KGUN 9NewsCommunity Inspired JournalismNorthside News


Tucson amputee actor to appear in HBO's The Sympathizer

Micheal Ray battled drug addiction and imprisonment by finding a passion for acting in his 50s
Posted at 10:35 PM, Apr 26, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucson actor Micheal Ray will appear in an episode of the HBO limited series, The Sympathizer

But the road to getting there was not easy.

Over a decade ago, Ray lost his leg in a motorcycle accident while living in Abilene, Texas. 

“I was going home one day and a car did not see me and turned into me,” Ray says. “It broke my jaw in three places, crushed my clavicle, had a bad head injury, lots all of my teeth. It was a pretty wicked time”

Ray wears a prosthetic leg to get around, which still causes him pain 11 years later. But it wasn’t the physical pain that hurt most.

“When you’re a manly man and you lose a leg, it takes away so much,” he says. “I didn’t want to live sometimes.”

The accident followed various stints in jail, with Ray spending a total of 17 years in prison. He also suffered from liver issues due to past struggles with substance abuse, which only compounded his problems after the accident.

“I couldn’t work because I was physically unable to at the time,” Ray says. “So I didn’t have insurance. It just didn’t work out where Texas would help pay to fix my liver.”

Ray and his wife decided to move to Tucson, where he could find affordable health insurance. There, he sought to reinvent himself.

“I turned 50 and it’s like ‘what do I do with my life?’” he says with a laugh. “I wanted something a little bit different, a little exciting, a little dangerous, a little scary.”

Improbably, this turned out to be acting, which Ray took to immediately.

“I took a class and fell absolutely in love with acting,” he says. “And it turns out, some people say I’m pretty good at.”

“Some people” included the producers of the HBO limited series The Sympathizer. The show is set during the Vietnam War and concerns a Vietnamese double agent working for both his native country and U.S. 

Ray was cast as a general and got the opportunity to work alongside Oscar-winner Robert Downey Jr., an actor who also experienced a difficult past and had one of the most dramatic comebacks in Hollywood history.

Reflecting on the experience, Ray says that it filled his natural need to seek thrills.

“I’m a recovering drug addict so I equate it to drugs,” he says. “It’s that rush of ‘ah, I did that. I acted with the greatest actor of our time.’”

Ray will appear in episode six of The Sympathizer, which is slated to air May 19.