Michael Ealy is the type of actor who could easily coast on his good looks alone
— at least part of the surprising success of Think Like a Man can be attributed to his shirtless scenes — but the blue-eyed star prefers pushing himself with challenging, and sometimes un-sexy, roles. Capping off the biggest year of his career, Ealy stars in the upcoming independent drama Unconditional as Joe Bradford, a cancer survivor who dedicates his life to helping others find their silver lining. The actor talks to us about what inspires, humbles and excites him.
Unconditional is a far cry from the bigger budget studio films you've been doing lately. It seems like there's a lot more responsibility on you to get the word out about it.
We are doing much more of a grass roots style approach to promoting [Unconditional]. I think that's a healthy way of doing things these days. I have a friend by the name of Kevin Hart who had a breakout movie last year because of social media. It may not be mainstream, but it can be a very effective way of getting out a message.
You probably have your pick of projects these days. What drove you to doing this film?
Once I read the script, I immediately knew I wanted to do the film. I had just finished shooting For Colored Girls, so there was probably a part of me that wanted to save some children this time. [Laughs] That probably had something to do with it. The story, the script, the writing, that's what appealed to me. And when I met the real Joe Bradford, I felt honored to play the part.
You play a man who goes through some hard knocks in life. Did you draw from any personal experience?
I feel like I'm blessed because I never had to go through a situation like that. I've never had to rely on someone to get me through a life or death situation. So, I guess you can just call it acting.
Sounds like you're very lucky.
I am very lucky. I've had what some people would refer to as a really good year. I would say it's been a great year. I've had successful films, a successful television show…career-wise, it has been a very successful year for me. But it didn't have to go this way for me. I could easily have been waiting tables, I could be lost, I could have turned to porn. Who knows? What I've found is that there's balance in life. I could have a big head right now, but trust me, I'm very humbled by other things that have happened, that have balanced out the good.
What keeps you balanced?
Well, the balance is my parents and my grandparents aren't flying high with me. All is not well. Without getting too personal, there's some health problems in my family. But I still feel blessed that I have a family, and friends who I care about, and fans who support my body of work. That's what this film is about...finding that balance and staying positive.
Unconditional is in theaters today.
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