When The Miz struts to the ring, feeding off of the audience’s chorus of boos, announcers declare he’s from “Hollywood, California.” Decked out in Prada shades, black scarves, and escorted by his glamour model wife, Maryse, he channels the personality of an A-list blowhard, often with WWE title belts slung over his shoulder. But when the guy behind the character speaks about his actual forays into Hollywood, he’s calm, articulate, and very friendly. During a recent phone call with Inverse to discuss his new movie, The Marine 5: Battleground, he made clear that at that moment he was plain old Mike from Parma, Ohio.
Available now on Blu-ray and digital, the new movie from WWE Studios features Mike Mizanin, again, as Jake Carter, an ex-marine and EMT who must protect a wounded criminal from a violent biker gang. Although his boisterous TV character would say he’s flawless, the “real” Miz admits he’s had to learn as an actor since appearing in his first movie, 2013’s *The Marine 3: Homefront.”
“Have I grown? Oh my god, completely,” he admits. “The first time was a big learning experience. I always write down anything I learn on set, so before Marine 5, I went back and looked at Marine 3 and Marine 4. Each time you learn something new. I feel like I’m a sponge.”
Mike Mizanin began his showbiz career on Real World, and so he’s completed the ascent from reality to pure fiction. He spoke with Inverse about that long journey, and what he’s learned along the way.
Talk to me about returning as Jake Carter. He’s an EMT in The Marine 5. Did you learn any emergency medical training for the role?
That’s exactly what I did. I had a guy on set that was an EMT, that could show me everything I needed to know about what an EMT does. I drove around with them in the ambulance and saw what a night was like. When I [played] a Secret Service agent, I followed around one of our security guys because he was exactly what I was playing. I wanted to pick his brain.
It’s all about survival for Jake Carter. That’s what The Marine is all about, showing tactical skills outside his true element of war.
Your co-stars include Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas, Naomi, and Heath Slater. What was it like having WWE colleagues as your co-stars? Was there a different vibe you guys had on set than in the ring?
I wouldn’t say a different vibe or a different energy, but having WWE superstars, people that I know, that I’ve been around, I think it brings a comfortable [energy] to the set. [Director] James Nunn, who knows how to get every ounce of talent you have out, is great. He just knows how to get everything out of the actors, as well as the crew, and made it a very positive aura for the set, which allowed us to have fun but also get a gritty movie.
WWE touring schedules are notoriously packed. What was it like having time to shoot The Marine 5? Were you given time off from the wrestling grind?
We were all given a bit of time off. It was a 20-day shoot, non-stop. That’s what makes it tough, because not only are we acting, but we’re doing our fight scenes, fight coordinating, all in 20 days. We don’t have time to mess around. WWE has a tight schedule, and they need us on the road at all times.
To be able to go and do a movie for 20 days was very, very tough, but everyone came to play, everyone had their lines down, their characters down, and everyone knew exactly what they wanted out of every scene and how to elevate every scene. Then, there’s James, making people hustle so we can get this movie exactly the way we wanted it.
The Marine 3 was my first movie. I remember texting The Rock saying, “Hey, if you have any advice I’d really appreciate it. I’m on set ready to do my first scene.” Not a minute later I got a call back and we talked for half an hour. He was just educating me and giving me so much advice. The number one thing he said is, “So many times you’re worried about so many things: hitting the right spot, the right light. What you really need to worry about is being natural. Enjoy yourself, have fun, but be natural.”
It sounds simple, but when you’re there you understand [playing a] marine. There’s so many things I have to think about that you forget. This is supposed to be fun, and you just need to act natural.
What were the hardest stunts you had to pull off for this movie?
You would think that the hardest thing would be fight scenes with Bo Dallas or Curtis Axel. However, the toughest thing I had to do is run. You see me run a lot. That isn’t even a third of how much I ran in that movie. The EMT case, the bag I had, was 60 pounds. I was running everywhere, up and down stairs with that 60-pound bag, and there was no way to make it lighter, because if we took out the machine in it, it would not look [right]. So we had to keep it. That was definitely the most difficult part for me.
Beyond The Marine 5, you had a huge match at WrestleMania this year against John Cena and Nikki Bella. That feud felt way more personal than some of your other rivalries. How much of that feud was driven by real feelings?
There has been drama in these parties if you will. Yes, there is some personal things we brought up, that we brought out into the world. I think people have seen it on Total Divas. Maryse came onto Total Divas, and the Bellas weren’t very, I don’t think, happy about that, and you could see it in the first episode that Maryse is in. Obviously, there’s a little bit of bad blood, and so we did what we had to do to get our story out there.
What’s the future of The Marine series looking like? Could there be a crossover with John Cena’s character from the original Marine?
You really never know what is going to happen with these Marine movies. I thought when I did Marine 3 that was it. And now it’s Marine 5, I’m like, “Wait a second, I’m in a franchise?” It’s a cool feeling, and I’m humbled because I never went overseas and protected our country as Mike Mizanin. I have been there for our Tribute to the Troops that WWE does every year. Those guys are the real heroes, and I’m just trying to allow them to enjoy a movie.