Matthew Del Negro Talks HOT PURSUIT, Being SCANDAL’s Michael & More
There’s no doubt that 2015 has been Matthew Del Negro’s year.
The actor, who is currently lighting up TV review columns as Michael on ABC’s Scandal, recently finished recurring guest spots on NBC’s Chicago Fire as the divisive Pat Pridgen, as Jacob on ABC’s Mistresses and Peter on NBC’s Marry Me.
Now he tales on the role of Detective Hauser alongside Reese Witherspoon and Sophia Vergara in the Warner Bros film Hot Pursuit which hit theaters nationally on May 8th.
We sat down with Matthew to talk about his latest film, his experiences working with the powerhouse duo of Witherspoon and Vergara, and his personal experience of playing male prostitute Michael on Shonda Rimes’ critically acclaimed Scandal.
ScreenSpy: Hot Pursuit introduces us to a colorful world of cops and cartels. Who is Hauser and where does he fall in that spectrum?
Matthew Del Negro: Hauser is initially in the precinct with Cooper. He’s a detective. His partner is Dixon, who is played by Michael Mosley. You pretty quickly realize that Hauser is up to no good — as are most of the male characters in the film. We end up chasing Reese and Sophia’s characters across the State.
ScreenSpy: Are Hauser and Dixon cut from the same cloth?
Matthew Del Negro: Hauser ends up being a little bit more of the leader and the talker of the two. Dixon’s a little bit more of a hot head. There are a couple of things you’ll see as we’re hunting them down. Dixon is a little more trigger happy.
The two of us were laughing so much as we were shooting. We said we must be the worst cops in the history of cinema. We have a lot of close calls with them, but we can never seem to get our hands on them once they take off. It was a lot of fun to shoot. There were a lot of high-jinks in there [laughing].
ScreenSpy: We know Cooper (Reese’s character) doesn’t have the best working or personal relationships with her colleagues. What can you tell us about how she and Hauser get along and how he views her?
Matthew Del Negro: The theme that runs throughout the film seems to be that it’s a male dominated world. In the precinct there aren’t as many women as men. At one point we call Cooper a glorified secretary. We really make fun of her and look down on her because she’s very by the book. But the truth is she’s a better cop than all of us combined. She may cross her T’s and dot her I’s, and as the film progresses she learns to cut some corners, but she’s got a lot more integrity than the rest of us. We may look down on her but as it turns out we’re the buffoons in the end.
ScreenSpy: What was your experience of working with Reese and Sofia?
Matthew Del Negro: They’re total pros. They were hysterical. Also their chemistry was amazing right from the first table read. I had read the script before I got down there to shoot it and I thought it was funny on the page until we did the table read and it just came to life. Their bouncing off of one another is hysterical. But there’s heart there too. Yes, it’s a comedy. Yes, it’s an adventure and a big chase, but because they’re both great actors they manage to find these moments where we get to see behind the facade and the humor and see a real human connection between the two of them. They’re so different in so many ways. Their sensibilities are so different but yet they really hit it off. They truly enjoyed each other on set and it really bleeds through into the film.
ScreenSpy: So the film is set in San Antonio and Dallas, and obviously on the road in between. I hear you guys filmed in New Orleans.
Matthew Del Negro: That happens often. While we were down there, there were at least 5 or 6 big films shooting down there. We shot some of it out in a place called Covington, which is about an hour outside of New Orleans. Some scenes were shot in the city too, but it doubles nicely as Texas.
ScreenSpy: Do you have a favorite moment or scene from the movie?
Matthew Del Negro: For me, one of the funniest things where they just had us in stitches was this whole sequence at a roadside bar. We meet back up with them and we get back in the cruiser. They’re in the back talking about their female cycles. Hauser and Dixon are supposed to be these tough guys but we just can’t take it. We’re completely grossed out by it. Sophia really just went for it!
ScreenSpy: You’ve having a phenomenal year on TV.
Matthew Del Negro: Thank you for saying that. That’s very nice to hear.
ScreenSpy: Will Michael be back on Scandal next season?
Matthew Del Negro: You never know. That show twists and turns. If you saw the wedding episode then you might think maybe so, but if you look at what they did with James Novak, Dan Bucatinsky’s character, initially whenever we saw Cyrus at home James would be there. Then they gave him this other role as a reporter and really brought him into the fold. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do with Michael. I actually don’t know as of yet if they’ll give him another function or if he’ll just be there for Cyrus behind the scenes. I’m eagerly anticipating. We’ll see.
ScreenSpy: Michael’s had an amazing story arc on Scandal. Did you know what was in store for him at the outset?
Matthew Del Negro: No. In fact what everybody told me going in was that Shonda is particularly tuned in to the actors and what they are capable of bringing to it. They will write to certain actors based on what they’re seeing. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I didn’t know what it was going to be apart from at least a few episodes off the top. When you go in to play a male prostitute you don’t anticipate that it’s going to end in a wedding. I was very happy about it. I felt like my goal was to go in there — and even though my character was playing him, was being paid to seduce him and get dirt on him — my feeling was to play those scenes with real sincerity and have a real connection, then let the writers decide if they wanted to make me a real snake who is just very good at convincing his marks that he was into them, or they could decide that I was almost falling in love.
What they did really nicely was toggle back and forth. I had people come up to me in the street and tell me they hated me in one episode and then in the next episode say “Oh I felt so terrible for Michael!” So it was really really fun as an actor to play a character who is polarizing like that, and who can flip back and forth from episode to episode and even scene to scene. It was always a great surprise in there for me.
That last episode was particularly nice, because so many people on the street and over Twitter came up to me and said “Thank you, you guys really told my story.” To be involved in a little bit of storytelling that actually hit people in their cores … like the scene with the parents who have written Michael off years ago because of his sexual orientation, that aspect of his storyline really hit people. I was happy to be a part of something that was actually affecting the audience.
Scandal’s season finale airs Thursday May 14 on ABC.
Hot Pursuit is currently airing in theaters across the US, and will hit the UK on July 31st.