Following her mother’s footsteps onto the stage, our latest woman to watch has tackled everything from crime labs to courtrooms on CSI and Law & Order; the supernatural as a cut-throat werewolf on Vampire Diaries, and starring on the cult teen drama One Tree Hill.
Back with a major role on NBC’s reality-twisted dream drama Awake, Michaela McManus stars as a sports coach filling a void in a family’s life. McManus sat down to talk with us about growing up in large family, infidelity with a pseudo-married man (on-screen!), and stress release through firearms.
Playboy.com: Tell us about yourself.
McManus: I grew up in Rhode Island and I spent my childhood watching my mom perform on stage. I grew up loving theater so the bug bit me pretty early on. When I started performing—and I was such a shy kid—I got on stage and I could feel an electric current going through my veins. It was a feeling I never wanted to let go of. Theatre was really my first love. When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to make movies together, write up fake commercials and film them—it was a fun Friday night growing up.
Playboy.com: Any funny ones you’d like to tell us about?
McManus: We did fake Calvin Klein commercials. I think it was around the time that Ck1 commercial came out. We made a funny one, and then we did a fake Gap commercial singing that Madonna song with the “I want to dress you up in my love.” My brothers will probably kill me for admitting all this. We had a lot of fun growing up.
Playboy.com: Any interest in doing Calvin Klein modeling now?
McManus: [Laughs] I don’t know about that…
Playboy.com: Who do you look up to in the business?
McManus: I have to bring it back to my mom. She was a supermom growing up—raised five kids, ruled the roost, but also followed her dreams at the same time.
Playboy.com: In an interview with EW in December 2010, you were talking about your role on the Vampire Diaries; you explained how your mom was nervous about a potential shower scene where you might have had to take your clothes off. Though it didn’t turn out to be your character, would you have?
McManus: It really depends on the role for me. It’s one of those, “I’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it.” It’s certainly not something I’m opposed to, but it would have to be the right role for me.
Playboy.com: What was it like to be on the show? Do you have any interest in going back if your character was resurrected? It is the supernatural world after all.
McManus: Yeah! I had a blast on that show. It was my first experience doing stunts and playing an action role. It was so much fun.
Playboy.com: What’s the most intense stunt you had to do?
McManus: I had to shoot a gun for the first time. That was just something I had never experienced so I was sort of afraid of it. But after a couple takes, I felt weirdly liberated and was really into it. I’m actually working on another film right now that calls for gun use so that’s pretty exciting.