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An Interview With Shane West (Michael, 'Nikita')


Shane West as Michael
Photo Credit: Jan Thijs/The CW © 2010 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.
September, 2010

Each fall, there are a couple of new series that has people buzzing about months before the premiere and this year, the CW's Nikita has grabbed quite a bit of attention -- mostly from fans of the original La Femme Nikita series who have been quite vocal about going forward with a reboot without series stars Peta Wilson and Roy Dupuis front and center.

As a fan of the original series, I was prepared to dislike the reboot. Realizing that I needed to be objective, I watched the pilot episode and was shocked at what happened -- I fell in love with the Nikita reboot!

At first, I was also a little put off by the fact that in addition to Nikita, the characters Michael and Birkoff would also be re-imagined, but once I saw Shane West in the role of Michael, my trepidation was quickly diminished. With tough shoes to fill, West does a great job at displaying a variety of emotions essential to the likeability of this complex character.

I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with the very sweet (and down to earth) actor, who was kind enough to answer the many questions we had about Nikita...

Q: Tell us about Nikita...

"It's not a remake, it's more of a re-imagining. Its several years in the future and Nikita has gone rogue from Division, an agency she used to work for. When she was given her own life, a civilian she had fallen in love with was taken away from her and it has basically made her snap and now she feels she needs to take down this agency. What's great about it from the original film and series is the fans get a chance to see where these characters could have gone."

Q: And your character Michael...

"Well, Michael's a very confused guy. He's second in command at Division and he's torn between his loyalty to Division and his own feeling on where he should be going in his life. Without giving too much away, he feels a sense of loyalty to Division because Percy (his boss) basically saved his life, brought him back from the dead. He has turned a blind eye over the years and knows that not everything Division does is healthy and he knows a lot of it can be corrupt. Michael is also torn between his feelings for Nikita and how he should go about that. It's one of the things that attracted me to Michael."

Q: Did you watch the original La Femme Nikita?

"I'm a big fan of the film and I have seen a few episodes of the original series. I liked it, I wasn't a huge fan. I liked Roy and I liked Peta. Ironically, when Peta finished the show, I happened to do an action film with her, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where she was one of the leads and now I'm on a Nikita show, which is very strange."

Q: What similarities does your Michael share with the previous Michael (played by Dupuis)?

"I've borrowed a little from both Michaels in the sense that they're very tortured, they come from whatever that background happened to be from that rendition - it's still there, it's still something this character needs to work out. I know Roy's version was heartless at times, which is great. When you can show those different layers, it's wonderful and I think I got to do a little of that in the pilot. Michael is going to be far more liked a little more quickly than people think. He shows his heart and soul right off the bat, like episode two. I've never had a problem playing these types of characters, it's a lot of fun and keeps Shane alive."

Q: Will the entire series be based on Nikita taking down Division, or will she eventually be captured and forced to work for them?

"Hey, who knows, it's not a bad idea. I can see that a few season's down the line. We build a solid base with this pilot and then you'll be able to see all the walls torn down, everything you think is going to happen may not. It's very real in the fights and the emotions and the storytelling. We're going to change things up on you often."

Q: Did you have to do anything special to prepare for the role?

"Not really, because it was the pilot, we didn't go straight into a series. With this pilot, which a lot of people didn't realize on the production side, I don't even fight, I don't even fire a gun. So for me, it was doing my job, looking good in the suits hopefully, looking good if I had a gun and taking a bullet from Nikita in the shoulder. After the pilot, there was some gun range shooting and stuff like that."

Q: Do you use Twitter or Facebook to keep in touch with your fans?

"I use Facebook, but it's not to keep in touch with my fans - I actually still use My Space more or less to keep in touch with my fans. Facebook is more personal and I don't believe in Twitter."

Q: Anything to say to the fans?

"I promise the fans that this will be an incredible ride and it's going to be non-stop action that is not going to consult your intelligence. There's something for everyone in it -- for guys and the girls of every age."
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