UPTOWN — A real estate mogul with a growing presence in Uptown is starring in a new reality series focused on the personal and professional lives of six friends in summertime Chicago.
The other five cast members are jewelry designer Pascale Wellin; former Bears defensive back Ray Austin, event promoter Vincent Anzalone, veterinarian Tara Clack; and Phillips Demming, a clothing designer for people and pets.
"Part of my story arc is that I am single, and there's reasons for it. What are those reasons?: I think that's what we're trying to explore during the series," said Michael, a gay, 32-year-old Uptown resident who sold his Gold Coast home and moved to the community a month ago.
He said he was reluctant to put his personal life on camera, but "in the bigger picture," he said, "whatever I'm not super proud of will become a learning experience for me."
One moment he's not proud of happens in the first episode, which kicks off with the group on a yacht in a part of Lake Michigan known as "the playpen," an area just north of Navy Pier where boaters often gather to drink and party.
"I think the playpen is really douchey. I know a lot of people who really love this scene — but I'm in real estate development. I'm just not one of them," Michael says.
He admitted in an interview that, "To some degree I wish I hadn't said it on camera, but I did."
"I don't want to say I don't go to the playpen because I'm a developer, I don't want to act like I'm too superior of a character to go to the playpen, but the truth is I'd never been to the playpen before that and I probably will never go back," he said.
When it comes to the professional side of Michael's story on "100 Days of Summer," he said "a ton of it," was filmed in Uptown, where his firm is remodeling five apartment buildings.
Michael and his partners with Flats are investing more than $100 million in distressed buildings in Uptown and other North Side neighborhoods and transforming them into trendy apartments. Most of the conversions include buildings formerly dedicated to low-income housing, although Michael has said his firm helps with relocating tenants Flats displaces.
What doesn't make it on the show, Michael said, is some of the drama spurred by his booming real estate brand, often accused by activists and low-income residents in Uptown of being a force of gentrification and displacement in the diverse community.
In January 2013, activists marched on Michael's Gold Coast home chanting: "This neighborhood of ours has room for all. This little neighborhood of ours, we aren't going to let it fall."
The show wasn't filming when that march went down, and Michael is ultimately excited about the exposure the show could bring his company.
Michael said he knows viewers will make judgments about who they like and don't like on the cast — and that many already have based on the first episode. He emphasized, however, that none of the characters are "only one personality."
"You get to learn more about these characters after the first episode," he said.
In making his point, Michael came to the defense of cast member Vince Anzalone.
Complex Magazine pop culture writer Sean Evans recently panned Anzalone as a "token reality show d-bag who's such an enormous jerk-off he has to be trying," and highlights some of the cast member's sound bites from the first show, including: "I like them real skinny and ideally with big t---," and "I had a summer that was so whored up. I mean, I probably slept with 60 girls."
"I think you'll be really happy to learn about him in further episodes," Michael said.
"100 Days of Summer," airs every Tuesday at 9 p.m. on Bravo.