THE REAL O’NEALS’ Matt Shively on why you should watch, what comes next, and following your dreams
On an all new episode of THE REAL O’NEALS airing on ABC at 8:30/7:30c, Jimmy continues helping Kenny embrace his new out life, as he helps his younger brother in the online world of dating and porn. This show has quickly risen to the top of my must watch list on a weekly basis, and to spread the word and get you all watching, I spent some time chatting with Jimmy O’Neal himself, Matt Shively, about what drew him to the show, why the cast chemistry works, and how we’re launching a campaign for him to star as Chris Pratt’s brother down the line.
I think I’ve been telling anyone who I talk to that they need to be watching THE REAL O’NEALS.
Please, keep talking [laughs].
It feels like the feedback that I’m getting from other people is that they’re having the same reaction. Are you getting that from people you interact with? What has been the response?
Surprisingly enough, I go on Twitter and I look up our hashtag #realoneals and it really blows me away at how many nice comments there are. I think I’ve seen one bad comment out of the thousands that are posting, not that I’m crazy and counting them up, but it’s been really amazing [laughs]. My friends are very truthful people, especially with me, and they seem to love the show as well, and I don’t think [laughs] they’d lie to me? It’s really fun to actually be a part of a show that you enjoy and are proud of.
What was it that made you want to pursue this role?
If I’m being completely honest, once I got this, what excited me so much about it, was the topics that we are focused on in the show, I feel like the world really needs to see. Divorce is a very, very common thing now. It’s almost like a hobby for some people that get diorced. I think it’s great to see what a family goes through with that, especially in the sitcom world. I don’t think that the sitcom has played on divorce and gone through the whole scenario that happens. I also think a lot of, especially the gay community, kids now, I think they have a really good role model to look up to with Noah Galvin. I think it’s pretty fantastic.
What I love, and you touch on it with the divorce, and the sitcom aspect – it touches on the emotional things, like you and Jay in the car where suddenly Jimmy isn’t sure where he fits, where he lives, and it’s really and comedic.
I was raised on the idea that if you don’t laugh, you cry [laughs]. I think with these situations, they’re not funny situations, but that’s what makes comedians so good is that they take something that’s not funny and they find something funny about it. Especially when it’s something common like being gay or divorced or being a thief, like all of that kind of stuff. I think it’s really, really good for people to be able to play that out.
What’s it been like working with the cast? Was there a family chemistry right away?
The thing that, for me, is truly unbelievable is that usually you have chemistry reads but because they were trying to move so fast in finding people, we didn’t meet each other until we were all together at the table read, a day before we started shooting. And that, for me, I pride myself on the fact that our family chemistry is insane. You don’t usually get that, especially when you don’t have people meet up and read it in front of producers first, to meet everybody at the table read and already have a really strong bond and we all work perfectly together. It’s amazing. You can ask any actor, there is always one person in the cast, they won’t tell you a name, but there is always one person that could be better or do something different, but the entire time we were shooting this, everybody was on their A game, everyone was awesome, and that never happens. That never happens!
I love the ensemble feel of the show, that everyone is given a chance to really shine. Talk about your character, yes there’s the story of Kenny being gay, but they focused on your character’s man-orexia – is that something that they’ll continue to explore this season?
You know, I like to look at the season as one long movie, and right now, it’s Noah’s movie. It’s all focused on that, and we tried to veer away from what the other kids are going through. I personally think that when and if we come back for a season two, we will be focusing on their issues and problems more, but right now it’s through the issues and through the eyes of Noah (Kenny) and I think that it will continue to be that way.
I like the relationship with the kids – I grew up with two siblings and it felt like us. Pick on each other at home incessantly, but out in the world, being there for each other, no matter what.
I am very much that person. I pick up for people who maybe don’t have a voice for themselves. I love that, I love that for the character, especially because he’s a jock. I’ve told a lot of people, most jocks are not portrayed as the genuine emotionally connected kids. Usually, they have these egos, and to put it lightly, they’re kind of dicks, so it’s really, really nice to be playing the opposite of what the stereotype has always been.
Well that was my next question – you look at a show like AMERICAN CRIME where one brother says he’s gay, and his brother stops talking to him, where it’s the opposite here, that Jimmy doesn’t care – Kenny is his brother, he’s going to be supportive, it’s just his brother…
It’s just his brother, and he loves him. In the last episode, he had this speech where he said “I love you, and I love whatever you love, the gay bodies that you love, I’m cool with it [laughs]” and I think that is something that is never shown. That was the biggest feedback I got last week when the show aired. I got a lot of feedback that was like, it’s really cool seeing the brother being like that, and it’s really heartfelt. Normally, he doesn’t. The family would tend to neglect that character now, we embrace him more than anything that has been shown, and I think that’s what breaks him apart from a lot of other things.
What can you tease about what we’ll see in the next few episodes?
We have a few episodes coming up – the next one is one of the funniest to me. I show Kenny porn for the first time, and we had this whole ordeal where the computer freezes and then we lose the computer and it’s all about us trying to get the computer back because there’s a lot of gay porn on it. And we have an episode coming up which I think is one of the sweetest, most heartfelt sitcom episodes of all time – where our grandma comes into town, who is the most extreme Catholic that there is, is very against everything that isn’t representing Catholicism and that’s a really, really good episode for the world to watch. And then we have a lot of fun. We have a dance coming up, we have a retreat coming up where all of the sons and dad go out and do all these manly things, and I truly believe that every episode gets better and better and I think this season just gets funnier and funnier, and more fun.
Are people saying to you “why is it a show that I should watch?” and what do you tell them?
As an example, I would use this, when we first aired the premiere, one of our producers was going through the tweets and one of the girls said “my grandparents just watched the premiere and loved the way Kenny came out to his parents” and then five minutes later tweeted, “I just came out to my grandparents” with a smiley face, and I think that we really have a shot here of helping people out. Mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, I think all of them – people should watch the show because not only is it funny, but it really speaks to what is going on in the world right now and how you can accept things in a different way, without being completely judgmental over it.
The social media aspect of TV these days is so big, too – you all being on Twitter, live tweeting. How is that different / how does that shape this show, now?
Wow, it means a lot. Which is so crazy. I will say the one thing that is different – I did a Nickelodeon show and I would watch it live the night it would air, and the one big difference, and it was the funniest thing if you were a fly in the room, watching last week’s episode. It was me, Aunt Jodi, Kenny, and Jay who plays the dad (Pat). We were all sitting in the living room on a couch together, with our heads in our phones, tweeting while the episode was on, never looking up at the show [laughs]. That’s the one thing that’s kind of a downer about it – you don’t get to take the time to watch it; you have to go back and watch it again. But it is also really cool to have an immediate response from people, it’s almost as if you’re at a panel and you’re watching it with them, and you’re answering questions constantly. I think that makes it fun. I love being able to answer people’s questions, I’m there with them, watching it with them.
The instant feedback, it’s changed things in general. We’re not waiting for ratings as much, those +7 day ratings – we’re looking to social media to see what’s trending and what people are talking about in the moment. It changes the game for shows that may not have been seen otherwise.
Yeah, which is pretty wild. And it happened overnight, too. It wasn’t something that slowly changed. It was like, ok, you have to live tweet, this is how you do it. It was like, wow, okay, this is a real thing now, and you constantly have to be there.
I think ABC is nailing the family comedy these days – seeing a little bit of everything that’s going on in the world. Do you watch a lot of the shows on the network, or are there other shows you have to watch when you have downtime?
I do. I watch a lot of dramas. I watch THE WALKING DEAD and SHAMELESS, all of those one hours dramas. I have always loved ABC above all of the networks – they have the most quality television with the best message. I also have a lot of friends who in THE GOLDBERGS and MODERN FAMILY, so I love watching their shows, because I love the message they bring. Everybody is so good on those shows; the acting is insane!
For a show that’s in its first season, still feeling itself out, is there a lot of opportunity for you to ad lib, to improv, to throw your own takes in? Or did you stick to the script?
We pretty much stuck to the script but I got pretty lucky a lot of times where I would have an idea and I would do it three or four times how it was written, and then I could come out and do my one idea. A lot of the times, it stuck; if they trust you to not completely ruin a scene, then yeah, you give it to them the way they want it a few times, and then give them your own twist on it. And you hope it goes over well. It didn’t always go over well [laughs], but when it did, that’s one of the coolest things watching the episodes where I do my own thing and they actually use it. It’s really cool, you almost feel like a writer a little bit. You try not to step on their toes; a lot of times, writers may get upset that you’re changing their words. If they trust you, they let you do it, and if something’s funny, it’s funny!
It helps you embrace the character a bit more, as you’re growing with it.
Oh absolutely! When I was on Nickelodeon, you couldn’t change a word. If the line was “Let’s go here, guys,” you couldn’t say “Hey, let’s go here, guys.” When I got on this, it was like, okay, I’m not going to change anything, I worried it was the same thing, but once I let the first ad lib out, they embraced it and trusted it, I always say, don’t ask to change anything; just do it their way a couple of times, and then do it your own way, and a lot of the times, they actually like it more, so it’s cool!
I know you have other things that you worked on that are coming up – where else can we see you?
I’m not sure when it comes out, I know we just got into the Newport Film Festival – there’s a film called SUMMER OF 8 that I did last year, a year and a half ago. Has some amazing actors in it, Carter Jenkins, Bailey Noble, all of these really, really good underrated actors that really deserve their time to shine. It was the first indie film I did with them – it’s about a group of kids who on the last day of summer vacation spend one last day together and then they all go their separate ways. And then I just shot a small role in the new POWER RANGERS movie which was a lot of fun, watching what it’s like to work on a 120 million dollar budget [laughs]. It was a weird, fun experience.
That’s getting a lot of buzz, too! I’m interested to see the revamp of what we all grew up watching!
It’s gonna be pretty awesome. Take it from me who has seen the concept art of like the suits and stuff? It’s gonna be awesome. A year ago, a year and a half ago, when they first announced that this movie was going to be made, of course I was thinking I’d be one of the rangers, but I told one of my friends “I promise you, I would be in this movie.” It’s the only time I’ve said something like that and it actually came true! So to actually be a part of something that I know is going to be huge and going to be fun to watch? It’s surreal.
What was it, growing up, where you said “I want to be an actor” or was it something you kind of fell into?
It was kind of something I fell into. My 4th grade teacher was doing a play and I was the loud kid in the class, and she for some reason thought I should do this play, and I did it. It started out with me laying down on this stage, and I was too young to even fully remember it; I just remember looking out at all of these parents, like 200 parents, and I was like “this is so crazy! I’m about to make these people feel a certain way!” and from that point on, I was like, I think I want to be an actor, and my mom said no because she was afraid of the rejection. Being told no constantly is NOT healthy [laughs]. In 7th grade, the show EVEN STEVENS came out and Shia LaBeouf played probably one of the greatest characters in a kids’ television show, ever. I watched that, and I was like, I want to make people feel the way I’m feeling right now, watching this. Finally, my mom understood that either I work at a Taco Bell and live in her basement, or let me try taking a crack at this, because I don’t really enjoy anything else.
Sometimes, you have to just follow your dreams, as cliche as that might sound.
That’s the thing about cliches – it’s only super cliche because it’s really true [laughs]. It’s really so true! It’s like “follow your dream” and everyone’s all like “oh sure, that’s so cliche,” but legitimately, thats you’re only answer, that’s what you have to do.
Is there an actor or somebody whose career you’d like to emulate?
I always really looked up to Shia LaBeouf – he’s gone a little crazy in the past few years [laughs], but I still love his work. I’m like, I don’t know if that’s where I want to be at any point, I don’t want to be standing in an elevator for 24 hours talking to people, art or not. But as of lately, I hate to say proud, because I don’t know him, but I’m really proud of Chris Pratt’s career. He went from being, I’ve always had a little extra weight on me, so I’m like in this weird, idea that I’m never going to be the action star. When Chris Pratt went from being Andy Dwyer on PARKS AND REC to StarLord in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, that was like the coolest most motivational thing I’ve ever seen. And that’s a bit of a goal of mine, to play his brother in something at some time.
He’s a guy whose character on PARKS AND REC says he is doing a not-even-a-reality-yet JURASSIC WORLD and then boom, he really stars in it. Put it out there, who knows!
I’m just going to continue doing that – from now on, in all interviews, I’m going to say that I’m playing Chris Pratt’s brother in something.
If you say it enough, someone will say “this has to happen.” I think it will work.
Either that, or Chris Pratt’s going to show up at my door and say “Keep my name out of your mouth!” [laughs]
Either way, you get to see Chris Pratt, so it works out!
Exactly! I like the way you’re thinking!