CAVE Interview Series: Mike “The Miz” Mizanin

The Marine 3: Homefront

Photo: 20th Century Fox/WWE Studios

If Mike Mizanin’s career has proven anything, it’s that nothing is impossible.

From his humble beginnings as a reality television star on MTV’s The Real World: Back to New York in 2001, to a WWE Champion and Wrestlemania headliner in 2011, Mizanin’s incredible journey has demonstrated the value of hard work, dedication and persistence, with a slight hint of cockiness and charm.

In that sense, Mizanin’s foray into feature films comes as no surprise.

With the starring role in WWE Studios’ The Marine 3: Homefront (released March 5th), Mizanin turns in a gritty, emotional performance as Jake Carter; a sergeant in the US Marine Corps’ Special Operations Unit.

Much like John Cena (The Marine) before him, Mizanin’s unparalleled charisma and smooth timing establish him as a pop-culture figure destined for greater success in the years to come.

We sat down with Mike to discuss his reality TV beginnings, ascent to WWE superstardom, and newfound success as a Hollywood leading man. Our conversation is presented below.

1. You’ve gone from an MTV reality star, to a WWE champion, to a lead actor in a feature film. Does this whole process still seem completely surreal?

Are you kidding me? If you would’ve told the 9-year-old kid from Parma, Ohio that he would fulfill and exceed all of his dreams, I would have laughed in your face. These are all things I thought I could never do. It’s awesome.

2. Backstage, I’m sure you’ve dealt with blowback from wrestlers who believe you didn’t “pay your dues” before capturing the belt. Tell me about that, and whether you expect similar criticism from the film industry for The Marine 3: Homefront. Does it end up just serving as motivation?

I don’t care how good a movie is, how a good of a WWE superstar you are, or how good you are on the mic – you’re always going to have critics and haters. That’s why my t-shirt says Haters Love Me.

Whether it’s on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, or to your face – you’re always going to deal with those people. But it’s your job to rise above them, have thick skin and let it bounce off of you. Or, let it motivate you.

The haters have always motivated me. Someone told me I couldn’t be on the Real World. I said “I’m going to do it”. People told me I wasn’t big enough to be a WWE superstar. I went and did it. Now, when people say the same thing about movies, I’m going to go out and do it. I always give my best, and I can truly say that I am proud of Marine 3: Homefront. I really worked hard for it.

With the WWE, people say I didn’t work hard for it, and that I just got offered a contract. That wasn’t the case. No one asked me. I wasn’t given anything. I went to independent wrestling school and worked with Ultimate Pro Wrestling for three years. WWE did not call me. They wanted nothing to do with me because I was on The Real World.

Then, I tried out for Tough Enough and I made it. That’s when they realized “wow, this Real World guy is actually good”.

When I was on The Real World,  I would go to colleges and speak to thousands of students. Then, I’d go back to LA to my wrestling school and perform in front of 25 people for free.

I imagine with this movie, there will always be critics, regardless of how good or bad it is. The Marine and The Marine 2 have both been successful, and I hope to exceed any related expectations.

3. How did you balance the film with your WWE schedule?

The Miz

20th Century Fox/WWE Studios

The WWE gave me a month off to film. But that was just filming, not preparing for the role.So, to prepare myself for it, I read the script and said “okay, this guy is an action hero – who are some great action heroes I can take attributes from and combine to make Jake Carter?”.I looked at old school action heroes like Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood. I watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and was like “man, Clint Eastwood doesn’t really do much in a movie”. It’s just his aura, he is a bad-ass.  And I said “I want to take that”.

Then, I watched Cool Hand Luke and saw how relaxed and natural Paul Newman was. I wanted to take that natural ability.

Then, I watched Die Hard with Bruce Willis and saw how John McClain got his butt whipped multiple times, but kept coming back.

Ultimately, I took those type of characters, put them together and said “this is Jake Carter”.

You won’t see the Miz in this movie. You won’t see Mike from The Real World in this movie. You’ll see a whole new character.

4. For a lot of fans, the Attitude Era marked one of the greatest periods of sports entertainment. Do you think wrestling can realistically reach that level again?

I do. We’re getting new characters in, and the WWE will always be a company that gets people talking.

You think of Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger. Those characters are just extremists. I am blown away by some of the things Zeb says, but it’s still intriguing. Everyone keeps thinking “who is going to be the guy who kicks this guy’s teeth down his throat?”. I want to find out.

We also have guys like Brock Lesnar coming back, and Triple H beating him down. We have The Rock coming back for his feud with John Cena. But we also have new characters coming in, guys like Ryback and Antonio Cesaro. And even though I don’t like Antonio Cesaro, I respect the fact that he’s a very talented, very strong individual.

5. Outside the ring, do you still immerse yourself in pop culture? If so what – what reality (or fictional) shows do you watch? Have any of those shows found a way into your gimmick?

Well, before it had its series finale, I used to watch Gossip Girl. I actually derived my style of suits and look from Chuck Bass. I told my stylist “I like the way Chuck Bass looks, give me that kind of style”. She made it happen.

I also love Dexter, but I don’t really derive the Miz from Dexter. I’m not going to go around killing people.

I love the Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. I don’t really watch Honey Boo Boo though, sorry.

6. Who are your closest friends on the WWE roster?

Zack Ryder and Dolph Ziggler. Those are the two guys I speak with most.

7. Encompassing everything that makes a “professional wrestler”, who are the greatest of all time?

Right on top is the Ultimate Warrior. I used to run around with streamers and paint on my face. There’s also The Rock. He’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a WWE superstar. And of course, there’s Ric Flair.

8. Is that why you started using the figure four leg lock?

Yeah. Paying homage to the master (Ric Flair).

9. If you could interview any past WWE superstar (dead or alive) on MizTV, who would it be?

I’ve had great guests on there. I’ve had Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, CM Punk, John Cena, Zeb Colter, Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio. I’ve had everyone who’s anyone, except for The Rock. I’d like to have him on MizTV. I think it could be something magical and electric.

10. Once your wrestling career is done, would you like to continue with the WWE in the front office, or as a writer? If so – what changes would you make to the Company’s direction?

When I was little kid, I never dreamed of being a writer or in the front office. I dreamed of being a WWE superstar. So as long as my body stays healthy and it’s fun, I’m going to be here.

Every time I go to Wrestlemania, it is still surreal to me that I am actually a part of it. When I was the champion at Wrestlemania 27 for the main event, I had all of my best friends that used to watch Wrestlemania in my living room as kids, in the front row. I looked at them from the ring and said “yeah, we did it”. That was one of my most memorable moments in the WWE.

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