I definitely got that love at first sight gene from my dad."

When Michele was four months old her father died of a sudden heart attack and the family moved back to Los Angeles to live with her maternal grandmother, Carmen. Michele grew up in a bi-lingual household, rich with Latin culture and traditions. Given her mother’s musical background, Michele was listening to the classic boleros and rancheras of Mexican music from an early age as well as the traditional country/Americana LPs that had been her father’s favorites.
 
     
 
Cousin Jesus & Michele
“I was drawn to those styles of music, what I call root music, from the earliest days of being aware of the record player. There was a passion in it, a purity of sound that really struck me as a child. But then, I was an odd kid….I walked out of The Sound Of Music at our local movie theatre because I thought it was too syrupy and schmaltzy…...but I knew every lyric, every guitar lick on the Johnny Cash prison albums. I’m sure it amused my grandmother to hear me singing Cocaine Blues at six years old…with no idea what the song was actually about…..I was definitely not the little girl next door…”
 
 
Michele studied ballet for many years and had young adult aspirations to join a ballet company until her mother enrolled her in a junior high school drama class to overcome extreme shyness.

“My mother was afraid that I would be pathologically shy my whole life. I couldn’t even join the Brownies at Hancock Park elementary out of sheer social intimidation. But I loved the outfits.”

In drama class, Michele blossomed, discovering not only an innate talent for acting but also a way to build self -confidence and self-esteem. She began participating in drama festivals and writing dramatic pieces for performance. Her natural inclination toward writing and literature developed another dimension and she immersed herself in the arts, theatre, writing and music, while she attended Fairfax High School in the heart of L.A.

Admitted to the University of Southern California BFA program in Theatre on a scholarship, Michele trained classically as an actor for four years. She studied with Louis Fantasia, James Wilson, Kate Fitzmaurice, John Blankenchip, Duncan Ross and Peggy Feury among others. The program had dance and singing requirements as well and Michele began writing music and developing her own style as a singer/songwriter, a fusion of the Latin and Americana influences of her childhood.

During college, Michele also began working in television and film, playing young teen roles to help pay her school expenses.
 
     
 
 
First Job 1979
  Dukes of Hazard 1983
 
   
  “I got the first job I auditioned for, a horribly idiotic pilot that was a bad version of The Facts of Life, if you can imagine that. I didn’t understand that I had signed a five-year contract if the show had succeeded, I was so naïve. But I figured it out and I would not do any more pilots while I was in school as I did not want to interrupt my education. I did a lot of guest shots, playing runaways and teenaged drug addicts. Helen Hunt and I did some awful TV movie about drug use where she smoked a joint and promptly jumped out a window. I think I shot myself in the head because my drug pusher boyfriend wouldn’t give me any more cocaine….it was quite an extreme cautionary tale! Compared to what I was doing in school, Ibsen, Lorca, Shakespeare, it was a different kind of education about the realities of the TV and film industry. I leaned a lot in those years.”

Upon graduation Michele landed a plum role in the much-heralded Steven Bochco series, Bay City Blues. The show died quickly but it led to Michele being cast three years later as the put upon young lawyer Abigail Perkins in the groundbreaking NBC series, L.A.Law. Michele appeared on the show for five seasons and received an Emmy nomination for her work.

Michele continued to work steadily in television and film, appearing in numerous Lifetime and cable movies. She devoted more and more time to music and writing, leading to the release of her two critically acclaimed, bi-lingual, world music CD’s, Ojo de Tiburon and Luna Roja. Her debut young adult novel, Chasing The Jaguar, was published by Harper Collins in June 0f 2006. Micheleís new novel, Keep Sweet, will be released by Simon and Schuster in March 2010. Go to Writing/ Books and News for more information.

Her early involvement in the arts had a profound effect on Michele and it has fueled her interest in working with inner city youth to promote literacy and drama through her own foundation, Adelante Arts. She gives writing and drama workshops at schools and in other youth programs around the country.

ď I have so many projects in the works right now, in every area, music, books, theatre, television. Like the life of any artist it has not been linear and it has not always been easy. There are so many stories to tell and so many ways to tell them. Itís a lot of work and sometimes it feels like pushing a Hummer up a hillÖ. but itís about reflecting this complicated, unsettling, beautiful thing called life back at peopleÖ..so we can all understand it a little bit better. Iím lucky to have had the chance to make this my life. Iíll rest when Iím 100 years old. I take vitamins.Ē
 
   
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