Mike Ostroski is fun to watch on Netflix hit Fuller House as Mr. Byenburg, also plays the sinister Dr. Minyak on Nickelodeon ‘s Henry Danger, but his experience runs much deeper. He has more than 75 impressive theater credits on his dossier.
Hailing from a small town in Ohio, Ostroski who was always a good student, attended The University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) for musical theatre, Miami University, (where he was both Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa) and got his degree for creative writing, and also studied at both Cambridge University and London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
He spent twelve years as a member of The Barter Theatre’s Resident Acting Company in Virginia. Commercial, TV and film roles followed. He starred in many commercials, including a sweet one for Whirlpool. Prior to his current work, he may have been best known for his roles in Breaking Bad and Criminal Minds.
This quadruple threat of actor, writer, director and producer also works on independent projects. In fact, the independent solo-project that was co-written and directed by Derek Davidson called Groundwork was nominated for Best Solo Performance at the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival and won a 2016 ENCORE! Producers’ Award.
Mike Ostroski spoke with Michelle Tompkins for TheCelebrityCafe.com about his career, the process of getting the part on Fuller House, his independent projects like The Outsider, what he likes to do for fun (Hint: he is a newlywed and a foodie), what’s next for him and more. Also, there was a fun nerd-out dialogue about the ending of his favorite movie Dead Poet’s Society.
Michelle Tompkins: Where are you from?
Mike Ostroski: I am from a small town called Ashland, Ohio.
MT: So where do you live now?
MO: I live in Los Angeles, in Hollywood.
MT: Tell me a little about your childhood.
MO: My childhood? Ashland is a small town and I grew up kind of like other kids in a small town, just kind of slowly finding your passion. And I kind of quickly found it in the school plays or musicals. So I'd spend my time working really hard at school. It was very important for me to do really well at school. And then being in any theatrical thing I could get my hands on. Yeah, it was a pretty normal childhood.
MT: As you're also a writer, I was going to ask which came first, the love writing or the love of acting?
MO: That's a great question. No one's ever asked me that. My gut says acting. I've always liked to write. Even as little kid, I would write poetry on my own. But the bug for acting came early and very strong. But I've always written, too, but I think acting came first.
MT: Now what are some of the things that you've written?
MO: My most recent writing project is one that I co-wrote with my dear friend Derek Davidson, is a one-man show called Groundwork.
On my site, I have a page for Groundwork.
The context is backyard vegetable gardening, but what the play is about, is about seeking some sort of peace with the world with rising tides, and climate change, and changing relationships, and yeah, finding control in a world like that or finding peace a lack of control. But he's just trying to plant his first vegetable garden [laughter].
MT: Well, you have a very strong theater background. What do you like the best about the theater?
MO: It is church. And a lot of theater people say that almost verbatim or something similar. You're in the same room. Theater is this phenomenon where a bunch of human beings all sit together looking forward, all in the same direction, at other human beings telling a story about the human experience. And it has an amazing way to make someone, in my experience, feel less alone. That's, I guess, why I use the term church in that way. You're also in the same room, so there's no delineation between you and the performer. There's no screen. There's nothing between the two of you, so the ability for the story to make its way to the audience member is easier, I think. It often requires a ton of imagination as well because you can be standing on a bare stage. You can say that you're on a mountaintop and, if the actor believes it, the audience will, too. And you don't need a mountain. So it's magical in that way. TV and film are miraculous as well, just in their own way. But, I think going back to your question, I think the answer is it has [inaudible] kind of miraculous way of making the audience feel less alone, I think.
MT: You never left the theater, but you always wanted to go back and do more of it?
MO: Yeah. I hope to do it for the rest of my life. I hope to have a career that is equally divided between the two or, at least, include the other one as much as possible. Yeah. That's a very clear hope of mine.
MT: What was your first professional paid acting gig?
MO: Oh. It was at the Barter Theatre. Barter like you barter for goods, B-A-R-T-E-R. It's an Equity Regional Theatre in the mountains of Virginia. I had graduated from college and I moved to New York City and I was lucky to begin auditioning and I was lucky enough to, relatively quickly, get an agent. And the first job that he sent me out for, for an audition for, was for the Barter Theatre. The Barter Theatre of Abingdon, Virginia, the State Theatre of Virginia. And they were doing a spring repertory, so they were doing more than one show at the same time. It was a play and a musical and you rehearsed both of them and do one four times a week and the other one four times a week. And I was non-union at the time, so it wasn't a lot of money, but it was the first time I was getting paid doing what I loved to do and I will never forget it. It was such a sense of contentment that spring.
MT: Now do you have a dream role in the theater that you've always wanted to play?
MO: Oh, gosh. Jean Valjean. Let's say that [laughter].
MT: A little Les Mis. Great.
MO: Do you like Les Mis?
MT: I do. I love it. Well, you have more than 75 credits. What are some of your favorite roles?
MO: We did a national tour Of Mice and Men and I was Lenny. And it was a beautiful production, beautifully crafted from the director to the acting, to the set and the costumes, everything came together. And it was really fun to tour the country. But it was a beautiful production. I'm proud of it and everyone's work in it. We did a beautiful production of Our Town. Do you know Our Town?
MT: I do.
MO: These roles that I love often are in part so important to me because of the production as a whole that surrounded them. And this production of Our Town was beautiful. Everyone did a great job and it was a beautiful rehearsal process and the character was fascinating to me. Just an ensemble character, one of the team players. It wasn't the lead but it was really lovely. Yeah.
MT: What did you do in Breaking Bad?
MO: Breaking Bad, have you seen the show?
MO: Okay. Do you remember the first lab that they cook the meth in? Yeah, the first main lab is underneath the dry cleaners? Do you remember that?
MO: Okay. Well, that blows up and the drug making cartel, I guess, has to find a new way of making their meth. And so they choose to do it by covering as a pest control service.
Well, you know how they tent houses to fumigate a house, so the owners and no one else is allowed to come in because it's tented and there's lots of poison in the air? Well, that's the front, and they create this -- I mean, they actually fumigate, but they create this tent inside the house and make the mess inside the house, in the safety, in the cover of the fumigation. When they do that I am the first home owner they do this to, and it was a co-star, but it was a couple pages, and it was lovely, and it was both really fun and exciting and some lovely footage, and it really opened a lot of doors being apart of that production. So I'm really grateful for having had that.
MT: Now, tell me about the audition process for Fuller House?
MO: It was really quick. I heard from my manager that the audition was going to be later that day, so there actually wasn’t a lot of time to prepare. But the casting directors, who are so wonderful and supportive, gave me some great direction when I got there. I did the audition and was fortunate enough to book it.
MT: Great. How did you celebrate getting the role?
MO: How did I celebrate? Oh my, gosh. I don't remember [laughter]. I don't go out to eat that much, but I love food, I guess I'm a foodie, and my wife and I probably went out. We probably went out and had dinner somewhere. Yeah.
MT: That answer usually involves champagne, booze or some sort of outing. It's always fun to learn what people do.
MO: Yeah. That's a really great question. I have a friend, just side note, I have a friend from college who whenever he books a new show, he goes out and treats himself to a very expensive kind of exquisite new piece of clothing like a fancy leather jacket or etc., and I've always thought that was a great idea [laughter]. He's gotta have such a great wardrobe by now. But whether it's treating yourself to something or celebrating in some other way, however simple...It's a good idea. Good for the soul.
MT: Now, tell me about Henry Danger?
8MO: Henry Danger is this phenomenal show on Nickelodeon. It's created by Dan Schneider. He did iCarly and Victorious and lots of well-known shows for Nickelodeon, They're on season four now, filming season four, but Henry is a 12-year-old boy who's looking for a part-time job and he sees an ad in the paper for an assistant is needed to be the owner of a curiosity shop in the small town. He goes and interviews, but then you find out that the owner of this curiosity shop that's just his front. He's actually a superhero and his superhero name is Captain Man, and Captain Man is actually trying to interview for new sidekicks. Henry Heart, the boy, gets the job. Finds out what it's really for and says yes to this and he becomes kid danger. So Captain Man and Kid Danger fight crime and it's funny because he still gets paid $9 per hour, which is really cool, and I am one of the reoccurring villains that they have to confront often, so.
MT: What is the villain’s name?
MO: The villain’s name is Dr. Minyak. M-I-N-Y-A-K, and so, it's Minyak, but everyone thinks he's saying, maniac [laughter]. So they keep calling them Dr. Maniac, and he's so upset that they're getting his name wrong, and he's an evil genius trying to continually make the next best weapon to defeat those two. He's got a British accent and he thinks very much of himself. He's a ton of fun to play.
MT: I believe your wife is on the show too. Is that correct?
MO: Yeah. Kate Cook is her name. She's awesome. She plays the nosy neighbor, Mrs. Hendricks. Who is always popping up at the wrong time over at Henry's house asking for a cup of milk or something that neighbors ask for right when she shouldn't be there. It's pretty funny.
MT: Where can people find the show?
MO: The show is Nickelodeon show. So they can watch it think via the website. You can sign in with your network carrier. That would be the best bet. I think you can also get it on Amazon. But it's on Nickelodeon. So it's easy to find.
The shows are doing really well. They also, you'll find this interesting, I think the show's doing so well that they are making a spin-off cartoon of it. Yeah. I think it's called the adventures of Captain Man and Kid Danger or Kid Danger and Captain Man. I forget which one comes first, but they are— it's the same actors just animated and I've gotten to do an episode too. They just finished their first season. So hopefully I'll be able to come back too. It is so wonderful and odd to see yourself animated [laughter], but it’s fun and I'm totally grateful for it.
MT: Now, here's a fun question. What do you like to do for fun?
MO: Okay. Let's say three things. One is if I'm just home I love food. I love to cook and I love to go out. I don't do it all that often, but I really love it. I love to travel. If I can go anywhere I will try to make that happen, and then and my other thing I play clawhammer banjo, which is a kind of banjo. It's kind of folk banjo. It's not as loud as a bluegrass banjo. You don't really use finger picks like a bluegrass banjo. It's softer, and where I used to live in Virginia in the mountains when I was at the Barter theater for so long. That's part of the repertoire of the regional instrumentation and I fell in love with the sound of it and then I started taking lessons a few years ago, and gosh, I could play that for hours. I'm not that great, but I love it [laughter].
MT: What are some of your favorite movies and TV shows?
MO: Dead Poet Society is my favorite film. Do you know the film?
MT: I do. Tom Schulman wrote it. Robin Williams was amazing and most of the actors are still acting today. Kind of shocking.
MO: Yeah. I was the age of Robert Sean Leonard's character when it came out, and I also wanted to be an actor, and I also didn't know how to make that happen, and it affected me so much, and I just love the message of the film. Everything about I just love. When you come into contact with a piece of art depending on the timing of your life. The time in your life where you receive the art it can affect you to a later or lesser degree. That definitely shocks me, and what was your other question film or TV show?
MT: Yeah. Film or TV shows that you like, but I would add something though first...I love Dead Poet’s too, but I now have a different perspective. I actually don't think it would have ended the same way. I know everything leads to that for this movie, especially with the title, but there's nothing in the way that Neil behaved, even with his tough relationship with his dad that would have led him to kill himself. I think that he would have done what his dad said and ran off to act after graduation. When I was young I believed in the ending and was so sad, but as I aged, and I still love the movie by the way, but I don't think he would have killed himself.
MO: Wow. Michelle, I have never thought about that before and that is fascinating.
MT: Well, because he was actually able to help the Todd character. He was actually able to help him overcome his issues. So if someone is that self-aware, they typically don’t see life as being that bleak. I changed my view on the movie after just giving it a little bit more psychological reasoning and lots of arguments with my dad.
MO: Oh, wow. That is so fascinating. It makes me want to see it again. Yeah because he helped him. He said, "We're going to make this desk set fly." I want to watch it now [laughter].
MT: Me too. What about TV shows? What are some TV shows you like?
MO: Okay. Have you heard of Happy Valley?
MO: Okay. Do you have Netflix?
MT: I do.
MO: Okay Happy Valley is a British television show. I think it's BBC. I think most shows are but don't quote me on that because I'm not educated about that as much. But it is a British show. Happy Valley is I think are two seasons and I think they're trying to make a third. I think I read an article about that. I just discovered on Netflix— I don't know, four months ago, five months ago. The show itself is a couple of years old and it takes a while. It lags. It was on in England and came to Netflix. But it is about a woman, a middle-aged woman who is a cop. And she lives with her sister. This is all set up in the first episode. She lives with her sister. Her sister had drug issues and is off of them. And yeah, so they lived together and care for each other. Her sister is also middle-aged. And they live in this small town in England. And there is a drug problem in the valley, Happy Valley. So the title I guess is a little sarcastic [laughter]. And it's about them dealing with this drug problem in the community. It's so surprising. Everyone I meet who asks and wants to talk about TV, I'm like, ‘Please go see Happy Valley.’That's my new favorite thing.
But I'm a huge fan of Breaking Bad. Those two shows are the ones that I think of the most, I think.
MT: Is there anything you'd like to add about your family?
MO: Well, I have an amazing wife, Kate. We got married about a year ago. And she's also an actor.
MO: Yeah, thank you. And we don't have kids but we're hopeful. And the rest of my family lives back East and so it's always such a treat to get to see them when I come and— when I go back. I miss my family.
MT: How often do you get back to see them?
MO: I think a couple of times a year. Being out in LA is about—I've been out here for about four years so it's still a relatively new thing. But as time goes on, I'm realizing that I need to off that. As much as I can get back would be great. Yeah. I've already got my ticket for Christmas, so [laughter].
As I am a foodie, I love going to Zabar’s. Do you go there?
MT: I do. It's my favorite. Usually once a month on a payday.
MO: Oh, my God. Chocolate babka from Zabar's is like comfort in a bag [laughter].
MT: Mine is going through the cheeses, but the Port Salute there makes me happy.
MO: Oh, god, anything in that store. Just smelling it [laughter].
MT: I go there and I spend $100 on maybe 20 things. It is not of value for the money, other than the happiness factor.
MO: Yeah. Oh, yeah. It's an experience. Absolutely, I'm with you 100%. It's totally expensive, but it does bring a smile.
MT: Now, are there any charities or charity work that you'd like to mention?
MO: I love anything environmental. I'm a huge fan of 350.org. Do you know the organization?
MT: I don't.
MO: Three, five, zero, O-R-G. Gosh, I actually don't know if it's a charity by definition. It's an environmental organization. I think donations to it are tax-deductible. I have to look that up. But Bill [inaudible] is kind of a hero of mine. He's an environmentalist. He's a professor at a university in Vermont. And he's kind of a -- I'm just really into the environmental issues. So he's just a leader in that. So yeah, I guess that's my answer to your question.
MT: How do you like fans to connect with you?
MO: I have a website, which is mikeostroski.com, just my first and last name .com. And then on Instagram, I'm @mikeostroski and on Twitter I'm @mikeostroski. I've got a Facebook page, too. I think it's probably @mikeostroski, too. Yeah, it must be.
MT: So what's next for you?
MO: What's next for me? I've got a short film that I'm in and that my wife is the lead in]. The short is really beautiful. It's called The Outsider. And it's premiering at the Denver Film Festival in early November. And so, we're going up there for the red carpet and for all the festivities surrounding that. And very proud of it and it's exciting. And I'm also--the writing is continuing. I enrolled in an evening course at UCLA for screenwriting. The UCLA professional programming and screenwriting. So it is keeping me very humble as I learn how to write my first feature film. So that's another thing. Regarding gigs, there's nothing else on the books at the moment. But I'm auditioning away. And hopefully, Henry Danger will come back again and Fuller House, season four will come back. And, yeah. I just came from an audition just now. So my sleeves are rolled up.
Mike Ostroski can be seen on Fuller House on Netflix and Henry Danger on Nickelodeon.