No Wonder You Were Afraid to Ask. #2 “An Artist with so much Soul” Matthew Doherty

Matt Doherty
Matt Doherty
Matt Doherty

Matt Doherty, is 38 and has been acting for nearly 30 years. He currently lives in Los Angeles and as he says, “(I live) primarily in the present. Though however I do visit the past and future in my mind. Especially when stuck on Pico or Olympic trying to ford the 405 in my eco-friendly automobile. Sometimes I have been known to reside in fantasy. I guess I live in a fluid body that appears solid in the constancy of change. But then we can debate the whole “I” thing too. I suspect it’s not my first time in human form. I think I chose to come back because I misplaced a sock or wanted to remember a mole recipe. I have never had a dream of being a Roman Centurion. However, I do sometimes dream I am Achilles. I look twelve. Hence the beard.”

Matt was born in Harvey, IL. Outside of Chicago. If you ever meet him you might be able to detect a bit of an accent still. If you listen real close. He notes, “My family has roots all over the south side of Chicago. I was raised in South Holland which felt right between the country and the city. It was an old Dutch farming town the city ran into. All the cute girls in high school gave themselves to Jesus. Till coked out real estate scam artists created a myth to frighten white people and make them move because inner city black families were moving in. I recall reading about civil rights in high school as if it were a thing of the past when in truth it felt like there was a lot of fear and racism going on down the block. But worse than overt – it was masked, hidden within the UHAULS that were a common site once a week. They called it the “Great White Flight.” We would watch the geese migrate in the spring and fall and the white people all the time. Funny how the whole thing was a real estate scam.” He continued, “I got where I am now by sticking to the road less traveled. I spent my twenties learning my craft rather then grabbing coffee for TV executives. For better or for worse. The funny thing about the road less traveled is, it doesn’t say it’s better or worse – just that it “made all the difference.” I think I have been true to myself. Having been gifted with peak experiences in my chosen field at a young age I have lived my life sort of backward. I got driven around in a limo and then I drove the limo. And there has been a gradual shuffling off of worldly ambitions. Now the desire to be of service remains. Chiseled and interwoven with a more pure authentic self. I watched a career vanish and had to reinvent myself countless times. It has opened me up to greater compassion I hope that has allowed me to create richer and fuller characters etc. Create from a deeper and more authentic place.”

One of the things Matt is proudest of is his ability not to panic during a decade of fallow times. He added, “I trained and stuck to the road – for better or for worse – constantly honing my talents even though on the outside in the external there was no gain. To own the fact that I am an artist, a writer and actor, musician, composer, friend, lover, brother, son, godfather. To know what my worth is independent of outside circumstances. And trust that is enough without outside validation. To be free from that imprisonment. And go on creating. To strive to do the very things I am frightened by. To stay a student. To know the art of living. That life itself is an art. To know how to share and listen. And identify. And be. Just be. With myself. My partner. My friends. To be comfortable there. To know deep down what Shakespeare says “sweet are the uses of adversity.” To have the experience and know that nothing is wasted. And always things are working out for our greatest good.”

He told me all his years of acting are overshadowed by his skills in the kitchen. People shouldn’t know him most for his past roles, but instead, he said they should bow down because, “I make a mean Bolognese traditional and recently got commissioned by Elisa, my partner, and friend, to make a restaurant quality green curry. She also says I make a funny face when I dance in the car to James Brown or the Rolling Stones. I’m better on skates than my feet. I’m always willing to dive in even if it means failing. I’ve been told I’m a good laugher in audiences too.”

In Matt’s word his official profession is, “Igniting and engaging in the next great renaissance to emerge out of this dark era ear marked by the decline of Max Headroom. I have tried noncircus related jobs to no avail. I’m a lifer. I work with words and tell stories through music or within the confines of dramatic structure. And one time years ago I roped PTA moms in some internet phone scam Ponzi thing that involved South America. I was not very good at it.”

If you are in any business where you are required to write, especially if you are trying to get noticed in Hollywood, and learn under the tutelage of one of the funniest, bright and kindest souls I know, check out Matt’s latest endeavor, his Writer’s Lab (See the picture below for details and share with your friends who want to be a better everything). The lab is formally called The Writer’s Room. Matt said, “I’m compiling 30 years of experience in the screen trade, all the great teachers I have been exposed to into some kind of incubator for a story. The idea is to work with actors and creative types who have stories to tell but don’t know where to begin. In this landscape where we have to increasingly make our own content, we are asked to wear many hats to survive as artists. So, I want to help people tell their stories. I already work and moderate writer’s labs but this one is meant for artists new to writing. Or returning to it.”

The Writer's Lab
The Writer’s Lab

When asked what he is most passionate about, Matt said, “I am passionate about the emancipation of spirit and finding solace during the fall of our empire. People who nurture hope amid these post end times. And cooking. Love. Love making in all forms. Good conversation. Folk music. Good stories well told. The reinvention of myth.”

Matt is a wizard with the word. Be prepared to be struck by the magic spell of his wit and intelligence as he answers a few more questions.

What advice would you give the teenage you?

I’d tell me to chill out and not be in such a rush. To not feel the need to be defensive. I’d somehow let me know that the battle was over. I didn’t have to fight. That criticism wasn’t an attack. I’d also tell me that although the girls didn’t pay attention to me then – even if I was in the movies – It would pay off in the long run. That being a late bloomer and looking 10 in high school standing in line for a speedo in swimming class next to kids twice my size would make great fodder for comedy later in life. I’d also tell me to never sacrifice my well being for art, nor my art for my well being. That they weren’t in conflict. Or mutually exclusive. But can work in harmony and balance. Oh, and I’d teach me to recognize fight or flight mode and never to make decisions out of that. Oh and that “being right” wasn’t worth my serenity. And that my worth as a man isn’t measured by the zeros in my bank account.

What is your favorite novel and what does it say about your mind?

A toss up between Grapes of Wrath and Catch 22. I felt a sense of the connection to the human struggle in Steinbeck. Saw the primal and eternal fight against injustice. Got introduced to those who didn’t feel they had a voice or were counted least that play so prevalently in my work. Betrayal. And exodus. Redemption.

And Catch 22 was the first book I read twice. I literally finished it and turned back to page one. The irony and unabashed sarcasm were a voice I connected to. It was that of a survivor steeped in the absurd. Who saw the craziness in the world and laughed in outrage. Yeah, that awoke a truth within me. I would also add Master and Margarita and Lord of The Rings.

If you were president and could enact any law out right, what would it be?

As president, I would raise the bottom permanently and attack the widening gap between rich and poor that is so evident in our cultural identity. I see it in my own profession as well as others as power and wealth are increasingly magnetized to a few and the rest of us claw at each other in competition for scraps. I would pick up where MLK left off – which is attack poverty. And do that by raising the minimum wage to an actual living wage. Which according to many news sources should be a mean 25.00 per hour across the states. Which takes into account the cost of living in Utah and downtown Manhattan and comes up with an average. 25.00. I haven’t made 25.00 an hour consistently in years. And I attended Northwestern University. And am at the top of my chosen field. Granted my field is competitive but still, even with side jobs and survival gigs I only once eclipses that and guess what – I was living overseas in SWEDEN! I would put an end to the Biff Loman quote “I’ve tried pop, I’m a dollar a day.” That needs to end. From that, all else can flow. If we are in a war against poverty – then good generalship would be to muster our forces in concerted single action against this one thing. Recently, I finally have a cushion (thanks in no small part to my family) so I’m not living month to month. And it does so much to decrease stress level. And I’m not even supporting a family. It breaks my heart when I see the way we accept the longer work week – all the diseases we are suffering from – to keep up with a cost of living that is always more then our wage. I see it on the road in my job as a Lyft driver as I watch rush hour lengthen. I don’t even need to watch the news. So that is what I would bring into law.
Even before gun control.

Do you think World Peace is possible? What one thing do you think might be the first step in the direction of it?

Peace comes from education. And it begins within. The individuation process. A detachment from cultural, familiar, societal identities. And is not possible without forgiveness. That in any conflict there is blood on both hands. I love the Nelson Mandela quote, “We can TEACH peace.”

World peace – wow… My belief is sometimes more like Thornton Wilder’s or Joyce’s – which it’s cyclical and generational and somehow we get by “by the skin of our teeth.” But steadily, we make progress. Thank God the bloodiest century is over. Yes, there are displaced peoples and regimes and genocide. But I believe, despite all that in the Buddhist idea of liberation. That it is open to all of us. Independent of circumstance or creed, position in life. That world peace, lasting – is impossible without some inner peace, which is possible today for every one of us. And like drops in an ocean, we can increase that one life at a time.

How important is music in your life?

Music is a constant companion through the measures of life. Whether it beats out in straight time or in counts of seven or lands on the upbeats or sways in Afro-Cuban side steps. It contains all that is possible in human expression and experience from space and silence to the bombastic, the sultry, the ethereal, the mystic, the elegiac, the sexy, an ode to joy and a requiem for the dead. It contains the blues and rag time has the ability to stop us and extract us out of the humdrum of nonbeing and can make us weep, or smile. It carts along all our stored memories. And attaches itself to our deepest emotions of joy, love, and loss. So, yeah, it’s important.

What is your favorite Inspirational quote

If you’re going through hell, keep going.
Winston Churchill

Have you ever been told you look like a celebrity and did you ever use that to your advantage?

I have been thanked for my work many times with Star Trek and asked what I was going to do with Star Wars. Evidently they thought I was JJ Abrams. I have been told I was the missing Penn brother. Or Ed Norton. Young Spencer Tracy. General Custer. And since I was in The Mighty Ducks franchise I guess I sometimes get mistaken for me sometimes. Which is really fun when you’re working in a parking booth in a neon blue shirt. It’s rather funny when people give you the “oh, what happened” look.

Once I was mistaken for The Mighty Quinn but it was late and we were in a submarine.

Do you have a nickname? How’d you get it?

I was called Dink when I was a kid because there was a streetcar that went just a few blocks in the south side when my dad was a kid called the Dink. It was small and never really went anywhere.

9. Do you believe in God? Aliens?
Somehow I think they’re related. But then again I did drive through Roswell and left thinking “what the fuck?” So maybe that makes me agnostic about the divinity of aliens. I believe in John Lennon’s song off Plastic Ono – when he goes through the list of what he doesn’t believe in and ends with “I believe in me.” I think deep down in all of us is the fundamental idea of god. What the Brahmin would call Self – or Walt Whitman could write poems about. I see it in what Dostoevsky calls “the sticky green leaves” or what I feel in the breeze. But then again I live in California where the breeze is gentle. I believe in love. And all that is perennial.

Three songs on your funeral playlist?

Sitting here watching the wheels go round – J Lennon
Pilgrim Steve Earle
And maybe a group of musician friends to play my own tunes if it wouldn’t look too self-serving. A tribute concert. That’s kind of Rock ‘n Roll.

Celebrity crush?

I admitted to Elisa so I can say, Emily Blunt and Helena B Carter. Emma Thompson even (Sense and Sensibility) Maybe it’s the English dialect.

If you are in Los Angeles, Matt is playing Sunday, January 24th at the Republic of Pies in North Hollywood at 7:00 pm.

Check out this great tune title, Ferguson, from one of Matt’s recent concerts.

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