Institute: What made you take the career path as an actor?
Jake: It took awhile to discover that being an “actor” was even a thing. I just knew I loved the telling and retelling of stories. When I was a kid my Dad would read to me books like Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues, Les Miserables, my parents would take me to plays, I had of course seen a countless number of movies, and all I could figure out was that I was happiest when totally immersed in that environment. Turning that into a career happened a lot later.
Institute: Who influenced you in your early years? How about now?
Jake: That’s a very long list. I loved Michael Keaton growing up. I still love Michael Keaton. He was Beetlejuice and Batman. My influences now come from so many different places. Actors, musicians, friends and family. It’s a medley.
Institute: Can you tell us about your character in Shameless?
Jake: Mike Pratt is Fiona’s new supervisor at her new job and he’s her new boyfriend. He’s new. He’s never met any of the Gallaghers or even a family that comes close. He helps run the family business, he’s been married and divorced, and he’s probably the most “normal” guy Fiona has ever been in a relationship with. Down to earth with no ulterior motives steak and potatoes kind of guy.
Institute: What attracted you to the part?
Jake: Just about everything. Mike is almost on a totally different show that the rest of the characters. Maybe a different planet. He comes from this totally stable environment that juxtaposes everything else that’s going on in an episode. I was very interested to see that play out through Fiona’s relationship with him. To watch Fiona, who has been the master of managing chaos, attempt to settle into a more typical lifestyle was very interesting to me. So there was that, and then of course what the show is. And getting to work with all the people that make the show what it is.
Institute: Do you ever become emotionally involved with your characters?
Jake: Absolutely. With Shameless for example. There’s a handful of episodes Mike doesn’t appear in after he finds out Fiona’s been cheating on him with his brother. Nonetheless, I would still get sent the scripts for those episodes, and I would be eager to get home, tear it open, and find out what happens to Fiona next. Now, a lot of that is just really good writing. As a fan, I wanted to know how the story continues…but a larger part of me wanted to know as an ex boyfriend. It was bizarre. Reading those Shameless episodes that I wasn’t in was like my way of Facebook stalking my fictional ex girlfriend.
Institute: What has been a stand-out out moment in your career so far?
Jake: I’m pretty sure that if I went back in time and told my 7th grade self that I was going to be manhandled by Bruce Willis in a Die Hard movie I would have lost my mind. That’s one of the best perks. As you go along you get to cross things off your grade school bucket list.
Institute: How hard do you push yourself?
Jake: For me it’s a balance between pushing yourself hard enough to do good work and the kind of work that you’re proud of, but making sure you’re not being overly critical of yourself. It’s easy to get in your own way without realizing that’s what you’re doing. Hopefully my work grows and improves as I do.
Institute: What are some of the greatest fears you think actors face?
Jake: The obvious answer would be rejection, but there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s true, but that’s part of the job description. It’s like you have to be sensitive enough to be an actor, but tough enough to make it your career. There’s always fear.
Institute: Could you single out a person who has had a profound impact on you in the last 5 years?
Jake: I’m sure, but that’s for me to know.
Institute: How do you keep yourself occupied in-between projects?
Jake: Some of the hardest work that needs the most motivation is keeping busy between jobs. It’s a perpetual state of waiting and preparedness. An audition, meeting, test, etc. could come any day of the week. It takes getting used to. You have to prioritize your life and manage your time in such a way that you’re ready to go at the drop of a hat. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized that you do have to make some sacrifices to live that way, but those pale in comparison to the opportunity.
Institute: What are you working on at the moment?
Jake: I leave for NYC in a few days to start work on a pilot for ABC created by Jeff Lowell with Analeigh Tipton.
Jake McDorman can be seen as Mike Pratt, on Showtime’s “Shameless” airing now.