B&B’s Matthew Atkinson Is Thrilled To Be Back In Daytime
Matthew Atkinson, who first made a name for himself in daytime as Y&R’s Austin, was ready to return and hot to land the role of Forrester scion Thomas. “If I was going to go on BOLD, I was like, ‘That’s my character,’ ” he recalls. “I knew that was the role that I had to play. He’s just a dynamic character. So when it came around, I fought to get in the room. I called my manager and I said, ‘Hey, I know that role’s available and it seems like a lot of fun going back into daytime right now.’ At first they were like, ‘No, we think we’re going to go a different way. We think we might change the age of the character…’ And I said, ‘I don’t care what age you change him to. I don’t care what you change him to at all. I just want to go in the room and if I’m not right for the role, great. If I am, great. I want to see these people again.’ I got the opportunity. Brad [Bell, executive producer/head writer] called and he said, ‘Let’s bring him over.’ I read with Annika [Noelle, Hope] and I left there going, ‘Whether I get it or not, I had fun doing it.’ I guess they liked what I had to say and it worked out.”
Atkinson first realized he wanted to be a performer in high school. “When I was a kid, I had your typical ‘I’m going be a pro’ at anything I was doing,” he recalls. “I was going be a pro skateboarder. I was going be a pro baseball player. I always loved the idea of being a pilot and wanting to fly fighter jets, but what I realized once I got to high school and fell into theater is that I could play all of these characters. As an actor, I can do all of them. I don’t have to just go down one route, and that solidified my path. There was a time I was going to join the Marines with a buddy of mine but I booked a job, and this whole acting thing was the dream. Once I chose that, there has been no plan B.”
In 2009, Atkinson landed a small part on the popular nighttime soap ONE TREE HILL. “That was actually my first professional acting gig,” he smiles. “We shot in Wilmington, North Carolina, and that weekend was their Christmas party. I just happened to get invited, so I got to spend a little more time with the cast, as well as Bethany Joy [Lenz, ex-Haley et al], who directed the episode. I got to know everyone more in depth than maybe I would’ve otherwise. It wasn’t until my girlfriend did a movie with Stephen Colletti [ex-Chase] that I actually sat down with him and we talked for about an hour. He was, at that time, in the process of doing this pilot he was thinking about with James [Lafferty, ex-Nathan] and things just fell into place. They offered this role to me, and Stephen and James are doing that series right now. I’m proud to be part of the project with them. It’s awesome that now we’re much closer.”
Atkinson continued to book roles, landing a starring role on JANE BY DESIGN and a recurring one on PARENTHOOD. In 2014 he joined Y&R, and though his alter ego fell victim to a serial killer the following year, the actor has nothing but praise regarding the experience. “My ability to take one scene at a time, focus on it and then let it go immediately, that I learned doing Y&R,” he reflects. “That was the beginning of developing that muscle of being able to learn lines a whole lot quicker and prep scenes a whole lot faster than anything else in TV or film. It is like acting boot camp. No matter what soap you’re on, if you’re doing daytime, you’re in acting boot camp. I learned a lot and I grew a lot doing that.”
Atkinson credits his B&B castmates for continuing his on-set education. “I’m learning so much,” he enthuses. “Most of my training never came from a class; it came from working with great actors and learning from them. Almost everyone that I work with, I pick their brain because I’m always trying to get better. Starting off, I watched Courtney [Hope, Sally] work, and the way that she’s able to envision things is amazing. She can really see a scene and just the words coming alive for her. That little nugget was great. Then I talked to Thorsten [Kaye, Ridge] and learned his story. He’s had a lot of experience. Now, being able to work with Katrina [Bowden, Flo] and Annika [Noelle, Hope], I’m learning from them. The way they can tap into emotion on a moment’s notice, it’s incredible. Everyone’s got their skill sets and if I can learn a bit from all of them, then I’ve become a more well-rounded actor. Every single person I work with is a mentor.”
Though things are going well at the set, Atkinson is well aware that many viewers are upset by Thomas’s manipulation of Hope. The actor hopes they’ll see another side to his character soon. “As far as what Thomas is doing and how people are responding, I’ve experienced two thoughts,” he begins. “There are people who can’t stand Thomas right now. They hate him ’cause he’s breaking up this wonderful marriage [of Hope and Liam]. But then there’s another group of people that really enjoy it and love the dynamic that it’s bringing to the show. There are also the die-hard Steffy and Liam fans, and those people are happy with what Thomas is doing right now. It seems like people are either loving me or hating me, and if I’m in either one of those groups, I’m happy. The worst thing would be people just not caring at all.”
While Thomas has had to resort to trickery to be with the woman he loves, Atkinson is faring much better in real life. He’s currently in a relationship with actress Karissa Lee Staples. “We met doing a movie for Lifetime about three-and-a-half years ago called INSPIRED TO KILL,” he shares. “She played a crazy person. I think our first day together on set, she was chasing me around with a knife. I like the crazy ones, so that just worked out really well [laughs]. I’m kidding. She’s actually one of the sweetest human beings I’ve ever met. We hung out a little after the movie and months later, we reconnected and got together. We were friends who just developed naturally into a relationship. It was nothing that I really had experienced before but that’s how it happened for us.”
While he and Staples are enjoying domestic bliss together, Atkinson is only a dad on-screen, at least for now. “Yeah, I’ve been hearing that for probably the last, I don’t know, ever since I turned 20?” he chuckles of friends and relatives who are hoping he’ll settle down soon and start a family. “Growing up, they saw how I was with kids and were like, ‘You’re going to be a great dad one day.’ I hope so. I’ve always wanted to be a dad but I never felt ready. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready but I just have to do it one day, and that’s something I’m excited to do in the future. Right now, I’m happy to be working with Henry [Joseph Samiri, Douglas], who is probably the cutest kid in the world. He’s adorable. Every chance I get to spend with him, I have fun. It’s great being able to play a dad on TV and then not have to be a dad at home just yet. I get to sleep all night, so that’s nice for now.”
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: December 27
Hails From: Marietta, GA
Meet The Family: Atkinson’s parents are Jimmy and Connie, and he has an older brother, Paul.
Previous Soap Experience: Played Y&R’s Austin from 2014-15.
It’s Supermatt! “My mom always wants to see me as the good guy who’s going to save people. That’s the role she always wants me to play. If I could be Captain America for the rest of my life, she’d be happy with that.”
The Great Outdoors: “[Girlfriend] Karissa and I both love working out, exercise and sports. We enjoy going on bike rides, camping, hiking, playing volleyball or going to the beach. We do that a lot.”
Chew On This: “We also share a love of food. We’re ridiculous foodies.”
Did You Know?
• Atkinson’s given name is actually John Matthew. “My parents always called my brother and me by our middle names,” he explains.
• He played a valet in The Blind Side, and got to spend the day with stars Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw.
• He can next be seen in the upcoming thriller The Party Planner.
The Music Man
Atkinson can play five instruments — saxophone, guitar, bass, piano and drums — but he claims, “I’m not proficient at five instruments.” When it came to the drums, he learned to play quickly: “I’ve sat in and played drums, but I wouldn’t call myself a drummer. When I shot PARENTHOOD, they were like, ‘We want a real drummer,’ and I was like, ‘I can barely drum, just so you know. You’re booking me off of acting alone and hopefully the drumming will come around.’ I worked with Tyson [Ritter] of The All-American Rejects. He’s an incredibly talented musician, and he came up to me and said, ‘Dude, that sounded really good.’ I was like, ‘After eight episodes, I finally sound like a decently proficient drummer [laughs].’ It was a lot of fun but I wouldn’t say that I’m really great at any of these instruments. I love to dabble and just play some songs and have fun with it. Music goes, I think, above and beyond being an actor or most other arts. That’s got to be the hardest business to make it in. The amount of time that goes into that is insane. I don’t know if I would ever want to put that much of my life into music. I just enjoy playing.”