Television & Film Actor / Peace Supporter: Michael Nouri

 

Television & Film Actor / Peace Supporter: Michael Nouri intro image

PremRawat.com writer, Marcia Newman, interviews Michael Nouri: January 2023

PremRawat.com:  Welcome Michael. It’s a treat to have this time to talk together. So many, including myself, are fans of yours as you begin your fifth decade in film, television and theatre. Congratulations on your career longevity in such a creative, yet unpredictable environment.

Michael Nouri:  Thank you.

PremRawat.com:  Michael, you’ve worked with some legends, including Frank Sinatra and Colleen Dewhurst, and you met Sidney Poitier. You’ve played gangsters, Dracula, been on daytime soap operas and NCIS episodes. You survived more fame from the movie Flashdance. You went on to perform on Broadway with Julie Andrews, in Victor/Victoria and her husband-director, Blake Edwards. More recently, we’ve seen your movie-father role with Jessica Chastain in Woman Walks Ahead; with the highly successful TV show Yellowstone with Kevin Costner; and in The Watcher Netflix series. That’s quite a range.

PremRawat.com:  In addition, for the past two years, you have been the Conference Host for Peace Education Day through the PeaceChannel.com. With humanity facing so many challenges, this timely online conference gathers Peace educators from all over the globe. As the Conference Host, you posed the question: “Why Peace Education?”

Michael Nouri:  You know me as an actor. Well, at least I hope you do. But when you see me acting, I want you to see someone else – the character I’m playing. Sometimes the good guy, sometimes not. Whoever I’m playing, I want you to believe my character is real. That doesn’t just happen. I don’t just show up on set and start acting. I have to study the script, research the character, rehearse my lines, call upon my training and skills through all these years.

Isn’t that true for most of us, no matter what careers we have? We go to school, we get training, we acquire skills and we learn from our successes and our failures. We bring all of that to the current challenges before us.

Do we approach peace the same way? Is peace as important as our jobs? Do we educate ourselves (about peace), learn skills and grow from our experiences? Are we ready when we are faced with conflict, violence, inequity and injustice? Do we just improvise and make it up as we go along? If that is our approach to peace, what do you think the outcome will be?

Look around the globe and we can see the answer. If we prepared for peace the way we prepared for war, we wouldn’t be in this mess. We must be ready for peace at every opportunity. We must prepare ourselves and our children with the education, skills and the know-how to practice peace in every corner of the world.

PremRawat.com:  Michael, in support of Peace Education you also serve as an Ambassador for Seeds of Peace. Tell us more about this organization.

Michael Nouri:  John Wallach, former writer for the New York Times and creator of Seeds of Peace, started it as a camp in Maine back in 1993. They brought together Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and American teens to connect beyond the deep divide. John invited me to join them one summer. He brought in conflict resolution professionals. It was a profound experience to see these kids put a face to the so-called “enemy,” the people they were conditioned to hate, distrust, or even want to kill.

The mission of Seeds of Peace is to equip exceptional youth and educators with the skills and relationships to work in solidarity across lines of difference to create more just and inclusive societies. They focus on both personal transformation and wider societal change by empowering “change makers.” I’ve continued to stay connected to Seeds of Peace for about 30 years.

PremRawat.com: Wonderful! Speaking of youth and challenges, I’ve learned that your biological father was born in Baghdad, Iraq. Your father came to the United States on an IBM scholarship when he was only 18 years old?

Michael Nouri:  Yes. My father, this Arab young man, eventually met my Irish Celtic mother and within three weeks after they met, they were married. They were both writers and so creative. I received so much passionate DNA from my parents! In fact, I heard about Prem Rawat from my mother and my brother over 50 years ago. I first listened to Prem speak at Hunter College in New York City. That was in 1971.

PremRawat.com:  Fascinating! So, Michael, you met Prem Rawat in the early 70’s and received his gift of Knowledge, now offered as PEAK. For decades, you’ve been involved in and supported many of Prem’s activities and his message of practical peace. Also, I remember some lovely events with Prem where you served as the MC (Master of Ceremonies) and played music and sang.

Michael Nouri: Yes, indeed. It has been very enjoyable for me.

PremRawat.com:  Shifting gears a bit. If I can be honest, you’ve played some nasty, narcissistic guy roles. Right? In another media interview, you admitted showing up with a certain attitude at a theatre production involving Carol Burnett. You didn’t think you needed to audition for new parts. Then you realized that musical production required not only acting and singing, but highly choreographed dance moves, too. So, the dancing portion took you out?

Michael Nouri:  Yes, I had to step down. It was very humbling and I learned something about arrogance. I am now very willing to audition for parts. I learned that it’s very important to know and respect my limits. And it’s good to know that highly choreographed dancing is not my thing.

PremRawat.com: (chuckling) Thank you for your honesty. In addition to singing well, I’ve learned that you play the guitar beautifully. You’ve described that playing your guitar is “very soothing … it’s my therapy.” Are you still playing guitar and singing these days?

Michael Nouri:  I really enjoy music and playing my guitar, when I can. If I’m going to be really honest, I need to share that, in this past year, I’ve been struggling with some depression. And I’m receiving good help. Does the fact that I practice this gift of Knowledge eliminate the possibility of depression? My experience is “no.” Brain chemistry has a life of its own. As grateful as I am to know Prem and have his support, it is not a cure for clinical depression. Thankfully, I’m coming through it with therapy, medications, supportive friends, family and my “buddy dog,” Charlie. I decided to be open about this, so others who may feel isolated, depressed or anxious, maybe won’t feel so alone. Perhaps it may help others to be less judgmental of what they are experiencing. It takes courage to work through the conflict about admitting it and seeking help.

PremRawat.com:  Thank you, Michael, for your vulnerability. As a busy mental health professional, I applaud your transparency and helping to reduce the stigma of mental illness. I’m so glad to know that you are benefiting from receiving good help. So many have been impacted with loss and isolation issues from the long-term effects of this continued pandemic.

PremRawat.com:  Michael, you have two grown daughters. How are they doing and do you get to see them?

Michael Nouri: Yes, I have two amazing daughters and three very cool grandsons, ranging from age 3 to 17 years old. One of my daughters lives in New Zealand and my other daughter lives on the island of Maui. Because of the physical distance, our current weekly visits are through FaceTime.

PremRawat.com:  That’s lovely and I hope you get to physically be with them soon. In your emails, I noticed that you have a poignant signature line that reads “Treasure every moment.” As we wrap up, is there anything else you wish to add about what you’ve learned from Prem Rawat?

Michael Nouri:  I’ve chosen a public-facing profession that is not easy. For so long, I felt like an outsider, and battled the “imposter syndrome” (not feeling good enough). Thankfully, I’m feeling much better. I know in my heart that we all matter. I matter. You matter. We all matter. Thank you for allowing me to speak honestly and to share more about peace. This interview has been another gift.