Award-winning Grovedale actor Michael Chan speaks to Luke Voogt about touring the US, the pandemic and his recent accolades in celebration of International Day of People with Disability yesterday.
Tell us about you…
I’m 37 and was born in Swan Hill. We settled in Geelong when I began primary school. I normally work in hospitality at venues including Flemington and Moonee Valley racecourses. My hobbies include running, power walking, weight training, travelling, singing, listening to music and cooking.
How did you get into acting?
In 2016 I joined Back to Back Theatre and got involved in workshops, TV and film, and other productions. I enjoy hanging out with a bunch of amazing, enthusiastic people who take risks and challenge themselves to gain creative writing and improvisation skills.
Last year I landed a role in The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes. We toured across the US to perform in January, travelling to cities like New York and Boston – this experience was one in a million. Despite our hectic schedule, we visited fascinating places including Times Square and Brooklyn Bridge. It was an unforgettable trip and I began to cry before we flew home because we had become so close – like a family. In April we were fortunate enough to win the Green Room Award for best ensemble.
How does winning at the 2020 Geelong Awards for People with a Disability feel?
I feel very honoured having my achievements recognised despite what has been an inactive, challenging year for me. I really owe Back to Back for the opportunity to perform onstage in front of a great audience. Without their close support and guidance I would never have been able to follow my dreams and broaden my horizons in this way.
What does International Day of People with Disability mean to you?
It’s about informing the community that people with disability have talents and capabilities. They want their stories to be heard, and feel welcomed and valued.
What do you like to do locally?
I like having a coffee, wandering around the waterfront and going to the library. Once a week I eat out with my parents at restaurants – it doesn’t have to be the Chinese that we normally cook at home. I enjoy driving to Torquay, Geelong Botanic Gardens and the Bellarine Peninsula to get fresh air while viewing spectacular scenery. I help my parents at home with watering the gardens and cooking, as they’re getting older. In my spare time, I took on council’s My Story project to write about growing up with high-functioning autism in a traditional Chinese family.
How are you coping with COVID-19?
COVID-19 brought 2020 – which was meant to be my finest year – to a sudden, grinding halt. All our productions and tours were cancelled. At the same time my hospitality shifts were cancelled as restrictions forced sporting events to operate behind closed doors.
Despite losing my acting gigs and casual jobs, I’ve been able to make ends meet through JobKeeper whilst supporting my family.
I kept active by chatting with friends on social media and attending online meetings. I’m looking forward to future productions and filming projects as the COVID-19 situation improves.
What’s something about you that people might not know?
I have an extra finger on my left hand!