Soap Opera Digest: You had a brief but memorable run as Victoria’s boyfriend-turned-fiancé. How would you describe your first soap role?
Michael Roark: It was a lot of fun. I loved it. When you work on a soap it’s kind of like stepping into another world that feels like this strange cross between TV, stage and improv, and I really enjoyed it. I loved the cast and crew over there, and I enjoyed playing Travis.
Digest: How did you like working with Amelia Heinle (Victoria)?
Roark: It was great. She was great. We had a lot of fun together. We kind of hit it off right from the screen test and we really just rode that through. She was always very supportive and I think it showed on screen how much we enjoyed working together. Since Travis was a different type of romantic partner for Victoria, I just leaned into that. I kind of understood who Travis was right from the screen test and I really enjoyed playing him, but I always felt his story was not over.
Digest: His story did peter out.
Roark: Thinking back on the experience, I remember, the last line I said on that show was, “We haven’t reached the end yet [laughs].” It was interesting, too, because I left, then I came back and I think there was a lot of turnover happening at the time. It was all new to me, so I just said, “I’m going to enjoy this for as long as it lasts,” and I did.
Digest: We couldn’t figure out Travis at first. We didn’t know if he was good or bad, then all of a sudden it was revealed that he had an affair with his former boss’s wife and Victoria dumped him. What really went down behind the scenes?
Roark: There was a whole road we were going to take with the character, and there was an interest on both sides for me to stay, but we just hit a stalemate with contract talks. I think it was a timing issue, more than anything. There was never any bad blood. I enjoyed it and I was willing to stay in the right circumstances. I think they felt the same but you know, it’s just what happens sometimes in this business. It was unfortunate but it was still a good run and I was always open to returning — and I still am, under the right circumstances. They know my number if they’re interested.
Digest: What did you learn from working on a soap?
Roark: When I first started, I remember getting texts from some people I trust saying that soaps are like an actor’s boot camp. What I now know, you really have to fall back and trust yourself. There are all these different opinions on soaps, but the reality is, it’s very challenging and it’s not for everybody. At that point of my career, I had touched every medium other than stand-up; I’ve done film, prime-time TV and stage, and with most, there are tons of rehearsals, tons of takes, and it’s almost like a safety blanket for some performers. “Oh, we’ll get it on the next take or the one after that.” Well, it doesn’t work like that in the soap world. You have two takes to get it right because there are always a lot of pages to cover. I actually embraced that and thought it was a cool aspect of the job. Plus, the fans are very devoted and the writers are strong, so I always felt like I was going to be fine.
Digest: What happened with your career after you left?
Roark: Oh, wow, so much has happened and I don’t always have a great memory of things, so I’ll just give you some of the highlights. In the first couple of years, I got back into film and there was a movie called Bennett’s War where I played the title character. It had a great run in the theaters and is still streaming on Netflix. I’ve got several other movies streaming that I’ve worked in and I’ve been able to develop a great range. And then most recently, I’ve got a series streaming right now called DRIVEN, which is based on a novel. I also have three other films in post-production, so it’s actually been pretty movie-heavy along with some spots on TV.
Digest: So, let’s talk about your Lifetime movie, SUITCASE KILLER: THE MELANIE MCGUIRE STORY, which recently aired. What’s it about and please describe your character?
Roark: It’s based on a true story about a former New Jersey nurse, Melanie McGuire, who was convicted of murdering her husband, Bill, back in 2004. I play the ill-fated husband. The case turned into a media circus and became known as the Suitcase Murder because she was found guilty of murdering and dismembering her husband, putting him in three suitcases and dumping them in the Chesapeake Bay. It’s pretty wild and she’s currently serving a sentence for life, but she still maintains her innocence. At the risk of spoiling anything, I can safely say that Bill does not go off sailing into the sunset [laughs].
Digest: Do you have any upcoming projects that we can promote for you?
Roark: I’ve got the third season of DRIVEN and currently there are a few films slated for release this year. I just finished filming the film Something From Tiffany’s, an Amazon original, based on a novel of the same name and we’ve got a great cast on that one, with Zoey Deutch, Shay Mitchell, Ray Nicholson and Kendrick Sampson. And then there’s a dark comedy I did called Lady, the true life story of cancer survivors, and there’s also a sci-fi thriller, Catalyst, about seven strangers who wake up trapped in this electrical grid, which is pretty wild. So these three films are very different from each other.
Digest: Are you still a licensed attorney?
Roark: Yes, I do entertainment law, so it works for my lifestyle. It’s part-time in between acting jobs and what I do is consulting business legal affairs, for film distributors and filmmakers. It’s flexible and fully remote. Most actors will tell you that in this day and age, you really should have some other work on the side.
Digest: What’s going on with you personally that you can share?
Roark: That’s one of those things, where even if I had anything to report, I probably wouldn’t say too much, but I could say again I’m kind of like Travis. I’m just on my boat sailing, having adventures and not married, with no kids. I just love doing life.