How Michael Mealor Made His Way From Georgia To Genoa City
Michael Mealor’s journey to portraying the charming but self-serving Kyle Abbott on YOUNG AND RESTLESS started innocently enough: with a portable DVD player. “When I was in 8th grade, my parents gave me one for Christmas along with a subscription to Blockbuster,” the actor recalls. “I would lay in bed at night and watch movies on a 7-inch screen and think, ‘I want to do this,’ but I didn’t know how.”
That’s because the idea of Hollywood was a far cry from what he was used to in Georgia. “I had this storybook childhood,” he smiles. “I grew up being outdoors all of the time with the other kids in the neighborhood until you heard your mom calling you for dinner. We were a middle-class family, the American dream, I guess. But you never expect to get out of that town, so you don’t imagine that you can do more than what you’re told, which is graduate from college, get married and have kids. You don’t think you can abandon that to try something more.”
In high school, Mealor focused on sports, but harbored a desire to perform. “I was the kid who knew everyone and everyone knew me, but I wasn’t cool,” he shares. “I was the nice guy on the football team who would go to theater productions and secretly want to be in them. I was a bright student and not much of a troublemaker. I never had a curfew because I chose not to do certain things for fear of letting my parents down.”
An opportunity to shake up his life came senior year, when Mealor quit the football team. “We had a change of coaches and I wasn’t a fan of the coach that they hired,” he explains. “I really enjoyed playing football growing up, but at the same time, I was kind of getting tired of it come my junior year. I didn’t agree with how [the new coach] ran the program, so I spoke with him about how he ran stuff, and it was a very open dialogue, but he said, ‘If you don’t like it, you can leave,’ And I said, ‘Cool, I’m done,’ and I walked out. That was it.”
In the process, he lost access to the school’s weight room. “I had to get a membership at the local gym,” says Mealor. “One day, my best friend and I were headed to our workout but his dad needed him to take something to the bank, which made us over an hour late to the gym. As I was walking into the gym, a modeling scout was walking out. It turned out he was hosting a talent search in Disney World in Orlando and he invited me to try out.”
Mealor presented the proposal to his parents and received two very different responses. “My mom was creeped out but my dad was all for it,” he relays. “He said, ‘Let’s research this. This could be cool.’ I remember when my dad once said, ‘You know, you could be a model if you wanted to do that,’ but I didn’t believe him. I was 232 pounds, competing in weight lifting and had zero neck, plus a massive gap in my front teeth that I could put my tongue through.”
After the trip to Florida, Mealor signed with the prestigious Wilhelmina modeling agency and moved to Los Angeles. “I absolutely hated it,” he chuckles. “I’m a Southern boy from a small town and I had never seen a lot of stuff. It was confusing how to get around L.A. and I had no idea where I was going at any given time. One night, I thought, ‘I may actually like it here.’ And then I left!”
Although Mealor was booking modeling gigs and TV commercials, he felt compelled to honor a previous commitment to attend Auburn University in Alabama. “My parents even said, ‘Why don’t you skip school and stay out there?’ but I told them I wanted to experience a Southern college,” he reports. “I left for Alabama and two weeks after I moved into my dorm, I realized that I made a horrible mistake.”
Still, he stuck it out … for a little while. “I ended up staying until Christmas,” he shares. “My parents told me to finish out the semester I paid for and don’t worry about grades for the next three months, have fun, go to the football games, do the fraternity stuff and just have an experience. I kept a B average and went to my classes, but honestly, a lot of my experience at Auburn I don’t remember because it was a horrible time for me.”
After the holidays, Mealor was back in L.A., and while his modeling career was flourishing, he also knew it was time to get serious about acting. “I was meeting people and I realized there were doors I could open, so I went full speed ahead and was in acting classes five days a week and found a manager,” he says. A few TV guest appearances followed (including Frat Guy on CHASING LIFE and Fratty Dude on SUPERGIRL), and Mealor was also working as an instructor for SoulCycle. “I taught 12 to 14 classes a week for three years,” he marvels. “It was an incredible experience, but it was hard! The instructors were paid very well and they covered my [health] insurance.”
That’s also where he met current girlfriend Britt. “She took my SoulCycle class and I would always try to ask her out but she would beeline out of that room,” he laughs. “I tried to ask her out five times and I just wasn’t fast enough in getting over to her when class was finished. She also travels a lot for work, so I wouldn’t see her for six weeks. I’d be like, ‘Where is this girl? Is she ever coming back?’ Finally, she actually ended up sliding into my direct messages on Instagram.”
Mealor hit the soap audition circuit, but was admittedly unfamiliar with the genre. “I had done producer sessions with both GENERAL HOSPITAL and BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL and even read for something with YOUNG AND RESTLESS,” he says. “I never really knew how soaps worked, but I figured if the opportunity comes my way, I’d explore it. Then YOUNG AND RESTLESS came around again and the whole process this time was five or six weeks long, with auditions every Friday! It was a month-and-a-half process of being on pins and needles. After that, they have seven days to let you know whether you’re their guy or not. They had until 5 p.m. on the seventh day and they did not tell me until 4:30!”
Once he joined the cast, Mealor was immediately sharing scenes opposite heavy hitters like Peter Bergman (Jack) and Eric Braeden (Victor). “With Peter, I couldn’t have asked for someone better to work with,” he raves. “I feel like I’m a younger version of him, in a way. We have personal conversations that have nothing to do with Y&R and we’re always on the same page. With Eric [Braeden, Victor], you want him to respect you, so you observe a little bit, you listen, and then you do your best work because of what you’re learning from him. We have a great working relationship now.” However, when it came to Eileen Davidson (Ashley), Mealor “was more intimidated by her than Eric Braeden! I just knew I needed to know my lines like the back of my hand. One day, I was getting my makeup done and she walks in and she sits down in her chair. She hollers, ‘Let’s run these!’ and I go, ‘Right here? Right now?’ I didn’t have my script with me but we ran our lines and she goes, ‘You know your stuff. Good.’ She has been so sweet ever since and always checks in on me, like, ‘How’s everything going? Are you okay? Do you need anything? Do you need me to talk to anybody for you?’ She’s been amazing.”
After some initial adjustments, Mealor is elated to be an integral part of the Genoa City landscape. “I was a little nervous about being under contract; that’s always a scary thing to me,” he confesses. “I don’t even like signing a phone contract or rental leases! But once Kyle was mine, I knew this is where I was meant to be. I’m lucky to be here.”
Picture It: During his modeling days for Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister, Mealor’s likeness graced their shopping bags. “I was also the billboard guy on the side of the
building,” he notes.
Larger Than Life: A 16-year-old Mealor during his football days in high school. “I was a big boy,” he chuckles.
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: February 29
Born In: Atlanta, GA
High And Low: “I’m a leap-year baby. When there wasn’t a February 29th, my mom would celebrate my birthday on the 28th and my dad celebrated on March 1, so it always felt like I was getting two birthdays. But at times, I feel forgotten. Even Facebook forgets my birthday when it’s not a leap year, so you don’t get birthday wishes on your wall like everyone else does.”
A Boy’s Life: “When I was 7, we moved to a small town where there was nothing but fields and pastures, right up against the north woods of the Appalachian Mountains. The closest grocery store was 30 minutes away, but as Atlanta grew, it caught up to where we were, so now it’s an extension of Atlanta.”
Sibling Revelry: “I have one older sister, Caroline. She’s married and works for a children’s charity. She’s an amazing person.”
Relationship Status: Dating Britt. “That’s not short for anything, she’s legally Britt. People always go, ‘Oh, like Britney!’ but she’s actually not a Britney. We get along great. We’re both foodies and curious about life.”
Follow Him: On Instagram, he’s michael.mealor; on Twitter, he’s @Michael_Mealor.
Mealor admits he had some trepidation when he heard Kyle would be appearing sans clothing on GC BUZZ. “When you tell an actor, ‘Hey, you’re gonna be naked on-screen,’ the actor gets scared,” chuckles Mealor. “I had a conversation with Mal [Young, executive producer/head writer] about it and he was like, ‘It’s fun!’ so I was on board from the beginning. This is a side of Kyle that needs to be seen, no pun intended. We need to see him having fun and letting loose.” On the day of shooting, Mealor showed up wearing flesh-colored briefs. “Of course it was awkward, but I approached it as, ‘This will be awkward for everyone else as well because they have to watch me stand there,’ ” he reasons. “As soon as it was time, I started laughing and making jokes just to show everyone that I was comfortable. If any tension gets in front of the camera, the viewers see that, as well. We needed it to be such a playful scene and I think we succeeded.”
Barely There: Mealor came to terms with stripping down for his “nude” scene.
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