Michael Steger: "Bollywood" Meets "90210"
Ecuadorian, Austrian, Norwegian and all gorgeous! Talented actor Michael Steger is a multi-cultural 6'4", hottie who towers above the Cheetah Girls in their new TV movie "The Cheetah Girls: One World". Michael speaks Spanish and plays a lot of Latino, East Indian or Persian characters but is a first generation American. Michael is also a grad of Cal Poly Pomona where he majored in theater and got a Spanish Minor.
If the above description sounds too good to be true, there's more! You can also catch this hottie on the new series "90210" this Fall! Michael plays a Persian student who wheels and deals at West Beverly Hills High where he produces the school newscast and gets the latest "Gossip Boy" dirt on his classmates.
We cornered Michael recently at a hotel in Beverly Hills and wanted to know about his past, present and future and, hey, what should you simply not do if you want to date this tall, dark-haired hunk......
TeenTelevision: Let's get this out of the way. You were on "Hannah Montana". What is Miley really like?
MIchael: She's such a sweetheart, very down to earth. She kept doing Napoleon Dynamite impersonations, little sound bytes. She's fun. She was really funny. Very easy to work with. We joked around a lot.
TeenTelevision: Why did you get into acting?
Michael: My grandparents met in Ecuador and they were artists. They did portraits. My brother is an amazing artist and clothing designer and I was the only one that decided to be an actor. My older brother was dabbling in commercials and I followed him and just stuck with it. I grew up in martial arts so I was a big Bruce Lee/Brandon Lee fan. I've always wanted to do a really good martial arts film.
TeenTelevision: Maybe that is in your future. But you went to college and got degrees in theater and Spanish. Would you encourage teens who want to be performers to still go to college?
Michael: Absolutely. I think it's very important. There was a time I was very discouraged and then I went to college and it cleared so much up for me. Like my [Cheetah Girls'] character Vikram, I was going to go to dental school. I was studying biology but did the play "Tartuffe" and that just made me fall in love with acting all over again.
TeenTelevision: The movie is shot in India. Had you ever been to India before?
Michael: I was there in 2005 doing an indie film in Bollywood called Three Girls in a Gold Cocoon but it was a very small part.
TeenTelevision: How did you like the country?
Michael: There's something very inspiring about India, the history that manifests itself through the architecture and music, the dancing. It's such a beautiful culture. I was grateful to be there.
TeenTelevision: Do you have fans rushing up to you yet?
Michael: Everybody's been very respectful. They give me the double-take and I'm like 'Oh, okay'. So far people have been very nice.
TeenTelevision: [We are 5'7" and looking up] Boy, you are tall! How tall are you?
Michael: 6' 4".
TeenTelevision: Nice. So how did they get you and the shorter Cheetah Girls even in the same frame?
Michael: [laughing]. We made it work. They had the high heels so everything was cool.
TeenTelevision: What was it like playing an East Indian director in a Bollywood-style film? Why did the role attract you?
Michael: It was incredible. I really applied my passion for acting to directing. I've always wanted to be a director so getting this part was a perfect fit because it really resonated with me. I'm a big, avid film-lover, love films, love writing my own reviews.
TeenTelevision: You do well with the Indian accent. Do you like to play different cultures and accents?
Michael: I love doing accents. I have an ear for it and enjoy it. I have all these tapes at home. It's a fun hobby.
TeenTelevision: Your character is surrounded by hot women! What was that like and did you just want to go find more guys to hang out with in India?
Michael: [laughs] What happened was the girls had so much work on set that they went to bed pretty early so the guys would sneak out and get a tuk tuk [rickshaw] and go crash a wedding or go to a really nice restaurant. We were working such long hours that getting the opportunity to go out was nice.
TeenTelevision: Did you get to ride the gigantic elephant in the film?
Michael: I did. I was having cappuccino the last week of shooting and Ramu, the elephant, all of a sudden passes the coffee shop and I'm like "can we ride Ramu?". We went outside and asked the person riding him if we could ride and he's like 'yes, 50,000 rupees', like ten dollars I think. So we went on the elephant for three hours. We got to feed the baby elephant oranges. It was incredible.
TeenTelevision: How did the East Indian people like the film crew shooting in their streets?
Michael: We had hundreds of people watching. We were filming the music video "Feels Like Love" around this city park and there were hundreds of people watching very quietly, respectfully. The director had to move them because they were so intrigued. We stuck them into the shots. They offered to help. They were very nice.
TeenTelevision: You are also in the new "90210" series. Who do you play?
Michael: I play Navid Shirazi. He has the most coveted position at the high school. He's the producer of the Blaze News at West Beverly High so he has a lot of respect. He's overly-ambitious, a little self-entitled but he's looking for true friendship and has a great relationship with one of the other characters Tristan Wilds who plays Dixon Wilson.
TeenTelevision: Were you familiar with the old TV show "90210" [ran from 1990 to 2000]?
Michael: I was. I've got two older brothers and they watched it and I saw the tail end of it so I heard all the drama and backstory. The publicity team sent me all the DVDs from "90210" so I'm doing my homework watching it. It's going to be a fresh show. It is a spin-off but with new characters. We've having some original cast members come back (Jennie Garth, Shannon Doherty, Tori Spelling).
TeenTelevision: A lot of those kids in the series are living pretty comfortably. Do you come from a wealthy family?
Michael: I was middle-class. My mom's an accountant. My dad was an operations manager but it's so interesting to observe how much power these kids have and how adult they are. I was never like that as a kid. There's a benefit to growing up not having too much. It's interesting to explore these kids who have Masaratis and bank accounts with all this money. It's fascinating to explore that.
TeenTelevision: Do the showrunners and writers on "90210" let you give them story ideas for your character?
Michael: [They've] had a few meetings with us asking about personal experiences in high school, what we went through. They want to tell stories from an honest place.
TeenTelevision: What music are you interested in?
Michael: The Killers, Coldplay.
TeenTelevision: You are in a music video directed by Tim Burton ["Bones" for The Killers]. What was that like?
Michael: Oh my God. It was incredible! Tim Burton is the nicest guy ever. I was the last one to audition for that. It was a huge cattle call and I ended up getting the job. I was jumping up and down in my apartment, I was so excited. I kept thinking, 'this guy works with Johnny Depp and so many amazing people and has such an eye for amazing storytelling'. He was a genuinely nice guy.
TeenTelevision: Were you a Killers fan before the video?
TeenTelevision: Do you have a band or play an instrument?
Michael: I'm having some cast members on "90210" tech me how to play a guitar right now so I'm learning. I want to play "Guitar Hero" or "Rock Band". I'm just getting a Wii.
TeenTelevision: What actors or actresses do you really want to work with?
Michael: Mel Gibson and Helena Bonham Carter would be great. She's fantastic, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep.
TeenTelevision: What is the one thing a girl should not do if they want to be in your life?
Michael: Chew gum. I can't stand gum. It drives me crazy. Something about it, the constant chewing.
TeenTelevision: Okay got it! If you were to take someone out on a first date, what would you do?
Michael: First date; nice restaurant and a walk on the beach or some outdoor activity by the beach.
Ah, a California boy.
Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.