Interview with Mike Manning: ‘The Engagement Dress,’ ‘The Bay,’ and ‘The Dirty South’

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Mike Manning and Angel Prater
Mike Manning and Angel Prater. Photo Courtesy of Tubi

Emmy winner Mike Manning (“This Is Us” and “The Bay”) chatted with #Powerjournalist Markos Papadatos about “The Bay,” and his new films “The Engagement Dress” and “The Dirty South.”

“The Engagement Dress,” which was directed by Rachel Annette Helson, premiered on Tubi on Friday, November 10, and he plays the male lead Preston.

“I really enjoyed working on the movie,” he admitted. “It’s a cute story and the cast was a lot of fun to be around. We shot in Kentucky, so we had a lot of time to get to know each other either on set or when we weren’t filming.”

“We were a bit isolated in the hotel, so it was a lot of going out to dinner together or out on the town over the weekends. I remember there was a good taco place close to where we were staying. I love food, so clearly it left an impression,” he said.

For his fans, he remarked about the new rom-com, “My hope for this movie is that audiences watch it and are left with those warm fuzzy feelings that people get after witnessing a cute love story.”

“It was fun to play the romantic lead in the film, to step into those shoes, and to ‘fall in love’ on camera with another person as my character ‘Preston.’ I hope the audience connects to Preston’s search for love, and can relate to him,” he said.

“I enjoyed being part of the film and would definitely be open to more romantic comedy projects in the future,” he added.

On working with actress Angel Prater as his lead female scene partner, he said, “Angel and I bonded almost immediately. She’s a talented actress and a very sweet person.”

Manning continued, “Angel would always show up prepared and ready to work, but was also open to taking suggestions and trying the scene different ways. It’s the perfect mix of what I typically look for in a scene partner.”

“At times we’d be laughing so hard we couldn’t finish the scene,” he said. “I would make weird faces or try to jump out and scare her. I think that fun chemistry showed on the screen. The entire cast – Cathy Marks, Sterling Sulieman, Vidushi Shrivastava, Abbey May, Nicholas David King… they were all great.”

“Also, Lisa Thornhill played my mom in the film. I loved her in that movie “The Family Man” with Nicholas Cage, so that was a nice bonus,” he said.

On his favorite part of the filming process, he revealed, “It had been a while since I was in a romantic comedy as an actor, so it was nice to slip back into that genre.”

“I’m a hopeless romantic at heart, so it’s nice to play in a world where “anything in possible” in terms of finding love where everyone has a soulmate and things find a way of working out,” he explained.

“I like that this is a film the whole family can watch. My buddy, Anthony Del Negro, the producer, is the reason I did the film in the first place, and I’m really glad I did,” he added.

Manning opened up about working with Rachel Annette Helson as a director. “I love working with female directors, and Rachel was no exception,” he said. “While shooting, Rachel had a great way of empathizing on an emotional level with the characters in the script.”

He continued, “I think that was especially important in this movie, seeing as the story is essentially about the lead female character being the last to find love out of all her friends.”

“Rachel is an actress herself, so she was great at communicating with us actors on set about what she was looking in our performances and how it fit into her overall vision. I’d definitely work with her again,” he said.

The action crime thriller “The Dirty South,” written and directed by Matthew Yerby, will be released on Digital, On Demand, and in theaters on Friday, November 10, 2023, via Cineverse. Holland stars alongside Shane West and Dermot Mulroney.

“The film, ‘The Dirty South,’ is coming out in theaters this week as well, with Willa Holland, Shane West, and Dermot Mulroney. So I’ll be going to see that somewhere when I can,” he said.

“Working with Willa Holland was great,” Manning admitted. “She is a fantastic actress and very giving as a scene partner. We filmed in Natchitoches, Louisiana. I had actually never been to Louisiana at all.”

“So that in and of itself was a new experience. Matthew Yerby, the director, is from the area. So there was a real home town feel to the movie as a whole,” he added.

He is looking forward to the new episodes of “The Bay” Season 8. “‘The Bay’ is an exciting show to be part of because each season has its own flavor that is different than the season before,” he said. “Previously on the show, several of the core characters were kidnapped and taken to Puerto Rico. Now, my character (“Caleb”) is one of the people who travel to Puerto Rico to save them.”

“This season definitely has more of an ‘adventure’ feel than what I think audiences have seen before. This year ‘The Bay’ is up for Daytime Emmy Awards in three categories.”

“We should find out about those before the end of the year. I know the team works really hard to make the show a success, so it’s nice to see them being recognized,” he added.

Mike Manning also clarified the correct way of saying and spelling his name. It is indeed Mike Manning (as opposed to Mike C. Manning). “Well, if you ask my mom, I was born Michael Christopher Manning, which she would only use when she was mad at me,” he said. “The origin behind the confusion is this: I had to add the middle initial when I first joined SAG-AFTRA about a decade ago.”

“At the time, there was already a Mike Manning in the union. Then, I called again two years later, and I guess there wasn’t anyone with my name in the union anymore, so I was able to change it to just Mike Manning,” he explained.

“Honestly, Mike Manning feels much more ‘me,’ and more authentic,” he admitted. “The other way felt just pretentious. So yeah, I am ‘Mike Manning’ professionally, as well as with SAG-AFTRA, the media, and in movies. Sometimes people get it wrong but it’s slowly correcting itself,” he acknowledged.

On March 23, 2024, Manning is looking forward to being a part of the Spectrum Celebrity fan event in Maryland, as part of #DaytimePride24, along with actors Camryn Grimes, Cait Fairbanks, and Colton Little. It will be hosted by Tony Moore of “Dishin’ Days.”

Manning noted that he is excited to be a part of the “Samantha’s Friends” benefit event in May of 2024 in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, which will have an “Enchantment By The Sea” theme to it this time.

“I like the Samantha’s Friends events because it allows me to see the fans in person and catch up with everyone,” Manning said. “After my run on ‘Days of Our Lives,’ I was introduced to the soap fan community, and they’ve all been very kind and supporting of me and my career.”

“Now, it’s nice to go year after year and see them, a lot of familiar faces I’ve gotten to know. I also enjoy having with the other actors, many of whom are friends that I don’t get to see enough,” Manning acknowledged.

To learn more about Mike Manning, follow him on Instagram and check out his IMDb page.