The out Eastsiders star opens up about acting and loving in LA.
Eastsiders, LogoTV.com’s webseries about a hapless group of Angelenos who date, break up, and repeat, is a Kickstarter success story and a richly realized look at gay relationships in LA. Aside from the presence of lickety-split comic expert Stephen Guarino, the series boasts Van Hansis, Kit Williamson, and newcomer Matthew McKelligon, a handsome and deadpan actor who knows as much about architecture as he does Silver Lake’s gay dynamics.
We caught up with McKelligon to discuss Eastsiders, how he relates to his character Jeremy’s dubious decision-making, and the surprisingly funny commercial he did with non-comic legend Kim Kardashian.
The Backlot: How did you get involved with Eastsiders?
Matthew McKelligon: I auditioned for it. I almost didn’t make it, actually. I think I had a few other auditions that day and probably some design work. I didn’t really want to go, and I went at the very end of the [audition time] window. John and Kit auditioned with me, and I couldn’t tell if I knew them or not. I think we’d maybe seen each other out and about. But after the audition, Kit called me I thin that evening or the very next day, but he asked me if I wanted to be part of the show. Once we followed suit and friended each other on Facebook and realized we had a billion mutual friends. You know, because there are only, like, five gay men in Los Angeles.
TB: You went last and got the part? They must’ve been thrilled and relieved to see you.
MM: It’s flattering, I guess. At the same time, there are a lot of other things at work when you audition. It’s also your look and a lot of other factors. That’s part of the thick skin I’ve had to develop while auditioning over the past few years — to tell myself I don’t suck, and that it’s just my look! Actually, I had a connection with Jeremy because [laughs] I have been in his position before. My last boyfriend, we met eight years ago, he was in a relationship with his boyfriend at the time, and they were on the skids and living together and having an open relationship. I basically, casually started sleeping with the guy, and it was so easy because it was two blocks away. They broke up, moved out, and years later we finally became boyfriends, but that was a horrible foundation to set for a relationship. After he and I broke up, I actually slept with his ex. I’m a mess.
TB: Tell me you whipped out that anecdote at the audition. “I actually lived this.”
MM: It’s not something I’m proud of, and it was so many years ago. I would’ve been 24. That was a very different time in my mind I wouldn’t do it again. At all.
TB: Eastsiders has a fresh feel to it. Do you think it illustrates something specific about being gay in LA?
MM: I can’t say that I’m the biggest gay drama aficionado, but I know that it’s been an emotionally stunted [genre]. There used to be HIV/AIDS [stories], and there’s coming out. So I think this covers quite nicely the gray area. Yes, it’s been touched upon before, but I think the fact that we’re all so friendly about it, it’s kind of just the reality — how you’re forced to stay friends with people nonetheless. I used to think it was really weird before. But the older I get and the smaller LA gets, I understand that you have to maintain the proper behaviors and etiquette [with the people you break up with].
TB: How did you get into acting?
MM: It all kind of happened by accident. I acted growing up, but then I stopped and studied architecture in college, then moved to Europe. I did all that sh*t. Then I moved to LA perhaps subconsciously interested in getting into acting again, but I never acted on that thought until I was forced into it two years ago. I work in design, and that [industry] is so subject to recessions. I’ve literally been through five or six recessions over the past eight years. Yeah. It’s really fun. Five years ago, I got a job as a landscape contractor and I realized how much I loved exteriors over architecture. Two years ago, I suddenly didn’t have a job and I couldn’t claim unemployment because I was an independent contractor, although I was really an employee. My friend ran this extras casting service, and he was like, “You can make some money right away. I’ll just send you out.” I kind of hated it, just being treated like sh*t. But before SAG and AFTRA merged, I joined AFTRA and casting directors started putting me in featured spots here and there. I thought, “Why don’t I audition then?” Without an agent, I started submitting myself for projects online. I got some commercials, and fast forward two years, now I’m in the union, have an agent and manager, and it keeps snowballing. It’s been unexpected and fun, kind of like the way life is supposed to be, I guess.
TB: You did a Midori ad with Kim Kardashian where she plays a picky Starbucks customer and you play an unfazed barista. What was that like?
MM: For some fun backstory on that: She of course had her coach outside, and her own team of stylists and makeup artists, her own boom mic, her own camera that followed her. She was fine. I’ve been around a lot worse celebrities. She didn’t really have any expectations or demands; she was just there and floating around. She had that one long line, which was so integral to my audition. They were looking for someone who could just fire that off, and I’m psychotic, so it wasn’t a problem for me. But for her, it was pretty difficult, so they had to put a Teleprompter over my head. Kim actually thought that me and the other girl playing a barista, who you barely see in that spot, she actually thought we worked at the cafe. We were like, “No. We’re actors.” But we had a fun time talking about a macrobiotic diet.
TB: Considering I laughed out loud at that Midori ad, it’s fair to say you have a knack for comedy. Which do you prefer: comedy or drama?
MM: I have a stronger connection with comedy. It felt pretty natural playing Jeremy in Eastsiders probably because it was very close to home, but your perception of yourself is always quite different than how other people perceive you. When it’s drama, it feels so close to home that you’re so self-aware. You’re hyper-aware. But like any homosexual child, I paraded around my house in women’s wigs. That’s what you do, right? You have dance routines around your swimming pool set to “Extra! Extra! I’m In Love” by Barbra Streisand during your parents’ dinner parties. Not to say I did that, though.