In film/television, if the story is presented properly, a character will have a arc that is both compelling and thought-provoking. Fascinated by such elements, talented actor Matt Lauria has spent most of his career looking for a new challenge in character portrayal. Building a résumé of recognizable roles in series such as Friday Night Lights, Person of Interest, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Kingdom, Lauria is an actor in love with the craft.
More recently taking on the role of a seemingly well-to-do young business man in Hulu’s Horror Anthology series Into the Dark, for the feature installment Down, Lauria works opposite Natalie Martinez in a story that is guaranteed to make you quiver. Scheduled to premiere on Hulu Friday, February 1st, Lauria sat down to talk about his lead role in the film, working in confined corridors, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – Involved in entertainment for over 15 years, you have done a slew of popular television series as well as feature films. Briefly tell us, what inspired you to get into act?
Matt Lauria – My dad was a two-dimensional animator. I grew up around unusual, creative, quirkier individuals. I’m sure you can imagine what animators are like, so we had a lot of really colorful characters around our house when I was growing up as a kid. I was always encouraged to make believe and imagine, that’s what my dad did for a living. My mom encouraged that too. That’s where the seeds were planted in terms of play acting as a kid.
I was then forced to audition for a play. I grew up in Dublin, Ireland for my formative years, so when I was around 12, I was forced to audition for the school musical because everyone was required to. I was really awful, but somehow I got an understudy in Alice in Wonderland for the March Hare. Then the real March Hare got really sick, I ended up being the March Hare, and I really loved it!
I loved the electricity of being in front of a live audience with it all happening right in the moment. The synergy that happens between an audience and performer on stage is really interesting. That gave me the bug. I also just love making people laugh. Through the years, the thing I love most about it, is the storytelling. It’s such an intricate part of who we are as human beings, it’s so important to us culturally and socially. I just really enjoy doing it.
Cryptic Rock – You have certainly played many different characters. Speaking of which, you star in the episode Down on the new Hulu series Into the Dark. How did the role come about for you?
Matt Lauria – There is an incredible creative team over at Blumhouse Television who I’ve had the great fortune of interacting with artistically and personally a good deal. I did a show called Kingdom, and the driving force behind it was a gentlemen named Jeremy Gold who is one of the co-chiefs at Blumhouse Television with Marci Wiseman. Jeremy was the reason Kingdom came to be. Blumhouse is a close family of creative spirits. They are the type of people you can’t believe that they are in this business – they are so kind, creative, and put art first. I love them.
My role in Down came around because on Kingdom my character Ryan had a woman he was going toe to toe with, and she was played by the unparalleled Natalie Martinez. They loved her for this role, and I guess as the story goes, the executives were talking about casting the role of Guy, which I play, and they said, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if we have a Kingdom reunion.” They called me, I got the script, and I loved it. That’s all she wrote.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. Yourself and Natalie are essentially the only characters in the film. Even more compelling, the majority of the film takes place within an elevator car. What was it like working in such confined corridors?
Matt Lauria – That was one of the most attractive aspects. One of the really enticing ingredients to telling this story was it takes place in an elevator. Film is such a visual medium, and there are so few tricks and devices that can be employed when your stuck in a single and very confined location. So much of the storytelling really rests on the psychology of the characters and the writing. It was incredible enticing to me that we were going to have the pace and space to really get behind the foreheads of these two individual to find their inner workings.
I also liked the challenge of it. I think the director, Daniel Stamm, and the writer, Kent Kubena, found a variety and diversity within these tiny four walls. The other aspect that was enticing was this problem of different intentions – everybody lives by certain codes. I was attracted to the problem of the though misguided, warped, and decisively perverse intentions, as well as the innocents of my character’s intentions. His intentions don’t match up with most people’s. I loved exploring that problem psychologically.
Cryptic Rock – Understood. Your character is a very interesting one in the aspect of the intentions and what transpires thereafter. With what transpires, as viewer, you almost feel dirty feeling any empathy toward him. That in mind, in a way you do, because he is humanized in many ways.
Matt Lauria – I am so glad you said that. That was really something that attracted me. There is this whole idea that you have this guy that on the surface appears to be ordinary, and a perfectly safe person to be in an elevator with who has a nice job, is clean cut, intelligent, witty, has a sense of humor, is clever, etc.
The thing that fascinated me, which is sort of the breaking point of my character, is this idea of what happens to someone who is seems normal, or may even be mostly normal, who is faced with an insurmountable load of either humiliation, disappointment, rejection, or pain. Whether it’s cumulative, or in a moment. I think for my character, it is cumulative, and then eventually it is too much in the moment.
It is the idea of when a seemingly regular person is faced with that level of hurt, shame, along with disappointment, but doesn’t have the tools to cope with it, and what happens then. I think the human side of it makes it a little bit more scary than if it was just totally unrelatable.
Cryptic Rock – Very true. Acting opposite you, Natalie Martinez does a sensational job as Jennifer. She plays a very smart and strong individual. What was it like working off her?
Matt Lauria – I love working with Natalie! She is such a dynamic human being and artist, as well as all the reasons you listed . She has the ability to be so gentle, sincere, and alluring, but also powerful and threatening. That’s who Natalie is, she is such a dynamic individual.
It was such a perfect role for her. I think so much of what makes the movie work is that first part of these two seeming strangers interacting for the first time in an elevator and letting that develop. Natalie is so present, so human, alive, and responsive. I attribute the first part of the film coming to life to Natalie. Of course, who else could be put in a role who can go from that to what we eventually see her encounter and take on later. She was perfect for it.
Cryptic Rock – She certainly did a great job. Last question, what are some of your favorite films?
Matt Lauira – There are many, but the first three that come to mind are The Last of Mohicans (1992), On The Waterfront (1954), and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). I also loved the first Zoolander (2001). (Laughs)