Actor and Schaumburg native Michael Roark still a 'classic' suburban guy
Classic Suburban Guy.
Michael Roark doesn't get paid for that last job.
But that's how he described himself in a Daily Herald interview back in 2016.
A classic suburban guy.
After acting stints in the movies "Magic Mike" and "Dolphin Tale," plus roles in CBS' "The Young and the Restless" and The CW's "Beauty and the Beast," the Schaumburg native has the lead role in the inspirational drama "Bennett's War" now in theaters.
Roark plays new dad Marshall Bennett, a wounded U.S. soldier from the Army Motorcycle Unit in Afghanistan. Sent back home to his rural California family farmstead, he's told he'll never be able to ride his cherished motor bike again.
But his dad has fallen behind on the mortgage payments, so Marshall revs up his old bike and heads off to San Bernardino's Glen Helen Raceway to attempt an ill-advised and potentially disastrous comeback.
So what are the specific demands of portraying a damaged military vet, a new daddy, a hardworking farming man and a fearless motocross racer?
"Well, there's not enough ink to get into all of that," Roark said in an email interview. "What I can say is that while I continue to collect many tools over my career, it is all largely guided by instinct."
He added, "Thankfully, I had some experience on bikes so riding motocross bikes was not too steep a learning curve."
Roark, a Schaumburg High School grad and the third of four brothers, played on sports teams and became a Boy Scout while growing up in the suburbs. He earned money by mowing lawns and shoveling driveways.
As his first employment, Roark worked at Gino's East in Rolling Meadows (since closed), with three fellow Schaumburg High School football teammates.
Yep, a classic suburban guy for sure.
Things became a little less-classic when the acting bug bit him bad at Illinois State University where he earned a minor in theater. But his ultimate goal was to become a lawyer.
So he went to law school at the University of Florida and continued to act on the side.
He passed the bar in 2009 but had to tend another kind of bar to pay the bills for a few years. By 2011, offers slowly came his way for TV work in Los Angeles.
So where did he get this drive to succeed?
"I think growing up in Schaumburg and Chicagoland instilled in me a willingness to work," he said. "I have been to most of the rest of the country and while there is great work ethic all over, there are also many places where people just don't work nearly as hard as where I grew up."
Roark said he's grateful for two things: his Midwest roots and growing up in a place with four changing seasons.
"I think it teaches character," he explained.
Roark joins a distinguished group of actors (including George Clooney, Sandra Bullock and Clint Eastwood) who have evolved into producers to create projects to employ themselves as actors.
"It's an added perk of being an actor-producer," Roark explained. "It's not a prerequisite that I have a role in the film, but it's certainly a factor in the projects I am interested in pursuing. It allows me to use both sides of the brain and it's really a rewarding process."
Since his first Daily Herald interview in 2016, Roark has been adding to his acting and producing resume, writing a book, traveling and continuing to work his day job as an attorney. Oh, and he said he's thinking about running for office. (No exact office specified, yet.)
For the time being, acting still has its perks.
"I continue to meet wonderful, interesting, charming people and to make a living at something I love," he said.
"Not a bad gig."
• If you're not a subscriber, get a great introductory deal to become one and never miss another Schaumburg story.