Michael Cera 20 years ago he was the in-demand nerd

June 2007 By Philip Berk

Not yet twenty, gawky, lanky, nerdy Michael Cera is hardly anyone’s idea of a star in the making.

Even his angelic looks mitigate that. 

But put him on screen and he projects a warmth and sincerity unmatched by anyone this year.

Ironically he hasn’t been wanting for jobs.

Besides his three year stint as the gentle son in Arrested Development, he played younger versions of the leading characters in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Frequency.

But what got him all the attention was his roles this year in Superbad and Juno.

At his press conference he’s as sweetly naive as he  appears on screen.

So what can you say about your overnight success?

“Because I’ve been acting for ten years now, I feel I’m kind of in the same place I’ve always been.”

But you’ve never got this much attention?

“I’m just going to try and keep acting and hopefully keep getting work unless I get completely shunned by the industry.”

Where does your gentle and unassuming manner come from?

“I am not sure. Arrested Development taught me to underplay things and that was really instilled in me by everyone in the show. After three years it just sort of became instinctive.  I was lucky to be part of that show; so I try to keep the things that I earned from it with me on other things I do.”

In Juno you play an unsuspecting father.

Have you ever come close to experiencing something like that in real life?

(Embarrassed he answers) “The closest I’ve ever been to the situation was working on the movie.”

If it happened to you, would you behave as you do in the movie?

“Possibly. My character doesn’t have any control over the situation, and that’s probably how I would react.”

In the movie you’re  a cross country runner. Did you participate in athletics in high school?

“No, I never did anything too athletic in school.”

How has Superbad changed your life?

“Well I guess it’s let me do other movies. I am working on a film right now, and hope to keep working. That’s all you can hope for. With a movie having some success you’re able to keep working.”

What can you tell us about that film?

“It’s called Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist from the director of Raising Victor Vargas  which is a movie I really loved. It’s nice to work with a director you’re really excited to work with.”

Do you have a girl friend?

“Yeah, I do have a girl friend.” 

Is she an actress?

“No she’s not. She does standup comedy.”

Her name?

“Charlene Yee. She performs around L.A.”

Are you guys funny together?

“I guess we can be pretty crazy, pretty whacky. But it’s nice to be able to have a regular conversation with someone, which I can with Charlene.”

Are you naturally funny?

“People say I am. They always think I’m joking. I’m kind of self conscious about not being taken seriously.”

How do you go about choosing you parts?

“You read the scripts, and if you like a script, that’s a good start.  And then you kind of see who’s involved, get an idea of what it will be like. With Juno, I really liked the script, and then I met Jason (Reitman, the director.) I really liked his last movie (Thank You for Smoking), and I thought he could do a good job; so I wanted to be part of it.”

Are you recognized wherever you go?

“Once in a while I get recognized. I feel like they know something about me, they have sort of an advantage because I don’t know anything about them. So that’s kind of scary.”

You join a long list of Canadians who’ve made good.

Is that where you got your training?

“I worked a lot in Canada, acted in Canadian productions and in American productions that were shot there; so I guess that’s where I got my training.”

Where do you make your home?

“I still live in Toronto. At the moment I’m filming in New York; so I go home afterwards.”

Talk about your home life. Did your parents encourage you?

“Both my parents were very supportive, but I’ve always wanted to act. I don’t know why. I had done a few things when I was eight or nine. I did classes on the weekends where you just play games with other kids, and then you put on a play for the parents. I loved doing that. That was so much fun. And then I was so excited when I got my first commercial. My mom is in the back of the room. Without her none of this would have been possible. It was a big commitment on her part. A lot of driving downtown, sometimes three or four days a week taking me to auditions. And when I came to L.A. my mom came with me. She quit her job and stayed with me, and yeah it was great. I know I wouldn’t be here today if my parents hadn’t supported me and believed in me.”

Do you stay close?

“Not like when I was growing up. She’s here in L.A. for the premiere tonight, although she was here for most of Superbad, which we filmed in L.A.  So it depends on the situation if she’s available.”

And your dad?

“My dad works most of the year — he came to New York and visited with my mom, but he’s got to get time off.” 

What does he do?

“He works for Xerox.”

Do you have any siblings?

“I have two sisters, one older, one younger.” 

Where do they live?

“In Toronto.” 

Any hobbies? 

“I play guitar a bit.”

Who is your favorite band?

“I like Wheezer a lot.”

And your biggest indulgence since getting bigger paychecks?

“I bought a panoramic camera. I haven’t really splurged. A few shirts.”

For the record he plays in a band called The Long Goodbye.

And professionally he’s much more adventuresome than he is in private life.

A little inhibited, I’d say.