CBS soap fans remember Matthew Atkinson as Y&R’s cagey cameraman, Austin Travers, a role he played from 2014-15, until the character fell victim to a serial killer. Now, four years later, the actor is back as B&B’s newest Thomas, and he couldn’t be more thrilled.
“It was actually a long time coming,” states Atkinson. “I remember this role coming around a few years ago [back when Pierson Fodé assumed the part in 2015]. It was always an exciting role. Working across the hall at Y&R, I got to meet a lot of the B&B cast members. I became good friends with Linsey [Godfrey, ex-Caroline; Sarah, DAYS] and I remember a few years ago running lines with her, and getting to know some of the characters on the show. Thomas was always intriguing. When it came around this time, I knew everyone there. I had met Brad [Bell, executive producer/head writer] before, and I couldn’t say no to the possibility of coming over and playing such a fun role.”
Atkinson says he is thrilled about being back at his old CBS Television City stomping grounds. “It’s so interesting how our brains work and associate sounds or smells to experiences,” he muses. “I remembered just something about the smell of the building when I went in to audition with Brad. It was nostalgic, and it created all positive feelings. It felt like home because [at Y&R], I was there every day, in and out, with a bunch of great people and it was such a great experience. There’s something very comforting now about being back in the same building.”
As for Thomas, who has been living in New York, the comeback is motivated by the Forresters. “Thomas is back to visit with his family,” Atkinson previews. “Especially now, since his mom is back in town, too. The last time he was there, she was not. It’s a really big family reunion, which hopefully the fans will enjoy.”
He won’t be returning alone — son Douglas will be in tow. Playing a father is new territory for Atkinson. “I’ve never had the chance to be a dad,” he notes. “It’s something I’m looking forward to in my own life which I haven’t gotten to yet, so that is something I’m looking forward to on-screen. I always love stories between fathers and sons, and this is going to be a great one.”
Expect Thomas and Ridge’s complicated past to factor into the current tale. “There are a lot of emotions to be explored,” nods the actor. “I can say that it really helps that I can put a face on Caroline because I know Linsey. So, who knows? There may be some deep, dark secrets that are going to come to light.”
Atkinson adds that he has enjoyed researching Thomas’s history and is excited to dive into it. “I’m getting into the dirty of it right now,” he explains. “There will be a few phone calls to make to people I know who have worked on the show and know some storylines and can help me with it. But I don’t want to watch too much footage, so it’s a lot of reading. This character has been played by multiple people, all of whom are great actors, and I don’t want to get their take in my head. Beyond that, there is just a lot to learn.”
Atkinson feels that the films and TV jobs he’s had since his Y&R days have made him a more confident actor. “I have done amazing things in the last five years, things that have changed my life, so I’m definitely a different person than I was,” he reflects. “Coming back with more experience under my belt feels great, and I’m hoping that will bring some more maturity and life experience to this role that I didn’t have back in the day. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m thankful. And, since fitness has always been a part of my life, I’m not scared about those shirtless scenes, either, so bring ’em on [laughs]!”
Atkinson holds no grudges about his Y&R character, Austin, being killed off. “It’s a soap, where anything can happen on any given day,” he shrugs. “I was kind of prepared for that. After that year was over, I was so happy that I had gotten to work there. I was also kind of happy for the time off to work on other things, so everything was positive at the end. I wasn’t upset or angry in any way. It was a lot of fun being there and again, you never know — maybe in 20 years, I’ll be back as a ghost [laughs]. I walked out of there thinking, ‘I’m excited for what’s next,’ but I’m so grateful that I was able to be there and experience it with those people.”
Atkinson will make his B&B debut on March 14.
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