I recently had the great fortune of meeting Matt Young via social media and I couldn’t be more thrilled to bring him to you all. Being a fan of Hallmark movies and knowing so many of you who are, I know this will be a real treat for us. Matt was part of the Hallmark Channel movie, A Summer to Remember and this coming weekend (Saturday, August 18th) he appears in Pearl in Paradise. But, there’s so much more to Matt and so much more coming up from him.
Matt’s family was part of a Netflix documentary Gayby Baby, which was about families with same-sex parents and he is in the TBS series Wrecked. His resume is quite diverse and includes Theater, Television, Film, dancing, and he finds time to coach others with acting and public speaking.
Now, allow me to introduce you to Matt Young, actor:
Q: You have quite the acting/professional resume. You’ve been in film, theater, and on television. Can you tell us some of the things you love about each and some of the challenges of each?
Matt Young: I got my start in NYC in the early 1990s when I was a student at NYU. I came to New York with the dream of being a professional actor, having performed in community theatre in my hometown of Gardner, Massachusetts. Within 3 months of landing in NYC, I was offered a role in my first professional show, a three person play over the Christmas season, in which I played a reluctant angel Gabriel. I spent my NYU years performing in downtown theater spaces, and as an extra in Hollywood and independent films on the streets of New York.
I studied to be a Broadway dancer, and was on my first Broadway tour (in Europe) within months of finishing my degree. I love the physicality of live theatre, especially musicals, where you have to perform 8 times a week to a responsive audience. Though it can be brutal on the body. And because I’m from an older generation of performers, where “the show must go on”, I rarely miss a show. My last tour of a musical, the 2012 Australian tour of Annie, I never missed. I only missed about 9 performances of my first USA Broadway tour, A Chorus Line, back in the 90s.
So when I got my first lead role in a television show (the Australian/New Zealand/Canadian tri-production of Captain Cook: Obsession and Discovery), I couldn’t believe how easy it was! Physically, I mean. All I had to do was immerse myself in the role, and it fell into place. I was able to live within the character for the whole 3 months of shooting, so all I really had to do was show up on set and be me as the character on that day.
Film is a bit more intense than TV, as the emotions are experienced on a greater level, but have to be performed more realistically (I find television to be similar to live theatre). Because you are so largely displayed in a film, the camera sees everything. So it’s almost like all you have to do is think, and the camera will amplify it. So I find that very satisfying, because even though I find it mentally exhausting, I love authentic looking film performances.
Q: You are also a director. Did you always want to direct or was that something you were inspired to do as your career grew/evolved?
Matt Young: I direct (and choreograph) live theatre, and recently choreographed a dance scene for the upcoming faith-based film The Other Side of Heaven 2 which will hit US theatres in April 2019.
I approach everything as an actor (especially choreography), so I think it was a natural progression in my career. I’m a bit of a control freak, and have a habit at looking at everything I do with an outside eye. Also, as I coach actors for auditions, I am constantly having to analyse scripts and imagine what the end product will look like on-screen or on stage.
I have been asked to direct independent films since my early 30s, but I have always put it off. I think I have such a respect for film directors, that I’ve always felt a bit unworthy. And the amount of work is enormous. As a Dad, I’m constantly weighing up the time commitment and trying to attain that work/life balance. I have acting students here in Fiji that are chomping at the bit to create a film, so I think I’m just going to have to put aside my insecurities and reservations and do it this year!
Q: How did you get started as a coach? How does one go about hiring Matt Young Company if they are in need of coaching for public speaking, acting, etc?
Matt Young: When I moved to Fiji with my family, in 2014, my kids were on my husband’s work visa, but I was here as a tourist. Fiji is a developing country, and even though since late 2014, Fiji is one of 3 countries in the world which has a constitution that says you cannot discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, when we arrived, there was no box to tick on any form that allowed the same-sex partner of a Fijian resident to attain residency in the country. So, I had to either keep leaving the country every 4 months to renew my tourist visa, or I had to start a business.
Since I had been informally coaching actors for years in Sydney (especially in US accent for stage shows and Hollywood auditions), I knew I could coach actors. A friend who was formally in the media here in Fiji suggested I should be a media coach, focusing on spoken English. And public speaking seemed an obvious choice, since I know how to prepare speeches as an actor. So, to be able to gain residency in Fiji, and remain with my now husband and our adopted children, I started Matt Young Company (original name, I know) and became a coach.
My friend and acting colleague in Australia, Gabriella Masselli McGrail, started recommending her students to me for online coaching, and I started working within the NGO sector in Fiji, as well as coaching the contestants for Miss World Fiji. But I really hit my stride when I became the speaker coach for Ted X Suva. Finally, I could use my theatrical training to help public speakers reach emotional depths to tell their stories. I now work with lawyers, corporate leaders, actors and emcees here in Fiji.
If you’d like to learn more, look for Matt Young Company on Facebook or learn more on my website www.mattyoungactor.com. I do Skype coaching, as well as give feedback on video submissions, and many actors or speakers in the USA, the UK, or Australia/New Zealand find it convenient to work with me, as the time difference in Fiji works in their favour for “after hours” coaching, as it is often in the middle of my working day.
Q: You’ve been in a few Hallmark Channel films now, A Summer to Remember and now Pearl In Paradise. I am a huge fan of Hallmark Channel, their movies, and their shows. I also know they have kind and loyal fans who are very active on social media. How has it been to be inducted into the #Hallmarkies family?
Matt Young: Ah, Hallmark! The #Hallmarkies are remarkable.
When I was on tour with Annie in 2012, it was the first time I understood the power of social media, especially Twitter, in engaging with fans/the audience. I met some amazing musical theatre fans who hosted me in every city of the tour, and made some great friends.
Annie in a way, led to Hallmark. The adoption of our two boys came through in February 2012, about two months into the run of Annie. So, here I was in a show about a childless man who adopts a child, and it changes his life. And we had moved through the foster system and finally were able to bring legal validity to our family. It was an amazing synchronicity. And I had decided to do Annie specifically because I had been doing a lot of theater and television that dealt with the military and violence, and I wanted to be in a production that my kids could watch without having to deal with those grown-up concepts.
So when I heard Hallmark was filming in Fiji, and I was a submitted for a part by my Australian agent, I was keen to do more family friendly content. Something that my kids could watch, and that their grandparents back in Gardner, Massachusetts could share with their community as well. I was blessed to be cast in two movies, and hope I will be cast in others, whether they are filmed here or in North America.
Through the move to filming in foreign locations, Hallmark has become more diverse by default (South African actors in Love on Safari, Fijian actors in Pearl in Paradise). But also, as I was thankful to the podcasters at The Bubbly Sesh for noticing, Hallmark is consciously hiring an age diverse supporting cast. And if one or five of us happen to also identify as LGBTIQ, even better. You will notice Dr Bailey wears a wedding ring. What’s not to say that he is married to a man?
Q: You were born and grew up in the United States but now live in Fiji. How did that come about?
Matt Young: OK. It’s kinda a long story, but it’s good, so bear with me.
In 1999, I had just finished a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Cape and Ogunquit Playhouses in New England. I was out of a job, and I ran into another A Chorus Line alumna, who was choreographing a show for a cruise ship and needed a dancer. At age 27 I signed up for my first cruise ship contract, and hated it, as I thought I should be on Broadway proper. But, eight celibate months later, we finally landed for an overnight in Sydney, Australia, a week before Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. And you should remember, this was before e-mail, social media, or dating apps. I walked into a bar and ran into my friend Emelio, from New York, who I never expected to run into half way around the world, and he introduced me to this Aussie guy named Peter, who he had just met. Peter and I hit it off and had a great night together, and spent most of the next day together before I got back on the ship. I thought that was the end of if, as I lived in New York, and he lived in Sydney. But Peter was persistent, and we ended up meeting up in my next port of call in Australia. Then he was transiting through Singapore on his way to London when our ship came to port. And when I got off the ship in Southampton, he was in London, so we spent the week together. I then went back to New York, where he came to visit, then he invited me to come back to Sydney during the Olympics. By then we had well and truly fallen for each other. So, jump forward to 2014, after living in Sydney together for 14 years, when he asked if I’d follow him to Fiji, where his company was relocating him, I said yes. So we packed up the family, and have been here for almost 5 years.
Q: With the Hallmark Channel connection, I have to ask: How was to work with fan favorite Catherine Bell from Hallmark Channel’s Good Witch on A Summer to Remember?
Matt Young: Oh, yes, Catherine Bell!
Catherine is so beautiful in person, it took my breath away. That hair! I spent the first few takes just trying to not freak out.
But then I calmed down and got to work. She is a very professional and generous actress, and has worked with the director, Martin Wood, many times. So it was really just hanging on for the ride. They knew exactly what they needed, and it happened very quickly.
I enjoyed our onscreen relationship, because, really, all I had to do was act like she was my best friend. And who wouldn’t want Catherine Bell as his beast friend? A real joy.
Q: As a married gay man with two teenage boys, how do you feel about the current LGBTQ challenges in the States and all over the world?
Matt Young: It should be noted that though we had a commitment ceremony in 2002, we only were legally married in the USA in 2015, when state marriages started to be federally recognised. Australia only just changed the law to allow same-sex couples to be legally married, so our US marriage is now recognized there as well.
I think because we have been so used to not having the same rights as everyone else, we just got on with our lives, and hoped the rest of the world would catch up. Our marriage is not legally recognised in Fiji, where we currently live. But we hope one day, in our life time, it will be. And the boys have never articulated it, but it must have been hard for them to have to explain that their two dads were not “allowed” to get married for the entire time we lived in Australia. We were able to foster and adopt (the adoption laws were changed in 2009), but not legitimize our relationship. It was exhausting to carry that for so many years.
I fear for the civil rights of the LGBTQ community in the USA under the current government. I’m sort of glad that we are not living there at the moment and we don’t have to be confronted with the US news every day. And we are planning a trip through Russia, and many of our friends have advised us not to talk about our relationship, especially as we will have our 16-year-old son with us. So we selectively have to go back into the closet, depending on where we are.
However, I’m an optimist, so I think this is a moment in US history that will pass. I think it is inevitable that the USA, and the rest of the world, will continue moving forward and recognising that people have different sexual orientations and gender identities. Certainly for our sons, a person’s sexual identity will never be something they won’t understand or accept.
Q: Your family was one if the subjects of the Netflix documentary ‘Gayby Baby’. What was that experience like? What kind of feedback did you get from it? Did you learn anything during or after filming it?
Matt Young: The filmmaker, Maya Newell, was friends with our mate, an Australian actress/filmmaker named Natasha Bassett. Maya lived literally across the street from us. When she initially approached us about being in the film, which shows the experience of growing up in families with same-sex parents, through the eyes of the children, we were not that interested. We didn’t want our kids to feel exploited, and we didn’t want to give ammunition to haters to attack our family. But Maya needed a male couple with kids that were our kids’ ages, so she assured us that the boys would be taken care of, that we would be shown all the footage that was going to go into the film, and that we could at any time let her know if we wanted something removed from the edits. She is an amazing filmmaker, with great integrity (and the daughter of same-sex parents herself).
She worked with us for about 2 1/2 to 3 years, first focusing on our eldest son, and then focusing on Graham, as Michael started to grow out of the age of the other subjects in the film. We were extremely used to having her around, so there is no artifice. She would see our lights go on in the morning, from her window across the street, and call and ask if she could come over. She accompanied the kids to school, to the supermarket, to sports, to church, and finally to Fiji. What you see in the film is about the last 6 weeks that she filmed with our family, when we moved to Fiji.
Of course, our greatest fear came true when the film became well-known, and was about to be theatrically released in Australia. One of the national newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, ran a front page article attacking the film and the children, saying they were indeed “not normal” and that the film should be banned in Australia. Again, Maya stepped in, got counsellors to talk to all the kids and the parents, and stood firm that we had an important story to tell.
Obviously, the public agreed. The film has been shown on tv by Australia’s national broadcaster, Netflix picked up the film, it had a theatrical release in Australia, and it has been seen in film festivals around the world.
And Graham, our son who is featured in the film, is incredibly proud of that snapshot of his life. Ebony, one of the other kids from the film, and Graham catch up every time we head back to Sydney. We marched in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras with the other families, and he and Ebony were interviewed for tv. He travelled to the Northern Territory in Australia and talked about his experience as a foster kid who was adopted by same-sex parents while the adoption law was being reviewed there – it passed, allowing same-sex couples to adopt. So overall, through all the struggles and worries we had as parents, it turned out to be a gift for our son, and our family.
Q: You’ll also be appearing in the TBS series ‘Wrecked’, which begins in a few weeks. Are you still in production for that or is the season already filmed? Tell us about the show and your character.
Matt Young: Wrecked finished filming this season in Fiji in May. I was a core cast extra last season, as they needed other plane crash survivors to occupy the island, (it’s a parody of Lost), along with the main cast. I was upgraded in Episode 7 of Season 2 to a named character, “Sad Dirty Survivor”. There is a running joke in the show about the main cast not being aware of the adventures of the rest of us on the island, so it’s a bit of fun to look for me throughout Season 2 in the background! But at the end of Season 2 – spoiler – the rescue ship we were all on sank and we all piled into 3 lifeboats, with the 10 main cast members landing on a new island! What happened to those of us on the other boats? You’ll have to watch this season to see if that question is answered. I can’t say more. But you can watch the entire Season 2 on the TBS app. And the show is hilarious! The cast was allowed to improvise the dialogue in the last take of every scene, the “fun run”. The actor who plays Steve, Rhys Darby, who I also stood in for during Season 2 filming, was particularly hilarious in those runs. And some of that material made it into the final cut. I love comedy. I’d love my character to keep coming back each season, but I’m at the mercy of the writers.
Q: With all you have done, what are some things you want to do that you haven’t yet?
Matt Young: Although I toured with Broadway musicals in Europe, Canada, the USA and Australia, I haven’t actually performed in a Broadway show on Broadway. So that is something I need to do within the next 5 years. I love comedy, so I’d love to be in the principal cast of something like Wrecked. I’m a sit com kind of actor, so I’m trusting someone will offer me a contract to be a series regular on a sit com. I love film, so I’m looking to get more film work in Hollywood and abroad. And I want to play a gay man in a feature-length movie, as I almost always get cast as “straight” or “married”. I am a married family man, so that makes sense, but hopefully someone will write a role for me. I worked on a short film which was on the Festival circuit this year called XYXY, in which I played a scientist who was able to create a child for my husband and myself in the lab. I really hope that gets developed into a feature.
Q: Since we are living in a time of “reboots”, what are some shows you’d like to see come back and roles you’d like to tackle?
Matt Young: Stargate. I’d be a great spaceship captain. Fame. As a dance and/or drama teacher. Pretty much anything that has to do with dance. I’m often being looked at to play a ballet master or choreographer, and did a stage show called Goodbye Miss Monroe in which I played Jack Cole, Marilyn’s dance director for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I’d do that show again in a heart beat. And in terms of comedy? Bring back ALF. I’ll play the father of the family he lives with, Mr Tanner.
Q: Where can we find you and online?
Matt Young: If you want to find me, at the moment I’m here in Suva, Fiji looking after my family! But you can follow me on social media: @mattyoungactor on Instagram and Twitter and Matt Young – Actor on Facebook and You Tube. And as mentioned, my website is www.mattyoungactor.com.
Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?
Matt Young: I absolutely cannot live without the ocean, and the ability to go swimming in it. I love it so much I moved to an island! And we are recent boat owners, so that makes it even more accessible.
The one thing I wish we could all live without? So many things – hatred, bigotry, close-mindedness, climate change, addiction, suicide – the list goes on. But if I have to limit it to one thing? I wish we could all live without depression. Since we cannot, make sure you see a doctor if you feel you are suffering. And get help. It could save your life.