28-year-old actor Matt Murray wants to do everything in his career. He wants to act, do stand-up, produce and play all different types of roles. The Detroit native’s career took a huge jump last year when he landed a part on the CBS sitcom “9JKL.” Murray plays the lovable doorman Nick, who always leaves the audience laughing after his interactions with Judy or Josh.
Murray talked with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about his career, his influences and how he landed the gig on “9JKL.”
DJ Sixsmith: You went to theater school in Canada. How did you get your start as an actor?
Matt Murray: I’m originally from Detroit and I moved to Canada when I was 19 to go to theater school. I auditioned for eight theater schools and the first seven turned me down. I knew tuition up in Toronto was a lot cheaper, so that’s where I decided to go. I did three years of theater school there. That really saved my life because a lot of my friends from back in Detroit were either getting killed or thrown in jail. It showed me that the path I decided for myself at 19 was the right one. I booked my first theater job a few months before I graduated school. I booked my first TV job a week before graduation. After that, everything started rolling in theater and TV and short films. I booked my first recurring role in a show called “LA Complex.”
DS: Who inspired you early on in your career?
MM: It’s always been Denzel Washington and Will Smith. Al Pacino is a big one. A lot of older actors like Robert De Niro. Martin Lawrence, Chris Tucker and Will Smith were some of my biggest influences when it comes to comedy. “Martin” was a huge show for me because of its connection to Detroit. Those guys showed me that I didn’t have to just do comedy. Robin Williams was a big influence for me as well. I loved Dustin Hoffman because of the type of characters he’s played and the vulnerability he has in a lot of his roles. There are also some younger actors like Dylan O’Brien. I really like Dylan and watched “Teen Wolf” one time and kept watching the show because of him. I want to do everything. I write, I do stand-up, I want to produce and do theater, film and voice overs. I’m artist, let me create art.
DS: Let’s talk about “9JKL.” How did you end up landing the part?
MM: I didn’t have to audition for it. It was a straight through offer and this was the first pilot season I wasn’t under contract. I loved the script when I first saw it, but I didn’t love how the character was behind the family. I’ve always started in the back and worked my way to the front. I have no problem with that, but this year I was thinking about how far I could go if I started from the front instead of the back. I loved the script and the first time we turned it down, Aaron Kaplan called me. I’ve worked with him before and he asked me what we had to do to get this deal done. I honestly told him what my vision for the character was. He asked if I wanted to meet with Mark Feuerstein and Dana Klein. Two hours later we were having coffee and I just fell in love with their energy. Their energy was amazing. I’m a fan of Mark’s work and having him tell me he was a fan of my work was very humbling. Mark is an actor and totally understood my thinking and my approach. He supported that 100% and understood it. They explained how open they were going to be with my character and the type of people they wanted on the set. I fell in love with their vision. I always follow my instincts and after that meeting I said let’s do it.
DS: What has been the greatest challenge of playing your character Nick?
MM: The greatest challenge with Nick are the tactics he takes with each character on helping them through whatever obstacle they have. The way that he’ll talk to Judy is different than how he’ll talk with Josh or how he would talk with Andrew. Every person that he talks with has a different chemistry. That was the thing I had to be most conscious about. I have to approach each character and obstacle totally differently. Andrew can be a little more blunt and my character feeds off that energy. Nick sees the vulnerability in Judy and the things she’s complaining about without even asking any questions. With Josh, he can be a diva and my character will tease him about that. That was my biggest challenge with the character.
DS: What can people expect in the next episode “Stalker Status”?
MM: Laughter. They can relate to how families work. Families are hilarious. When I do my stand-up, I talk about my family and my Dad most of the time. They’ll be able to see the similarities that happen every single day. We don’t necessarily laugh at it or realize it until later. We’re showing how ridiculous families can be. You will complain about them, but in the end that’s why you love them. It’s a show about love. Love is portrayed on some many different levels.
Watch “9JKL” Monday nights on CBS at 9:30pm EST/PST.