About his Career
(on choosing between film and TV and theater): I’m not really biased towards any medium, you know. What’s important to me…obviously, you have to do some job to help you pay the bills. What’s important to me is that they continue to work on projects that kind of challenge artists and hopefully affect people in a positive way.
I’ve never cared about how successful or how big I was going to be. I just wanted to be part of a story that affected people, made them laugh or cry. To me, that was more important than having my face on some billboard.
Don’t worry if people think you’re good. Make this your experience. And find out what makes you unique as an artist. You don’t get the opportunity to do that as much in the real world.
What we really have to do is stop the adjective before the job title—whether it’s ‘black actor,’ a ‘gay actor’ or ‘anything actor. Everybody thinks that equality comes from identifying people, and that’s not where equality comes from. Equality comes from treating everybody the same regardless of who they are. I hope the media and the press catches on to that because it’s time to move out of 1992.
The larger concern for me is always the story. Not ‘will this make me a star?” or “will I be good in this?” Because, if you’re not telling a story that’s interesting and relevant and well done, your performance isn’t really going to matter. So director and story trump all as far as I’m concerned. Also, if I’m a little scared by the prospect of something, it’s usually a good thing. It means I’m not going to be working in my comfort zone – that I’m going to have to stretch a bit, and it’s going to involve some risk. So if I’m scared shitless by a role, I usually say yes. (X)
(On preparing for roles): The process is so different and personal for each that I’d feel silly laying it out for you. All I can tell you is that I’m obsessive. It’s probably unhealthy. But when I’m working on something. it’s all I can think about. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night wondering how the character might walk down the street. (X)
I was riding my bike the other day and a woman pulled into her driveway to cut me off and tell me that she was in a really low depression when she discovered the show, and the escapism White Collar offered gave her something to focus on – that for me outweighs trophies and awards. (X)
(on deciding to become an actor): I think I made the conscious decision to go for it my senior year in high school. The acting program I went to was like really, really comprehensive. It was about sixty hours a week of really, really hard work. So you found out really, really quick, if acting was something you really wanted to do for the rest of your life or not.
I wanted to go to Northwestern and become a serious journalist, but I think there was some divine hand leading another way.
(recalling his New York experience during 9/11. Matt was at an audition on the 53rd floor of a high-rise at 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue in New York during 9/11. He actually saw one of the planes crash into one of the World Trade Center towers.): I didn’t know what was going on and obviously was very upset – the building I was in could be next. All I could think of was to get to the ground floor as soon as possible and get back to my shoddy little apartment in midtown Manhattan. (X)
(comparing himself to his “Traveler” character): I think the similarities are that they’re both optimistic and we both want to believe the best in everybody. In the beginning of the show, Jay really believes in the establishment to effect change – the establishment being the government. At the end of the day, I think I’m a pretty optimistic person.
I just do my work and live my life. There’s always that volume knob of people’s voices and speculation. But I found you can turn it as low as you want. I have a great family and people in my life. I don’t focus on other parts of the business.
I’m a creature of comfort. When I’m around the house, it’s jeans, T-shirts, old jackets.
I feel comfortable in old clothes, anything that has gotten me through a traumatic experience I hold on to.
I will not be joining Twitter any time soon. I just don’t think that the day-to-day ramblings of my life would be interesting enough to hold an audience.
Never forget your manners. They go a long way in both your business and personal life. If you look and act like you are making an effort, it will be appreciated.
I like strong opinions – I’ll take that any day over someone who agrees with everything.
I work such crazy hours that I don’t really have much down time – but, when I do get a break, I try to stay in touch with the people who make sure I keep my feet on the ground.
I like to sing and leave songs on voicemail. It comes from the heart.
Anybody who is rude to anyone in the service industry is automatically out. (X)
(His life, he says, has two discrete parts): One is a complete maelstrom of creativity. There are times I feel like I’m living in the studio of Salvador Dali: My apartment is strewn with pages and pages of lines and notes … a lot of brainstorming and creativity and disorganization. And then there’s my family life, which is beautiful and rock-solid and chaotic in a whole different way. (X)
(On wearing black tie well?) Go commando underneath. It adds an air of mystery. (X)
(On what every man should know about women?) They have vaginas. Seriously, my dad taught me to always (at least try) and be a gentleman. I think chivalry and respect will always go a long way. And listening. (X)
Neal’s level of confidence and intelligence are both so high that it was really intimidating at first. When we started shooting, there were a lot of things I had to affect, and a certain amount of his character that I had to maintain on set just to stay in that zone. I’m not someone who wants all eyes on me when I walk into a room, so I had to muster up a lot of courage in the beginning. I’m sure my co-stars found this really obnoxious. As time has gone on, the distance between Neal and I has narrowed a bit, and I find it a lot easier to slip into his skin. (X)
I love singing. I sing around the house, and on set all the time. I loved recording as well. If I ever do it again, I’ll make sure that I’ve given the practice necessary to make it as fun as it possible could be. I started writing songs when I was 9 years old, and have been doing it ever since. But I’m not sure they’ll ever see the light of day. Maybe they were just a form of therapy for me. A way to make sense of the world around me. (X)
Fatherhood put everything in perspective for me. All paradigms shifted. Having a family is hands down the best thing that ever has or will ever happen to me.
(On his fans): I don’t cry a lot, but I’m not gonna lie, I cried when I saw the fan video from my birthday last year. I’m so blown away by the fans, and so grateful. They’ve stuck by me through thick and thin, and that means more to me than I could ever express in words. At times I feel like they believe in me more than I believe in myself, and that’s bolstered me through lots of stormy weather. When you’ve been doing a job for four years, a lot of times you have to dig deep to stay as motivated as you want to. The fans are always there as that motivation for me. No matter how tired or stressed I am, I will always give my best for them. (X)
My role model is Paul Newman. For me, he embodied what it means to be successful at this. You can believe him as the romantic leading man, or he can be Cool Hand Luke – he can have the grit. I like characters who aren’t perfect, that’s what’s fun for me to play as an actor: the imperfections, the shadows.
Tim always comes from a place of love. Not that that’s surprising, but it’s not an act. He’s inherently a really great person that positively impacts everybody that he comes in contact with. One of the things that makes working on the show so much fun for both of us is he loves to work and explore and play. (X)