"It was so surreal," says 'Broken' star Miles Tagtmeyer on his Emmy nomination for Best Actor
Miles' performance in 'Broken' earned him a nomination for Best Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama series.
Suspenseful, heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, and thrilling in equal measure, the six episodes of 'Broken' chronicle the story of Liam (Miles Tagtmeyer), who, nearing the one-year anniversary of his best friend's death, is still struggling to cope with the loss.
Therapy sessions chip away at his unease, but his confusion about the events surrounding the death continue to escalate. As Liam descends into madness, he will have to either come to terms with the loss or risk losing himself forever. To give any more away would be to deprive audiences of the opportunity to treat themselves to one of the best short-form drama series of 2018, and rest assured, at a crisp six-and-a-half to eight-odd minutes per episode, it is worth your time.
A stellar script is reinforced with breakthrough performances from both Miles and co-star Lee Garlington, who plays the role of Darlene in the series. Their execution of their multi-faceted, intrinsically complex characters didn't go unnoticed either, with both earning Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Actor/Actress Comedy or Drama Short Format. If the stars align, they could very well boast one of the prestigious awards in their trophy cabinet come, this September-end.
I got the opportunity to talk to Miles about his Emmy nomination, his role on the show, as well as several other aspects about what made 'Broken' into the show that it came out to be starting with, of course, what should be a career-altering chance at an award that is television's equivalent of the Oscars.
Miles reveals he found it very hard to contain his reactions when he first heard about the nomination because he was on board an airplane headed towards a special occasion. "I was on my way to my sister's wedding because I was the officiant!" he says incredulously.
He laughs and continues: "It was an early morning flight, and everyone around me was sleeping, and I kept reloading the page, reloading the page, and as soon as it popped up, I saw my name on the list, and my mouth dropped. I started to laugh and cry and smile, all at the same time."
"It was so surreal," he adds. "It was something that I just wanted to start screaming out loud, but because everyone was sleeping I couldn't!"
I pivoted him to talk about the performance that earned him his well-deserved nomination; venturing into how he managed to take on such an intense role. Spoiler alert for those unaware, but Liam suffers from schizophrenia, a mental disorder which manifests itself differently in different people. The condition interferes with the person's cognitive and behavioral functions. Miles admits candidly that it was a condition that he knew little about.
"Because I didn't know a lot about schizophrenia or mental illness before taking on this project, I listened to a lot of auditory hallucinations and watched a lot of visual hallucination simulations on YouTube to prepare," he says. "One of my concerns was accurately portraying someone with schizophrenia because there are varying types and degrees of schizophrenia and I wanted to do as much research as I could."
Miles also explains that just reading or listening isn't enough. "You can only read so much," he clarifies. "The auditory hallucinations helped me the most because at the beginning of the video they say 'Put your headphones on and go about your business. Do this, do that, do your laundry, do something. Don't just sit there and listen.' So, I did. I was doing chores around the house, and I would hear all sorts of voices, some intense and malicious, others weird and robotic and that was what really got me into the mindset of someone who suffers from schizophrenia."
A character that transitions and oscillates between anger and extreme pain at the blink of an eye, Liam could not have been easy to portray without doing that due diligence. But obviously, Miles' natural talent and meticulousness come into play as well, and it shows. "I used some personal experiences with loss and grievances and also some of the things in my life that I can relate to," he says about his preparation for the role.
"Because I didn't have anything specific to draw from and how I have acted in those situations, I had to improvise and imagine what it would be like to lose a best friend or even a parent. If you use a parent or a sibling or a relative or a loved one or anyone else in that position, you can match the emotions that you should be feeling at any given point," he added.
Besides dealing with a titular character that suffers from a disorder that millions have to live with, 'Broken' also provides a platform to discuss mental illness in general. Miles, as honest as ever, discloses that this was another subject matter that he knew little about. "I wasn't completely aware of how mental health and mental illness are two different things," he says. "A lot of people use the term interchangeably and what I found was that mental health is just something everyone has but mental illness is a disorder — it affects the way you think and/or interact with others and is specific to that person."
"The stigma surrounding mental illness is that it's something you should be ashamed of and you should not talk about and it makes you weird or different from other people," he continues. "Whereas in reality, you should be talking about this and it's something people need to know about."
Playing a role so consuming can take its toll on even the most seasoned veterans, and Miles, a relative newcomer to the industry, experienced that fatigue firsthand. Furthermore, certain events conspired to ensure that the day of the shoot was anything but smooth for the actor.
"We filmed all of the very intense emotional scenes of the crime, the nervous breakdowns, the screaming in agony, all in one day and the night before, I didn't actually sleep well," he divulges. "There was an Earthquake that woke me up around 2 a.m, and I never went back to sleep, and then I called them at about 6:30 a.m."
"So, going into that day, I looked the part because I didn't need much makeup cause I already didn't sleep," he adds laughing. "And no one talked to me the entire day! I was pretty much sequestered. Between takes, I would go off the set and either be in a bedroom, or be in an unused bathroom alone, or in a closet just sitting on the floor alone in the dark, rocking back and forth to maintain that level of intensity and emotion. So, I wasn't very popular that day!"
Recalling a particular incident, he said he remembers scaring away director Kylie Milusnic. "She came up to me after the shoot and said: 'You know, I just didn't want to talk to you. I'd come into the room, and open the door, and you'd be there shaking. I would try to say things to you and give you notes, and you would just nod your head! We felt so bad!'"
Miles, however, insists in between chuckles that he was completely approachable despite his serious outlook. "I was like, 'Guys, I'm totally fine, I just got to be in that element. I can listen to you; I can talk to you!'" But it was all water under the bridge once the camera stops rolling. "We would all just hang after we wrapped and would share stories about our day and laugh about it," he says.
It was undoubtedly a teaching moment for Miles, who now looks back upon the day as a pleasant memory. Of course, holding on such characters can offer little good, though this did earn him his first Emmy nomination. "You just gotta shake it off, and it's something you have to laugh about!" he says.
The drama has thus seen the actor form a close relationship with some of the cast, including its director. "We had a 30-person crew, and I met Kylie, who was also the co-executive producer, on the set. She was brought in by two of my close friends from the very beginning, and we talk every day, and I see her 3-4 times a week."
She would prove to be pivotal in seeing Miles and Lee recognized for their roles in the drama, as he confesses himself: "When it was time to campaign for the 'For Your Consideration' events, we attended 55 in the span of just two months."
While Miles boasts of a glittering C.V., it may very well prove to be 'Broken' that puts him on the map as one of the industry's most promising stars.