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Q&A: Caught in the Act with… Matt Doyle

Broadway darling Matt Doyle—last seen in War Horse on Broadway and Giant in Dallas—is, well, completely darling. He recently took some time to sit on a park bench with us, sip some green tea, and chat about his new EP, his path to the stage, and the tomfoolery he and his Spring Awakening costars got up to back in the day…

The Mick: So you just released a new EP, Constant, can you tell me about it?

Matt Doyle: It is my second EP. The first EP was really, really retro in its delivery. I grew up obsessed with soul music and the heroes of soul—Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, James Brown, Marvin Gaye. So when we did the [first] EP I really wanted to try and emulate that sound and bring a contemporary spin to it. But I wanted to make sure that with this next release, Constant, we went with a bit more of a contemporary sound. Something that could tie those elements in, but maybe had a bit more folk rock elements to it and was a bit more accessible.

M: What drew you to songwriting? Were you always a writer?

MD: I wasn’t. In high school I did privately write, but it was not something that I was confident in, and it wasn’t something that I necessarily wanted to share with people. And when I was a kid I used to write short stories and read them to the class. That all just kind of went away when I found theater, so I didn’t really think about it much. I knew I had a passion for it but it wasn’t until I started working with Will Van Dyke that it came back.

I’ve been amazed how therapeutic it’s been. I know that that’s so cheesy, but it is. These songs help me—especially after writing them—when I have to formulate my thoughts that way, or try to come up with a story that relates to my life and to others, they give me perspective. It’s been very, very helpful for me.

M: Do you have a favorite place to write?

MD: Yeah! I go to my roof. I have this crappy Hell’s Kitchen rooftop, but if you go up there, it is the most beautiful view in the city. It’s just remarkable. I get all of Times Square and the river and I just sit there for hours. But that’s usually where I go. If something hits me, if I hear a hook or I have a chorus, I’ll like run home and go to my roof so I can come up with the rest of the song.

M: I love it. I have the best image of you sprinting through the city like “I got a line!”

MD: I totally have. That’s where I wrote “What You Stole” actually, and I remember getting just the start of the chorus to that. And I was like “Ah! I need to go to my roof!”

M: So let’s talk acting—you landed Spring Awakening at quite the young age. Did you move straight to New York? Did you come by yourself? What was that like?

MD: That was crazy. I had deferred my acceptance to Carnegie Mellon and had gone to London for a year and studied classical theater in a graduate program. So when I came back from London and had the idea of going to a university program with 18-year-olds for four more years, I was like, “I totally did things backwards and now I have no idea how to do that.”

So I actually just ended up deciding to move to the city. I got a job as a PA for a company that does commercials and music videos and auditioned. The only way I knew how to audition at the time was to just go sit on the non-equity benches at open calls. And it was fantastic—it really, really kicked my ass.

Then Spring Awakening happened and a friend of mine was like “You need to go to the open call.” And I was like “I don’t want to go to those fucking benches! They’re just taking the off-Broadway cast. Why would I do that?” And she was like, “They’re going to look for understudies, you need to go.” So I went and sure enough, seven months later I was cast in the original Broadway Company. But I was nineteen and clueless and it was my first job.

M: Most kids who come to live in NYC at such a young age are in college, which seems like it offers a lot more structure than living on your own and being in a show does. What was that like?

MD: At LAMDA [London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art] they don’t have housing—you’ve got to find your own apartment—so I had a year of living on my own and fending for myself. I think that helped me move to New York. I think it was good preparation. The difference was [in New York] I had to get my act together and make some money. But, yeah, I was always very independent and ready to get started at a very, very early age. And I think that my mind frame was just like “Oh yeah, I can do this!” Which, thank god it was, because otherwise I would have been petrified.

M: Did you always want to be an actor?

MD: When I was a little kid I thought about wanting to be a writer. And I’m the biggest nerd in the world and I thought computer animation and video games were amazing so I thought maybe I was going to go into graphic design and computer animation for a while. It actually wasn’t until middle school that I went through some tough times and I was searching for a community where I could feel more comfortable and safe that I auditioned for a little community theater show and caught the bug instantly. And because I needed something so badly to latch onto at that time I never let go. So I would say around thirteen is when I was like “I’m going to be an actor, and it’s going to happen.”

M: You’ve spoken about having a tough time as a teenager—being bullied, etc—did you have any real champions during that time? Anyone who really supported your dream?

MD: Yeah. I would definitely say that my mother was a huge supporter of it at the time. My Dad is a supporter of any of our dreams in our family; he’s been very, very supportive of us kids. But my Mom, her perspective was a little different. She knew how much I needed it. So when she saw me excited about something, she couldn’t have been happier. And then at the same time, I met my best friend Beth Behrs, who, we just fed off of each other’s energy because she was so, so driven, just like me. So we were attached at the hip.

M: If you could go back and talk to twelve-year-old Matt, what one piece of advice would you give him?

MD: Oh, gosh, just… hang in there. You have no idea what’s around the corner. I mean, what’s so beautiful about this “It Gets Better” campaign is that there couldn’t be a better statement for that. It does. It absolutely does. I think back on that time now and I think about the place that I was in and it’s just so shocking to me. It’s a horrible place to reach at such a young age when you have no perspective of life, or future or what could be waiting around the corner. So I would just look at him and be like “Oh, dude, you’re going to have the most incredible ride.”

M: What kind of kid were you?

MD: I was quiet and artsy. I loved to draw and I used to compete—my sister’s an artist, she went to RISD [Rhode Island School of Design]—so we used to compete and try to draw against each other somehow. I was three years younger and I hated that she was better than I was. I was very, very artistic and I was very quiet and I was very sensitive, very sensitive. I was terrified of everything, from like… bugs, to you know, scary movies. You wouldn’t have seen me—ever—in Scream or anything like that. You still won’t. But just the quiet, sensitive boy who liked to draw a lot…

M: Have you recently gone in to audition for a role that you knew you were just never going to get, but you went for it anyway?

MD: Oh yeah, I do it all the time. If the team is really good and the project is really interesting, it’s usually really hard to convince your agent “I’m so wrong for this.” I don’t know which ones I could name, but I will say that sometimes you just look down at the paper, and you understand why you’re being submitted for it, you understand why the casting director wants to see you, but it’s like… “Really?” I get a lot of submissions for really Jewish roles. And I just think to myself, “I know I have really dark hair and dark features. But at the same time, if anybody were to look down in their program and see the name Matt Doyle, in this city, with a wealth of incredible Jewish actors, I would be booed off the stage!”

M: Do you see the same five dudes at every audition?

MD: Oh yeah. Absolutely. First of all, I see Jeremy Jordan everywhere. Well, now Jeremy is like, a superstar, so I don’t see him at my auditions anymore. But Jeremy and I have done like three readings together where we played either brothers or best friends. Jay Johnson and I go out for the same stuff all the time and he’s like… my hero. I think he’s remarkable and so talented. I just think that voice is astonishing and I’ve told him that many a time. I see him, Adam Kantor, Adam Chanler-Berat, it’s the same group every single time, for sure.

M: Two of the big shows you did had lots of young people in them—Spring Awakening and Bye Bye Birdie—what kind of backstage tomfoolery were you involved in?

MD: There was always something going on backstage there [at Spring Awakening]. We used to like, throw Skittles out of the windows down at the people walking by. And we used to leave the stage door during the show and walk outside in our costumes and go down half the block just to see if we could make it back on stage. We were crazy. And everyone was doing it, including our leads. It was absolutely insane.

M: Are you at all interested in telling us about your boyfriend?

MD: Oh my goodness. It’s still new, but I just couldn’t be more smitten. He’s a dancer. He’s outrageously talented and he’s an amazing guy.

M: Alright, you’re off the hook; we’re on to the easy questions! What’s your dream role?

MD: I really want to play Claude in Hair. I love that role so much.

M: What is the last book that you read?

MD: I think the last book I read was Bossypants by Tina Fey. She’s badass. I like comedic novels, I need to fall asleep to something funny.

M: Favorite mid-to-late-nineties pop song.

MD: I have a lot of favorites… I’m going to have to go with “Mr. Jones” by the Counting Crows. Although, that’s kind of like… early nineties. I feel like they brought something so different to the scene when they came out, so I’ll go with that.

M: I support that answer. Words you use too often.

MD: I’m so guilty of using “like” too often.

M: Words you don’t use often enough.

MD: Glorious. I like that word. And I really wish that I could tie in ‘flabbergasted’ more, because that’s just such a good word.

M: Did you have a favorite stuffed animal?

MD: I did. I had a Teddy Bear collection, because when I was a little boy my Dad used to bring home these handmade bears from Nantucket every time he came back from a trip.  I had—still have—one very small brown one. His name was Berenstain, which was so unoriginal, but that’s what his name was.

Credit: Derek Storm

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • brent August 24, 2012, 11:34 am

    I was “flabbergasted” the first time I heard Matt sing “What You Stole.” His performance was “glorious.” (Pretty easy to tie in those words when speaking of him.)

  • AshCalenlass May 25, 2014, 7:05 am

    I am flabbergasted that I only very recently rediscovered Matt Doyle, and only from watching Private Romeo. His name sounded so familiar to me and then I realized that I’ve heard and loved “Home” before. He is one of those glorious persons I’d love to meet one day.

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