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Matthew Jain is an American actor who worked on season 1 of the hit Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why. We talk about the show's controversy, inequality in Hollywood and what it takes to be a successful actor in Tinsel Town.

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(1) Hi Matt! Tell us a bit about who you are and what you’re up to?

Hi George! Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you.

I grew up in Lompoc California which is a small farming community in Santa Barbara County. When I was 5 years old I remember watching “The Mickey Mouse Club”. Those kids were having so much fun plus there was a really cute blond girl on it. I found my calling. I started my journey of acting in middle school at the ripe age of 12. If it wasn’t for two of my cool friends being involved with middle school plays, I don’t think I would have had the courage to have auditioned for my first play called “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown”.

Jeremy and Lavar showed me that I could do drama and still be accepted. I was good at it and I had such a great time. The community of gleeks became my tribe and my salvation through middle school and high school.

My mother raised my brother and me with the help of section 8 housing, food stamps and a loving community of family but we felt the stress of poverty. I’m very thankful for our government and the program benefits we received. I’m also thankful for the family members and friends who stepped in to help where they could but I knew that I wanted a life very different from these struggles for my future. Christmas was joyful for the right reasons but I always empathized with my mother as she struggled to provide “things” for us. I also hated the taste of government cheese. I’m not sure how they made it but I’ve had lots of cheese since then. Government cheese is in a league of its own.

I started out as a vocal music performance major in college and within a year felt like I needed to do something that made money. Shamefully, the arts in our country is under supported, underfunded and made for a privileged few to make a living and create wealth. Although I desired to perform, I needed to find a job that paid money, benefits, vacation and a pension consistently. I began a new path.

I received a BA in International Studies, an MPA with a focus in Public Management, became a licensed Paramedic and Registered Nurse and worked as a Firefighter/Paramedic while taking acting classes, music classes, auditioning and booking work.

I essentially created an opportunity to support myself through the maze of what we know as the entertainment industry. Aside from building a career, I’m a huge fan of travel! I recently went to Alberta, Canada and spent some time in Banff National Forest. It was shear bliss to be in the beauty of Banff.

(2) Name 3 movies that have had a huge effect on your acting style?

The Goonies, India Jones (the first three), The Lord of The Rings Series, The Harry Potter Series and Gladiator. All these movies had an emotional impact that inspired me and made me better in some way. That’s what I look for in acting and it is something I want to emulate in my work. A truthful, emotionally alive and inspiring moment.

(3) What’s the most recent book you’ve read? Why that book?

Unshakeable by Tony Robbins.

I read most of his literature because I think he has a great perspective on life. I like how Tony approaches subjects because he has an ability to break down complex issues. Unshakeable is about financial health.

(4) Hollywood has been under fire for underrepresenting females and minorities? What are some of the things that Hollywood could do to change that?

Although this is true, I feel like we are on the wave of that changing. We saw a box office success of Wonder Woman within the last month and I’m seeing all sorts of series regulars who are minorities and females. Shows like ‘Transparent’ and ‘Orange is the New Black’ are giving voices to LGBT. We are on the right track as far as change goes but I think the poor and underrepresented don’t have the same access to success. Mentorship, internships and scholarships seem to be a good system wide way of introducing the underrepresented and getting them to a working place in Hollywood.

(5) You had a role in 13 Reasons Why. What was your role?

I did! I was a paramedic in episode 10 and 12. They had a flashback scene of us in episode 11. It was such an honor for me to work on this show. As an actor, I just hope to keep working but when you get hired on a show with meaningful content it’s as if my life purposes align and all is right in the world.

(6) 13 Reasons Why had some controversy in how it dealt with suicide, what are your opinions on the controversy? Do you think our culture is opening up to the idea that suicide is not as evil as historically perceived?

There is controversy surrounding the show but I will direct you back to what the creator of the show, Brian Yorkey stated:

“We worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide...

I think our culture is more open to talking about suicide especially with storytelling like “13 Reasons Why”. I will refrain from commenting on the “morality” of suicide as I think it’s a much bigger conversation than the limited words we have.

(7) What are the strengths and weaknesses of being an actor?

Strengths: It is really fun, you get to meet cool people, you have the ability to influence others, craft service is superb and it’s inspirational to story tell for good.

Weakness: There is a large financial upstart and maintenance without any guarantee of making your money back, it can be long hours away from people you care about, it has the ability to be a bit of a gypsy life because of the constant movement, there is a lot of luck involved.

(8) How can an actor be successful in Hollywood?

Discipline, creating content, education, perfecting craft, life balance, spiritual grounding, sobriety, travel, knowledge, exercise, creating genuine and caring relationships with other artists, vacation, naps, and coffee.

(9) Is there freedom to choose your role as an actor? Walk us through that process.

When you create content yes because you get to write whatever role you want for yourself. Otherwise, you are auditioning for parts.

A. You get an audition for a role

B. You cancel your dinner plans or hang time with friends so you can prepare for the audition by doing your method and memorization of the lines

C. You get work off from your day job to audition

D. You get a babysitter for your children or pet so you can go to the audition

E. You let your acting teacher know you will be late to class because of an audition. You also hope that your tardiness to class because of the audition doesn’t put your grade or passing the class at risk because of tardiness or absence.

F. You put gas in your car and then drive to where the audition is. Hopefully, there isn’t traffic, a car accident and pray your car is working.

G. You find parking and prepare to pay for the parking.

H. You take a moment for yourself to get into the zone to show casting, producers, and writers your talent.

I. You audition for the role. It usually takes less than 5 minutes.

J. You hope you didn’t embarrass yourself,

K. You go to the gym to work out all the adrenaline that was dumped into your system because of the audition.

L. You hope for a callback in which you repeat steps a-g.

M. You hopefully book the role (Consider booking one out of 100 auditions a success).

N. You get work off from your day job to shoot the gig

O. You pay your agent 10% and your manager 10% commission

P. You pay a percentage of the commission to the union

Q. You invest money that you made back into updating your reel from the gig, sending out postcards to casting directors, update all your social media sharing the good news of the booking and taking the acting class that you need to take to keep your skills sharp.

R. Rinse and repeat

(10) What advice can you give to new actors in the industry?

Have a flexible day job, perfect your craft and find joy in creating!


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