Exclusive Video Interview: Jaden Michael on Playing Mickey Bolitar in Harlan Coben’s Shelter

Jaden MichaelIn Harlan Coben’s Shelter, which premieres today on Prime Video, Jaden Michael stars as Mickey Bolitar, who after the sudden and unexpected death of his father, is forced to start a new life with his aunt, Shira (Constance Zimmer), in Kasselton, New Jersey. Mickey quickly discovers that the quiet suburban town is not all it seems when another new student at the school, Ashley Kent (Samantha Bugliaro), goes missing. As he and his friends, Spoon (Adrian Greensmith) and Ema (Abby Corrigan), try to find Ashley, they end up mixed up in something that goes way deeper than just one missing student. Finding her may unravel the mystery of decades of disappearances and maybe even secrets from Mickey’s own family history. 

Michael recently spoke with SciFi Vision about working on the series inspired by the novel, including why he was torn taking the role, connecting with the character emotionally, Mickey’s relationship with Spoon and Ema, and more.

Watch the interview or read the transcript below, and be sure to check out the series, now streaming on Prime Video.

***This interview took place prior to the start of the SAG-AFTRA strike***

SCIFI VISION:   To start, can you talk about what was it about either your character, the script, whatever it was, what made you think that you just had to take this role? 

Harlan Coben's ShelterJADEN MICHAEL:   
I was really torn at first, to be honest. I had read the script, and I just wasn't sure. I was like, “This isn't really the kind of show for me. I've never been into high school dramas. That's never been the kind of show I would want to watch. Why would I tell the story if it's not something that I would watch?” Things just kept on happening in my life, like telling me “No, you need to do it.” My friends had sent me the books before I even got the audition, and I realized [it] after reading the audition, realizing, “Oh, my goodness, I've been given these books, and my friends told me that it would be really cool if I played this character before.” And Harlan Coben just started popping up all over my life. Every time I'd get on the airplane, I see a Harlan Coben book, and it was so weird. I think there was some part of it that was fate, that sort of told me, “You need to try. You need to do this.” And I just started falling in love more and more with the character every time I was reading the script as it kept on maturing. I think that was the turning point, the fate of it all. 

I think it's definitely more than a high school drama, because, obviously, I’m a little bit old[er than that demographic] and I very much enjoyed it. 

I think that's what's so magical about it. Again, I went in very closed-minded that it's a high school drama, and it's not for me, and I sort of realized, “No, it's not…There's an aspect to it that has to do with the Holocaust, with World War Two, with Jewish heritage. There's a side of it that has to do with the abduction of children and the abuse of children. All of those things are a whole lot more grounded and serious than anything you'd normally see in a high school drama, and those are definitely aspects that attracted me to the show. 

Set it up. Tell me a bit about your character, for people who haven't seen it. How does he get to where he is at the start of the show? 

I read Live Wire, which is the book right before the Mickey Bolitar series, so it gave me a lot of background on who Mickey was and who his family is. So, Brad and Kitty, his father and mother, they are kind of philanthropists who go around the world giving back to kids and giving back to impoverished communities. So, Mickey has spent his entire life up to this point learning how to adapt very quickly to any situation and living in all different matters of places. He finally decides, like, “Hey, Mom, I want to settle down. I'm passionate about basketball, and the only way for me to hone in my craft is by staying in one place.” So, he goes back to United States and everything unravels. He loses his his mom, his dad, and he has to move to Kasselton, New Jersey with a family member he barely knows and try to learn to survive. 

I want to talk about your character's relationship with Ema and Spoon. I really enjoyed that, the friendship so great. Did you hang out outside of the show at all? Because it seems like you guys get along really well. 

I mean, we tried to do a lot of stuff. They got to hang out a lot more than I did, unfortunately, because I was trying to train physically for the show. I was trying to gain muscle for the show. I was trying to learn how to play basketball. So, I was doing three hours of workout every day; I was eating 5000 calories every day. So, my schedule was just jam-packed. But even on set, we would always hang out. I played basketball a lot with some of the other cast members, and we tried to do movie dates together and go on a boat together. So, yeah, there was great chemistry coming into it. 

Was there a part in particular about the character that you had trouble connecting with at all, when you started playing him, like connecting with emotionally? 

There were some issues, but mainly it wasn't an issue of the feeling not being there. It was more of an issue of me having to re-understand personally as Jaden how I feel about that emotion. So, like, for example, there's a sort of swagger that Mickey has. He's kind of very chill, but confident and reserved, and I've always hated that in me. Like, I was always afraid of my confidence. I don't know why, but it's just it's something that I always tried to push away from myself. So, I had to learn personally to sort of accept that emotion within me and to re-understand what it meant to me to be confident so that I could apply it positively towards Mickey. 

Well, that’s I'm sure a good outcome in your life, then, too. 

Yeah, he [was] a bigger influence on me than I was on him.

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