By Candice Anne Marshall
How do you begin a review of an Actor who, at the age of only 18 has surpassed any milestone that the average young adult has? I mean, we’re not talking about the first car, first girlfriend, first job, and graduation kind of milestones here either…this is something on a much grander scale…..
I am referring to the kind of milestones that only Los Angeles, California-based Actor Mateus Ward has come to achieve in his short, but very accomplished acting career thus far. In fact, his very persona reminds me of a middle-aged Johnny Cash: cool, confident, and bonafide talented without ever giving an air of pretension. I have observed him in interviews since the launch of the film ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ in the Film Festival circuit, (where he plays lead Actor) and without fail, he exudes these aforementioned traits. I have also read interviews where he has been referred to as ‘an old soul’ and his responses are concise, sometimes cheeky, and brimming with mature sophistication. Ward has also mentioned his early talent for Elvis impersonations (he loves Elvis) at a musical theater debut which later earned him scores of wicked television roles (see film and television credits below his social media links) and an impressive roster of film credits under his belt as well. He has often played dark characters and delivers them with the kind of graceful, undaunted candor that, in relation to the acting realm, I can only compare to a young Marlon Brando. In fact, looking further into Wards’ background, I would never have guessed that his portrayal of Clyde Thompson in ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ was that of a man half that age. (see my interview with his Father, Director of the film, Justin Ward here)
In this true-story film of convicted murderer Clyde Thompson, Ward manages to take this role from an innocent boy, to an aggressive and hostile young man, to a redeemed middle-aged man of faith seamlessly all in a matter of an intense 105-minute thrill-ride. The accuracy to which he portrays Thompsons’ character in this film is genuine in delivery and fiery in emotional display. Because his performance was so historically accurate to the original Clyde Thompson, Ward (recently) earned himself the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the IndieFEST Film awards in Florida. This doesn’t surprise me, in fact, I predict this to be the start of a successful string of awards to come. It does take a lot for young Hollywood to impress me since the days of Molly Ringwald and the ‘Brat Pack’(and even the original ‘rat pack’ for that matter), but Ward has earned the utmost respect from me for his ability to take this role at such a young age and make it undeniably twenty-four carat authentic. If you have any opportunity to attend a Film Festival where ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ is showing, make sure you are there!
So, here’s my summation of Mateus Ward: undeniably, for me, he has earned the right to be compared to the reputable likes of Johnny Cash (even arriving to premieres all in black) and Marlon Brando (that confidence!). Yet, even with all comparisons to music and Hollywood royalty aside, there really is only one Mateus Ward, and he really is that predominantly paramount, remarkably distinguished, and naturally skilled. AND – he will always dance to the beat of his own drum. Period.
I connected recently with Ward for an exclusive interview for our SMC SPOTLIGHT. Here is what he had to say:
SMC SPOTLIGHT Interview | Actor: Mateus Ward ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’
May 9th, 2017
SMC – Hello Mateus! Welcome to the SMC SPOTLIGHT! We have been profiling some of the industry’s top Actors, Musicians, and Fashion celebrity profiles for a couple years now and are happy to add you to this roster. Let’s begin with an introduction: we discovered you via our friend and peer Joshua Shultz (Bellus Magazine) who also Directed the short film ‘STROBE’ which you have a starring role in. What are your thoughts on how the film will have in terms of an impact on society?
Mateus – I believe that STROBE will shock people into realizing the collateral danger of hard drugs.
SMC – Do you think that this film could be an educational tool on the effects of drugs and how they impact people’s lives?
Mateus – Absolutely! I really think it will wake people up!
SMC – What was it like working with Joshua Shultz (Director | STROBE)?
Mateus – Josh is a great friend of mine! He’s a true artist in every sense of the word. Working with him was a true pleasure and such a blast.
SMC – Okay, so let’s get into your film credentials – your film reel roster is impressive! Which films/TV shows are/were your favorite to be a part of and why?
Mateus – I have so many amazing memories from all of these sets, I’ve created amazing friendships with people. Tyrel Jackson Williams (Lab Rats, Brockmire) and I still hang out, and I’m always in touch with my onscreen sister Quinn Shephard (Hostages, Blame) I’ve kept in touch with most of the people I have worked with, but if I had to chose, the two best work environments had to be “Murder in the First” and “The Meanest Man in Texas.” The cast and crew on each of them were like a family!
SMC – What is it like for you to prepare for a role? You go from being a meth addict in ‘STROBE’ to being a hardcore criminal in ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ to a Disney XD role on Lab Rats…. this has to involve some devoted time to studying for these kinds of roles and becoming the characters you are portraying. Tell us what your process is like when preparing for a role.
Mateus – I think each actor has their own process. I like to start with research of the world or time period, then answer all the motivation and intention questions of the character and get to know them, then find their physicality.
SMC – Let’s get into your role as Clyde Thompson in The Meanest Man in Texas – can you tell us how you landed this?
Mateus – Pure nepotism! Just kidding, my father was offered to direct the film and I set out to prove to him and the producers I could play this part. I read the book, studied the history, learned the accent, and eventually won the part.
SMC – There are some pretty intense scenes in this film that I have to give you a ‘hat’s off’ nod to. For instance, the scene where you took a ‘whupping’ from ‘Captain Colt’ (played by Actor Jamie McShane) – wow! These are things that not very many youth today know anything about. How did you prepare mentally for that kind of a situation?
Mateus – I focus on the situation, and play it as real as I can. For that scene, I honestly don’t remember much. I was just going through it.
SMC – In terms of the emotion portrayed in your character…. scenes like when Clyde is told his father has passed away, how do you prepare yourself for that kind of emotional expression? What frame of mind do you have to be in to get the emotions right?
Mateus – For me, as an actor, it always comes down to being in the moment. I tend to stay away from “tricks” or “substitutions.” That is not to say that I don’t use them. I think an actor needs to utilize whatever is necessary to convey a moment. I have always had an intense imagination, so putting myself in someone else’s shoes was always easy for me, once I’ve put in the work to know everything I can about a character.
SMC – Some of the scenes were played so well, I had actual tears! What are your thoughts on the story line and events that happened in the life of the real Clyde Thompson?
Mateus – It’s hard to believe all of these things actually happened to him. His story is unreal in so many ways, I felt an obligation to play it all as real as I could.
SMC – The scene where your father (played by Ben Reed) comes to you and encourages you to have faith in God…your reaction to him was pretty intense! (‘There ain’t no God! There ain’t no word!’) Can you tell us what filming scenes like that were for you? Religion is such a controversy these days….
Mateus – When playing any character, no matter who they are, you have to throw out all of your pre-conceived notions and beliefs. I believe I really learned this while playing a school shooter on “Murder in the First.” There is a certain level of separation that has to be done before you can play a character truthfully. I personally am not religious, but Clyde was. This story is about Clyde’s redemption he so happened to find through faith. Therefore, it is my job as an actor to put all my personal opinions to rest, so Clyde’s could come out to play. I always find that once I do that, I fall in love with every character I play. In that particular scene, it’s all about where Clyde is, mentally, at that point. So, I guess, in short form, I just played what Clyde was going through.
SMC – I love the ‘Got a Light?’ smart-alec comebacks woven in throughout…. you have one of those faces that can portray an angelic innocent young man and then a devilish hell-child (laughs)…. which of the two personalities can you relate to more?
Mateus – Depends on the day…
SMC- (laughs) Fair comment! Your on-screen chemistry with ‘Julia’ (played by Alexandra Bard) was also intense. Can you tell us a few words about your thoughts on her performance in this film?
Mateus – She made it easy to have that chemistry. She is an amazing actress and we had a blast on set.
SMC – I am going to ask the inevitable: what was it like working with your father on this project? (Justin Ward: Director of The Meanest Man in Texas)
Mateus – It was incredible! We read each other’s mind the whole time! He would go “Hey MC, how about—” and I’d reply, “I was just thinking that!”
SMC – On May 6th, you earned the award for ‘Best Actor’ at the ICFF (International Christian Film Festival) – That’s impressive! What are your thoughts on that?
Mateus – It is such an honor to be recognized for my work.
SMC – Can you tell us which other accomplishments in your career you are particularly proud of and why?
Mateus – Getting a chance to do what I love is the best accomplishment.
SMC – Can you tell us the most memorable fan moment you have had in your career?
Mateus – I was in New York on Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Hostages” and we took a family trip out to Mantauk. I tweeted I was there, and on our way back that night, my sister saw a tweet from a fan, so she got her address and we paid a surprise visit. Our families met and it was really cool. Another great moment, was meeting young women with scoliosis in Nashville during the film festival. These girls are so courageous and it was great to meet them and their mothers and hear their stories.
SMC – What are five unique things about you that no one else knows about? (our readers love this one)
Mateus – I am obsessed with Elvis. I love to draw and paint. I play piano. I have a 1953 Chevy truck. I am unhealthily addicted to superheroes and comic books.
SMC – I read that you have lived in Hawaii for a few years before pursuing a career in acting. Can you tell us what lead to your family’s move to LA?
Mateus – I like to believe it’s because I wanted to pursue acting, but I think it was during the recession, it was a tough time and we moved back where there was more work.
SMC – What inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
Mateus – I have always been a performer. I was super shy, and it was a way to hide behind characters. I didn’t even need an audience. I just liked pretending and using my imagination. I was a little Elvis impersonator at like 5, and I think that sparked the acting thing.
SMC – Which of your peers in the film have you created a bond with as a result of your character in the film?
Mateus – Alex and I have become close because of filming and on the festival circuit. But the most entertaining friendship is the bizarre “Tron” inside joke between Anthony Guerino and I, who plays Barney in the film. On set he suddenly approached me and asked, “Did someone say Tron?” It became a running joke. Now we text each other with Tron mimes, gifs and jokes all the time. He’s so funny!
SMC – Your whole family has such amazing talent! I did read about your sister as well – has she been involved in any of the projects you have worked on?
Mateus – It was a family production. Our company is Ohana Films, Inc. Ohana means family in Hawaiian.
SMC – That’s lovely! What has the family support been like for your career?
Mateus – I honestly couldn’t have done what I have done without my family and their support. My mother is the best. She used to own a salon and stopped working to make sure I could follow my dream.
SMC – Can you tell us your thoughts on your father’s work on this film?
Mateus – He did alright… I mean for his first film. Just kidding! Who gets to act in a film their father directs? It was incredible. He was so prepared, had such a clear vision, and yet, since we didn’t have much time, he was able to improvise and shoot on the fly in order to make the days. All the actors and crew respected him, and went the extra mile for him. It was an amazing experience.
SMC – For an Actor so young, did you feel intimidated by this role at all? You did so well!
Mateus – Thank you! It was one of those things that I was always worried about. I wasn’t necessarily worried about doing it. I knew that once I put in the work, I could get there. I was mostly worried about how people would receive it. The title of the movie has the word “Man” in it! I knew it would cause shock and a lot of doubt from the audience before hand, but the way the movie is formatted I think it works very well. I have always been told I have an old soul, and to be honest, it was more challenging to play the young version of Clyde.
SMC – Have you had any personal experiences that have shaped you personally and prepared you for the kinds of roles you have been playing as of late?
Mateus – Let’s see an evil robot who shoots lazers and is telekinetic, a smart-ass son of a drug dealer, an actual drug dealer, a school shooter and a 40-year-old man convicted of three murders? Hmmm… can’t really say I’ve had any of those personal experiences…
SMC -Ha ha ha – fair enough…. Where can the general public see The Meanest Man in Texas?
Mateus – We are still on the festival circuit. But check out our social media, all #TheMeanestManInTexas for updates.
SMC – Have you been approached for other roles as a result of this film?
Mateus – Not that I can discuss…
SMC – What advice can you give to new Actors pursuing a career in Hollywood?
Mateus – Work, work, work! Study film, watch as many old and new programs as you can. Challenge yourself! Make sure it is truly what you love, because it’s not easy.
SMC – Since we are also a Music website – can you tell us who the top five Artists are in your favorites playlist?
Mateus – Jason Mraz, Chance the Rapper, Elvis Presley, Childish Gambino, and Panic! at the Disco
SMC – We would like to continue profiling you via our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series. This is a documented chronological journey of our most celebrated Artists throughout their career. Is this something that would appeal to you?
Mateus – Sounds great!
SMC – Alright, final question…finish this sentence: If I didn’t pursue a career in Acting, I would be………
Mateus – I don’t know what I’d be if I weren’t an actor… I’ve never had a back up plan!
SMC – Thank you Mateus!
Mateus Wards’ Social Media links (click to view)
Film and Television: Wards television credits include: Murder in the First, Hostages, NCIS, Disney XD’s Lab Rats, Weeds, Parenthood, Norn MacDonald Show, Outnumbered (Pilot), Criminal Minds, Pit Boss, and The Incredible Bean (Pilot). Film credits include: Lonely Boy, House Painting, The Afterlife, The Hall Monitor, Devil’s Eyes, Love in the Time of Flannel, STROBE, and now, The Meanest Man In Texas.