Rising Australian actor Michael Bishop is ready to break it in America & is doing just that in his new Disney film Spin.
Hugh Jackman, Margot Robbie, Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett… Are you sensing a theme here? These are just a few of the many incredible Australian actors that have made it big overseas, creating thriving careers portraying dynamic and emotive characters. One actor who is ready to put in the work to get his name on that exact list is Michael Bishop who is now making his American film debut in the new Disney film Spin. A film about Rhea, an Indian American teen, who is trying to pursue her passion for DJing and creating mixes that are influenced by the rich textures of her Indian heritage. Michael plays the dreamy British classmate Max, an aspiring DJ who introduces Rhea to the world of music & DJing. Perfectly fine with playing second fiddle to co-star Avantika, someone he is proud of for being the first Indian-American lead of a DCOM, Michael portrays Max with a succinct blend of authenticity and humbleness, a clear marker that he is a rising actor to keep your eyes on.
1883 Magazine chats with Australian actor Michael Bishop about his new Disney film “Spin,” his career beginnings, working in the same vicinity as Johnny Depp, and more.
I know you joined the National Academy of Performing Arts in Australia as a fourth-grade student, but I’d love to know more about your decision to get into acting when you were younger?
I joined because I have always been such an extroverted kid. My mom could see I always wanted to be on a show and have everyone listen to me and watch me dance, so she encouraged me to start going to drama classes as a way for me to find people who were interested in the same sort of thing. When I got to high school I realized that passion and interest never faded; I was still fully interested in reading and telling stories and telling stories. Since it wasn’t fading away, I thought I should take it a bit more seriously and I got an agent and then I was an extra for the first time on Pirates of the Caribbean, which was shot in my hometown. I knew that was the world I wanted to be a part of; you could see everyone working and just seeing Johnny Depp was insane. I didn’t think any other career would be able to compare to that for me so I knew I needed to pursue it.
Although you were just an extra, I will still say you worked with Johnny Depp! [Laughs] Was there anything you noticed that he did that you thought, “I’m going to take that with me and use it.”
The headline can read “MICHAEL BISHOP WORKED WITH JOHNNY DEPP!” [Laughs] It was this level of respect he was given on set — everyone could just feel the presence that he brings. It wasn’t just when he was walking around or whatever, too. It’s hard to explain but it’s like when you get to a level when you’re respected so much in what you do, it brings this feeling to set. It was incredible to watch him completely embody his character; as soon as they started shooting it would be like an instant switch.
Is writing something you’d like to pursue in the future?
I love writing and I think everyone, if they are an actor, they have this need to tell stories, so it’s natural for me to write. I just love telling stories and writing is the perfect outlet for that!
Tell me a bit about your new Disney movie Spin and your character, DJ Max.
Spin is just a really fun family movie about an Indian girl learning and discovering herself through the world of DJing shortly after she meets my character Max, who is a British DJ. The two of them bond over their shared love of music.
I read you didn’t have a lot of musical experience; what was it like filming and learning more about DJing?
I learned some skills. I wouldn’t say I could DJ, but I could definitely competently pretend to DJ! [Laughs] I learned the mathematics of DJing and the technicalities of the turntables and everything, so I definitely gained some music knowledge. For me, the big thing was learning about the performance aspect of it and the way the audience reacts to the music as well. You don’t realize that the music might be one thing, but the DJ has to have this presence so they can carry themselves and perform and keep people engaged. It can make or break how an audience reacts to a set.
Did you watch any sets to prepare this role?
Yeah, I checked out a lot of the huge headlining DJs because those are the ones Max was emulating and finding inspiration in. A lot of DJs all have an iconic gesture or movement that they do, so finding that was really fun. I watched tons of clips to get what each one’s signature ‘thing’ was for them to get the crowd going.
This film, in particular, is exciting because it’s the first DCOM with an Indian-American lead and highlights Indian culture. What was it like being part of the first-ever DCOM featuring an Indian-American lead?
It makes me so proud. Avantika [Vandanapu] in particular should just be so incredibly proud. She’s an icon for doing what she’s doing. I, and like so many others, were so lucky that we grew up and saw characters that we could identify with on-screen in big companies like Disney. It’s so important that everyone has that and everyone can look at characters and see themselves and identify with them. That’s what makes me really proud to be part of this project.
You’re from Australia and Spin marks your American film debut! I’ve spoken with some Australian actors before about the difference between filming in the two places and the majority say in Australia it feels like you’re in a bubble but I’d love to hear your thoughts!
You definitely said it. When you’re shooting on an Australian set, you’re almost guaranteed to recognize almost everyone you’re shooting with. It’s exciting because it’s really growing and that makes me really happy because I know there’s some really good talent in Australia. It takes some time to get to a certain level, but you see people like Margot Robbie thriving in America and that’s so exciting. I’m really excited and interested in it and I want to be a part of it.
You told a really touching story on IG about going to your grandmother’s house with your brothers and you’d watch Disney channel and you touched on doing the classic Disney wand intro. What was it like to first see the clip of you doing the intro for the first time?
It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around it. If you’ve grown up seeing something like that, it kind of exists in this foreign way; you never consider that it could be you doing it one day. I never expected to turn on the TV and see myself doing the iconic Disney wand ID. The amount of kids that dream of doing that is astronomical, I never thought it would ever be me. I saw it for the first time when I was on my phone and I didn’t think it was real! [Laughs] Sometimes you struggle with this feeling like things are never going to happen and you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, but at that moment I knew 8 years old me would be so proud of me — he wouldn’t believe me at first, but he’d be so proud. It’s in those moments where you push to keep going.
You touched on it a bit, but you asked people to share the post with someone who might be struggling with reaching their dreams. Why did you want to do that?
It’s really important to know you’re not alone in those moments of self-doubt. The industry is hard and the career path you have is always going to look different from someone else’s, so it’s really important to be reminded that if you stick it out and you really want it and you’re willing to work hard to be the best at it, you’re going to grow and have opportunities. You’ll have moments that will happen where you almost can’t believe you did what you did — like that wand ID!
I know you support several causes — from Breast Cancer Awareness, to children in performing arts, to the LGBTQ+ community. As you grow further and further into your career, it’s going to be great to see you champion these initiatives! Can you tell me a bit more about why you want to be vocal about them?
Anyone who has a platform must try to be vocal about things they are passionate about. My mom had breast cancer, so that’s a personal thing for me. Seeing her go through that and how much it affected our family. The idea is that if you have a voice and you can use it for good, why wouldn’t you? I want to constantly remind myself that I do have a voice and I know that my voice will grow over the years and I definitely want to continue using it for good.
Are there any actors that you’re dying to work with?
I love Ricky Gervais! I know people dislike him because his comedy isn’t for everyone, but he’s an incredible storyteller and creator. I love Jonah Hill, I love Zendaya. I’d love to work with Olivia Rodrigo. I don’t know if I should say this, but I’m writing a script right now and I just see her in the role I’m writing.
Well, my next question was what would you manifest for yourself this year but maybe it’s getting Olivia to work on your project!
Yes! Let’s try to get Olivia Rodrigo to see this interview so I can send her my script [laughs]. In addition, I just hope that I can do good for the world and do good things. I want to give back while working. That’s really important to me.
Interview by Kelsey Barnes
Photography by Sam Theis
Catch Spin on Disney now.