It is indeed a great pleasure to talk to real artists, the ones who are willing to walk the extra miles and never give up nor give in to bitterness. Enter Matthew Sims an artist with many facets, a proud Londonier on his pathfinding crusade in the early 21st century. We did have some fun and could dig deeper into issues of contemporary theatre and actors and society and individual responsibilities. Matthew even shared a few of his paintings, so, just jump right into this interview and at the end you can even say “hello” to him.
And while you are at it, listen to Matthew Sims’ adaptation of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. Or watch it first, it’s art.
Music Authentic: Here is our first, by now it seems “site-traditional” question: How did you sleep last night?
Matthew Sims: Not bad thanks. I get woken up a bit early though, which hopefully won’t happen once I have my own bachelor pad!
Music Authentic: Let’s jump right into the middle, shall we? Theatres are closing, oddly opening if at all, gov’t support won’t necessarily put bread on the table. How do you think artists should think and act, should they choose a day-job and somehow maintain their artistic integrity or wait for the better times to come?
Matthew Sims: I think having an online presence, such as on YouTube can help, but that’s easier said than done. Equipment, especially cameras, is very expensive and not everyone has the ideal home environment for online performance. I imagine a lot of actors, myself included, were lucky enough to be employed in a day job before lockdown started, so they have a source of income secured. It’s a waiting game really. What has helped me is to pursue other creative outlets in the meantime. I write, draw, paint and cook in addition to acting.
Music Authentic: After hearing this, I’m wondering whether you are striving or thriving these days.
Matthew Sims: Bit of both really. I think we’re all striving to some extent right now. I hope I’m working towards thriving in the long term.
Music Authentic: What does it mean to be an actor nowadays when everyone can have their own show that mostly devaluate traditional acting as it is. Have you ever felt like an extinct species walking around as a curiosity?
Matthew Sims: Not so much extinct, no. If anything, I think there are too many actors on the bottom rungs, all struggling to get noticed. If you look at Hollywood blockbusters, the vast majority of parts go to already famous and prolific actors. Unknown and new talent need more recognition in the industry, and Hollywood needs a major culture shift.
Music Authentic: In another millennia agents, managers, PR staff and a bunch of other people were needed for a breakthrough. Now, everyone is an “indie” with thousands of hats to wear. How do you cope with this?
Matthew Sims: I’ve dabbled in that kind of thing. I’ve made YouTube videos on and off over the years which was a lot of fun. I do think that agents etc are still important for serious-minded actors. A lot of “indie” stuff is still not taken seriously by higher-ups in the acting industry.
Music Authentic: Have you ever felt promoting yourself and your art become almost like a door-to-door selling?
Matthew Sims: Yes, definitely. Because of the overcrowding I mentioned before, it can be very difficult to get noticed and be given a chance to prove yourself. Like many career paths, it’s often more about who you know than what you know.
Music Authentic: Some argues movies and theatres are over, others insist there will always be a need for this kind of entertainment. What’s your take?
Matthew Sims: People who argue that are plain wrong in my opinion. The arts are often neglected in favour of sport and other mundane things, but a lot of people would have succumbed to mental collapse during the lockdown without movies, TV, online theatre, etc. The technology and methodology surrounding film and theatre will of course change, but the medium itself will never disappear as long as human civilization is around. They’re essential ways we use to tell stories and explore the nature of life.
Music Authentic: Do you think you need to be able to do everything producers-directors set their mind to?
Matthew Sims: Everything within the remit of what they have cast you for, yes. Some actor have additional skills that may come in handy though and that’s great. But actors shouldn’t be taken advantage of or taken for granted.
Music Authentic: In which era and place do you think was or is the best to live an actor?
Matthew Sims: Difficult to say really. Perhaps in the 70s or 80s, where things weren’t quite as overcrowded and a lot of incredible films were crafted as special effects and filming techniques advanced.
Music Authentic: Typically, the recent big British names got their worldwide recognition by their late 30s, early 40s. Do you think it is necessary and inevitable to go through this traditional ladder or the real way is the self-made social media stars’?
Matthew Sims: I think you need a bit of both nowadays, but I lean more towards the former. Social media and the internet are unpredictable and ever shifting. I’m not even sure I’d want the kind of international recognition that big British stars get anyway and the pressure and lack of privacy that comes with that lifestyle. I want to be remembered, but I also want to live my own life. Hopefully I don’t have to wait until I’m 40 before I’m a successful actor though.
Music Authentic: Where do you usually gain strength during these changing and challenging times?
Matthew Sims: I gain strength through two things – hobbies and creative pursuits, and the feeling of progressing. If I’m doing something constructive and working towards a goal, that keeps my spirits up.
Music Authentic: Let’s try some jolly fun, shall we? So, would you rather live in the Earth in 20 years or be the part of the first Mars colony?
Matthew Sims: It depends on how the colony ended up – what kind of environment was created, what the social, economic and political structure was like. The way things are going on Earth though, especially environmentally – might not be a bad move to go somewhere else. I’d say just bear in mind cautionary tales about such things, like the Bioshock series.
Music Authentic: If you had a chance to play a superhero character in a movie or a series, whom would you choose?
Matthew Sims: Good question! If I got in shape, I’d love to play someone like John Constantine, Hellboy or Ghost Rider. I have a fondness for supernatural anti-heroes. They’re very cool and tend to be more interesting characters than your run of the mill boy scout.
Music Authentic: A lot of people are afraid of the future. Without going down a rabbit hole, how do you think your life will be in a few years from now on?
Matthew Sims: Hard to say. I can tell you how I would like it to be! Hopefully I will have a few paid acting jobs under my belt at least, including some film/TV work and voice acting. I’m also hoping to have lost a significant amount of weight by then.
Music Authentic: Now an inevitable question to decide, one not too many lads and gals – and in between and beyond – will necessarily get: Haggis or Yorkshire pudding?
Matthew Sims: I’ve never had Haggis, but seeing as Yorkshire Pudding is a bland and pointless addition to a roast dinner, I’ll go for Haggis.
Music Authentic: It is told comedians shouldn’t take serious roles. Yet, most of the greatest among them, like Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and so on have been brilliant in the somewhat controversial and darker roles. This question also scratches the typecasting which I personally can’t stand. How about you?
Matthew Sims: I agree. Typecasting is very restrictive to an actor’s freedom of expression, and personally I would find playing the same type of role over and over very boring and soul-destroying. Sure you’d get regular work I suppose, but you wouldn’t learn anything. Robin Williams and Jim Carrey are good examples. One I would add is Jack Black, who is overwhelmingly known for comedy and music but has proven himself capable of more serious roles. Everyone criticises his portrayal of Carl Denham in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, but I really enjoyed it. He was still a bit quirky at times yes, but he pulled off the dramatic lines very well.
Music Authentic: What things would be the greatest achievements for you through your art aside from the Academy Award, of course?
Matthew Sims: A dream of mine is to write, direct and act in my own film, or failing that a play. I’ve already written two complete film scripts just for fun and I’ve learnt a lot about directing from my uni years, being in plays and watching and reading film analysis.
Music Authentic: What do you think of this falling world and ever-collapsing societies we all tend to live in lately? Do you think there are things we, as individuals ought to do better?
Matthew Sims: Absolutely. I think the obsession with identity politics has created so much division and confusion and it needs to go away. We need a return to the importance of the individual and their responsibility. You are you, and your race, gender, sexuality, whatever – it’s absurd and harmful to think that they can define your character and predict your actions. Honesty, respect and integrity are words that speak to me, not “tolerance” and “diversity”
Music Authentic: How do you see, what are the hardest challenges in society these days?
Matthew Sims: Too many to count! Three in particular strike me as the worst – the radical, divisive “progressive” way of thinking on the left that has become so pervasive, the corruption and cynicism in politics and business that has led to so much distrust and suffering, and the looming environmental collapse. These are things that really fill me with dread and despair if I think too much about them.
Music Authentic: How can an actor use the stage or screen as a platform to help out others?
Matthew Sims: Stage and screen can be a powerful allegorical tool for helping people make sense of interpersonal relationships, the nature of the world and their own strengths and weaknesses. It can inspire people to resist indoctrination and oppression. It can be used to make people think and lift them out of mental and physical troubles.
Music Authentic: Is there anyone whose story had a great imprint on you?
Matthew Sims: Hmm. I don’t know really! I have certain people I look up to and am inspired by, like Sir Patrick Stewart, Gary Oldman, Dr Jordan Peterson and Cliff Richard (yes, really). If we’re talking fictional characters and their stories, I’d say Gene Hunt from the shows Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. He’s someone who embodies bravery, assertiveness, strength and confidence. Those are qualities I’ve always tried to emulate as a naturally introverted, conflict-averse and self-doubting person.
Music Authentic: Let’s wrap this up with some lighter questions. How do you like spending your free time – public version only?
Matthew Sims: Got to be either writing or painting. If we’re talking non-creative, I would say gaming and reading.
Music Authentic: Why do you think Americans can’t seem to be able to understand what a real cup of tea is?
Matthew Sims: Because they are sadly limited by a very sheltered, insular education system that mostly teaches them about their own country and culture and not much about others. But I’m sure I wouldn’t know much about some US cuisine too, to be fair. Things like corn dogs, grits and whatever Americans call “biscuits” are pretty alien to me.
Music Authentic: Any message with what you’d like to encourage others?
Matthew Sims: Be yourself, no matter what they say.