Mikhail Basmadjian: ‘Don’t expect anything from people. It’ll make you angry when you grow older’

Actor Mikhail Basmadjian tells all in our Q&A

Mikhail Basmadjian
Mikhail Basmadjian

Mikhail Basmadjian has been acting on stage, film and TV for the past 30 years after having completed the Manoel Theatre Academy for Dramatic Arts (MTADA) course. In 2018, Mikhail was nominated in the category Artist of the Year at the Premju Ghall-Arti. He loves to travel, cook, try exotic foods and has a great passion for scuba diving and underwater photography. Mikhail can next be seen in Ir-Raġel Li Ħawwad Lil Martu Ma’ Kappell at Teatru Manoel on 12, 13 and 14 March 2021.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Swear at my cat who usually wakes me up at 4:30am to be fed!

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.

What do you never leave the house without?

Wallet, keys, kissing my partner goodbye, switching off the light (evening), feeding the hungry monster (Sisko the cat).

Pick three words that describe yourself

Intuitive, somewhat reserved (two words), trusting.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I have had many challenges and projects and all of them have given me some kind of self-actualising satisfaction but I am not the kind of person who has a ‘greatest’ or ‘best’ of anything – I think once you consider that you have had a ‘greatest’ anything, you stop growing and striving forward.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

It changes – at the moment banoffee pie from a particular café in Valletta. But they just stopped making it!

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Before you speak, think who you are going to hurt/offend/provoke with your words and message. Once you have thought it, think again... and only then decide. For me what is most important in a civilised society is mutual respect. And that begins from the smallest of things. Do not provoke for the sake of doing so – and if you do, then do not be amazed if an equally provocative reaction ensues.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

Probably my diving trips around the world.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

Not to expect anything from people – it will make you angry when you grow older, to the point that you will question their humanity and ask, ‘where did these humans grow up?’ – Just joking of course – we are all unreliable walking masses of neurons, on a living planet that has had enough.

Who’s your inspiration?

Undoubtedly my parents. I only wish I had half the integrity that they do and that I am able to love someone and make sacrifices for someone as much as they have done and continue to do for me throughout my life.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Self-confidence. I wish I were able to engage in activities as many individuals do without questioning whether I am actually fit, qualified or justified to do so... Not a question that is often asked on this island.

If you weren’t an actor what would you be doing?

Being a full-time actor or artist in Malta is next to impossible and it is quite hard to earn a living in this way for various reasons – but I have decided to give it a go and am a freelance performer, voiceover artist and graphic designer. Throughout my life I have worked in various sectors and industries – aviation, tourism, retail, marketing and more and I hold master’s degrees in psychology, Business Administration and Graphic Design. I think people should not be afraid to do what makes them happy, even if ‘the money is not that great!’ So there, I have just advertised myself!

Do you believe in God?

I am very spiritual and open to various interpretations of why we are here... if there is a higher power, it is all around us and equal for all. I respect anyone who has the true faith whatever it may be. Repetitive rituals are a form of slavery and mind control.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

My grandfather. I did not have enough time to ask him about his life, especially about his heroic WW2 experience.  You know, the younger generation does not appreciate and have the due respect for the fact that we are here because our grandparents fought for our freedom. It is what I believe and have been taught to respect and I thank my parents for it.

What’s your worst habit?

Boring again... is burping a bad habit?   

What are you like when you’re drunk?

I do not consume alcohol. Boring...

Who would you have play you in a film?

Andy Garcia or Nicholas Cage. I am often told I look like them!

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

When someone talks rubbish with conviction and others listen without interrupting... it is a gift I guess.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

Sarah Vaughn. What a voice, unrivalled to this day.

What is your most treasured material possession?

I am attached to objects that have a meaning in my life... from an empty plastic bottle that I have had for the past 30-odd years, to my laptop which is an essential part of my work.  Perceived value is subjective or course. Actually I need to clear out some rooms in my house – too many plastic bottles!

What is your earliest memory?

Sitting on a potty, seeing an Alsatian puppy running towards me, feeling scared and shouting “mummy!”

When did you last cry, and why?

Being an actor, I need to cry on demand! But true heartfelt tears are necessary to remind us we are human. I often shed a tear when watching a good film, or when I think of losing someone important in my life, as we all do I guess. However, when two of my favourite trees that I walked past each day in Balzan were recently killed to make room for a road that nobody needed I did cry out of shame for what we have become.

Who would you most like to meet?

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.

What’s your favourite food?

Octopus in garlic.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

Maaaaaaaaaaa... next question.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

Definitely the future – am a passionate Start Trek fan! I would like to think that mankind will eventually travel through space in search of its origins or destiny.

What book are you reading right now?

The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks. We are at the moment rehearsing for a play based on this book, to run at the Manoel Theatre in March. It is a collection of  various interviews and case histories of psychiatric patients – amazing stuff and an eye-opener.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Flight or tele-transportation.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

Dive in the Marianna Trench.  Also re-connect with some of the people I have not talked to in years and try to work things out, for peace of mind if not for anything else. With age comes wisdom – with wisdom comes the concept of ‘lost time’! With ‘lost time’ comes anger and bitterness – I would like to believe that it can all be fixed if you make the first step.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

Jazz and rock ranging from 40s to 90s. At the moment listening to Michael Franks in the background.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

Usually I would be rehearsing my lines or creating verbal diarrhoea in the form of various imaginary ‘larger than life’ characters. Especially at the moment, due to the play am doing – one step away from schizophrenia!