Conversations...with actor, Matt Cook.


Take one gifted actor, throw him into a world famous Comedy school, give him cheeky schoolboy looks and what do you get. You get the ridiculous talent that is my friend, Matt Cook.


Matt has starred in some of the funniest shows on TV including Will & Grace, 2 Broke Girls, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and more recently Man With A Plan with Friends alumni Matt Le Blanc.


Matt and I met back in 2015 when he starred in the hilarious stage show Fairytale Theatre: 18 and Over, written by our mutual friend Michael J. Feldman, and I'm delighted he took the time to chat about his career.


Lindsey Bowden (LB)

Hi Matt thanks so much for joining me for this little chat today. How are you doing at the moment? How is life in L.A?


Matt Cook (MC)

Thanks so much for having me! At the moment I'm good!? I don't know. It's wild. So much is happening in the world. Trying to stay safe and sane and learn as much as I can and get ready for whatever comes next. Luckily my fiance and I have a little house that we moved in to last February so we've been incredibly fortunate to ride out this pandemic in a home that we love and have had plenty of time to work on stuff inside and not venture out too much. I also just started to get really into gardening! Trying to work on my focus, and patience, and there's nothing better than gardening for that at the moment.


LB

I'll take your word for it, I'm the least green-fingered person I know! But I totally hear you on the focus, nothing like a global pandemic to make you re-asses life! So Matt, you were born in Pennsylvania, how did you end up moving to Los Angeles and did you always know from a young age that you wanted to be in the entertainment business?


MC

Yeah, I was born in Pennsylvania but grew up on the Jersey shore. I'm an East Coast dude for sure but knew that my future was waiting for me in L.A. It was either L.A. or New York City and it just felt like L.A. offered me a better shot at the things I wanted to do, specifically comedy and improv. There's tons of great comedy and improv in New York for sure, but it just felt to me like I was supposed to be in L.A. Most of that was based on the TV industry and comedy theatres and schools out here.


LB

So, you moved out to L.A. and trained at the legendary Groundlings comedy school. How important was it to you to learn discipline and to perfect your craft? Do you feel you could’ve been as successful without that training?


The Groundlings on Melrose Avenue, L.A.

MC When I first moved out, many years ago, my uncle who lives here said, "You need to be at The Groundlings" and took me to see a main show. It blew my mind. Most of my favorite performers when I was growing up all came out of The Groundlings and when I saw my first live show I knew it was where I wanted to be. So, I signed up for classes, was lucky enough to eventually get into the Main Company, and have been there ever since. There is no doubt in my mind that I would not have been as fortunate as I have been without the training I received at The Groundlings. The muscles I gained there are pretty much the only muscles I have. And when I'm working I can feel that training, my reflexes, kick in with everything I do. One of the big reasons I was drawn to The Groundlings is that they all seemed like great actors. They would inhabit their characters and make you believe whatever absurd thing their character was doing because of how committed they were to the scene and their reality. It felt special. I love the challenge of getting someone to believe you're someone else. The entire Groundlings program is centred around 'point of view'. How does this person see the world? And when I'm auditioning, or lucky enough to get a gig, I know it's my job to make that character's point of view as clear and interesting as possible. And that all comes from The Groundlings.


LB

Over the last few years social media has come to play a part in the popularity of actors and even in the auditioning process in the UK, do you feel that’s the same in the US?

MC

I've definitely seen social media become a big part in casting over the last few years. And I understand why. It's how the majority of people interact with each other and the world. But it does seem like a pretty specific medium to me. I think it requires a very specific skill set to excel at that which I don't think I have. I wish I did but I might just be too old. It's similar to when I play Fortnite, I might just be too old to get it. I don't know. Like anything, there are people who can be amazing no matter what arena they're in. And some stars of social media are proving to be stars outside of that too, which is awesome. But I think overall the trend might shift back a little. Social media is also changing how things are made, it could be the new "talkies" and I'm part of the silent films still. Who knows!?


LB

Yep, social media can be a blessing and a curse. I spend a lot of time online and am particularly fond of Instagram, I've even done courses and workshops in it, and still feel like I'm scratching the surface! Where do you feel most at home Matt, on a stage or in front of a camera?


Matt with David Tennant and Groundlings members at Cookin' With Gas.

MC I always feel best when there's an audience. That is a feeling unlike anything else. Especially at Groundlings when you're performing stuff that you wrote with your best friends, you can shift, adapt, move with what the audience needs. I imagine it's like surfing. I've only been surfing once and I chipped my teeth so that may not be the best metaphor but I'm going with it.


LB

It works.


MC

Thanks. The audience is always on your side in one way or another. They got dressed, they spent money, they sat down in the theatre with a bunch of strangers to have a good time. They want the show to be good. They want you to succeed. So you just have to trust that and try to align your vision with their needs. It's a blast! With on camera stuff it's much more architectural. You can control each piece you're showing, you get to build a moment rather than run with one. It's a very cool and engaging challenge. To balance what you need to get across with what the camera and lights and sound are doing is really fun. You can trust other elements to help you get across certain ideas or themes. I mean, to be fair, whether I'm acting on stage or in front of a camera I am happy and I know I'm lucky.


LB

The buzz of a live audience gets me every time too. So Matt, you appeared in many comedy shows, such as one of my favourites, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and are a very natural comic performer - are there any dramatic roles you would love to get your teeth into?

MC

Thanks! Curb was such a blast and very early in my career! It was so cool to see how they all worked on that set. They worked hard and trusted each other. It was a blast. I've been lucky because that's how almost all of the sets I've been on have felt. I would love to do some more dramatic stuff too but, honestly, I like going home happy. Sometimes the dramatic stuff stays with you. I like laughing and making other people laugh, but what I'd really love to do is a Western! Like a real deal Western! I'd love to be on a horse, but also happy to be a bartender or blacksmith or jeweller or whatever. I'll take what I can get.


Matt Cook with the Fairytale Theatre team.

LB

See, I'm picturing you in a Western, and Marty McFly in Back to the Future III is forming in my mind. Sorry dude! Although it's a good look! Now, we met of course during 2015 and Fairytale Theatre: 18 and Over in Edinburgh. The Ed Fest is the biggest Arts Festival in the world and is crammed full of Art of all mediums! How did you find that unique experience and what did you take away from it?

MC

The Fringe Festival was an absolutely singular experience for me. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before and it completely blew my mind. Edinburgh is such an incredible city but also pretty brutal! Like, every time you look down a Close you hear a tour guide saying, "... and this Close is where wee bonnie Prince Such and Such was beheaded and torn apart by the So and So's royal guards...". The history is alive and unlike anywhere I have ever lived before while at the same time there are neon lights, dance troupes, and 12 foot tall puppets dry humping each other everywhere you look. The balance of history and life still astounds me. The coolest part about performing there is you have to earn every single audience member you get AND then make them laugh. To perform for audiences that speak 10 different languages is a challenge, but then to hear them laugh? There's nothing else like it. It felt like a boot camp, like we had to go back to the basics. We worked so hard to put on our show each and every night and it was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. It changed my life. It made me a better performer, person, everything. I will be forever grateful to that festival and that city. I actually got to go back two summers ago with my fiance Rachael and our friend Greg Worswick. We got to see Courtney Pauroso's one woman show there. Greg, Courtney and I were all in our show together in 2015 so to be able to go back with my fiance and Greg to see Courtney crush it was so very special.


LB

Oh I was gutted to miss Courtney's show, she's such a wild performer, her Instagram cracks me up - we'll give a shout out to that below, and Greg's, why not eh! You recently starred as a series regular with Matt Le Blanc in Man With A Plan on CBS - that must have been quite a moment landing that job. Can you talk a bit about the audition process?


Matt Cook with Matt Le Blanc in Man With A Plan

MC

Yeah! I got to work for four years on Man With A Plan and it was a dream job from the very first day all the way through to the last. We got to make four seasons but were cancelled early last year at the start of the pandemic. It was a dream job. Every single person who worked on that show was so kind, smart, funny, and really really good at their job. When I first got the audition I read the sides and thought, "Oh, I can do this." It was the scene from the pilot where Matt's (Le Blanc's) character meets my character in the school. I played a stay at home dad who had lost all traces of his masculinity while taking care of his two young daughters. When I read the pilot it seemed to me, like, my character should be Matt's character's worst nightmare. I'm what happens when you stay at home with the kids. So, since Matt's character is a manly man, I thought the best way to make things harder for him was to make my character super emotional. So when the line comes up about forgetting what it was like to connect on a masculine level, I thought I should get emotional about it. So I did! And it got a big laugh! Then I got a call back, then I tested and then I got the part! The writers seemed to really like playing up the emotionality of Lowell, my character, and how much of an open book he was. It was a blast! I never had a job where I got to play one character for that long through so many ups and downs. It was really special and it changed my life. It was the best of both worlds. It was on camera but we also had a live audience at every show. It was everything I love doing.


LB

I love the process of discovering so much about a character over a length of time and you touched a little bit there about Lowell and his emotions, but do you have a particular way you approach creating a character?


MC When it comes to creating a character I always look for their hook. That's my Groundlings training. I try to find their point of view, how they see the world and the people in their life. If I can find a little mantra for them that helps too. Sometimes it's something physical that helps me, other times it's just an idea. It all kind of depends on the project. I try not to get too locked in to anything before it's go-time because you never know what the people around you will bring. So I get as clear as I can on my idea for the character, and then wait to see what happens when it mixes with everyone else's ideas.


LB

Makes sense! What advice would you give to anyone starting an acting career in the US?


Matt Cook and Lauren Lapkus in Clipped.

MC

As far as advice goes I would say, be happy in the inbetween. So much of your time will be spent in between jobs, even in between takes if you're lucky enough to be on a job. Focus on your real life. If you can forge a life that you enjoy and are proud of outside of the industry then that makes you very dangerous in the industry because you're centered. I spent a long time trying to figure out how to do so many different things. How to impress the right people, how to get the right reps, how to get the right jobs. And for me, that wasn't good energy to bring into the rooms where those things happen. What I needed to do was take care of myself so I could get a clean read on what I needed to do for whatever job may or may not come my way. Work hard, do your job, but safeguard your energy and build a life you're proud of outside of all the madness. No matter where you're at. When I got Man With A Plan I was in a tiny apartment surrounded by massive buildings that wouldn't let any sunlight reach my windows. My kitchen windows were blocked by the apartment's dumpster. But I had my vinyl records that I loved on my walls, comfy things to sit on, and video games that made me happy. Life was good. So when it was time for me to audition I didn't need anyone to give me anything. I was just able to have fun and do what I thought the audition should be. And then I was lucky enough to get the job. The only thing you can control is how you enter a room. Whether it's for an audition or a gig. Do your best to be happy in the inbetween and that makes it a lot easier to be happier everywhere else.


LB

That's absolutely sterling advice Matt. So many of us are always chasing that we sometimes forget how to just 'be'. Healthy mind comes before anything else, completely. So, where do you go from here? Would you like to branch out from acting and produce or direct?

MC

Well, from here I'm hoping to do a lot more! I've been writing some projects with one of my best friends, Tom Fonss. We're working on a show, and a feature, and a few shorts. We wrote a play together years ago that was a one man show for our friend to do and it's one of the things I'm most proud of. So I'm excited to be working with Tommy again and making some new stuff. I shot a movie a while back that should be coming out soon on demand called Film Fest that I am so proud of. I got to work with so many of my friends and we made a movie that I love. So I'm excited for people to finally be able to see that. And yeah, I just want to keep making stuff! As soon as it's safe I'll be back on stage at The Groundlings playing as many monsters as I can come up with. I can't wait. Trying to make the most of this time at home and line up as many good things as possible.


LB

All good, positive stuff, love it! It was so great to chat today Matt!


MC

Lindsey, this was so much fun. I'll take any excuse I can get to chat with you. You're the best. I think we share a similar spark of madness. And I love it.


LB

I think you're probably right!




Follow Matt Cook on Instagram @mattcooktookpics and Twitter @MattCookTweeted


Follow Film Fest the movie on Instagram @filmfestfilm


Follow Lindsey Bowden on Instagram @lindseybowden76 and Twitter @lindseybowden76


Follow Courtney Pauroso on Instagram @courtneypauroso and Twitter @cocopauroso


Follow Greg Worswick on Instagram @gregworswick and Twitter @GregWorswick




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