Michael Ealy: On Heartbreak, Heartthrob & Moving Forward
Michael Ealy is the dreamboat actor that many women seem to swoon over. From the great smile to the dreamy eyes, Ealy lights up the screen in nearly every role he has. But the now-married father of a son says the dreams of being an actor almost never came to light because he couldn’t get a break and almost gave up.
Ealy spent five years working as a waiter in New York City before getting his big break in Barbershop in 2001. “There were times where I’d feel like, ‘I’m a waiter. I’m not an actor. I’m a waiter,” he says of the nights he’d go home with a little over $30 in his pocket.
It wasn’t until 2001 that Ealy got his big break in Ice Cube produced film, Barbershop. Since then, he’s starred opposite Kate Beckinsale in Underworld Awakening and opposite Matt Dillon, Idris Elba and Hayden Christensen in the action flick Takers, and he was personally picked by Will Smith to play his younger brother in Seven Pounds. He’s also portrayed a Buffalo Soldier in the Spike Lee World War II epic Miracle at St. Anna, For Colored Girls with Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg and Phylicia Rashad, The Perfect Guy...and the list goes on and on.
On His First Heartbreak:
“For me, my first big heartbreak is actually sports-related,” explains Ealy. “My senior year, I became the starting wide-receiver on my nationally-ranked, high school football team as a walk-on. We have a good season, make it to the playoffs, and are on the verge of three-peating as state champs, when the coach decides to go to a two tight-end offense which suddenly makes me a non-factor.”
“Then, the team went out and got spanked on our home field. I’ll never forget how I cried after the game, because I’d been denied the opportunity to help the team in the championship game, even though I had played a big role up to that point. It was like the coach forgot what had gotten us there. So, I never got to hold the trophy or savor a state championship. And I’ll never forget that first bitter heartbreak. I remember feeling devastated and going to church the next Sunday.”
“My mom spoke to the pastor about it and, from the pulpit, he asked the congregation to pray for me. That did make me feel better, like I wasn’t alone. That was my first heartbreak. My first heartbreak devastated me, but it was the support of my family and my second family, my church family, that helped me understand that it wasn’t my fault, and that everything was going to be alright. That helped me tremendously later in life…”
On Being A Heartthrob:
“There was this ‘heartthrob’ label put upon me,” he admits. “I had the opportunity to either embrace it and limit myself by riding it out, or I could use it to try and take some chances … and try and change the narrative. You think I can do that? Great. Wonderful. I’ve done that. This is what I want to do now. Since I’ve already built an audience doing what you think I can do, let me go do [this] and see if my audience rides with me on that, too. That’s been a huge joy.”
On What’s Next:
“I’m approaching my career in a ‘bet big or go home’ way. And I want is my son and my wife to be proud of the…