In most cases, a working actor who lands the role of a super-villain at the center of a big Hollywood movie is going to soak up every minute in the spotlight.
But that isn’t the situation for Mike Houston, who plays disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in “She Said,” which opened Friday.
Not only did the Queens-based actor take a pass on walking the red carpet at the movie’s New York Film Festival premiere in October — he skipped the screening altogether.
“There would have been so much focus pulled to see who’s playing Harvey,” Houston told the Daily News.
According to the 46-year-old actor, it was important for him and everyone else who worked on the movie to keep the focus on the survivors of Weinstein’s brutality, as well as New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, who helped bring down the Queens-born film producer and rapist.
Weinstein is currently taking a break from a 23-year prison sentence in upstate New York to stand trial on separate sex crimes charges in Los Angeles.
Houston said that he and his wife — who works with organizations that support women who have been traumatized by abuse — decided that even hearing “Where’s Harvey? Who’s playing Harvey?” shouted out from a movie premier photo-line might have made the film’s debut uncomfortable for attendees who’d come into contact with the Miramax founder.
“You’re talking about a red carpet premier, where the name ‘Harvey!’ is being yelled,” he spelled out.
Houston told the Daily News that he even asked not be credited so that neither Weinstein or his victims would see the convicted sex offender’s name on a movie screen.
“That’s how we came to know who Harvey Weinstein was and gave this power to him,” Houston said. “Once he has that power, he used it in awful ways.”
The Colorado native, known to “Orange is the New Black” fans as CO Lee Dixon, said that thankfully, Universal Pictures was “very kind” and set up a private screening for him and his wife so they could see “She Said” without being a distraction.
A source familiar with the movie told the The News that Houston’s screen time is very brief, but his character’s daunting presence is felt throughout the two-hour film, which stars Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan and Patricia Clarkson.
Houston — a self-described “big dude” who stands 6′1, has broad shoulders and played offensive line on his school football teams — said that his heart “skipped a beat” when his intimidating character shows up in the highly anticipated movie.
“As a kid I never even thought those kinds of monsters were real, but I did play a wolf when I was in kindergarten, in ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ so maybe I was destined to play this kind of character,” he said.
When preparing to play Weinstein, Houston had a hard time wrapping his head around the kind of power the award-winning producer commanded. He was amazed to learn how craven lawyers, publicists and crisis managers eagerly attacked journalists, silenced rape victims and kept ne’er-do-wells like Weinstein not only out of prison but in the limelight. It concerns him those fixers are still out there shielding other powerful degenerates.
“I’d like to see more films about the people around him who turned a blind eye to him or told us he was something he was not,” Houston said.
Ironically, Houston can’t say more about his role in “She Said” because he signed a non-disclosure agreement. He said he never knew such contracts could also be used to silence rape victims. But Houston was able to say that the film’s producers wound up crediting him in the movie anyway and he’s proud to have been a part of the project.
“Even if I have an actors’ moment like ‘Oh man, it would have been nice to have my picture taken with everyone else, it’s my premiere,’ that [goes] away real fast,” he said. “I truly believe the universe kind of works in its own way and whatever is going to happen for me is going to happen if we do it the right way, which is to focus on the survivors.”