MATT MCGORRY: PLAYING THE BAD GUY, MAKING A GOOD IMPRESSION
The star opens up about how he gets away with murder
In his short but successful career, Matt McGorry has played more than his fair share of jerks. “Surprisingly, it’s not that hard,” said the actor, best known for his role as the entitled law student Asher Millstone on ABC’s popular series How to Get Away with Murder. “Despite the fact that he’s very misinformed, tone deaf and a murderer, Asher has a soft inner core.”
McGorry is expanding his repertoire in How He Fell in Love. An intimate look at the relationship between a young musician and an older, married woman (Amy Hargreaves), the independent film opened to limited release last week. “It’s a truly complex love story that mimics, in a very close way, the real messiness of life,” McGorry recently said over coffee in Los Angeles. “In an independent film, you get permission to really explore things.”
The actor plays Travis, whose musical career and life have stalled. When he meets Ellen, a yoga teacher, at a wedding, they chat on a ride back to their New York apartments. A few days later, when they run into each other, sparks fly. The film explores the couple’s intense connection, and how that affects Ellen’s marriage and her yearning to have a child.
The 30-year-old actor fought hard for the role, which is his first Hollywood romantic lead.
“I did a Skype session on my iPad while I was shooting the pilot for How to Get Away with Murder and couldn’t go to the audition,” he said. “The scene called for pillow talk, so I took my iPad with me into bed.”
In a separate interview, writer and director Marc Meyers confirmed that account.
“Matt’s Skype audition, lying on a hotel bed, put him right in the scene,” Meyers said. “Actually meeting Matt made it clear that not only is he a cutie, but he’s got a real soulfulness to him … He’s a naturally funny guy, and that was something we knew we could benefit from with his character.”
Although McGorry has been performing from an early age — he started doing magic tricks when he was nine years old — he didn’t fully commit to a career of acting until recently.
McGorry has starred in short-term roles on series like Gossip Girl (2012), Royal Pains (2012) and Elementary (2013). Then, McGorry got lucky.
“The casting director on Orange Is the New Black was looking for new faces,” he said.
He played young prison guard John Bennett from 2013 to 2015 and from there, he landed his breakthrough role on How to Get Away with Murder.
“My character’s name was Doucheface,” McGorry said. “Originally, he was supposed to be in about half the episodes, and there was no sensitivity on the page.”
His personal tweaks turned Asher into a regular on the show, starting its third season in September.
At the moment, McGorry is playing another jerk in the upcoming dance comedy Step Sisters.
“It’s about a black sorority sister who teaches a white sorority how to ‘step,’ which is a type of dance,” he said. “I’m the obnoxious white African-American-studies major. There are certain lines in it that make me cringe, but they would be more cringe-worthy if the perspective of the film was that they weren’t wrong.”
McGorry grew up in Manhattan as the son of a financial planner and an English teacher, and he credits them for his strong sense of empathy.
“They see the good in people,” he said. “When I was growing up, I remember this bully picking on me. I said, ‘Mom, I hate this kid.’ She said, ‘He probably has a really hard life at home.’”
His parents subsequently asked if he’d be interested in having a personal trainer.
“And I decided, ‘Why not?’” said the actor. “I started at 14, and didn’t really like it at first. But the more work I put into it, the more I could see the results. It was very empowering.”
McGorry went to New York’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts as a drama major, and Emerson College in Boston.
“That’s where I started competing, weirdly enough,” he recalled.
For a decade, he juggled acting, bodybuilding and powerlifting.
By the time McGorry decided to fully focus on acting, he had become a star in the powerlifting world.
“I was on the national Top 50 list for my deadlift and weight classes,” he recalled, “and I did a bodybuilding show my last year.”
McGorry also had been taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade’s improvisational theatre programme and making short films.
Looking ahead, the actor hopes to keep developing the diversity of his work.
“I’d love to do more films and lots of different films — big studio films, small, dark indie films, even stupid films,” McGorry said. “But I’ve realised, as an actor, I can’t white-knuckle my way to different roles. I could be going to parties and trying to meet people, trying to leverage those contacts. Some people do that, but it’s not for me.
“I want to enjoy the moment I’m in, because it could all end at any second.”
ON TRIAL: Matt McGorry, right, with Jack Falahee and Karla Souza, plays law student Asher Millstone on ‘How to Get Away with Murder’.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC: Matt McGorry stars as the romantic lead in the indie film ‘How He Fell In Love’.