Matt Doyle played unforgettable roles in Broadway's Spring Awakening and War Horse. He went on to appear on the CW hit Gossip Girl as well as releasing his own music with an album entitled Daylight.
His movie Private Romeo has recently been released on DVD. It's Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet updated with an all-male cast. We move from Verona, Italy, to a U.S. military base and follow the story of gay youth complete with trials and tribulations.
The openly gay actor talked Nunn on One about his experience.
Windy City Times: Hey, Matt. Is this your first time tackling Shakespeare?
Matt Doyle: No, I actually went to LAMDA [The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art], which is a wonderful school in the UK. I studied theater and it was a graduate program. I went straight out of high school. I ended up skipping out on Carnegie-Mellon and decided to go to a graduate program there. I then came back and started working. I never made it to university but I did a program strictly dedicated to classical theater.
When I came back to New York, it was my intention to work in classical theater because I was surrounded in it. Previously, I had been in a city where it was possible to create a career out of classical theater. In New York I quickly realized there are not as many classical theater companies as there are in the UK. I fell into musicals and didn't get to explore any until I did Private Romeo.
WCT: Is this the first gay Romeo and Juliet version that has been done?
Matt Doyle: It is certainly the first filmed one. There was a wonderful off-Broadway show that was inspired by called Shakespeare's R & J that was a similar setting. It took place in an all-boys academy; it was flipped on its head like that. Ten years later I think our director had that piece in mind when he was exploring the idea. The movie is very different than that play, though. It is really interesting to see when the text flips, and it's perfect. We get to see a more metaphorical theme. It was so interesting to put it in the context of our setting.
WCT: It seemed to work well with it set in the military academy.
Matt Doyle: Yes, because instead of having the feuding families you have the fear of being in that setting, with the expectations and authority running over us the entire time.
WCT: There was hazing and bullying going on, too.
Matt Doyle: That was inspired by Alan Brown, the director, watching all of these YouTube videos of hazing. He sent a bunch of them to us. It is not even necessarily out of hatred as it is out of this camaraderie there. If someone screws up in the military academy a lot of the times that is what the guys do to each other. It is a scene that is meant to be taken as bullying and hazing but at the same time it is the norm at an academy like that and is expected.
I think my character, Glenn, is faced with it but it's expected because he just kissed a boy in front of all the other guys the night before.
WCT: Were you picked on when you were younger?
Matt Doyle: Absolutely. I am a big campaigner for "It Gets Better" and all of the anti-bullying campaigns. Actually, a few years ago I wrote a blog on bullying that got a lot of exposure. I was just walking down the street and I witnessed a few kids bullying another boy. It just brought up a lot of feelings in me.
When I was a kid I was badly verbally and physically abused in middle school. It was terrible and an absolute nightmare. I was suicidal as a result. Honestly, I probably wouldn't be here if it weren't for theater and finding a community and discovering happiness. Now I look back at all of that and can't believe I was in that place because things are wonderful now.
WCT: That's good.
Matt Doyle: I am working, happy and doing what I love.
WCT: You played gay on Gossip Girl, right?
Matt Doyle: I did. I have worked constantly by playing all of these gay roles. Some people say you can't make a career of playing an openly gay man. I just think that is so archaic and silly to think that way. There are lots of wonderful gay roles out there, like in Spring Awakening or Johnathan in Gossip Girl or in Private Romeo. I am thrilled if the role is gay and thrilled if it is straight. I really think perceptions are changing. There is really no reason to hide.
WCT: Amen! Are you a big Glee watcher? What do you think about Lea Michelle, who got her start on Spring Awakening?
Matt Doyle: I am a big Glee watcher. Half of my friends are on that show. I have to watch it sometimes. I am not diehard; I don't tune in every week but I have caught several episodes over the past few seasons. They are all so talented and it is a fantastic show. I love that a huge network is promoting the kinds of things that show promotes with acceptance and celebrating the arts. It's wonderful.
WCT: You were in Warhorse and the show is finally coming to Chicago in December.
Matt Doyle: The puppetry is absolutely mind blowing.
WCT: They brought the horse in early. I was able to meet him.
Matt Doyle: OhJoey!
WCT: You have a new EP coming out this month?
Matt Doyle: I do. We are very excited about this one. It is a bit quieter and sulky in its delivery. The first one was soul and retro inspired. We stuck to that as much as possible. We went down to Nashville and recorded the first one down there. This time we worked with some of our friends in the Broadway community. It is a lot more acoustic. We are really excited about this one.
WCT: When are you coming to Chicago?
Matt Doyle: I would love to come to Chicago. I actually almost had a job that would have taken me out there. There have been a couple of offers over the past few years that would have taken me there. I am just waiting for the right one. One of my best friends from high school lives there. John Groff is shooting Boss there for Starz, so a lot of my friends are working there now.
WCT: Anything more about Private Romeo before you go?
Matt Doyle: I think Alan Brown's vision is so clear and apparent. It is absolutely perfect. I think if you have ever experienced that wild teenage love then you are really going to affected by this. It is really well delivered. I cannot say enough good things about my fellow actors work on that project. I was blown away by everybody. Everyone was exceptional with the text.
WCT: Do you have more movies coming out?
Matt Doyle: Nothing to announce yet but I am doing a new musical. I wish I could announce it but they haven't made the official announcement yet. It starts out of town in the fall and will go to Broadway in the spring.
Keep up with Doyle's career at www.Mattdoylemusic.com . Purchase Private Romeo at www.wolfevideo.com .