In just three short years since trying her hand at acting, Michelle Arthur already has appeared in dozens of films and television shows.
The former Greenwood resident has been featured in episodes of “Scandal,” “Modern Family” and “VEEP.”
She has worked on projects with James Franco and Jim Carrey, and the feature film, “Fate’s Shadow,” which she wrote, helped direct and produce, and stars in, will be released next year.
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Not bad for a second career.
“As an actress she always strives to be truthful, she has a rich emotional life and she’s not afraid to show her vulnerabilities,” said Anthony Montes, a writer, producer and actor as well as an instructor at Franco’s Studio 4 film school. “As a writer, she is open to critics in order to have her writing ring true.”
After a successful run in the magazine industry, Arthur has transitioned to film and television.
She has been featured in more than 40 television shows, films and other projects, with roles ranging from uncredited parts to starring turns.
Attempting to break into Hollywood was a stressful process. But as her new career gains momentum, she believes more and more that it was the right decision.
“I really feel like I was destined to get into filmmaking and acting,” she said. “The entertainment business was still in me. People told me to give it up, that I was too old to start that, but I wouldn’t. I can still do it.”
While growing up in Johnson County, Arthur never dreamed that one day she’d be acting. She and her family moved to the Center Grove area when she was six months old, and she lived there as a child. Her parents still live in the area.
Arthur graduated from Mooresville High School, and attended Indiana University to study journalism. Though she always had been interested in acting, it didn’t seem like a realistic career avenue, so she instead focused on being a writer.
“I had the acting bug as a little girl, and living in Indiana, it’s just not something you think about. It seems so out of reach,” she said. “It’s not as if there are a lot of people here who are going to encourage that. They want you to have a steady, solid income. They don’t think about the fact that you could, possibly, make it big in the acting industry.”
By nature, Arthur is drawn to the limelight. She likes the ideas of telling stories, from sharing tales around the campfire as a child to moving into journalism.
She landed an internship at Brides, a publication of magazine giant Conde Nast, before embarking on a career in both editorial and advertising for magazines such as the New Yorker and Cosmopolitan.
“I am very curious. That’s part of my soul. My nature is as an explorer. I’m very curious about things, and I like research, figuring out how something came to be,” she said. “Then I like sharing that knowledge with other people.”
But even in the midst of a successful career, Arthur was drawn towards the entertainment business. She had background roles in television shows such as “Beverly Hills 90210” and “The Practice,” and films such as “Path to War” and “Tomcats.”
As the magazine industry changed in the late 2000s, Arthur felt that it was the right time to pursue it more fully.
She moved back to California in 2014, intent on breaking into Hollywood. Through connections that she had cultivated while working in magazines, she was introduced to actor James Franco and that led to her enrolling in the acting and film school he was launching, Studio 4.
Initially, her interest was in screenwriting.
“Even though I’d done a little background acting, I still didn’t think of myself as an actress,” she said. “I took the screenwriting class because there was this story I was already working on, and I knew I needed help with it.”
But as she honed her writing skills, she also was encouraged to try acting. She auditioned for Franco’s master class in acting, and though she didn’t get accepted, she felt motivated to keep trying.
So Arthur took more acting classes, learning more advanced skills. At the same time, she was meeting people who she’d later work with, either on their own projects or in bigger films.
When Franco needed actors for a short film called “Burden of Proof,” she landed a role. Two subsequent Franco projects, “Dark Hours: Typee” and “Dark Hours: Roxana” both featured Arthur.
“I was sharing all of these photos of projects I was working on, and people would notice. Word started getting around that I wasn’t bad, I was actually good at this,” she said.
Her strengths as an actress are that she is very expressive and versatile, being able to portray different emotions depending on the situation her character is in.
She also has learned to rely on her own experiences to help her more fully understand a role. In the film “Boomer Hogs,” a short film Arthur had a major role in, she focused on a relationship that she had earlier in her life to help mold her mindset.
“When I was on set, I wasn’t thinking of Mosi Boomer, my husband in the film, I was thinking about the man I dated in my own life,” she said. “When I see myself on screen, I know exactly where those emotions come from.”
Projects and opportunities have come more and more quickly. She played a major role in the TV documentary crime series “Deadly Sins,” and has been featured four times on “I’m Dying Up Here,” which is executive produced by Carrey.
In Tuesday’s premier of the television show “Lethal Weapon,” Arthur makes an appearance during one of action scenes. She also ventured into more roles behind the camera, such as her work on “Billy & Daisy: A Fable About Love & Death.”
“Michelle is a team player with a love for every aspect of movie making. On the pilot for ‘Billy & Daisy: A Fable About Love & Death,’ Michelle worked as a script supervisor, a job she’d never done before,” said Montes, the writer, executive producer and lead actor on the web series. “She worked just as hard behind the scenes as she does on her own projects, in front of the camera.”
But one of her most proud projects is “Fate’s Shadow.” The film is a love story about a relationship that unfolds in the late ’90s and early 2000s, while also tying in spirituality and past lives. Arthur originally wrote it as an anthology, but later adapted it as a screenplay.
Filming is still in progress, but Arthur is excited about the potential.
“It empowers women to leave an unhealthy situation, even if they have a deep connection. That’s a true story for me,” she said.
Home: Los Angeles, California
Johnson County connection: She and her parents moved to the Center Grove area when she was 6 years old. Her parents still live here.
Education: Graduated from Mooresville High School, and received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.
Occupation: Actor, writer and producer
Lead and supporting roles:
- “Actors Anonymous”
- “Boomer Hogs”
- “Dark Hours: Typee”
- “Deadly Sins”
- “Love & Other Lies”
- “Scorpion Girl”
- “The Film Club”
- “The French Teacher”
- “The Gilded Boy”