Even a veteran TV actor like Matt Long can still feel intimidated sometimes. The first time Long stepped foot on the set of AMC’s popular drama “Mad Men,” Long admitted he almost let his nerves get the better of him.
“I was really nervous when I showed up because by then I’d already watched the first three seasons. I kept having to tell myself, ‘Matt, you’ve done this before,’” Long said during a recent phone interview.
Long started his TV career in 2005 in the WB series “Jack and Bobby,” which centered around the adolescence of a fictional president, Bobby McCallister. Long played Bobby’s brother, Jack.
Although the series was canceled after just one season, Long received valuable experience and started to make a name for himself in the acting world.
“I’ve worked more than a lot of actors ever get to work,” Long said.
Following “Jack and Bobby,” Long had a brief stint on a show called “The Deep End.” After shooting the original pilot, the show wasn’t picked up by a network, but a re-worked version with several new actors led to six episodes on ABC in the winter.
“It was a long road to the show, and it was a disappointing end,” Long said, who was under contract for “The Deep End” for two years. “Things happen that are out of your control.”
But the actor didn’t have to wait long for his next opportunity. After having only seen four episodes of the show before his “Mad Men” audition, Long was granted a guest starring role for one episode. Although there was the possibility of work on future episodes, nothing was guaranteed.
“He comes and goes. He’s kind of a little bit of a smart aleck, kind of a relaxed guy. He has opinions about some of the people in the office,” Long said of his character, freelance artist Joey Baird.
Long made his “Mad Men” debut on the July 25 season four premiere. Although Long will appear in more than one episode, he is not at liberty to discuss too many plot details. So far, though, he said “Mad Men” has been a great experience.
“I’ve started to relax into it and feel more comfortable,” Long said. “You very quickly lose the thought, ‘Hey this is ‘Mad Men.’”
Although Long said he would love to expand his acting repertoire with movies and stage roles, he feels as though TV is a good niche for him.
“I was so close to [“Jack and Bobby”], and I felt so good about what I was doing, and I was so confident and proud of what it was; I’ve had the most success on TV. For now, I love television. Every season we’re trying to get a new show and reading scripts,” Long said.
Working on the “Mad Men” set has further solidified his love of the medium.
“Everybody would chat and joke around and it was just really great and really refreshing,” Long said.
With acting, there are no guarantees, and even veterans like Long have to constantly be on the lookout for new roles.
“As soon as I got the job on ‘Mad Men,’ I felt myself worry about what I was going to do next. I need a job. Are you hiring?” Long quipped.
Even with all the uncertainty, though, Long said he loves acting and is proud of the fact that he followed through on his goal. He admitted there were moments when he was still in school that he considered abandoning acting to get a “real job,” but he never wanted to look back and have regrets. He credits his parents and former George Rogers Clark High School drama teacher Vanessa Oaks Rogers with encouraging him to pursue acting as a career.
“I don’t want to be 60 years old and think, ‘What if I’d tried?’ I’m not saying that I’ve always done everything that I wanted to do, but I did go to New York. If it doesn’t work out, you can always do something else,” Long said.
For someone who grew up in Winchester, in a traditional home with parents working normal shifts each day, Long said the life of a professional actor is a “weird transition.” He makes it a point to fill his life with “normal” activities, and never wants to get too wrapped up in the business.
“You’re constantly being analyzed and judged, but that’s the job,” Long said, adding that the road to a successful acting career is far from glamorous.
Even after being granted the role on “Mad Men,” Long said, he “tried not to have any expectations.”
Still, Long said that he would never want to discourage aspiring actors.
“I think people have to follow their dreams,” Long said.
i hope he comes back next season or better yet, give his own show!