#TBT Matthew Atkinson

When YOUNG AND RESTLESS hired Matthew Atkinson for the role of Summer’s beau, cameraman and secret stalker Austin Travers, the show didn’t even bother auditioning him with her portrayer, Hunter King. “A year before, I had tried out for another role on Y&R that didn’t work out, but they called me later about playing Austin,” Atkinson explains. “They decided to have faith that Hunter and I would be good together. I don’t know why they didn’t do a chemistry read with us, but I’m really glad it worked out.”

Especially since Atkinson knew little about his character, even after he debuted last April. “From the very beginning, it was very hush-hush on what kind of person Austin would turn out to be,” he reveals. “I was able to sit down with Jill [Farren Phelps, executive producer] before I even started working and was told that some traumatic event had taken place and because of that, he had a lot of demons, but she indicated that the character could be around for a while. Of course, I might’ve sucked and Austin could have gone off to jail, but that hasn’t happened – yet [laughs].”

In spite of the fact that Austin kidnapped Avery and was responsible for Paul getting shot and almost dying, fans have remained sympathetic toward his character, for which Atkinson is grateful. “If you just look at what he did, then he’s a bad guy,” the actor notes. “But if you really think about why and put yourself in his position, that he lost someone really significant in his life under bad circumstances, then you can understand his pent-up anger. He made a terrible mistake, but at the end of the day, he’s still an honest, good-hearted person.”

Atkinson credits King with making their on-screen chemistry work. “I love working with Hunter,” he enthuses. “From the first day, we had a connection and she’s very sweet. She’s been nothing but awesome to work with since I got here. Even though she’s young, she has a very natural talent and this ability to fully commit to her character and I admire that in actors of any age, so I learn from her every day and everyone else that I work with.”

Like Peter Bergman (Jack). “We didn’t work much in the beginning, but once we started having scenes together, he has so much to give,” Atkinson praises. “Peter is like a father figure to a lot of us. He’s been the perfect person to look up to and also to talk to about what we’re doing. It’s a very hard job and he’s been doing it for a long time.”

Given his background, it’s surprising that Atkinson ended up in the entertainment business. “My dad is a salesman and he worked his ass off to support his family,” Atkinson says. “We moved around a lot because he would get a new job or a promotion, better than the one before. We went from Georgia to Alabama to Mississippi, then back to Georgia. I bounced around the Southeast, but I don’t regret it at all. I wanted to be a lot of things while I was growing up. I was skateboarding, playing baseball and swimming, so I thought I wanted a career in one of those sports.”

Overcoming his shyness was the biggest challenge. “I was always the sit-in-the-back-of-the-room person and wanted so badly to break through that,” he recalls. “You feel like you’re holding yourself back from life when you don’t talk to anyone else, so I forced myself to confront things that scared me, like speaking in front of a group of people. Then I soon discovered that when you can make people laugh, that becomes addictive. I did a play in high school and the first time I stepped onstage and got a laugh from the audience, I was hooked.”

Did You Know?

Atkinson plays both acoustic and electric guitar. “I have also played the saxophone, piano, xylophone and even the drums, but for the most part, I’m a guitarist.”

He wants to try stand-up comedy – some day. “I constantly want to make people laugh, but there’s a real technique to stand-up and it’s not that easy.”

Just The Facts Birthday: December 27. “Honestly, I love that my birthday is right after Christmas. You wouldn’t know it because of the industry I am in, but I don’t like being the center of attention, so I have never wanted a party thrown for me. I can probably skate by without one for the rest of my life because I can always say, ‘I’m going to be with my family for the holidays.’ ”

Born In: Marietta, GA

Name Change: “My name is John Matthew, but my parents always called my older brother and me by our middle names. His name is James Paul, but everyone calls him Paul. John and Paul may be biblical names, but my mom is a huge Beatles fan, even though I don’t think she’ll ever admit that she named us after them.”

How He Lost That Southern Accent: “I never really had one, actually. My mom is from Tennessee and my dad is from Georgia, but neither one of them ever had Southern accents.”