By Amy Steele
Don't Confuse Nip/Tuck's Dark, Loner Matt McNamara with
delightful and kind actor John Hensley - It's All about the
Acting, Chaps and Attitude
If you aren't hooked on FX'S Nip/Tuck yet, what are you waiting for? It is one of the best shows on television. The characters are layered and complex: very gray, neither good nor bad. You'll like them one moment and abhor their behavior another. The writing is solid and the storylines are riveting and like nothing else you will see on television. At the root, the show is about the truth, genuine emotions and real feelings.
"Matt is a guy who's been screwed over by everyone in his life except his little sister," John Hensley, who plays Matt McNamara, Nip/Tuck told me via cell phone from Hollywood. "Not only is he not in the fold but he doesn't want to be in the fold. In the shows third season, beginning September 20th, he goes off the chain a little bit. He's at that place of having enough."
At the end of last season, he had been left by his transsexual lover, who was old enough to be his mother (played remarkably and believably by uber-talented Famke Janssen), had found out that Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) was his birth father and had a falling out with Christian as well as both parents (Dylan Walsh and Joely Richardson) because of all the lies that had been kept from him for so long. Sure in the past he ran over a girl in his high school because he and his friend had smoked pot, had his father complete her plastic surgery as he befriended her out of guilt, had a threesome with his conflicted girlfriend and got caught by his mother and hung out at strip clubs with Christian to learn about women (Christian didn't know he was Matt's father yet).
"The third season has been the most fun to shoot so far. It's been a hell of a lot of fun and I think that has to do with the material they've given me. They've taken the constraints off the character. And, the constraints off me. This season Matt is no longer written as a character of any age. He is a character that facilitates the story. Matt is no longer encased by Sean or Julia or Christian. He's sort of his own bag of trouble. Matt has been portrayed as victim of environment. And, as actor that's constraining. I feel I have more to bring than what is being asked of me. It ebbs and it flows. At times I have felt restricted by Matt's circumstances and other days can shed those things and cut loose."
"I take what the writers give me and do my best in trying to do what the stories tell but I'm not the one creating Matt's arc. I'm just facilitating Matt's arc. My job is to do what the writers tell me to do which is the way is should be. Television is one of the last bastions for writers to shine fully and tell story without compromise. There are very few young characters on television who are actively exploring and pursuing things on as individually dark a level as Matt-- they've put him on a dark personal journey that leads him to some really dark places. The third season is twisted."
A native Southerner with a sexy drawl to go along with it, the sweet and charming Hensley has a laid back approach to being on one of the most popular shows on television. Despite the Emmy nominations, the Golden Globe nominations and the Golden Globe award for Best Television series, Drama, 2005, Hensley is just happy to be part of a show that he enjoys.
"The fact that the show has some success, that's icing. It's the best job I've ever had. It's the third job I've done as a series regular and the first that's gone into a third season. I did not anticipate it to be remotely successful. Since it's been as well received as it has been that's a great job to have. Regardless what you think of the show you can say that we've all committed ourselves to telling a story without compromise."
After graduating from high school in Kentucky, Hensley spent three years working as a horse-wrangler in Wyoming.
"I don't think I'd be as nearly confident as I can be if I hadn't done what I'd done in Wyoming. It plays a part to my personality today. To be a horse-wrangler, you must adapt quickly and pay attention to signs to track the horse down. This instilled a confidence in me and lack of fear that I hopefully carry in myself today. But I have yet to break from that. I still get scared. When I look in the mirror I see the same guy I was growing up in Kentucky. I like to believe that this (shit acting) won't break me either."
Hensley felt himself getting a bit too comfortable in the saddle and wanted to explore his creative side-the part of him that from age ten wanted to, in some format, tell stories. He left the comfort of the position he was in and dared himself to jump into something new - he entered college in Colorado.
"I auditioned for a play. I didn't get the part but reading the lines really turned me on. I got further involved in the theater department and then moved to New York and got involved with Barrow Group and Seth Barrish, its Artistic Director, opened my eyes to the way I continue to approach work today. The whole bag is realism and there's no such thing as "performance." Take the acting out of it. Just see where the story takes you. My way of working is to do my homework and let everything go and not really worry and not be married to any one thing and let go and literally see what happens. When I read through the script, I look at the dynamic that exists between the characters on the page and then it becomes more real on the stage. The scene constructs itself instead of being limited by a pre-conceived notion. You're not steamrolling the scene and imposing yourself on someone else. You let things play as real as they can."
Before he left Wyoming and moved to New York, Hensley's father died.
"This made me acutely aware that the only time we have is now and I didn't want to look back and say 'what if...'"
He enrolled at NYU to study history and English but acting drew him away. He had a role on the Sopranos and some other television shows until he got the casting call for Nip/Tuck which brought him out to Los Angeles. In his spare time, when he is not working on the show, he has been working on writing film scripts and recently completed one about rage. He has partnered with a
production company and hopes to get this project filmed in the near future.
Now, three years later, the show is doing exceptionally well and is lauded by critics and has developed a great, supportive fan base. And it sounds like it is a wonderful cast with which to work. Hensley seems to be in a
really solid, comfortable place right now.
"There's camaraderie on set and we know each other in a way that people don't even know each other in their personal lives. There's a vibe of equality like you've been in the trenches."
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