MATT MCGORRY: PLAY­ING THE BAD GUY, MAK­ING A GOOD IM­PRES­SION

The star opens up about how he gets away with mur­der

Bangkok Post - - TELEVISION - By Nancy Mills

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’.

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