Josh Mikel on ‘Respect’ and ‘Ragged Heart’

Photo credit: Sean Robertson

When I spoke with Josh Mikel about his roles in Greenland and Active Shooter, he also gave me some great insight into two of his upcoming projects- the Aretha Franklin Biopic Respect and Ragged Heart.


Respect was supposed to premiere in September, but due to COVID-19, the release was pushed back to August 2021. Josh plays Roger Hawkins, a drummer. Luckily, this role wasn’t hard for Josh, because he’s a drummer himself. 

“I played drums for a touring band for a while called Look Mexico, when I was in college and I guess we played together for about 10 years or so. They moved to Austin and I moved to Atlanta to pursue acting further so yeah, I played drums with them and now I’ve got a band up here in Atlanta and that I’ve been playing with.”

Since Josh already knew the instrument, you’d think it wouldn’t be too hard to play this role. But Roger Hawkins is an incredible drummer.

“It was hard to play Roger Hawkins’ stuff, so if you don’t know Roger Hawkins, he played on obviously a lot of Aretha Franklin stuff, but also [Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section]… He’s just such a finesse drummer, which I’m not, I’m like from the School of Dave Grohl, hit it hard and loud. And so, it was kind of hard to do justice to his stuff because there’s so much finesse, it’s so tasteful…. He serves the song rather than letting his ego ever step in the way and that’s the case with all of the Muscle Shoals guys. One of the things that they talked about with Aretha Franklin is, when she showed up with her team, they didn’t realize that the Muscle Shoals guys were white dudes. They’re just really understated and they continue to be. It’s like, some of the guys showed up to set and they’re not superstars but they played on some of the biggest hits of the past half century. They’re really, really amazing dudes. If you look at their credits, it’s impressive. It’s just unreal.”

While on set, Josh didn’t always have to act like he was drumming, he actually got to show his talents.

“Yeah, I actually got to drum. We would play to play back in a couple of scenes…  when they were shooting my direction, I would play live. We had earpieces so we can stay on time to the playback. And then other times when they were shooting in Jennifer Hudson’s direction, we would just pretend like we’re playing through the song. It was great, it was a dream, it was just such a gift to be able to sit in the room and and be a small audience for one of the best voices of our generation. That was just a really wonderful experience.”

Ragged Heart

Josh is also starring in Ragged Heart, as Declan Purcell.

Ragged Heart is a feature film my buddy Evan McNary directed, and he has connections to Athens (Georgia). He grew up not far from there and has since moved to LA and then came back as a lot of his family still lives in Athens and so I think he started writing a screenplay that kind of involves the Athens music scene. And so my character is kind of this Jack White type who had kind of a big rock career and then kind of transitions to producing other acts. And so, the film’s about one of those acts that I became involved with, and also got into drugs. She ends up dying and it’s about her father kind of coming to terms with the death and his guilt around it. It’s really understated and I believe in Evan as a filmmaker, he is a really fantastic filmmaker. I’ve seen a couple of cuts of it and it’s really cool, really natural.”

We’ll get to meet up with his character and learn about his history with the Athens rock music scene as well as meeting some of the young artists he’s taken under his wing and “influenced in the wrong direction.”

Declan may not be a bad guy like some of Josh’s other roles, but according to Josh, he is problematic.

Ragged Heart is rumored to hit festivals sometime this year.