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April 18, 2017

Living in His Own World

Matty Cardarople makes even the oddest worlds his own.

Iva-Marie Palmer
  • Photo: Birdie Thompson; Grooming: Mandy Perez
  • Photo: Birdie Thompson; Grooming: Mandy Perez

We all have a quality or two that at times make us feel like an outsider. 

But for some, the outsider state is one that is cultivated over time, a sort of permanent condition that springs up at some point and defines us from there on out.

For actor Matty Cardarople, who plays the Henchman of Indeterminate Gender on Netflix’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events – where, to a degree, every character “fits” the world by being a bit of a misfit or oddball - his outsider-ness is more of the latter, and has become something of a guidepost as he chooses the roles that best suit him.

Cardarople says he enjoys playing roles like the Henchman, or the awkward fast food clerk (as he did in The Big Sick, which comes out this year), or the ride operator in Jurassic World because “there’s an honesty to them.” The parts also play into his own awkward quirky nature, which make him feel he’s in his own world much of the time.

Cardarople feels that part of this “own-world” feeling comes from being born deaf (he got the sense of hearing at age 3), which left him feeling not quite part of things as he grew up. Later in life, at age 18, a doctor told him that he had an oversized heart and would die before he was 25.

Though that doctor said there was no point in going to college or working, Cardarople got a second opinion from a doctor who convinced him otherwise.

Still, anytime the spectre of death is even suggested, it changes the way you go about your life. Cardarople attributes the misdiagnosis  (at 27, he had heart surgery and is now 100 percent healthy) for making him very conscious of trying to live in the moment.

Now quite busy busy with various roles as well as a number of writing projects, he said he tries to spend a lot of time in nature, especially in hikes and walks in Ferndale, near Griffith Park and making art. He likes to paint and draw whimsical and playful scenes.

We caught up with Cardarople just before he starts filming Season 2 of Series of Unfortunate Events.

So, on a Series of Unfortunate Events, the look and feel is certainly unique. Where do you film and are the sets a lot of real pieces or CGI?

We film in Vancouver, and yes, a lot of the sets are real pieces, so you’re right in the scene.

What is it like walking into that?

I think the world that we’re in informs who were are and how we act. Being in that world, which is so unique and not like anything in reality, really hits the switch and makes us come alive to be who we are.

It’s amazing to work on and such a blast. The sets are just incredible, they did a good job with making the world seem authentic and unique. When I’m on set, I feel completely in this world. I think that’s a hard thing to do, but Barry Sonnenfeld pulls it off.

Barry Sonnenfeld’s work always has  sort of a funhouse effect. I wonder how being on one of his sets affects an actor. Do you have strange dreams or find reality kind of dull now?

It is kind of like walking into a dream. You leave set and you’re in the real world and it’s not as fun. It’s a little disappointing.

In a piece I read, you referred to him as a “maestro.” What tipped you off?

He’s a director who is very detailed and knows what he wants and he gets it. I think that’s what makes a great director.

For example, on Men in Black, he was given as a wrap gift a horse saddle. My first day on set with him, he was sitting on a horse saddle with a cowboy hat. SO I guess he’s a cowboy and a maestro.  It also clued me in that something unusual was to come and it was going to be a memorable time.

As the Henchman of Indeterminate Gender, you get to play characters within the character. What has been the most fun?

Playing Nurse Lucafont – that was so fun to me, and so odd. I don’t know how ladies wear dresses all the time. It’s not very comfortable. If I could wear jeans and a T-shirt all the time, I would be very happy.

Ha, me, too, though skirts aren’t so bad. You told the L.A. Times that you love roles that fall along the lines of that awkward clerk, or the outsider; what draws you to those parts?

I think the honesty of those characters and they seem like real people in the real world. I really love that. It’s something that’s easy for me to play because I kind of feel that way in my everyday life

What is your awkward quirk?

I was born deaf. For the first three years of my life. I couldn’t hear. So that’s a big part of me, I’m just kind of in my own world. That’s a part of me. I just felt I was in my own world.

There are a lot of things that have affected me as a person. When I was 18 after graduation high school, I had a doctor tell me I wouldn’t live past 25 and I should just stay home and take it easy and not [go to college or worry about the future]. I got a second opinion and [continued] taking classes but that had such an effect on me that I kind of tuned out.

But now, my fear of death is so strong and I’m not always in the moment. So sometimes I don’t feel in the moments or out of it, but I’m also always trying to live my life to the fullest.

I finally had heart surgery when I was 27 and am 100 percent healthy now, but those things still had an effect on me.

You definitely seem to stay busy and engaged. You’re also writing a script of your own. Can you tell me about it?

I have a few things I work on in between meetings and auditions and filming when I have some downtime.

Pet Clerks is a film I wrote that’s in development, and it’s about a bunch of weirds who work in a pet shop but that’s all I want to say. I also have another super hush-hush TV project I’m writing with a friend.

What’s your approach for achieving balance as you divide your time between projects?

I do transcendental meditation twice a day. That helps get me more in the moment. I try to be really kind to myself and not too hard on myself.  I think that people need to slow down and relax and just kind of enjoy life. So I think I am more in the moment than most people because of the situation I had with that doctor and with not being to hear.

As something of an outsider and with your affection for strange characters, do you find yourself being a constant observer of people and situations around you?

In everyday life, I might notice someone says something funny and really like how they delivered it. So I try to keep it in mind as something I might use aspects of.

You didn’t mention it as one of your quirks but I found it interesting that you frequently appear with a slice of pizza. What’s your ideal pie and your favorite places to get it in L.A., which is not necessarily known as a pizza city?

I’m a classic guy, I like pepperoni. My favorite is DeSano Pizza [Bakery, on Santa Monica Boulevard]. I also really love Pizzanista in downtown L.A. They have a great Sicilian pepperoni.

Oddball pizza delivery guy seems like a role that might suit you.

The TV project I mentioned has something pizza related, but that’s all I can say.

Since we’re speaking for, here’s a TV question. Is there a TV role of years past that inspires you, or that you would have loved to have played?

Kramer in Seinfeld. I would have played it exactly like him. I think he’s so brilliant the way he makes his choices. Every time he enters the apartment, it cracks me up. It’s so out there and outside the box. I just love things like that.

A lot of actors aren’t quite as sure of the roles they were meant to play but you seem to be. What is your advice to new actors trying to figure it out?

I think figuring out who you are as an actor is so important and how you fit in the world. For me, I’m kind of a big kid and that’s who I am and what I love doing. So, I might as well embrace that.

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