‘The Good Wife’s’ Matt Czuchry: The mind, body, soul perspective
by Heather Courtney Quinn
I met Matt Czuchry about a decade ago, around the same time I met my husband. They became close friends after taking acting classes together. What I love about Matt is that he is so genuine. He is authentically who he is without any pretense… which can be hard to find in this town. I was able to nail him down during his busy shooting schedule so that I can share the side of Matt that not everyone gets to see:
Heather Courtney Quinn: A one-hour drama on network television has such a rigorous shooting schedule… what keeps you inspired creatively from week to week?
Matt Czuchry: I wrote a book with my brother called Brothers On Life. I did that throughout season three. Creatively, for me, that was incredibly inspiring. I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about my brother… and I learned a lot about my own outlook on life. I was going through old journals that we wrote together and we rewrote those… and then we wrote new ones.
HCQ: Is the book something you guys always intended to do?
MC: It happened organically. I do think it’s something we always wanted to do because we shared those journals… as a general thought, we felt it would be great if one day we could put something out there that could help other people out. Then, when the time was right, we went back and looked at some of that stuff. It really was a way to express different feelings on life… about the obstacles and challenges. We wanted to use our own personal life experiences to try and connect with others. What I love about acting is being a storyteller and this is just another avenue for that.
HCQ: You must be close…
MC: We are very close. We are nine years apart, but we are really close. We are very similar in a lot of ways, but also very different and that came through in the writing as well. I think the main core thing we both feel is that life is interconnected… in that what I do affects what you do. This idea of connectivity and being kind and generous on a daily basis is something that is fundamental to both of us… and that outlook on life is what really makes us close.
HCQ: If you were to give advice to a young actor, what would it be?
MC: I think that getting in class is always my advice for several reasons… for one, you get to learn the craft of what it truly means to be an actor. But, if you get in the right class, you can also learn that it is a combination of the creative side and the business side as well. I think that when they decide to be actors, a lot of people are just looking at the end product of their favorite TV shows or movies… (I know I was much the same). But it is a business… which is an important aspect of all of this. Then, for me as well, you meet people that could be friends for life. So, I think there are a lot of positive reasons to get in class.
HCQ: When you first started out as an actor, you actually drove out from Tennessee with your father, right?
MC: After I graduated from the College of Charleston, I drove with my father out to Los Angeles. He and my mom are both fundamental to my success. My dad and I actually put together a business plan to plot out that first three to five years.
HCQ: So you came up with a real business plan?
MC: Yeah… you know… what are your goals, who can we talk to (that we know) who has more knowledge in this specific area than we do? That is how getting in class started for me. But then also how much is rent going to cost? What does it take to come up with living expenses for each month… each year? What will it take to do this? That is the foundation that I started with. I think the class thing ties into: get educated about what you are setting out to do. If you know someone who is an actor, producer or writer… take them out to lunch and ask them questions and gain knowledge.
HCQ: Now you moved to NY to work on The Good Wife… what do you miss about L.A. and what do you love about NY?
MC: In 2009 we shot the pilot in Vancouver, the show got picked up that May and we are in season five right now. When I signed up for the job, I didn’t know if the pilot was going to get picked up and it’s one of those things where they ask if you would be willing to move to NY and you say, “Sure, I believe in this project… let’s go for it.” But then when that actually happens, it is incredibly life changing (in a way that was unexpected for me). Having lived in L.A. since 1999, I have so many great friends in Los Angeles… I have a house there… I had a girlfriend at the time. To move to NY was a drastic change. I was moving to a city I didn’t know. I didn’t know where to live and just found a place on the Internet. I had a new job where I didn’t know anybody. Basically, I didn’t quite realize what I was signing up for. It was one of the hardest changes in my life… (that and moving out to L.A. after I graduated college). And, with each of those moves, came the biggest rewards. Specific to your question, what I love about NY is that there are so many cultures colliding here. There are people from all over the world packed into such a small area… and that is really unique to this city. I think that is what people mean when they talk about the energy of NY… and that really is special. In Los Angeles, most importantly, I really miss those friendships that I have. In terms of getting to nature, it is a lot easier to do in Los Angeles than New York. They really are 180 degrees different from each other. If anybody ever says “which do you prefer over the other?” I always say “look, you can have a great life in both places… but a completely different life.”
HCQ: What do you love doing that you aren’t doing now?
MC: Being on a show, you make a lot of sacrifices. Sometimes it is a big thing like moving, but those sacrifices also come on a daily basis in terms of the demands of the preparation, the hours and so many things that have changed my life. In doing a TV show, I have gotten a chance to see this character grow for five years… but by the same token, this has been the same character that I have played for five years. I love to tell different stories. I love creating characters. When I was a kid, I loved superheroes and playing that out. So I have had to sacrifice other stories and other characters because I am just not available for other jobs. That’s something I miss… tapping into those other worlds.
HCQ: Is there anything that you are missing in your personal life because of your demanding schedule?
MC: You know, it’s hard to plan things in the future. I only know my schedule eight days in advance so many of my life decisions for things that are personal are last minute… and that kind of makes it hard. I went to my friend’s wedding about four weeks ago and I couldn’t tell him if I was going to come or not until three or four days beforehand. That’s a big sacrifice… those personal engagements or an important trip is hard to commit to because I just don’t know if can.
HCQ: If you could live anywhere, where would you live?
MC: I went to college at the College of Charleston and that place actually feels like home in a lot of ways. Charleston, South Carolina is a place I try to get to at least once every year. It’s a nice escape for me.
HCQ: What book are you reading right now?
MC: I just recently read a book called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Bauneister and John Tierney.
HCQ: Are you struggling with willpower?
MC: It’s interesting. It’s written by several psychology professors so it comes at it from that angle and talks about different ways that your willpower gets depleted (both emotionally and physically) and how to build that up. I think that a lot of times in life when people are running from one thing to the next or you’re working on your job, your willpower is getting depleted and if you are conscious of that and if you have ways to take a step back (like meditation or whatever is right for you) and build that back up, it is really helpful.
HCQ: Do you read a lot of psychology books?
MC: I like to read a lot of books that help you learn about yourself… or the brain… or how we grow as humans. One of my favorite books is called The Future Is Now: Timely Advice for Creating a Better World by Gyalwa Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje. It comes from a Buddhist perspective and the author is a Tibetan Buddhist. It’s great life and personal advice.
HCQ: So you’ve read The Power Of Now…
MC: And… The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know!?. I majored in history and political science and what I loved about both those majors is that I would go into one class and learn about something, then go into a political science class and learn about the same thing from a different perspective. A lot of what all those books have in common and what I like to find are the overlaps… when you can find those overlaps is when you can find perspective on your own life.
HCQ: So what do you do to relax? Do you meditate?
MC: I try to get out and enjoy NY as much as I can because when this show ends, my life is going to change again. So embracing all of the possible life experiences unique to NY gives me a sense of peace. I do meditate, yes. But not consistently. And working out is an important form of meditation for me.
HCQ: What keeps you up at night?
MC: I try to be incredibly prepared, but I am still always worried that I am not prepared enough.
HCQ: What is your biggest vice?
MC: I love coffee… is that a vice? Being from Tennessee and having gone to college in the south, I also love bourbon (and whiskey)… and that also helps me relax. A nice glass of bourbon is something I definitely enjoy.
HCQ: What do you want to be remembered for?
MC: Having made a difference… and impacting people on an individual basis. Whether it’s my friends or family or someone that I just met for five minutes… that their day or life is better because I was able to impact it in some way. That’s why I became an actor in the first place… I get a chance to connect to those people that I’ll never get a chance to meet. And hopefully, I have made a difference through those different characters I’ve played and stories I have told.
HCQ: Do you have a message for the world?
MC: Well, make a valuable impact on other people’s lives, like I mentioned in your last question. And I know I mentioned that being an actor is a business, but I have always looked at it from a mind, body, soul perspective. Those pieces need to be nurtured in order to do your job effectively. That’s one of the things about being an actor, you are forced to evaluate yourself so that you can find and portray those emotions in the work that you do. In talking about overlaps, that is one of the best things about my job. I am forced to look at my self personally to understand the human condition. I would say to people starting out that they should get into class… it is a business they need to learn as well… but, at the same time, they need to learn what it means to be human and go out and have experiences because it really is a mind, body and soul experience that you have to take care of in order to be effective in your personal life and in your career.Tags: Actor, Brothers On Life, College of Charleston, Heather Courtney Quinn, Hollywood, Inspiration, Matt Czuchry, The Future Is Now: Timely Advice for Creating a Better World, The Good Wife, The Power of Now, The Secret