If you punch his name into a Google search bar, most of the pictures that come up for Darcy Michael are of a round, smiley dude who’s always wearing a cap of some sort and sporting his trademark black frames. But you’ll also notice the large splay of Michael’s grinning faces speckled with a few images here and there of a noticeably slimmer, bald guy, beaming with the same spectacle-clad gaiety. Funny enough, gaiety is exactly the word that Michael would use to describe himself.
A veteran in the Canadian comedy circuit, Michael has performed with the likes of Canuck comedian staples like Debra DiGiovanni, Harlan Williams and the Kids in the Hall sketch troupe. Although he’s been in the comedy biz for quite some time, Michael’s career took a drastic transformation in the last year or so after he shed most of his signature features. Now 120 pounds lighter and sans snow boarder hair and burly beard, Michael came fresh off the heels of his trans-Canada One Skinny Bitch comedy tour to star in his second feature film Lloyd the Conqueror.
Directed by Michael Peterson and starring Brian Posehn and Canadian accolades like Harlan Williams and The Trailer Park Boys’ Mike Smith, you may not quite recognize Michael in this wacky comedy about live action role playing (LARPing), but you sure as hell won’t forget him. We sat down with Darcy Michael to chat about his recent film role as a unicorn, hot boxing dressing rooms and what his first LARPing siege was really like.
Darcy Michael: It’s a brief appearance, but it’s a fun one to have on the resume. I’ve played a unicorn since then, as well. Lloyd the Conqueror inspired the second movie, it’s a short and it’s basically about the same character. One of the writers on Lloyd was inspired to learn more because the Unicorn was never in the movie originally—they wrote the part for me. I was originally supposed to play Mike Smith’s part, but then they got Mike Smith. Then I was going to play Brian Posehn’s, but then they got Brian Posehn. Then I was going to play Harlan William’s, but then they got Harlan. Then I get the script and I’m like “unicorn? What the fuck are you thinking?” And sure enough, there I was…
DS: Is there such a thing as being able to play a unicorn in real life LARPing?
DM: No, no, not at all. I think I’m blazing that trail all on my own.
DS: Trend setter huh?
DM: (Laughs) Yeah I guess eh? It’s a pretty random one, but I think it was the right level of quirky for the movie. And it was just balls out funny to play.
DS: You’ve been acting on TV for quite some time, but I understand Lloyd is only your second feature film. What was the transition like?
DM: Yeah, that was my second feature—the first kind of real set experience where I wasn’t just on set for a day. It was really fun, between hanging out with Brian, Mike and Harlan it felt like I was just fuckin’ around and there just happened to be cameras. We were just partying the whole time we weren’t filming you know? When we weren’t on screen we were hot boxing the dressing rooms. It was a frat house for sure.
DS: You’ve said that conventional labels don’t apply to you. What are some things you’re typically labeled as?
DM: Ah, well I think people either throw me into the stoner-comic thing or the gay-comic thing. I think we’re all labeled at some point. When I was bigger, it was harder to label where I kind of fit in, especially in the gay community because I did not want to be known as a “bear.” I think it’s such a creepy term in every way, especially because my husband’s last name is Bear and so when we got married he was like “are you going to take my name?” and I was like “I’m not going to look like this and be ‘Darcy Bear’.” I avoid sticking to any type label in any sense, but I think the skinnier I get, the gayer I get.
DS: There’s probably been a great reaction to your transformation, but has anything about it been bad? Has it changed your stage presence?
DM: Oh for sure. I’ve found my bigger gay friends have been apprehensive to the new me. Especially on this tour this year I’ve noticed people coming to shows and afterwards they’re like “where’s big fat Darcy?” And I’m like “I’m sorry, I wanted to live, I didn’t want to die!” But I think all in all people realize that I wanted to be healthy and had to do it. But I lost half my act, you know? The whole curve of what made me funny was not telling the audience until halfway through that I’m gay. It doesn’t have to be a big reveal anymore, just a confirmation, like “yeah, your suspicions were right!”
DS: Did you do any LARPing research for your role?
DM: I’m the worst. I was so unprepared and I didn’t even read the script until we started filming. I didn’t even know it existed—I thought it was something they made up just for this movie, but I did look into it. I Googled it and realized, wow, you can LARP everywhere. It’s a very interesting concept to me. I couldn’t quite grasp it at the time. But now that I’ve seen the movie and seen the reaction, especially from LARPers– people are really digging it that are into that scene. But yeah, its comedy gold you know? I always say it’s a game that virgins’ play. They’ve got to play something.
DS: What was it like filming the siege scenes? Did you get a taste of what LARPing is really like?
DM: It was tough actually. The hardest thing was that I was so out of shape, and sick at the time. The scene where Mike Smith and I run at each other and have the big battle? It was so hard to film because we’d do one take and I wouldn’t be able to breathe for twenty minutes, so we’d have to wait. When we finished that movie I was like “I am not going to be that guy anymore”.
Mike had a really difficult time to because we were both really heavy smokers at the time. But it was fun to watch, because they had helicopters to film some of the shots and it was a very independent movie. A lot of people came together in Calgary—they have a really great film community in Calgary that I didn’t know existed—so that part of it was great. We took over park for a week, but the weird thing was, and you can see it in the movie, the City wouldn’t let them close the jogging path for filming, so in the battle scenes you can see people just jogging by.
DS: I’ve heard you say a couple times that you tend your garden in your spare time. What do you really grow in there?
DM: I live outside of Vancouver and I do have some plants, but we don’t get enough sun so we took them to my friend’s parents’ place. We’ve cultivated. We had a good crop. But I have Rheumatoid arthritis and Fibromyalgia so I’m actually medicinal license holder, so I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I’m allowed to grow my weed and smoke it. Actually I’m probably not because I’m really bad with paper work. Years ago I was licenced, but I don’t think I am anymore. But fuck it, it’s weed, who cares? But I’m a big gardener, I grow a lot of vegetables—I’m really gay that way.
DS: I’m sure thousands of people have already asked you and will continue to ask you about your weight loss. Instead, I wanted to know: What food do you miss eating the most?
DM: Oh, I, uh, McDonald’s. I have Celiac disease, so I can’t have Gluten. But I would love a Big Mac, that’s what I miss. I would love a double Big Mac, or a Whopper, or a Pizza, or anything—no KFC. That’s what I miss, just the skin though not the chicken.