You may know him from Nick’s True Jackson VP and The Real O’Neals, but we got to know the real Matt Shively. Learn about the man behind his funny characters as we discuss his introduction into acting, resident doppelgänger Evan Peters, and what’s on the horizon for this year.
Cliché: Tell us about yourself as a kid. Were you always into performing?
Matt Shively: I think I went through the same phase as every other kid my age. I wanted to be a firefighter or a football player—all the generic things kids want to be before they experience their “true calling.” When I was in 4th grade, I did a play at school. The feeling I got walking onto that stage was a feeling I want to have for the rest of my life. I love becoming different characters and making people get lost in what they are watching. When I watch movies, plays, or musicals, I forget about the outside world and all the stresses that come with it. In turn, I like allowing people to do that through whatever it is I am doing.
Having been in the industry for a while now, what advice would you give to someone just starting out with acting?
I would tell them that it’s not easy. One in a billion actors come to Hollywood and hit it over night. The rest of us have to deal with an extremely large amount of rejection. Being told “no” becomes as common as having to use the restroom. You have to develop very thick skin in order to get over the “no” and push for the “yes.” It took me a long time to get over the “no.” However, I knew this is what I wanted to do and this was the career I wanted to have, so no amount of rejection was going to stop me. It’s cliché, but if you truly believe in yourself and learn as much as you can from your craft, it’ll happen.
With so many roles, I’m sure you’ve had your share of interesting fan encounters. What is your best or weirdest fan experience?
The best: When someone recognized me in front of my mom for the first time. The look on her face like, “Oh wow, it’s actually happening,” was priceless.
The weirdest: Pretty much any time someone thinks I’m Evan Peters, which happens more than you’d think. At first they say, “You’re that guy from that thing,” and of course I think they are talking about me. Then they say, “That American Horror Story thing,” and all ego goes out the window.
You have credits across films, TV, genres, and networks. What has been your favorite role thus far and why?
I have two favorites. The first is The Real O’Neals because it’s the first thing I have done that is truly making an impact on the world. Kids are becoming more comfortable with who they are because they watch our show. There is no better feeling than getting a tweet or message from someone saying, “I watched your show and it gave me the courage to come out to my parents.” We are living in a stressful time for the world and having people feel comfortable being exactly who they are and not having to hide is tremendous.
My second was a movie called Summer Of 8. It was the first time I got to work with people my own age and it was just an amazing experience.
Speaking of The Real O’Neals, how would you say your character has changed throughout the series so far?
My character has become much more understanding of his parents’ divorce. I think Jimmy was hurt the most by that news because, in a way, he thinks them being together in the first place is all his fault. He doesn’t want to see his family fall apart, but he is finally realizing that by them finally sharing their feelings, it’s bringing them all closer together. As for the rest of the season 2, Jimmy is struggling with whether he wants to go to college or not, or if he’ll even get in. He has switched from worrying about the divorce to worrying about his future, which is a major focus this season.
With a fresh year just starting, what are your big plans?
For starters, I have the next four months to stress over whether we are coming back for a third season or not. I just bought 40 acres and a house in Oregon, so I’m going to be spending a large amount of time up there doing “man stuff,” as I like to call it. If we don’t get picked up, then it’s on to the next journey in my career. Who knows where it will take me? All I know is I’m excited for whatever comes my way.
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Matt Shively Chats “The Real O’Neals” and What’s Next. Photo: Maarten De Boer, Styling: Michael Mann