Matthew Daddario captured the attention of many with his performance as Alec Lightwood in the young adult fantasy TV show, Shadowhunters. Alec is a Shadowhunter who, alongside his siblings, has dedicated his life to protect the mundane world from demons. What could have easily been a completely unrelatable story is one that still resonates with many. Alec is more than just this demon killing angelic being. He’s also a brother, a recently out gay man and a leader – a layered character with so much to explore. There were undoubtedly a lot of expectations on how he would play out on screen, especially considering that the character was so well loved in its canon material, the book series The Mortal Instruments.
The last time that we spoke to Matthew, we got to ask him about what’s going to happen to Alec and his loved ones in the upcoming episodes of Shadowhunters. He managed to expand what we thought were simple questions into questions of morality and it gave us an intriguing perspective of Alec Lightwood’s psyche. It definitely also had us interested in learning about the man behind this fascinating character and his unique view on the world. Hoping we would get to know more about Matthew himself and his insights, we sat down with him again at the second Italian Institute convention in Milan.
He already has several movies to his name such as Delivery Man, When the Game Stands Tall and Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List. It’s obvious that Matthew is no stranger to being in front of the camera but playing a character that’s part of the LGBTQ+ community is a different ball game altogether. Additionally, as mentioned previously, there were expectations that the show and Alec’s portrayal had to live up to. Alec is a well loved character that no doubt is put under a microscope. In an increasingly diverse world that rightfully demands representation in mainstream media, a recently out gay man in an interracial relationship should be done right. When speaking about the significance of Alec’s representation at AOL Build in 2017, Matthew said: “The key for me, being authentic is really, really important and I don’t want there to be a situation we arrive at where you are taking advantage of a community or trying to just sort of portray something so that people will be like ‘Oh here, look at what we’re doing, we’re being progressive’ or something like that. […] We want to actually do something that […] is meaningful and is in fact impactful.”
His intelligence and thoughtfulness definitely shines through in his words as he weighs on how important the impact of representation is. As we sat in the green room, setting up the interview, we only saw further evidence of that intelligence. We gave him the opportunity to ask us anything to answer any burning questions that he might have about our team and the work we’re doing, just like we did with Harry. We ended up having a rather erudite conversation about the state of Singapore’s political economy and how we view history and the world through art. It was as good of a start to an interview as any, and eventually, we delved into the questions that we had.
As we take a closer look at Matthew’s filmography, we see that his credits don’t just end with acting. He also lends his talents as a director and producer in projects such as The Last Hunt and Nomad Cowboys, a short film and documentary respectively. Knowing that he loves to choose, we of course had to ask him what it was that he preferred, working behind the camera or being an actor. “It depends on the project. I would say that, if there is a role that I’m right [for], that I could take the time to study and be a part of. Something that I feel is significant, is important, a specific role, a specific person or character that has some sort of real value and that I can impart value upon, then I would like to take that role. Then, I would like to do that. If the project itself does not have any roles for me, I would love to have the position of directing or creating or producing because good material is good material and should be made.”
Needless to say, Matthew obviously sees the value of the project, not merely in things that are quantifiable. A lot of times, films are made because of how well they can sell. He expanded on this, adding that it might not necessarily be a bad thing. “I think a lot gets made because it’s profitable but that’s good. We should do that as well because people would pay to see things and that is not necessarily a bad thing. I’d like to see a little more creativity and that doesn’t just mean – I don’t know. I’d like to see things that are creative, artistic and appealing to watch because they don’t always get that across.” After all, not everyone wants to watch films for aesthetics or for a detailed plot. Movies can be made just for their entertainment value. The very reason why the movie industry thrives the way it does is because of the variety of films that are being celebrated. As mentioned above, representation is a key part in the film industry now with the presence of things such as the GLAAD Awards that honor particularly well-done representation of the LGBTQ+ community in American media. The awards include outstanding work in film and television, but also in other media branches such as theatre, music, journalism or advertising. There is no doubt that there is still work that needs to be done and Hollywood still has a long way to go in terms of representation, but there have definitely been steps taken to celebrate different types of films and efforts made to make the film industry more inclusive.
As we progressed further in the interview, we asked him more about his role behind the camera; particularly on whether or not he has a dream project as a director or producer. It was obvious how much he enjoys the duties he has behind the camera when he said: “Ideally, I would make a movie every year till I die on a variety of subjects. It doesn’t really matter what the subject matter is as long as the story is good.” We were pleasantly surprised when he expanded on his interests and mentioned another project that he might potentially be working on – his role slightly different in this one – saying: “I’m writing something right now that I think is so stupid and it’s so simple and it’s such a short story but that’s really what movies are, just short stories. The whole focus of the thing I’m focusing on is telling it in a very classic story style and kind of in an absurdist situation. But it’s fun and I’m having fun writing it even if I never make it, it’s fun to write, it’s something to do.”
It’s certainly interesting to see his progress down that path, even if this particular piece won’t be one that he chooses to share. Speaking about the industry, Matthew mentioned that although writing something might be enjoyable, the nature of the project might change once other people are recruited, and understandably so. Not everyone is motivated by the same things and according to Matthew, “you have to be good at piecing that out.”
“Ultimately,” he said, “you have to find people who work hard because slacking off in this business quickly means nothing gets done. This is the kind of thing where you get rewarded by your endless effort.” The film industry is ultimately about how different people can add value to a project to make it the best that it can be and hard work is definitely the best – and perhaps only – way to get anything done.
Of course, the entertainment business is one that’s extremely diverse, not only in regards to the people participating in it but also the different branches there are. Earlier on in the summer during a private lounge at the second edition of The Hunters of Shadows convention, Matthew mentioned an interest in working on Broadway, particularly in plays. In that session and in this interview with us, he said that he has a particular interest in Broadway and plays because of his time in acting class. “[The] best experience I had was doing plays in acting class in terms of acting and the feeling of it and the experience of it that was the most rewarding.”
We elaborated on that line of thought, wondering if he would ever be interested in expanding his work behind the camera and maybe someday make his directorial Broadway debut. Undoubtedly, it would be a leap into the unknown with how much film and theatre differ from one another. Matthew concurred as he said: “I can never direct a play, I lack the ability. I don’t have the talent. That would take years and years of practice in an area that I don’t know anything about. So, I can never direct a play. I would have to study past directors, go to quite a bit of Broadway shows, I would have to speak to them, I would have to watch them, follow them. I don’t know what goes into it.”
He elaborated on the difference between acting and directing as well. Although it would appear as if there’s no difference between the two since they are both part of the same industry, ultimately, they are not the same at all. “It’s a different business. I know people often equate the two but I don’t really know. Storytelling and acting; they’re different. They’re very different. I know someone will get mad at me for that answer and say ‘No, they’re the same fundamentally’ but they’re not. I disagree. Theatre and film. They’re also different kinds of acting.” A lot of times, people do forget that the skills required for directing and acting are vastly different. Even in an earlier interview with us, Matthew mentioned his co-star Isaiah Mustafa having a particular quality that would make directing suitable for him.
Matthew provided an interesting insight into the industry and it was definitely a different look at the man that we are so used to seeing on our screens. Talking to him and being able to pick his brain on anything at all is always a treat. As he says, the subject matter isn’t important. Whether or not his future projects involve him being captured on screen or not, we have no doubt that the stories he will tell are going to be as captivating as the ones that he has told so far, and we are definitely looking forward to them.
Adelia and Sami are professional multi-taskers for Shumdario News who don’t seem to understand the concept of a break. When not making terrible jokes, they’re probably eating a ramen somewhere. Probably together.