Few actors have a linear career path, and for many it’s the twists and turns that help define them. That’s definitely true of Canadian actor Michael Cera, who appeared in “Arrested Development,” then quickly followed up with breakout movie performances in “Juno” and “Superbad.”
It certainly looked like Cera was set up to be an A-list star for at least the next decade, but that wasn’t quite what happened. In many ways his career path has become the definition of “quirky,” so let’s trace his journey and take a closer look at some of the ups and downs.
Early Days: A Spectacular Start
Born in Brampton, Ontario in 1988, the acting bug bit Cera early and hard. He took improv lessons at Second City in Toronto, then made his first bid to become a child star when he did character voicing as Brother Bear on “The Berenstain Bears.”
But it was landing the role of George Michael Bluth on “Arrested Development” that gave him the visibility to launch his movie career. Which promptly took off like a rocket, thanks to the aforementioned movies, most notably “Juno” and “Superbad.”
As good an actor as Cera obviously is, his judgment when it comes to follow-up projects hasn’t been nearly as excellent. His first dubious choice was “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” which got positive reviews but didn’t do much at the box office.
Then things got worse. “Year One” was quickly dubbed a dud, “Paper Heart” got labeled the same, and both critics and audiences found “Youth in Revolt” to be, well, revolting. Cera’s fall from the A-list seemed complete when “Scott Pilgrim Conquers the World” fizzled, audience-wise, at which point Cera’s film career seemed cooked, to say the least.
Many actors cave when the film offers start coming, but Cera’s versatility and determination have kept him on the map, albeit not on the silver screen.
He’s definitely kept busy, especially in the theatrical world. Turns out Cera has serious acting chops – he starred in “This is Our Youth,” then did a star turn in “Lobby Hero” that earned him a Tony nomination. His most recent theatrical appearance was in “The Waverly Gallery,” a collaboration with playwright Kenneth Lonergan that seems to have marked Cera as a staple in Lonergan’s stable actors.
So what pays the bills beyond theater? Voice work, for starters. Cera has done audio character work in “Sausage Party” and “The Lego Batman Movie,” and he’s landed solid supporting roles in “Molly’s Game” and the revival of “Twin Peaks.” He’s also worked with horror maven Jordan Peele in “Weird City.”
His music career has had some interesting moments, too. Cera helped front an acoustic band, Long Goodbye, and he also worked with Weezer before releasing his own album, “True That,” in 2014. The album’s success surprised everyone, even Cera, and he’s been involved in film scoring as well.
Cera’s had some interesting moments scoring in his love life, too. He took a lot of flak for dumping long-time girlfriend Charlyne Yi back in 2009 when he first became famous, then nearly married Scott Pilgrim co-star Aubrey Plaza.
After that Cera got private in a hurry, and he really doesn’t do much social media to provide fodder for the paparazzi. He secretly married his girlfriend, Nadine, back in 2018, and so far he’s shown no signs of romantic wanderlust.
As for his acting career, who knows? Cera has several upcoming film projects in the works, including “Barbie,” and his talent and versatility will always allow him to get work. He does have some work to do at the box office, though, and that will determine whether he can reestablish himself as a serious star.