Michael Shannon has heard the complaints about actors and celebrities talking about politics.
The Lexington native and twice-Oscar-nominated actor has not been one to keep his politics to himself in recent years, and that’s been met with admonishments to “shut up and act,” and much worse.
He heartily disagrees with the sentiment.
“The notion that an actor should just shut up and act and not think about the world is kind of ridiculous, because it’s part of the job of acting to be empathetic, aware, attentive and thoughtful about existence,” Shannon said in an recent phone interview with the Herald-Leader. “And if you’re those things, you can’t help but get swept up in what’s going on right now. You can’t help but have an opinion about it.”
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And Shannon, who started acting with groups such as Actors Guild of Lexington and the Lexington Children’s Theatre, will be bringing his opinion home this coming weekend for the culmination of campaigning for the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Shannon, whose film credits include last year’s Oscar winner for best picture “The Shape of Water” and the current critical favorite “What They Had,” is coming to Lexington and Louisville as part of The Hometown Project. It’s a Brooklyn-based effort that, “encourages cultural leaders from all walks of life to return to their hometowns with the goal of bringing attention to local campaigns and issues important to the community,” according to a statement on the organization’s website.
Shannon says he got involved with the organization with the encouragement of his wife, Kate Arrington, who knew he had strong opinions about current events and wanted to do something to get involved. His visit will include a Saturday night performance with his band Corporal at Smiley Pete Publishing and then a Sunday night gig with the band at Louisville’s Odeon.
At the time of the recent interview, Shannon had not determined any additional plans for his visit and said his primary mission is to encourage people to vote.
“We can’t afford apathy and disillusionment — the feeling that our vote doesn’t matter,” Shannon said. “It’s very hard to find a candidate that’s perfect. You’re always going to find something you don’t like about them, a flaw; people aren’t perfect. Nodody’s going to save the world, solve all the problems at once. But there’s people more inclined to do something about it than others, and it’s incumbent on us to make sure those are the people calling the shots, not people that are just concerned with their own self interests.”
While he is coming at the climax of the 2018 campaign, at the time of the interview, Shannon said he had not made plans to campaign with any specific candidates.
“Some of these people may not want to be associated with me, so I don’t want to talk about them before we’ve had a chance to speak directly,” he says.
That’s in part because Shannon has not minced words when it comes to President Donald Trump and his administration.
In an interview with Playboy magazine this summer, he said “F--- that guy,” in the midst of an extended diatribe about why he would never want to play Trump in a movie. Shortly after the 2016 election, he blamed older people for Trump’s election in Metro magazine and said, “if you’re voting for Trump, it’s time for the urn.”
All of this led Vanity Fair to declare that among his other talents, Shannon is good at, “at finding inventive new ways to insult Donald Trump.”
“I’ve said pretty whackadoo things, particularly after the 2016 election,” said Shannon, who added he received threats after some of his comments. “I was furious, I was so upset. I’m not a centrist. I’m not a moderate. I’m not a keep your head down and be cool kind of guy. I express my opinion pretty adamantly, and some people may not want to be associated with that. I don’t blame ‘em.”
This issue at the top of Shannon’s list is climate change, particularly following the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that said there could be major climate impacts in the next few decades if steps are not taken to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.
“People aren’t taking that seriously,” Shannon said. “We just got some major information, and we’re acting like we didn’t. I’ve got kids. A lot of people have kids — my youngest daughter’s 4. I don’t want her to wake up every morning when she’s 16 and be confronted by the destruction of the Earth. A 16 year old shouldn’t be confronted with that on a daily basis.”
While some of the issues he is addressing are pretty dark, Shannon says his Kentucky visit, “Should be fun, not a drag.
“My message is not for everybody. But voting is for everybody.”
IF YOU GO
Michael Shannon with Corporal
Also performing: Small Batch, Big Maracas, Yalonda JD Green, Brett Ratliff and others
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 3
Where: Smiley Pete Publishing, 434 Old Vine St.
Admission: $10 suggested donation