By Rylie Kyhn
How does an actress who started with a role as a housewife on a comedy television show calledThe Book Group end up playing, Madam Satan, a demon that possesses someone else’s body on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a horror fiction show? Well, you learn to adapt, become versatile, and you just take what you are offered of course! Scottish actress Michelle Gomez always grew up with the idea that she wanted to be an actress and has learned so much along the way that allowed her to develop into the actress that she is today.
RK: When you were a young girl, did you always know you wanted to be an actress or pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
MG: “There is not a time that I can remember when I didn’t want to do that. From a very early age, I kind of knew that there was some kind of power in dressing up and shouting for a living and so from age five or so I suppose. I just always loved dressing up and goofing around and then I kind of somehow just made a career out of it.”
And made a career out of it she did. She has been in the industry for over 30 years and has played so many unique roles. Gomez is an incredibly gifted and versatile actress but it took hard work and dedication and many years, many different roles, and many learning opportunities.
RK: You have played different roles on comedy shows, what were those roles like compared to your current role, Madam Satan on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina?
MG: “Well you know, the thing is, I never really saw myself as being funny or the comedic actress so it was always a surprise to me that people found me funny. I kind of found out along the way that I think it’s because I take the characters seriously and I’m not going for laughs but I think it’s because their circumstances are quite funny and because I am kind of invested in them and immersed in their reality and somehow it ended up being comedic. My first role on television was called The Book Group and it was written and directed by Annie Griffin and again I was playing this frustrated housewife named Janice and apparently it was quite funny. I mean the show was funny but I didn’t know that at the time. So I guess you could describe my approach, or my career as ‘same house, different curtain.’ If you know what I mean, itt is the same kind of performance, just a different script. Because that is basically what most actors end up doing. We get hired for the thing that we do best, and it turns out that apparently I am quite funny.”
An actress that starred in quite a few comedy shows that doesn’t think she’s all that funny and admits it? That just shows you how humble she is because she is so open with readers about who she really is. Gomez described that she stars as these kind of evil characters but in fact, she doesn’t really have a single evil bone in her body. Quite ironic right?
RK: Were you super interested in comedy? Did you think you would stay in comedy? Or were you open to different opportunities?
MG: “I really just took jobs. I was just so desperate to work. I pretty much would have said yes to anything. I kind of found out pretty quickly as a child the power of comedy. Comedy to me, I compare it to the power that musicians have because a musician can play their instruments and on the first note, change your mood. That first note will either raise your spirits or take you to a place of darkness. Similarly with comedy, you get an immediate reaction. If you’re going to try to relate to people through a comedic bend and someone laughs, you know you’re doing something right. So I sort of compare it to music in a way. Basically what I am trying to say is that with comedy you get an immediate reaction. When you are playing for a live audience, and you are manipulating them or controlling them in a way that makes them laugh, and that is a powerful tool to wield.”
RK: What has been your favorite role that you have played so far?
MG: “You know, I fall in love with every character I have gotten to play. Mainly because I can’t believe I got the job. I am always still pinching myself that I managed to book the gig, and I’m not kidding. I would say probably on Doctor Who when I played The Master and with Doctor who I was a massive fan as a girl, as a child and growing up. So I ended up playing one of the most iconic roles in a show that had been running for 50 years and that was a pretty big deal for me. First of all, because I’m a fan, and then it’s like ‘Wait a minute’ only men have ever played this role so that was a big thrill. They also gave me so much freedom so I could pretty much play with my whole palette of colors and that was unusual, and liberating, and magical. So I thought once I left Doctor Who, I chose to leave after my doctor left when Pals because I couldn’t imagine being the master to any other doctor. So I kind of thought ‘aw man’ you know, that’s it. I always think I am never going to work again and I always think ‘that’s my last job’ and I said ‘at least I’m going to go out on a high’ you know, it can’t get any better than Missy. Then of course, Madam Satan came bumbling in. So now I am just like, OK, I must have done, I don’t know, something right, because I am blown away that I get to play Madam Satan. It’s just the most ridiculous name as well, I love it. I never play anybody with normal names. I’ve never played anyone named Susan or Allison, I’m always The Master, Madam Satan. I love it!!”
In 2016, Gomez’s role as Missy in Doctor Who earned her a nomination for the British Academy Television Award (BAFTA) as best supporting actress. She played a version of The Master on the show from 2014-2017 and just listening to her speak about it, you could tell she absolutely adored it.
RK: Madam Satan is a very strong and powerful character, what has been the most difficult part in playing in that role?
MG: “I don’t think I can describe my time playing her as difficult in any way really because it’s just been such a gift. Maybe what would be most difficult is to not have as much fun as I am having playing her. Sometimes I end up getting a bit tight and it doesn’t really work for me so my challenge has been to try to stay within the parameters of the shows tone and make sure I’m not bouncing around too much but it’s hard. I guess that is difficult, you know respecting and remembering what the show is about as a whole and not sort of unbalancing it in anyway. I want to make sure that I am living in the same world and that we are connected and I think we have really succeeded in doing that. I mean the show is called Sabrina and Kiernan Shipka is just a phenomenal human being. She has got to be one of my most favorite people on this planet. She’s number one on the call sheet and everything comes from her in terms of the pace we work at and totally on set what she expects from us. She has such a high standard, and it’s all professional. I swear, I want to be Kiernan Shipka when I grow up. I really do. I sort of, what is it? ‘Fangirling?’ (laughs) When I go on set I am kind of fangirling. Madam Satan is fangirling about Sabrina and everything about that sounds a bit wrong but it’s kind of right.”
RK: When you first found out you were going to play in the role of Madam Satan, what did you do in order to connect with her as a character?
MG: “Well, you know it’s a pretty tall order trying to connect with someone who is a demon that possesses someone else’s body. It’s kind of like rubbing your head and stroking your stomach at the same time it’s like ahh! I basically just had to think I can’t get in my head too much about this, I can’t intellectualize it, I can’t think about it too much because if I do, i’ll think myself into a pretzel or think myself into knots. So what I had to do was I had to be really open. I had to make sure I didn’t bring any of my preconceived notions about what a demon might look like entering someone else’s body and really just look at the script, really look at it scene by scene and take it from there. My costume told me a lot, gave me a lot of clues. My character line and where I need to get to in each scene gave me some clues. Then it was just up to literally being prepared, knowing my lines, showing up, and handing her over and being willing to listen to whoever my acting partner was on that day. Normally it would be Kiernan or an empty branch because Stolis doesn’t really exist.”
RK: You have taken on so many different roles and your acting career has been so unique because of them, how has each helped you develop into the actress that you are today?
MG: “Each job has made me the actor that I am today. Each job is your education, each job is your experience, each job is your opportunity to make mistakes, learn from them, and try to get something next time. That is where we learn our craft. So I might be a half-decent actress that stands before you today but that only happens because I just kept at it. This industry is 90% rejection, 8% luck, and 2% oh here we go again. It’s a tricky business to kind of survive in. I am thirty years in and that is only because I still love it passionately, couldn’t imagine doing anything else, wouldn’t want to do anything else and I am prepared to take knocks along the way and just be filled with gratitude that I get to play again and then I get paid for it! I’m honestly just blown away that I am here talking to you, about me. Ha Ha Ha.”
RK: What is something that fans and viewers don’t know about you?
MG: “Well, I am scottish. Let me think for a second. Hm, I don’t know. That’s a hard question. I like pink pants. (laughs) I love them! No, but just I guess I am playing all these troll characters, you know I am in the corner of the market to play witches until the day I die. It is kind of ironic because I am kind of nice and I am kind of a good person, I don’t really have an evil bone in my body. There I am stroking my moustache like ‘ha ha ha’ in the shadows when really all I want to do is high kick my way into some crazy musical. That would be my DREAM! To play Mama Rose in Gypsy on stage on Broadway. That would be checking every box in my career if I got to play that. That is my biggest ambition! Oh my, I would ROCK THAT! I need to learn how to sing first, but that is just a technicality.”
For someone who plays the handmaiden of the devil on a horror fiction show, Michelle Gomez is quite the opposite from her character and you figure that out within just a few minutes of talking to her. She may be a powerful, sort of evil character on television but in reality, humble and kind-hearted. She does however, make the transition to her character, Madam Satan, seem effortless which is a skill many will never posses.
Photography: Roch Armando @rocharmando
Styling: Angel Terrazzas @angeltstyle
Makeup: Kristin Hilton @kristinhilton
Hair: Dritan @drtn
Production: Maison Privée PR x BELLO Media Group
Featured in BELLO April 2019 issue #184. Order your print copy HERE.