January 08, 2013

He’s acted with Bruce Willis and schlepped dry wall, driven limos and starred in a music video. Even when not on the set, Mickey attracts a crowd with his unabashed observations, leaving listeners to wonder if they should be offended or inspired by his straight-talk and kind heart. He’ll demonstrate a left-jab, a bit too close; he's cursed while speaking at a funeral, full of love and emotion. He memorizes street maps and musical histories, and can explain the Slavic etymology of a rare phrase. Mickey Strasser (AKA Schrader) moved from St. Louis to LA in 1983 to pursue acting. Along with various TV and film roles, he has also used his entertaining skills to sell cars and currently works to place developmentally disabled adults in jobs. Mickey’s latest acting gig is a PSA for Welcome US — 60 seconds of pure Mickey character.

1) What first impression do people get of you, is it accurate?

I think generally the first impression is that I’m real rough around the edges and probably not as bright as I am. So, it’s partially accurate because I know I’m rough around the edges but I also know I’m extremely bright, so I like to disarm people who think I’m stupid. With condescending idiots, I’ve learned I can skewer them in any kind of discussion and that gives me a kind of satisfaction. I don’t even have to punch them in the nose; I can just outwit ‘em. I’m a product of who I am and where I come from and I don’t attempt to reinvent myself just ‘cause I have an education.

2) What are your biggest passions in life and how have they influenced your chosen path?

I guess my biggest passion has been self-expression of some kind – I’ve always found it pretty easy to get attention and I liked it. People were attracted to me for whatever reason, right or wrong, which emerged into the left field choice to pursue acting, and I found I was pretty good at it, though I had never taken an acting class. And you know having all these pompous fiends who devote their lives to drama say, “where have you studied?’ – I never studied anywhere you know, I lived a lot of life and I dug the attention you got from expressing yourself, and it seemed so easy to me. I think I was motivated by a big ego—which is a another story – my mother built that in me from an early age.

Music is really a bigger passion of mine than acting, but I was too busy having fun when I was young to really get serious about an instrument. So, music is #1, and then acting because you could be lazy and do a good job at it. You know when actors say, “I work so hard to get into that role”, it makes me sick – try hoofing dry wall up a couple of flights of stairs if you want to know what work is! I’ve done that too – I’d much rather be on a set, “working hard” than hoofing dry wall or busting my ass or something– I’ve done a lot of shitty jobs –so when actors say they work hard to get into the role I’m like, “give me fucking break” you know? I think anyone who can really make a full time living doing it is really, really, really blessed. In the big picture it aint serious, being on the front lines of Afghanistan or building a bridge that holds up or something like that is serious. Acting in front of a camera or on a stage is like child’s play.

3) Was this something you knew early on, something you unexpected discovered, or something that is still being revealed to you?

I knew early on I had ability to attract attention in positive way – never had a problem making friends, getting girls or stuff like that, that kind of thing always came easily and I think I had a lot self-confidence and never second guessed anything. I would paint the broad stroke whereas a lot of people wouldn’t risk acting like a fool and failing, but I always knew I could either do it or look graceful if I failed. I had enough self-esteem that if I failed I knew I could turn into a joke and still make it come out looking good for me.

4) Tell us one of your most funny or memorable stories related to the pursuit of your passion?

My parents weren’t formally educated, although my mom was very well read and people would think she was. They wanted me to go to college very badly. I didn’t like school and didn’t want to go but I loved and respected my parents, and knew it was important to them, so I did. When I was getting ready my old man said, “Well you’re going away to school son. Keep your dick in your pants as much as possible, don’t get into many fights and watch out for them professors, you know some of them guys don’t even wear socks.” What does it mean? Haha, but it speaks volumes man – it’s very profound. Yeah that’s priceless man. Priceless advice.

5) What have been your greatest influences, such as books, music, or role models?

Probably my parents, especially in retrospect as I grow older. For people of their generation they were remarkably devoid of prejudice – my mom would not allow the N word to be said in the house. She came from a southern background where it was used commonly — her own father used it everyday — but my mom had a particular bad taste for that word. I was raised pretty much free of prejudice and my parents taught me to be good to people in a micro sense, you know, on a day-to-day basis. You see people out here in LA, they’re all liberal and stuff but they scream at their house keepers and they have their kid march in some AIDS march, the kid doesn’t even know he’s doing, it’s just symbolic – but then the kid’s mean to his nanny or something. So, is he a good kid cause he marched in the AIDS march? No, he’s a spoiled piece of shit ‘cause he’s mean to his nanny. My parents taught me to treat everyone with respect, whether it’s a janitor or CEO – because everyone is worthy of respect unless they prove otherwise. Lesser influences would have been . . . I’d always had fixation with Napoleon for some reason, just ‘cause he was little guy with a lot of balls, like me. Also, Pope Jean Paul II and Muhammad Ali – an iconic American figure that was much maligned.

6) What fears or challenges did you face pursuing your path and how did you overcome them?

Being a smaller guy most of my life, when I went to public school for the first time and my dad said to me, “You’re a little shit so you better get pretty good with your hands ‘cause on the school yard either predator or prey, which one do you want to be?” So I made up my mind real quick I wanted to be the predator not the prey, and I got real good with my hands – I guess I always feared not being respected so I made a point to be respected, sometimes through sheer physically. I swung on a lot of guys who were bigger than me and I guess I had the thought, “that was a bad choice ‘cause he could kill me” – which is true, but if you hit him first and hit him in the right place and he wasn’t expecting it, then, as my dad said, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” So, I guess, having big ego, I feared not being that cat, you know, I always wanted to be that cat . . . if you can dig where I’m coming from.

7) Any lessons/words of advice on finding and staying on your path; or in order words, is there something that society tells us, that you now know is bull shit?

 I could never work in a Bank of America or something ‘cause I’ve always been my own person. I could never become a member of a born again group or cult, cause I’m too much of an individual, an independent thinker. When I was in car biz we had to go to these “rah rah” seminars with a guest speaker who would talk all this “rah rah” shit. You know, I liked selling my cars and doing my thing, but to get into that rah rah thing, that group mentality, I just can’t do it. I gotta be my own guy -- I couldn’t join a gang for that reason. In my later life my faith in God has really strengthened too, but it’s also very personal, not like a lot of people who read the Bible and just go through the motions, reciting it like a Mother Goose Rhyme – in recent years I try to understand the real meaning.

8) What are your main goals for the future?

My main goal is just to enjoy life – I enjoy the job I’m doing, I’d like to make a bit more money -- not just struggling, one beat behind, robbing Peter to pay Paul, being able to barely pay bills and then having to wait for the next paycheck – that’s a very real concern that a lot of people have, and I’m one of them. Money in, of and by itself it not important to me, but the reality of the matter is you need to pay your bills and it makes life more comfortable. My goal is to enjoy life, if acting work comes along, great, but it’s not my focus – hopefully I’ll get a lot out of every day. I’m always goofing around on the creative stuff, currently writing some new songs/raps.

9) Outside of the path you chose, if you could have pursued one other career, what would it be and why?

Music . . . I might have concentrated on being a DJ if not a musician, ‘cause being musician is like being actor – you can be very good and never make a living. It’s all about luck of the draw – you can be a bum and have a hit record—there’s no justice in performing arts, it’s timing, luck, all of that – and there’s no sense of being bitter if you don’t hit the jackpot ‘cause it’s just the nature of the beast. I hate bitter actors—bitter actors are worse than bitter musicians, ‘cause musicians are usually at least working in a bar and playing, bitter actors are usually not. I did a lot of DJ-ing in clubs, to do it on the air for money would’ve probably been a smart career choice for me. It would’ve been the kind of notoriety and attention I always craved and doing something I liked which is playing music.

10) If you could spend a weekend anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

There’s a few cities – my most beloved is my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri – which is one of the homicide capitals of America, a dangerous place after dark, but it’s such a unique city, it’s like the last Eastern city, first Northern city . . . it has a unique place in history, it was the capital of New France, it has some of the most spectacular architecture in America, it has some old churches which rival churches in Europe. It’s my heart and soul, it’s where I came from and where my family roots are --- my wife would probably spend a weekend anywhere but St. Louis, but I still have a terrific love for it. I know it like the back of my hand, I move freely anywhere, you know, I’ll go in the ghetto and walk around, nobody fucks with me there – it’s my town. When I’m dead and gone and hopefully toasted – ‘cause I don’t want to be in no box in no cold ground-- I will hopefully be scattered in various Select parts of St Louis and some in San Francisco too. I also like Montreal and New Orleans.

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