Michael Aspinwall stole the show on WWE programming in 2012 as Dr. Shelby, who hosted anger management classes attended by Kane and Daniel Bryan. But not a whole lot of WWE fans know about the actor behind the doctor. As a graduate of UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film, and Television and a member of The Groundlings, Michael has an impressive history and a bright future. We talked in-depth about his time in the WWE, his memorable job right out of college and what the future holds for this awesome actor.
Alex Obert: How did you get the gig for Dr. Shelby?
Michael Aspinwall: I auditioned for it about three weeks to a month before the first segment aired.
Alex Obert: How was the character described to you when you went to audition?
Michael Aspinwall: They wanted somebody who was kind of mild-mannered. He was a little bit dull. They wanted something similar to David Cross’s character, Tobias Fünke, on Arrested Development.
Alex Obert: What was your preparation like before the first anger management segment?
Michael Aspinwall: I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare because everything in the world happens so fast. After I auditioned, I think they took into consideration that my audition was mostly improvised. They gave me the framework, but I didn’t have lines to say. They asked me to just improvise. So they took what I did in the audition and then used that to shape what was gonna happen in the segments. But the time between the audition and when we first taped those wasn’t very long, so I wasn’t really prepared. I think it turned out good because what ended up happening was that they were able to watch what I was doing and guide me.
Alex Obert: Do you recall the first time that you met Kane and Daniel Bryan?
Michael Aspinwall: It was very busy. As an actor, I was really overwhelmed. I was doing my actor homework and all that kind of stuff that I just talked about. And so they walked in totally ready to go. It was basically like a very quick hello and they said “This is Kane. He’s gonna be the one who does this, this and this.” And I was like, “Okay, great!” Then they got started. It was very much like right to work.
Alex Obert: I bet being in the ring live on RAW during the graduation segment was incomparable. What did you take out of that?
Michael Aspinwall: One of the people who worked backstage told me, “If they ever have you go into the ring, I will just let you know right now that nothing can prepare you for what that’s like. You won’t be able to describe it afterwards.” And he was absolutely right. I went out in front of the crowd two times. I went out on Smackdown once, but I didn’t have to do anything. I just walked out and looked at Kane and came back. It’s so enormous and there’s fire and there’s things exploding and then there’s just like a wall of sound. It’s the most overwhelming and surreal feeling I’ve ever had.
Alex Obert: And filming the segments seemed like it was a great time.
Michael Aspinwall: Those were really fun. It was great because that’s where I work the best. They wrote great stuff for me, stuff that sincerely made me laugh. That made it really fun to do. Working on those segments backstage with the producers, it was great fun because they were making me laugh. And I was like, “Okay, so you want it like this?” That would make them laugh. It was a ball.
Alex Obert: What was the feedback from your friends and family?
Michael Aspinwall: My family was really excited about it. My parents don’t necessarily watch the show, but they started watching to see what I was doing. So did my brother and sister. Like I said, everything happened so fast. I didn’t really advertise that I was doing it. I didn’t write all over Facebook that I was this person. So as my friends started to find out, a lot of them were so excited and started tuning into the show. When the graduation episode came around, I had a bunch of people watching.
Alex Obert: I recall a report that Sam Huntington was playing the role of Dr. Shelby. Where did that come from?
Michael Aspinwall: I actually have no idea. There is a bunch of social media out there that is pretending to be Dr. Shelby. There’s a fake Facebook page that’s pretending to be me and posting stuff. Actually I think there’s like four. The only one that is me is @DrShelbyTweets. I thought it was funny though because I didn’t know where any of this was coming from. Some of my friends from college are still huge fans of the show and one of them called me and he was like “You’re never gonna believe it, there’s the guy who looks just like you on Monday Night Raw!” I was like “That’s really funny cause I’m on Monday Night Raw.” I did enjoy the rumor though, but I didn’t start any of it. It was fun to watch it all happen. There were a couple actors that they named. They thought it was this or that person for sure. I think they said a former wrestler was Dr. Shelby. A couple people have looked at other things that I’ve done through Groundlings and stuff like that as a result of this. But I think for the most part, people still don’t know.
Alex Obert: What did you take out of your experience with The Groundlings?
Michael Aspinwall: The Groundlings is my home as an actor. I’ve been an actor all my life and I went to college for it and all that stuff, but the training that I got there was probably the best training I could’ve asked for. It prepared me a hundred percent and I had every skill I needed when I was on Monday Night Raw to do exactly what they needed me to do. And that was all because of The Groundlings.
Alex Obert: Prior to the WWE and The Groundlings, what was it like working at Bubba Gump?
Michael Aspinwall: (laughs) That was crazy! I had just finished my Master’s Degree at UCLA when I started waiting tables at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. It was not at all what I expected to be doing for my first year out of graduate school. The people that I worked with were really fun though. But after you’ve gone to UCLA to be an actor, the last thing that you want to do was wait tables at a restaurant that’s serving fish on plastic plates.
Alex Obert: What was your favorite dish there?
Michael Aspinwall: I used to eat hushpuppies a lot. Their hushpuppies were really good.
Alex Obert: In closing, what are your plans for 2015?
Michael Aspinwall: A friend of mine wrote a two person show about two grave robbers. We’re old friends from college and another friend from college and I are going to play those two grave robbers. Hopefully the show will open in Los Angeles in June. It’s a small show, so we’re trying to shop it around to little theaters and stuff like that. And I’ll be teaching at The Groundlings again this summer.
Alex Obert: Sounds like a fun time! I’d love to thank you so much for your time and a great interview.
Michael Aspinwall: Absolutely, man!