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Matt Austin Interview

July 3rd, 2005

How did your mind-set alter coming off of "SPD," a large syndicated television
show, and back to your personal Toronto film?

To be honest, my mind-set never really waned. Other than not having my city's
backyard to play in (with the people I like to play with), I still did the same things,
regardless of working on the show. Any spare moment I had on set, or at home,
was spent creating scripts/music. Much like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, as
legend has it, did with "Good Will Hunting," I was sending drafts back and forth
with my director/co-writer of the feature film adaptation of my play In Between.

My intention while I was there was to aim for the project to be in production by
late fall. I was also rewriting a short film that I'm now shooting in August, and
started my pen to paper for another feature film called "Sequoia." In Between
(pardon the pun) all that, I was also learning how to use GarageBand on my Mac.
After wrapping most days, I started recording my music in my apartment. I have
written over 30 songs and now have 12 new ones, created while in New
Zealand, on disc. Now that I'm back, I'm focusing on following through with all
that. There's also so many episodes of the show that I haven't even seen yet, so
I'm really looking forward to catching them on the tube and seeing what the
reaction is. I miss the show and the people.

Knowing its end was inevitable, was anything learned from "SPD" that you
will carry with you into your own craft?

Definitely. As with any experience, I try to learn as much as possible. I've worked
on films before, however, the hours were nothing like working on "SPD." Working
for 13 hours straight, 5 days a week for 8 months, and always being required on
set, whether I was on or off camera or had any lines, was amazing training. My
general attitude, day in and day out, for the next time I'm on set will definitely be
influenced by that.

What led you to include Journalism as part of your studies at Western? Did
you intend to relate it to Film Studies or was it a separate interest?

The theatre program was canceled and journalism was going to be my
minor. So I made it my major. The program I was part of at Western was
called 'Media Information Culture and Technology'. Basically, it was an
examination of how books, film, and people alter and evolve language, and how
we relate to one another. And in turn, as a journalist, how to be aware of that and
infuse it in your writing. It completely relates to my interest in developing stories
as an actor/writer/director, because it all comes down to manipulation. How can I
get you to see/feel what I want you to based on what you've seen/felt before?

Your performances as Merrick in "Denied" and Bridge on "SPD" present
interesting contrasts, and you demonstrate remarkable versatility. As an
actor do you find it easy to slip into most roles or do certain ones require
more effort?

Thank you. To be honest, I pride myself in my love for the light and dark. I'm
quirky by nature and have good timing, so characters with a bit of, well,
'spazzyness' or quirkiness are easy... but I'm also a very emotional person and
have a strong energy when I'm upset, or mad, or sad...so these "brooding"
characters allow to me attach to that.

I really enjoy playing those parts... with depth. It's the ebb and flow of the tortured
artist. I relish in my happiness AND my depression. It's simple to me. In a
dramatic turn, it's my ability to relate to the emotion of my character, and the other
players, and then hope that people watching can understand what's happening
inside. In an action/comedy, it comes down to electric instinct, and an
unembarrassed nature, and a choice to commit. That's character. It ultimately
comes down to a director's trust in you and his/her trust in the writer. Entertaining
people should not require effort if you are an actor. But there is a lot of pressure.
Personally, I approached "SPD" like it was a sitcom.

Jimmy's cinematography was a stunning combination of the beautiful and the
grotesque. The voiceover and the isolated heartbeat give it an eerily
biographical feel, as if the narrator were describing a third party not
unfamiliar to him. Does Jimmy or Ron reflect elements of your life
experiences?

I wanted to leave the audience with an unsettling impression; in terms of image,
sound, and story. I wanted them to be uncomfortable and left with no answers
and a lot of questions... about the film, it's characters, or even me. I guess, that
as a filmmaker I like to make people think... and I like to see how people react
when they don't know how they feel. In that way, yes, Jimmy and Ron are a
reflection of me. Ron's desires and Jimmy's dreams.

Where is your favourite part of "the big smoke" [Toronto] to hang out when
you have free time?

I like College Street and Kensington area, a lot. It feels beat up and authentic to
me. And I love sitting on Queen West and watching people and grabbing a bite
on a patio. But I find myself mostly wandering on Yonge street – how could I not?
It's the longest street in the world.

Do you have a favourite quotation which motivates you?

My old favourite quote was "the best thing about today is the idea of tomorrow"
meaning to me, that no matter what is good or bad about today, the next day can
only offer more promise. However, my newest favourite sign off/quote is "Be
courageous."

For me it embodies the whole notion of reminding me and others to go after
what you want in life. Anything that's difficult or scary is worthwhile. Embrace it.
Challenge it and overcome it. Keep moving. Don't stand still. Always try to be
aware of yourself and have integrity.

Who are your filmmaking inspirations? And do you have an overall role
model/hero?

That constantly evolves as I'm exposed to new writers and directors. Right now
it's a mix of the young and old. Just based on the fact that Woody Allen has
created roles for himself to act opposite an extremely diverse and talented group
of actors, puts him at the top of my list. He has made so many films over the
years that are consistently original and daring and for the most part funny and
charming.

Wes Anderson/Owen Wilson/Ben Stiller are also people who have been able to
do things that I admire. Right now I would have to say Dan Harris (he's 26 and
wrote "X-Men" and just directed his first brilliant feature with Sigourney Weaver
and Jeff Daniels – "Imaginary Heroes") and Zach Braff are inspiring me to
continue to strive. They show me that it can be done. My role models/heroes are
my peers but – to quote "Imaginary Heroes" – "Two things happen when we
meet our heroes: we either realize they're just like us, or they're a$$holes."
Something like that...

On what shows, past and present, would you have liked to employ your many
talents?

Are we talking television? I'll assume you are. Let's see – past – I would have
loved to have played Alex P. Keaton on "Family Ties" or worked with Bruce Willis
on "Moonlighting" or Mikey Seaver on "Growing Pains." Present – "Six Feet Under"
– "Scrubs" – "Lost" – "ER" – and I how could you not have had a lot of fun on
"Friends"?

What do you enjoy writing outside film and theatre?

I just finished work on a children's illustrated book for kindergarten kids. And as I
said before, I write music and play piano and guitar.

Right now I'm working on recording a demo professionally – (I have a 20 song
rough demo recorded on my laptop) and I'm working on creating original songs
for new artists or soundtracks.

Dinner and a movie? Theatre and walking on the beach? McDonald's take-out
over the football game? How does one show Matt Austin a good time?

It's got to be energetic and creative or something I've never done before.
Something we could share together... it could be as simple as taking me to a
restaurant with food I can't get anywhere else – or have never eaten before – or
cooking it yourself. I want to forget everything else and just play like kids. And if
you make me laugh... it's good.

And of course, the proverbial question: Boxers or briefs?

Depends what's clean.

–– SPD: So Please Divulge ––

Do you keep any copies of old "SPD" scripts?

I've recycled them all. Too many trees!!!

Did you have an opportunity to use some of your talents in "SPD" besides
playing Bridge? Would you have been interested in writing an episode?

I always pitched Bruce and Greg ideas I had for the rest of the season or
something that I could do in a scene. Most decisions were already made,
however they did allow me a lot of flexibility with the dialogue and sometimes my
suggestions ended up being implemented. Everyone has a job so you don't
want to step on toes... I was brought on as an actor, so I had to concentrate on
that.

I really like writing original pieces based on my own ideas and characters... BUT,
I would have been interested in collaborating on a episode idea that the pro's
would have written – and then directing that episode. I would love the opportunity
and know I could make it fresh.

Your face is seen on websites, toys, and a children's TV show. What do you
make of your popularity as a Power Ranger?

Still getting used to it. I've been home just over a month so I've yet to really be
around it. Due to toy licensing, my likeness on a Green Ranger toy is nowhere to
be found. That's okay.... I did terrible things to my G.I. Joes when I was a kid.

How much of Matt Austin influenced Bridge Carson? Do you two share any
unique traits or quirks? Would we find a bath book floating in your tub?

Matt Austin and Bridge Carson are similar for one major reason: they're both me.
When casting, they were looking for someone that could carry off the character a
certain way. When you see actor after actor take the character and a) not
understand how to play him or b) just have the wrong vibe, it can be frustrating... I
guess when I walked in and met Bruce at the call-back, they felt that Bridge had
walked in.

We share things like: a genuine love of people, adventure, rambling, and a rubix-
cube-like-way of figuring things out. I think Bridge is someone who doesn't know
he's funny – and might be a little insecure when people laugh AT him or don't
understand him.

We both make people laugh but I am a little more sarcastic and aware (and
would like to think witty). You wouldn't find a bath book simply because I don't
take baths... I mean... I wash myself but I'm not known to pamper myself with a
hot bath....That might change if I ever get a Jacuzzi....

What is the story for Bridge being Jewish? Was the decision to mention his
background entirely the writers' or did you suggest it? The fans love the first
Jewish Power Ranger!

That's great to hear. It really came from the producers and the writing team. The
idea stemmed, I believe, based on my call-back when I mentioned I played in a
Jewish hockey league. The producers then told me that they weren't aware of
any Jewish actors on the show or any Jewish characters in the past. I was
honored to be the first character on the series to be Jewish and to be respected
for it. I wanted to do it with a Yiddish accent, but no dice.

As with many shows, some fans interpret the relationships of "Power
Rangers" characters variously as they see them, and some interesting
discussion and fanfiction has resulted. One of the most popular from "SPD"
is the portrayal of Bridge and Sky as lovers. Do you have any thoughts on this
aspect?

Well, we all have our fantasies, but rest assured – that's not the case.

There was a point in time (talking about pitching ideas earlier) that Sky and
Bridge could have been brothers – separated at birth – they have a very cold
interaction on the show – I think Sky thinks Bridge is nutty, doesn't belong, and
should get into better shape. I think Bridge thinks that Sky should chill out a little
and not take everything so seriously.

I think the entire cast had a really rare amazing chemistry. Chris and I are both
from Toronto and he was the first person I met. Off camera we had a older
brother/younger brother relationship and I think that translated on camera – only
vice versa.

With whom among the "SPD" cast have you kept in contact since your return?

We all keep in touch the best we can. We all lead very busy lives, but thanks to
email, I get updates regularly.

Do you feel honored to be part of a huge television legacy? What will be your
fondest memories looking back on "Power Rangers" in ten years?

Not many shows have been on for 13 seasons and not many can claim a
constant and evolving fan base. I once wrote a project in elementary school on
Disney – so to be working for them is quite special. I'll remember the off-camera
bloopers and off-set moments the most.

And last but not least: When did you realize "It's Buttery" had become such a
popular catch phrase among the fans? It's already been printed on some fan
t-shirts!

Get me a shirt! I love that it's caught on. Bruce and Greg and the rest of the cast
seemed to be pretty positive it would catch on, but I wasn't so sure. After it was
woven into an episode and I had crew wiggling their fingers at me – I knew that
I'd soon hear about it from fans.

Outside of the show, its origin lies when I was trying to describe a certain kind of
Indian food that I love but it's intentions are that it can be implied to and for
anything. For example: "That car is buttery
," or "How did your interview go?
Buttery
." And so on....

I just want to thank you and all of my fans for the amazing support, letters,
pictures and general interest in my career. It means a great deal to me.

Be courageous.