PASADENA — Michael J. Willett has been working consistently since graduating from Clovis West. The majority of his work — from "Blue Mountain State" to "The United States of Tara" — has been guest roles as a high school student.
He's still in high school with his new series, MTV's "Faking It," but Willett has made the leap from guest star to series regular. His character is a good friend to a pair of high school girls (Katie Stevens, Rita Volk) who are mistakenly outed as lesbians. They don't correct the misconception because it has given them instant celebrity status.
Willett jokes that he wishes he had gone to a high school like the one in the TV show because it's so overly progressive.
"It's way more accepting. Being different makes you cool. I think that's what we're all really drawn to about the script," Willett says.
He never had to worry about being in or out while in high school because he was friends with all different kinds of people. He hung out with the groups he calls "punk kids, theater geeks, Asian nerds and the skater kids." He also was in a band. Willett got bullied in high school, but he stresses it was no more than any other student.
Having been friends with so many different groups makes it easy for him to relate to his character in "'Faking It," who also has an array of friends. Willett says being a series regular is amazing.
"I finally get to have some consistency with playing a role. I'm getting to play a character that people can learn to love over time," Willett says. "I'll be in everyone's living room."
He feels like his character, Shane, is an idyllic version of himself. He just wishes he could be as cool as Shane in real life. Willett at least gets to play cool in the new cable series that comes from Carter Covington. The show's executive producer describes Willett as "charming and confident and funny" along with having great acting range.
Casting a Clovis actor in his series may be a good luck charm for Covington. His series "Greek" featured Clovis High graduate Aaron Hill, which ran for four seasons.
"Faking It" continues a trend for Willett: playing high school students. He is OK with the role.
"I know I look like an embryo, so I'm going to be playing high school for a while. It's something I accept. I'm always excited to play a high school student because it's such an important time in your life. It's when you are discovering yourself," Willett says.
Willett loves his new show, but he still maintains a passion for theater — something that started while growing up in the central San Joaquin Valley. He starred in high school productions of "The Wiz" and "Little Shop of Horrors," plus the Children's Musical Theaterworks productions of "Oliver," "Annie" and "Willy Wonka."
Being a series regular means he can pay his bills when he does less lucrative work in theater and pursues a music career.
"I can have my cake and eat it, too," Willett says. "It allows me to get some more status in the industry as far as TV and film goes. I'm just a creative person, and I like to do a lot of different things. I may go back to theater at any time — as soon as I'm available."
"Faking it" premieres 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, MTV