I like it when the foibles of fame haven’t tainted the sheer exuberance of being a performance artist. The old guard incessantly rant about young actors rarely toiling to improve their craft. Hollywood’s newbies are instead focused on red carpet photography and sparking stupid Twitter feuds. Then again film directors and financiers should share the blame. It’s not uncommon for actors/actresses to be picked based on how numerous their slavish social media followings are. A big fan base means that the studios have an extra base to market their films. Even Calvin Klein sounded a similar lament when Kendall Jenner became the new face of the brand that bears his own name.
I’m not saying Matthew Daddario is cut from a better cloth. Or that he eagerly watches from the wings for veteran nuance and timbre to add to his repertoire. But he does cite some very comforting classics as inspiration, as you’ll read further down. More importantly, you can feel his excitement bouncing off the page, as he answers our little Q&A with heart and head. A colleague of Harry Shum Jr, who’s also burning up the set of Shadowhunters, he’s a rare find in that he’s talented, honest and properly grounded in who he is and where he’s from. Because as everyone who’s enjoyed the limelight knows, nobody bathes in that beam forever. We reckon his star is on the rise though, and if you’ll allow August Man a little self-indulgent boasting, we’ve got an eye for picking the ones who can go the distance. Gentlemen, please welcome the tall, dark, and affable, Matt Daddario.
Wikipedia says you studied business, whose idea was that?
It never occurred to me to not go to college. At 17/18 years old, I needed to make a decision about what to study. I kind of thought that I wanted to be a doctor, but I think I was eventually scared off once I realised how long the process is before you actually achieve “doctor” status. After some consideration, I applied to the cheapest top-10 business school with the shortest application process, Indiana University, as it fit all the criteria I arbitrarily (or maybe not truly arbitrarily) applied for my college search. I think it ended up being the only school I applied to. Honestly, I was young… I may have been winging it a little. It sounds cliché, but at any top-100 (200, 300 maybe) university, you get out of it what you put into it.
It also says your dad was former boss of counter-terrorism under Mayor Bloomberg. Do you feel the adage “like father, like son” applies in any capacity, or none at all?
Well, if you mean that I have been fighting terrorism my whole life, then yes. But I operate under a less fancy title. I’m more of a vigilante. I’m kidding of course. I lack the focus, dedication and incorruptibility of my father.
What were your favourite movies and TV shows growing up?
I have memories of watching Seinfeld in my parents’ room as a kid. I enjoyed that, but you know what’s weird? I really don’t remember. I always have trouble with the concept of “favourites”. Lots of things have merits and appeal to me. Thinking of Seinfeld, I gotta say Curb Your Enthusiasm might qualify as a favourite. And now I am thinking of Veep. I love Veep too.
What are some of the lessons from your mentors that have stayed with you even till now?
The funny thing about lessons in general is I feel people don’t really learn them when they are told. Rather, something has to happen to them and then they say, “oh man, Mr/Ms Doe told me to expect this, they were right. I will expect this in the future”. Does that make sense?
From movies to TV, what was your actor’s process? And do you have a ritual that always helps you get into character?
Staying calm and focused prior to scenes. Make sure I know where my character is at mentally, and that I get there. Never being tired unless it will somehow (very rare) help the scene.
Perfectionist (being your own worst critic) vs High Achiever (not worried about the details, only that you did your best). Which best describes your work ethic?
Perfection is a silly concept, because it only exists when there is a distinct set of criteria to be filled. Things are rarely like that. “I’m the perfect doctor!” What does that mean? I cure every man? I always make my patients comfortable? I have never made a misdiagnosis? See, what are the criteria? So, high achiever is more realistic. But again, achievement is relative. I could be the best at something in one sample of people, but in another and I could be a complete moron. Ideally, my work ethic would be defined by resetting the bar whenever I meet someone better than me at something, and then working to be better than them.
No one wants to be typecast, but what kind of roles best suit your personality/style?
Superhero, space explorer, secret agent. Obviously.
Tell me a little about the Shadowhunters experience, what were your first expectations, and how that’s evolved over the season.
At first I had no idea what to expect. Things got crazy very quickly, however, and eventually I just learned not to expect anything. The scripts were always changing and we were always working with each other to make everything coherent. It was a very organic first season, which I am very, very thankful for. A lot of learning is done when you are constantly adapting.
Do you do your own stunts?
You know when you are moving, and you have all these boxes and all this heavy stuff you need to get out of your house? So you say, “I’ll just carry this all to a truck I rented and cart it up flights of stairs! I am capable of that because I am strong and young!” So you do half of it and then you realise, holy cr*p, moving this armoire will result in my death. That’s when you put your ego aside and bring in a professional to do it for you. So, same idea as moving, except sometimes you are throwing yourself off high things or getting smashed in the face with a rock.
How would your best friend describe you?
Man, it depends on the best friend. I have a few equally best friends. I’m going to text three of them to find out. EDIT: I texted, “Hey, how would you describe me?” and I have received various insults so far. It’s a bloodbath, actually.
You’re on one of those ‘70s dating shows. Describe your looks to a person you’re looking to impress from behind a screen.
I’d have to describe something really, really strange to make them feel like they just HAD to see what I look like. “Due to an odd birth defect, my eyes are bright purple.” I mean, I’d pick that person because I’d just NEED to see that. There are plenty of places to meet people, but you only meet one purple-eyed person.
You’ve been given a chance to turn back time, what age would you go back to, and what would you do differently?
Besides all the obvious investment-related answers to this question… I don’t think I would change anything. I don’t want to take a risk with that. I like my life, for the most part. I’m healthy. I’d probably go back and focus more on learning another language or learning the piano. But maybe then I’d be a depressed pianist? Don’t get me started on this question.
What’s your life’s greatest inspiration?
I read Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman when I was a kid, and a few times since. The way Richard Feynman views the world, and what he did with his vast intelligence and creativity in the time he had is really something. It gives a certain perspective. Curiosity and investigation are the things that make life interesting.
On a scale of one to 10, how lucky are you in life?
It varies depending on what discrete time we are looking at. Also, like many things, it’s relative. I’m sure someone could do the maths and determine exactly how lucky I am in comparison to increasingly large samples of the world’s population.
What kind of film would you write/direct?
I have written a number of scripts. Some are absurd. Some are more serious. Some I’m very proud of. I hope to see some of them made. That’s an ambiguous answer. I like stories where a man, whose life is in some form of shambles, is then thrust into a completely different world where he is forced to adapt and change to succeed or survive. It’s often funny, and it allows for farcical moments as well as emotionally affected moments.
Tell me something bad about you.
I will eat anywhere in the house. I’ll eat cheese crackers in bed.
What kind of car do you drive ?
I don’t have a car. I rent cars a lot and have, as a result, developed a pretty strong understanding of what brands I like, what styles, features, qualities I like, etc. Maybe someone will show me something that makes me say, “THIS is the car I want for sure” but that hasn’t happened yet.
What’s your most competitive sport?
Oh man, basketball. Baseball. Tennis. Football. I just really like playing sport. The worst part about getting old is that it is increasingly difficult to get a group together to play organised sport. Actually, for the past few years I’ve played football on Sundays with a group of guys and it’s really, really fun. It started pretty laid back, but it has become increasingly intense. Actually, it’s become a bit dangerous. We’ve gotten really serious about it and now there are injuries quite often. Like, every week. Hmmm.