while.” Just being present, enjoying these kids, and listening to them has changed me a lot. The other charity I work with is ARM, which is the Animal Rescue Mission- they takes care of animals, especially with all of the wildfires and abused animals. They will go into the bad part of town if they hear that a dog has been hit by a car or something. There is also one called Echoes of Hope, and we work for foster youths, and it was started by Luc Robitaille, who is a Hall of Fame hockey player. We do a lot of events to give these kids a shot, especially when some kid is motivated, and to give them a support group like a family.
WINGMAN: “Smallville” has been over for 8 years, and it’s still at the forefront of everyone’s minds- as it should be. Talk about your “Smallville” nights that you and your friend an castmate Tom Welling have at comic cons.
ROSENBAUM: It’s funny, because Tom and I were always really cool. The closest friend I had on the show was Tom, even though we didn’t hang out all the time. People don’t understand that when you are working with someone for 14 hours a day, that the last person you want to see is that person. I spent more time on that set with that crew than with my family, which is true if you add up all of the hours. I went to Tom and told him that he needs to come and do these conventions because selfishly I thought we would have fun, and I would have more fun with him. I only do about eight conventions a year, and I finally got him to do it, and he could really see the impact on these fans of the show. At first, people will think that we are taking money from fans, and it’s completely not what it’s about. I am a fan, and go to these conventions on my own. I go to horror movie conventions to get autographs! When people go to these conventions, it is a vacation for them! They will save their money up so they can buy toys, go to panels, meet their favorite actors, get autographs. This is what they want to do! By going to these conventions, giving them your time, and paying attention and thanking them, it’s a gift for them, and for you. I went to Tom and said, “We do these panels, and they are fun and all, but what if we did something at night, like 7PM or 8PM, after the convention with a small group, and we do something with no cameras or filming, and do things that no one will ever see us do.” We did a few small cities just to try it out, and now we saw that it’s easy, it’s fun, and we see people loving it. Smallville Nights are a really special thing. I think we are really doing it because it is the 20th anniversary of when we started filming is next year.
A great actor, charitable, AND he gives back to the fans? That’s why Rosenbaum is the Baum!