Thomas Calabro talks the revamp of the “Melrose Place,” his relationship with his on-screen son and the future of the show.
It was no surprise executive producers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer turned to Thomas Calabro to reprise his role as the manipulative Dr. Michael Mancini on the reboot of the CW’s Melrose Place. Calabro was a mainstay on the original Melrose Place, having stayed on through show through it’s 1992-1999 run on FOX. His controversial and misguided character anchored the show through its 8 year run of explosions, blackmail, faked deaths, marriages and more.
The Brooklyn, New York born Calabro started acting in school plays at a young age. He went to Fordham University, where he received his first big break when fellow student Denzel Washington had to drop out of the school’s production of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.” Calabro took over the role, which lead to more theater roles in New York. The actor decided to move to Los Angeles for six months in an effort to find more stable work. It was soon after that he landed his most memorable role to date as Dr. Michael Mancini. After landing the series regular role on “Melrose Place,” Calabro was the only cast member to stay on the show during the entire run of the series. In addition, he directed several episodes. Between seasons, he filmed three television movies: “Sleep Baby Sleep,” “Stolen Innocence” and “LA Johns.” After wrapping “Melrose Place,” Calabro guest starred in such series as “Nip/Tuck,” “Without a Trace,” “Cold Case,” and “Greek” to name a few.
On the big screen, Calabro starred in such features as “Face to Face,” “Chill,” “Safehouse,” and “Detention.” He recently wrapped production on the “Locker 13” starring Krista Allen (ex-Billie, “Days of Our Lives”), Tatyana Ali (Roxanne, “The Young and the Restless”) and Rick Schroder. He also completed “Elle: A Modern Cinderella Tale,” starring Sterling Knight (“Sonny with a Chance”), Ashlee Hewitt (“Nashville Star”) and Kiely Williams (“The Cheetah Girls”; “Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming”).
“Melrose Place” stars Katie Cassidy (Ella), Thomas Calabro (Michael), Stephanie Jacobsen (Lauren), Shaun Sipos (David), Jessica Lucas (Riley), Michael Rady (Jonah), Nick Zano (Drew) and Heather Locklear (Amanda). The series airs Tuesday nights at 9PM/EST on The CW.
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When you were approached to reprise the role of Dr. Michael Mancini, were you reluctant to go back?
THOMAS: I wouldn’t call myself reluctant, but I was trepidatious. I was curious, I didn’t want to go back and the same ole same ole. But I tell you, it took me ok me all of about 5 minutes to realize that Todd [Slavkin] and Darren [Swimmer] our new creators and executive producers had their own vision of their own show that just happens to have the same name of Melrose Place and brought back some characters. It didn’t seem to me they had any desire to re-do what had been done but to make this thing their own and to me that was the most important thing about it. And then when we spoke about Michael Mancini and I knew they had another sort of new reincarnation of him yet keeping the same core of who he is, a loving but maybe not the nicest guy you ever met. That worked out as well too and I was very excited. After that meeting I was all on board.
TVS: When the series started, a lot of fans didn’t know how to take it, a remake or a re-boot. How did you approach the character of Michael this time around? What did you do to make your character different than he was on the original series?
THOMAS: For better or for worse, Melrose Place had never come on the air without some sort of pre-disposition of the audiences’ idea of what it was. Before we ever got on the air, the first time, this time, everybody thought “Oh it was an offshoot of 90210” the first time. This time it’s “Oh they’re bringing back Melrose Place and re-doing it.” None of it was ever true. It’s always been its own show, its own deal and for better or for worse that’s what we’ve always been.
As far as my approach to the Michael – it’s 10 years later. People evolve in their lives, characters evolve off screen. This man was not the same Michael Mancini we left 10 years ago, he’s got a nuclear family he’s looking to protect, he’s got a heart device that he’s invented that has given him more money than God, and he’s top notch at a hospital. He’s not a man who’s searching to re-invent or boost his own career, he’s the man on top of the heap with a family and an agenda to that he’s going to protect it and live this “normal life.” But we know that can’t happen on Melrose Place [laughs]. That sturdy ground is always shaking and that’s what I had to deal with this time around. Children, he never had children, never had to deal with that.
TVS: Speaking of children, his son David is like a chip off the old block so to speak. How do you like working with Shaun [Sipos]?
THOMAS: Here’s a couple of things about Shauny. First he’s terrific. He’s a terrific kid, he’s a smart kid and such a talented actor. What I love working with Shawn we can go anywhere in a scene, we can try lots of different things. I can do something completely different and I just watch him react and come along for the ride and if he does something different, I go there and we can push each other around and I love it.
The dynamic between the two characters is just to me, beautiful. They are both men, but they are father and son. You get to the point where you’re the dad and it’s like “I’m not gonna tell you what to do,” even though you’re still trying. [laughs]. That’s what goes on here. They both have this common love, not just Sydney Andrews [Laura Leighton], but they have this 5 year old boy, his brother and my son Noah [Cameron Casteneda]. Tere is some tension about how much time they can spend together and if that’s good for them. And that goes on and that three way relationship really spins in a surprising way in the second half of the season, in the upcoming weeks as we finish out our first season. It’s really fun and I really think it will be surprising and interesting.
TVS: So your role will grow in the second half of the season?
THOMAS: It does somewhat it expands somewhat, there’s more going on with a few more people that we haven’t seen before and continues with some people as well.
TVS: Can you give us a preview of what’s coming up with Michael?
THOMAS: There’s a new storyline with Nick Zano’s character Drew and Stephanie Young’s character Lauren. It’s sort of a new triangle going on here. Now we have three people at the hospital that can check on one another. There is an interesting twist in the story that will play out in Tuesday’s episode, and it will really kick things into high gear. There will be some exploration of Michael’s relationship with his two boys.
TVS: If you have to sum up the first half of the season and the second half of the season what would that be?
THOMAS: I would say we are moving away from the darker and serious tone and moving into a sort of more, still reality based, these people will be dealing with these high stakes drama in a real way but with a little snappier, a little brighter and a little more humor added to it. I think we’re moving more toward what we finished with the first time around on Melrose Place. We’re gearing it toward what we did best the first time around, which wasn’t necessarily in the beginning or the end of the run but in the middle we hit a sweet spot, and we’re headed more towards that. There’s a lot going on, more fun and snappier. People will remain beautiful and wear fashionable clothes. [laughs]
TVS: Have you had a chance to direct any episodes this season?
THOMAS: I haven’t, creatively we’ve had our hands full with season 1 just finding our feet and seeing what works well. When you get a creative team together, especially one as large as a television show involved, a lot of things have to fall in place. Looking forward I look forward to directing in seasons two and three, but right now we’re trying to do what we do best.
TVS: Last month The CW announced some of the series they would be renewing for the upcoming fall season. Melrose Place was absent from that list. Do you think the CW is waiting for the episodes from the second half of the season to air before they decide to pick it up for another season? I’m hoping they do because I love the show.
THOMAS: Yes I do think so. I think they want to see how this new tone fits with the audience. They want to see if they get more eyeballs on the screen and want to see how we’re doing internationally. I think internationally we have a great potential for great. I think they’re going to love the show. I think the show is even more geared for a European audience than it is for an American audience in some aspects. Plus we come with less baggage overseas so I think there’ll be more eyeballs to it and I think we’ll grow here too. I think it’s a real show of confidence by the CW that they have held off. More people have used that word “canceled” but not the CW, and I think that’s important.
TVS: Can you tell me about your upcoming films “Locker 13” and “Elle: A Modern Cinderella Tale”?
THOMAS: Locker 13 isn’t quite finished yet but I think that’s going go be a very interesting film. There’s like six small films that revolve around the one locker. Some of it’s thriller, some of it’s sci-fi, some of it’s historic. It’s a great little movie that is going to be. I can already tell you though, Elle: A Modern Cinderella Tale is one of the best independent films I’ve done. And I’ve done at least a dozen in the last 10 years. It’s a great movie, and great for the whole family which is what I love about it. For as little money as it took to make the movie, it looks very high quality. A very Disney like production. There’s terrific talent, and great music and once again, I get to involve myself with a bunch of talented people.
NEXT ON “MELROSE PLACE”: Episode 1.15 – “Mulholland”
Ella (Katie Cassidy) is a little overwhelmed by Jonah’s (Michael Rady) constant attention and decides couplehood might not be for her. Lauren (Stephanie Jacobsen) succumbs to Dr. Mancini’s (Thomas Calabro) threats and David (Shaun Sipos) decides to buy Coal, but the price turns out to be a little higher than he thought. Meanwhile, Drew (Nick Zano) moonlights in a band and Amanda catches Ben (guest star Billy Campbell) and Riley (Jessica Lucas) in a compromising position.
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