In the ring The Miz’s persona is often arrogant, self-absorbed and, well, a Grinch.
However, when he walks back through the curtain the superstar, real name Michael Mizanin, is a workaholic who juggles WWE commitments, fan appearances, entertainment projects, his SiriusXM radio show and time with his fiancée Maryse.
Audiences get to see a softer, vulnerable side of the performer in his latest WWE Studios movie “Christmas Bounty,” which originally aired on ABC Family, but is now available exclusively at Walmart and Apple iTunes. The Miz stars as bounty hunter Mikey Muscles trying to retrieve a lost love in Tory (Francia Raisa), who has attempted to escape her past in the same line of work and family business.
She reluctantly returns home for Christmas when a past bounty returns for revenge. Tory finds her new fiancé James (Will Greenburg) followed her home for the holidays, making it that much harder to hide her wild family business and The Miz.
The Miz says so far all the WWE superstars have been immensely supportive of the film.
“They always look for things to make fun of me with,” The Miz said. “I think there is a lot of ammunition in this movie just because of the romance aspect. Any type of romance, guys like to make fun of guys. I think a stronger man can show his sensitive side and be comfortable with it. They are definitely giving me a lot of grief and mimicking some of the phrases Mikey Muscles does in the movie.
“They will also use the hashtag Mikey Muscles because that’s my name in the movie. They love that one. They love the one where I’m doing the past, present, future in the movie. I have a line like that. They keep texting me past, present, future. You know people like you when they are making fun of you. It’s all out of love.”
He received a similar response on social media, which isn’t always easy.
“As far as Twitter is concerned, my God, usually for every 10 that say, ‘You’re awesome’; there is one that says, ‘You suck.’ It’s all been really positive,” The Miz said. “I’m actually pretty shocked because, no matter what, there is always one guy out there who wants to go against the grain and make fun of The Miz. It hasn’t been like that. Everyone has been real supportive. I watched it over my buddy’s house who has two kids. I wanted to watch it with the wife, the husband and the two kids to see how they perceive it and if they really like it and enjoy it.
“My buddy text me yesterday saying his daughter has not stopped watching this movie ever since. He told me every day it has to be on. He says, ‘Quite honestly, I’m sick of you right now.’ I’m like, ‘That’s good. It’s good to be sick of me that your daughter is watching it so much.’ He basically told me I’m his daughter’s first crush, which I take full honor in. I think it’s pretty cool.”
The budding actor believes “Christmas Bounty” resonates with viewers because of the holiday spirit it brings.
“It’s Christmas time, so it brings a smile to everyone’s faces,” The Miz said. “It’s not just a comedy or drama. It has action, drama and a little bit of everything for whether you are a kid or an adult. You can sit down with the family to have some eggnog, have the Christmas tree lit, the fireplace going and sit back to watch this movie. I think you are going to watch with a smile and a feel-good moment.”
The former star of MTV’s “The Real World” and other reality shows has been adding more television and movie work to his resume. Among them include guest spots “Psych”, “Disney’s Pair of Kings” and “The Campaign,” as well as the lead in “The Marine 3: Homefront”. He also recently filmed for The Muppets new YouTube series “Muppisodes.” He believes he took something new from “The Christmas Bounty” experience.
“Gil Junger, who is the director, was so hands-on and so great to work with,” The Miz said. “He allowed me to get into this character and let me kind of do what I wanted to do and also direct me. He gave me pointers and knowledge, as well as Francia. She has been in the game for quite a while now with ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager.’ She has done some tremendous drama work, where I’m coming off ‘The Marine 3: Homefront.’
“I do a lot of action scenes. I feel like I helped Francia with her action scenes. She helped me with the drama and romance scenes because this is the first time I got to really do romance onscreen. I was really excited about doing that because it’s one of those things that’s a whole new layer that people have never seen me in. I feel like, and from what I’ve been told, I hit it out of the park. It’s a huge compliment. Whenever guys are making fun of you about it, you know you did a good job.”
Despite what he has done so far, he is still looking to hone his skills as an actor.
“It’s kind of like when you are a rookie, your rookie season you have some good and some bad,” The Miz said. “You see some things you can do better. Going into ‘Christmas Bounty,’ I felt like I could prepare more because I knew what I was going into. I kind of knew where the cameras were and what to really build off of and shine and do well. I think it prepared me more for this role.”
Given the role, it’s easy to get into the Christmas spirit and reflect on holidays past. When it comes to presents, he always tells people the best gift you can give him is nothing.
“I hate those moments where you get something and are like, ‘Wow, thank you very much.’ They then ask if you really like it. Then you go, ‘No, I love it.’ Then it’s like a pair of socks,” The Miz said. “It’s not the best gift in the world, but you have to make it the best gift in the world.”
He will say those Isotoner gloves he got one year as a youngster was truly one of the best Christmas gifts he ever received. It was because they were endorsed by his favorite NFL quarterback.
“I am a huge Dan Marino fan and still am a huge Dan Marino fan,” The Miz said. “I met him out in Miami, and that guy was so nice. He was like a hero to me growing up. It was him, Bernie Kosar, Jose Canseco and Magic Johnson. I felt like he was the one who turned out the best. Sometimes when you meet your heroes and people you grow up loving and watching, it’s kind of a letdown. He was above and beyond wonderful. I really had a great experience down there in Miami [during the WrestleMania 28 press conference].”
When it comes to his future bride, he finds it easy to shop for Maryse.
“She will go, ‘I want this.’ Then its like, ‘OK, cool,’” The Miz said. “Though I always try to do something nice to surprise her, I like to do something from the heart. It’s usually something I make, and usually its crap. It’s like a horrible gift, but since I made it and it’s from the heart...It’s like me doing a drawing of us or writing a poem. Let me tell you something. I’m not a poet or an artist, but guess what? I’m going to try to do the best I can because I feel like when you make something that’s from the heart makes it that much more special. I always like those types of gifts.”
The couple’s big day is months away as the former WWE diva is at work planning the wedding of her dreams.
“I’m getting married in February, and I never pictured myself getting married to be quite honest with you,” The Miz said, “let alone enjoying the whole process of getting married. We were going over bits and pieces about the wedding, and I enjoy it. I like it. It’s fun. We enjoy doing it together. It’s not the hassle everyone makes it out to be. I think it’s because the people we are dealing with are making it so easy for us.”
With couples on the way to the altar, the question of kids usually comes up.
“We both want kids,” The Miz said. “I want a little Miz running around, even though I know he is going to be the most annoying kid in the world. If he is anything like his father, then my God! I’m definitely preparing for that, but who knows how long that will be. There has definitely been talks, and my outlook on WWE is I’m still going to do as I always have. I’m going to work as hard as I can to entertain those audiences, whether it’s on WWE or on a movie from WWE Studios.”
With Miz’s rigorous schedule, it helps to have someone at home who understands the unique and hectic life of a sports entertainer.
“Knowing that Maryse knows what I have to go through [makes it easier],” The Miz said. “She knows the travel process. A person who doesn’t know anything about what WWE is all about, they think you are going out every night partying the whole time and enjoying yourself. That couldn’t be further from the truth. WWE superstars nowadays when we get done with our shows, we go to the next town. We wake up. We work out and go to the next show. It’s a whole grind that we go through, but one we love because we get to perform in front of a live audience each night.”
The Miz sees his hard working paying off.
“I’m now one of the guys WWE turns to,” The Miz said. “It’s kind of a compliment. I’ve become the go-to guy. When I came to WWE, everyone thought I was going to get fired within three months of being there. Now here I am, eight years later, one of the top superstars. Not only that, but I’m the go-to guy for whatever they need. Stephanie McMahon once called me a utility player, and I took that as a compliment because utility guys last the longest anyways. Not only that, I ask to do these things. I say, ‘Put me on more media. Make me do more stuff,’ because I know in the end it’s for the better in the long run.”
One of the aspects The Miz enjoys most about being a WWE superstar is giving back to the community. This is why he is so involved in the company’s Be a STAR anti-bullying program. Whether he is a bad guy or not on the shows, he believes it’s not hard to tell his persona and his true self apart.
“I never considered myself a heel,” The Miz said. “Even when I first came to WWE, I didn’t say I was the heel or bad guy. I always just said, ‘I just be Miz.’ That’s why I have it on my trunk. I’m not good. I’m not bad. I just do what I need to do to be successful in WWE. Whenever I do these Be a STAR campaigns, I try to educate the kids that what they see on TV is TV, but what they deal with in reality is what they are going to come home to.
“So I try to make sure they know how to deal with bullies because a lot times with kids and bullying, they keep it in themselves. That is the worst thing you can do. You need to tell people. Tell a friend, family member, mom, dad, and a teacher, anyone that you are getting bullied. A lot of times kids are quiet about it. That starts depression and starts to make you not want to go to school. I love the Be a STAR campaign, and I don’t think it’s difficult to separate the two at all because WWE is a television show. That is what we try to educate our kids with.”
These days The Miz finds himself working with occasional tag team partner and longtime rival Kofi Kingston. He calls Kingston one of the most underrated superstars in WWE.
“What I’m trying to do is get a spark out of him,” The Miz said. “We basically want the spotlight, and we’ve been put in situations where we want to outshine each other. I ask, ‘How I am going to get people talking about me?’ I would imagine Kofi is going to ask how to get people talking about him. So that’s kind of what we are doing right now. Whatever we have to do to make people talk, to get people to chat, whether it’s social media, at home and in the crowd, we do it. That’s what I’m doing nowadays. I don’t care about if it’s bad, if it’s good.
“I need to start worrying about what The Miz needs to do to go back where I was two years ago, which was the main event of WrestleMania and in the top status of WWE. We’re talking about Randy Orton and John Cena being the faces of the company. If you don’t want to be the face of the company, then you shouldn’t be in WWE. That’s exactly where I want to be. I want to be the champion, so right now that is what I’m building toward.”
Despite his own career aspirations, The Miz couldn’t be prouder of Daniel Bryan and all he has accomplished thus far.
“Daniel Bryan is on a tear right now,” The Miz said. “He is one of the most beloved guys in the WWE Universe. Every time he comes out you hear ‘Yes!’ chants. Even when he is not out, they chant, ‘We want Daniel Bryan!’ I mean the guy has been absolutely incredible. He has built his career and earned his way all the way to the top. He is doing incredible, and I’ll take full credit for it for being his pro on NXT.”
Between wedding planning and everything else he has going on, one question remains. When does The Miz sleep?
“You name it, and I’m on it,” The Miz said. “There is no rest for the weary.”
• “Christmas Bounty” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray exclusively at Wal-Mart, as well as on iTunes.
• See The Miz during the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-view preshow on the panel with Josh Matthews, Booker T and Mick Foley at 7:30 p.m. EST Sunday, Dec. 15. The preshow will also feature Dolph Ziggler taking on Fandango with Summer Rae. The pay-per-view occurs at 8 p.m. EST and is headlined by WWE champion Randy Orton battling World champ John Cena in a tables, ladders and chairs title unification match.
For preshow and PPV details, visit http://www.wwe.com/shows/wwetlc.
• Follow The Miz on Twitter @MiketheMiz.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.