Matt Cohen on Fandom, Facing Fears and Having FUN at NJCon!
We also had a chance to catch up with one of our favorite SPNFamily members at Creation’s New Jersey con last month – the handsome and talented Matt Cohen.
Matt: So who’s been onstage so far today?
Lynn and Kathy: DJ Qualls and Osric Chau. This was Osric’s first con, and he’s a natural, he was great onstage!
Matt: (grimaces) I remember my first con in London – it was awful. I froze!
Kathy: Some of our favorite onstage guests, who are really good at it now, were like that at first.
Matt: I’m gonna let you see something very private, a very private photo shoot that Richard and I did.
Lynn and Kathy: (are quite possibly leaning in and looking EXTREMELY interested….) Oh, really?
Matt: Richard and I are putting together a theme for the rest of the year for karaoke, Class of 2013. So we shot some pictures this morning. Here’s a rough cut of the first one.
(By now you’ve all seen the photos of Richard Speight Jr. as Coach!Dean from After School Special and Matt as cheerleader, but at the time, we had NO idea what Matt was going to show us. Cue a lot of gasping and hysterical laughter).
Matt: We’re taking it to the next level. And get this — that is the actual outfit from the episode! So don’t leak this yet.
(We are so good with confidentiality that we’ve waited 6 weeks to ‘leak’ this…)
Matt: We took a version of this one where I was lying behind Richard and spooning him, and it was first thing in the morning, so neither one of us had had coffee, and we were just like, let’s DO this!
Us: (appreciatively) The things you do for fandom…
Matt: I think it goes to this — I’ve made up the most simple saying to live by in life, I don’t know if it’s been said before, but I say it all the time – I say it in the boxing ring, I say it in my acting career, I say it to people trying to get into an acting career – I say it to people that are fans, people who are at cons – I say if it’s no fun, it’s no fun. Period. Life is not fun if you’re not gonna let it be fun. You’ve got one shot, one chance here.
Lynn: (excitedly, which is often the case for Lynn, much to Kathy’s dismay) And life’s not fulfilling otherwise!!! I just did an interview and they were asking me, why are people fans, why are they so passionate? Well, because it’s FUN! Passion is a good, healthy thing!
Kathy: It’s like the interviewers want some kind of pathological reason. I just did a phone interview, and they asked me, what’s the most surprising thing about fans? And it was clear they were looking for some negative things. And I said the thing is, they’re not weird! And they didn’t call me back for the second part of the interview, because that’s not what they wanted to hear. They wanted a pathological reason.
Matt: And there’s not a whole lot of negative really. You know, people are so scared of everything. If it’s not wake up and go to your 9 to 5, come home, eat sleep, wake up and do it again? They’re scared. What kind of life is that to live? Put yourself out there, be a fool, be risky.
Lynn: Which is so much of what fandom is about. Be passionate about what you love and shout it from the rooftops! Make fan vids, write meta, draw, write fanfic, go to cons, send postcards to the Supernatural crew, tweet about it – whatever. Put yourself out there. That’s what Fangasm is all about – it’s us putting ourselves out there and being fangirls, even when it was a risk and even when we looked like fools.
Kathy: Which was unfortunately most of the time….
Matt: Congratulations on the new book, by the way. It’s a difficult thing to write a book, but especially to get it published. I’m following you on Twitter now, so keep me posted.
Us: (are beaming)
Matt: You know, the bad part of this fan base is so minute, and when I say bad, it’s not even bad at the extent of their actions or something like that, the only bad part of the SPN fanbase is when something goes awry. Fans drink too much and get sick, or we have somebody pass out. But where does it really stem from except having a complete abundance of fun, so is it really bad?
Lynn: Exactly. When someone asks what percent of fans are crazy, the answer is, the same percentage as accountants or plumbers or librarians!
Matt: Or actors, which is probably a much higher percentage than fans! Honestly speaking, the actors I know, many are great, but some are the most troubled human beings I’ve ever come across in my whole life. Extremely heavy heavy level. There’s people that come and search for the celebrity of acting and the money and this and that to escape the trauma of their lives. People do that in all sorts of professions, but in acting, it works. We’re paid to put it out there, we’re paid to fall apart in scenes. We’re paid to be obnoxious or this or that, and then some people can’t let go of the characters that they play. Some people can, but some can’t. Tragedy falls upon many actors.
Lynn: Opening yourself up to all that emotionality can leave you vulnerable.
Matt: Yes, but for me, that’s so rewarding to be able to be vulnerable, to be able to be hurt.
(In the middle of this serious conversation, Matt’s cell phone rings. Which means Zach Galifianakis starts belting out “We’re the best three friends that anyone could have…”)
Lynn and Kathy: What the—
Matt: When my phone rings, people look at me like I’m crazy. What the heck were we talking about?
Lynn: That you have enough ego strength for that vulnerability…
Cell phone: (starts barking loudly)
Matt: (deadpans) And then it barks at me when they leave a message.
Matt: Yeah, that vulnerable thing. In the beginning of my career, my manager was always pushing me to let my vulnerability show, and that’s not something that, as a man raised by a single father, that comes out easily. But now it does and it’s great. Before I became an actor at 22, it was essentially 22 years of hiding my tears.
Lynn: Like it is for many men raised in our ‘boys don’t cry’ sort of culture.
Matt: And now I can let it all come out, and I don’t mean just tears, but to love somebody in a scene, to just love them at that moment, to just love them as a friend. And show it and touch and be soft – this is what life’s about.
(Quick academic-ish aside: It’s that willingness to challenge norms about masculinity and to show love to friends of any gender – to touch and be soft, as Matt says – that is one of the most powerful things about Supernatural. Jared and Jensen have never been afraid to be that way with each other, and it made the relationship between Sam and Dean onscreen compelling and genuine. Misha couldn’t be less hung up on norms of masculinity or delight more in challenging them. And many of the guest actors are the same, both on screen and in person at cons. Show is amazing, in other words.)
Lynn: It’s not just men either, women are also shut off from their feelings. Maybe for women, they’re more shut off from their anger or their sexuality, and for men it’s love or sadness, but we all do that. It’s one of the themes of Fandom At The Crossroads.
M: Yes, 100%. That’s funny – I went to Disneyland like a month ago, and as I was walking in, me and my wife – for my 30th birthday, my dad bought us passes to Disney, which is an escape for me. It reminds me that the child in my heart is still there. So I walked in and they asked if I’d do a survey as an annual pass holder, so I saw it in my email today, and they ask you these crazy crazy questions. Very psychological, in depth questions. What do you think is the difference between families now and families when you grew up? And it’s not multiple choice, it’s essay boxes. So it took me like 2 hours. I was just going and going, and there were questions like, what do you think is better or worse, what is the difference between the family you grew up with versus the friends you call family now? To me there’s no difference, no line. Yes, I share blood with my family, but my friends have become my family, they’re one in the same. They’re welcome to my home, if I have money, if they need a place to sleep, my food, my belongings. Anyway, I always have a good time when I’m there. You let go and experience being a kid, eat junk food…
Lynn: Ride the Tower of Terror!!
Matt: Yes! That’s what I told them, that was another question, what’s your favorite ride.
Kathy: So what’s coming up for you?
Matt: A lot of travel! I’m going from here back to LA for a day, then to Rome, to Germany, to London, back to LA for a day, London, LA to Australia, to LA for 3 weeks, then to Rio. This is the beginning of the cons.
Us: Holy crap!
Matt: I love London – it’s spectacular over there, so historic. You feel like you’re on a movie set, these beautiful dialects. I don’t wanna talk because I’m embarrassed how I sound compared to them. It’s funny because last time I went, I have a music industry friend who was taking me to all the local pubs, so I got to see London in the coolest way. Of course I had to keep drinking pints, we started at like 3 pm, and by 6 pm I was like – they can drink like that all day – but I was absolutely hammered. It’s funny, I was like oh, I’d better order this and that, I wanna fit in, I don’t want them to know I’m the American with bad taste in alcohol, but they’re all drinking Budweiser in a bottle! And so many women come up to me like, oh, I love your accent, and I was like, stop fucking with me.
Lynn: But it’s true, whatever is exotic is sexy.
Matt: (perhaps unconvinced about the whole accent thing) I’m a big time foodie, so I’m into the local eats and the street food, you learn a lot about the culture by what the people eat. I love the meat pies in London. Have you ever been to the Cheshire Cheese? My wife’s grandparents went there when they were like 20 years old. You go in and it’s like this small room, dark, dingy feeling, down from the road in Sweeney Todd – so to me, I’m like woah, it’s the Sweeney Todd road, and there’s seating downstairs, and there’s like cave type hallways, for nobody over 5’3” and you walk downstairs like 6 floors underground, and there’s another bar and benches, and you can feel that soldiers and people came here long ago, you can feel the history.
Lynn: You look really well rested right now, by the way. (No, that wasn’t a euphemism for HOT. Though that would also be true.)
Matt: Let me tell you why! I’ll blow both of your minds right now. I watched a couple of documentaries – Food Matters, Forks over Knives, and Vegucated. And I have changed my eating habits to about 5% meat, 95% plant based. It’s extremely difficult and it’s not cost efficient and it’s hard to find. It’s one thing to go to the grocery store and buy fruits and vegetables, another to find a farmer’s market where they’re clean, and it’s interesting, apples are the size of lemons when they’re not modified. But I feel so good!
Lynn: Not that you looked bad before, but…
Matt: No, I know what you mean, you’re talking about a guy that for 29 ½ years of my life, well that’s a little exaggeration, but I’m an extreme carnivore, I love working out, I love pushing my body, I like to pretend that I’m an athlete training for something so I work out hard, and I was thinking so I have to eat so much meat, so many eggs. But it’s completely BS. I’ve never felt this good, my body fat always stays relatively low, but now I’m struggling to keep more fat on my body.
Us (silently): Well, whatever you’re doing, it seems to be working.
Matt: I wish that I had the time to tour the world to speak on eating habits, because we’re killing ourselves. There’s research out there, this is the study that did it for me – they took a large quantity of rats, put them on a 20% animal protein diet – and then the same amount of rats on 5%. All the rats on the 20% diet developed cancer or pre cancer. Every single one. Then they switched. The rats with cancer began to cure themselves. The ones that didn’t have it began to show signs of early cancer. I’m not saying that people might not live to 90 eating meat, but they don’t do an autopsy when you die of old age, they just accept that you died of old age, it is what it is. I feel like I’m probably gonna live to 150 now!
Kathy: It seems like the cheapest food is often the things that aren’t healthy at all.
Matt: Big business capitalizing on poverty. I made an easy decision. I’m married, 30 years old, in and out of acting jobs, nothing where I work every day and have a steady income. All these financial constraints now. So I say where can I cut corners to live longer? So I don’t eat that sugar, those shakes.
Kathy: I just watched Fat Sugar Salt – it’s about how food has been engineered to tap into all the addictive properties.
Matt: The synapses in your brain fire the same as when you take a shot of heroin! I drank four sodas a day until I was 22. I don’t drink any soda now, just water and juice. And coffee, but organic coffee, there’s no way I’m gonna wean off coffee! (Kathy is nodding her head passionately in agreement). Since I’ve been eating better, I have double the energy. And don’t get me wrong, I’m still gonna eat an Oreo cookie every now and then. And a steak. I’m just trying to do it less. I eat great for 5 days and then eat whatever I want. Once you get creative, there’s a whole new shopping list. Juicing, blending, all that stuff. Raw brownies, essentially to make it, it’s dates and a food processors, organic cocoa, some apples, pecans, and it takes just like a brownie, it’s dense and thick. One brownie, you feel full because you just shoved a massive amount of nutrients into your body, and it’s gonna thank you!
Lynn: Probably more like how we’re supposed to eat.
Matt: I’m telling people I know, because if I know you, I care about you. Use Pinterest, it’s wonderful for all things food. It’s essentially a social network, so you’ve got all this cool stuff that’s not in cookbooks. Every day I try to put up some sort of motivation, a saying or a quote, and for me, I become motivated by motivated people. If you go on my instagram, which is linked to my twitter, there’s a ton of motivational stuff and most of it is from Pinterest. I can get on a plane and get on it, and all of a sudden like 5 hours have gone by and you’re like, what just happened?!
(Most fans can relate to that feeling of getting sucked into some online fannish space and looking up hours later wondering where half the day has gone, right? Or is that only us?)
(Zach interrupts us again with his singing)
Matt: It’s my dad! I’m gonna put him on speaker for you. Hi Dad, I’m in the middle of an interview in NJ with two women I do interviews with often, and you’re on speakerphone because I wanted you to be part of this interview.
Lynn and Kathy: Hi Matt’s Dad!
Matt’s Dad: Oh, hi, how’re you doing? Don’t put me on the spot, Matt!
Matt: I’ll call you back when I’m done. I love you.
Matt’s Dad: I love you.
Lynn and Kathy: You’ve told us so much about your dad, it’s great to hear his voice.
Matt: Here’s the picture that pops up when he calls. He’s not rich, but at 55 he’s spent his whole life hustling and now he’s got enough money that he’s thinking about retiring. So at the holidays I never know what to buy him, so I sent him a live Maine lobster, overnighted it from Maine – it comes in a cooler with whatever it needs to survive. Because he’s a guy who loves to cook.
Lynn: I’d probably open the cooler and scream in terror.
Matt: (shows picture proudly) Look at that lobster! Look at how big the claws are! It’s like one of those things that you wanna shock him with something. He’s all about giving to his kids. He loves being there. He’s the best dad in the world, you guys have to meet him. He’s dying to come to one of these. You’ve gotta meet my brother and sister too, I’m almost like an uncle to them since I’m 20 years older. Kids at ten are so intelligent, they’ve got iPhones and know how to do it all, they do their homework on the computer. My brother starts trigonometry this week at ten! And they play sports, and are very social, they go to Disney and get picked to go onstage and stuff. I was not like that as a kid, I was a closed shell. It was just me and my dad, we had one bedroom and he was struggling with 400 bucks a week. I’d take naps in the back of his little hatchback car, and he’d hang a towel down so the sun wouldn’t be in my eyes. That was my after school.
Lynn (who seems to have something in her eye….) You’re pretty social now.
Matt: Yeah, but it’s been 25 years. But it’s all good. My dad is kinda scared of flying, which gave me a fear of flying. But at this point I’m so over it. Richard is afraid of flying too and I flew here with him, and he had the window, I had the aisle, with nobody in between us, and when we hit some turbulence I knew what would help him because I know what helped me, so I started talking about something to distract him from the fact that we’re on a plane. And it was so comforting to him, and that comforts me that I can comfort him. And I told him that, like if this is what it has to be, we’ll fly together all the time, I want you to feel comfortable. I do the research on planes, I know what turbulence does, I know what planes are capable of, I know every crash that’s happened in the last ten years.
Lynn: When you arm yourself with statistics, that helps. Knowledge is power.
(Side note: How awesome is it that the SPN cast has become as much of an SPNFamily as we fans have? They support each other in every way.)
Matt: You’re coming to karaoke tonight, right?
Us: Of course! Tell Chris we love those cheerleader photos!
Matt: (laughing) I can’t wait for everyone to see me in that outfit tonight. We knew that Jensen’s outfit was gonna fit Richard obviously. But Richard and I go outfit shopping together, it’s part of our relationship.
Lynn and Kathy: (silently) Awwww
Matt: We meet up in LA and shop together, and we were like, what should we do? Class of 2013, let’s see…. cheerleaders, prom king, coaches, and I said, cheerleaders are gonna be funny. So I’m in there this morning at like 9:30, I’m squeezing into this women’s medium thing, it’s got a zipper on the side, my chest is like ripping out of it, I look like the Hulk in it.
Us: (deadpan) People would be so upset if that happened…
Matt: I’ve got a miniskirt on! I brought three pairs of underwear, cause I’m so scared something’s gonna fall out down there!
Us: Not sure people would protest that either…
Matt: But my wife would give me a swift kick to the face!
And with that, Matt was off to do some more photos with Chris.
Matt: We didn’t really do an actual interview, did we?
Us: (grinning) Story of our lives.
Look for Matt (and other SPN cast) in Hard Crime on Adult Swim – it may end up as a feature or they may bring it to the web soon. You can also catch Matt in the sequel to Cowgirl Up – or perhaps at a con near you! Matt and Richard are planning to wear their matching cheerleader outfits to VanCon, which is sure to be a crowdpleaser. Hope to see some of you there!
Cowgirl Up Season 2 trailer here: http://tellofilms.com/content/tello-free-film/trailer-alert-cowgirl-season-2
In the meantime, get through Hellatus with some reading! Fandom At The Crossroads is on sale (cheapest Amazon price yet) and in stock now at Amazon