- Matthew Van Wettering in his roles slide show
- For his web site and video, click here.
Getting paid to act in a film? Must be a dream. Right?
For SAG-AFTRA actor Matthew Van Wettering, it’s reality.
Van Wettering has appeared in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Film, Only the Brave, and Roswell, as well as the Longmire and Breaking Bad TV series, to name a few. He continues to get parts in the state’s booming film and TV industry.
Former Rio Rancho resident Van Wettering is a New Mexican actor represented by Mitchell & Associates Talent, a SAG-AFTRA talent agency in Albuquerque. He grew up in Wyoming, and majored in theatre at the University of Wyoming.
After college, he ended up working construction to support himself. After a long hiatus from acting, Van Wettering decided to make a return in 2013.
“I ended up working construction for seven years, then I was like ‘Hey, there’s this thing that I used to do that was everything to me,’ ” Van Wettering said.
To train, he took classes, performed in several productions, did short films, and as many student films as he could.
“I did everything. I made probably a dozen student films with Santa Fe Art & Design, and never got paid for a single one,” he said. “I got to practice working for a camera. It is a whole different world playing to a camera than it is to an audience.”
Van Wettering would soon join Mitchell & Associates Talent, and booked a role on his second audition. Since then, he has been a regular in film and TV productions, casting offices and in the acting community. He also teaches improv classes in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
One of Van Wettering’s most significant roles came in 2017 when he played American Hero Joe Thurston in Only the Brave.
Only the Brave is a biographical film that tells the story of the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots. The film features some A-list actors: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Kitsch and Jennifer Connelly.
Thurston was a Granite Mountain Hotshot, and one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots to perish during the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.
Since Van Wettering grew up in the heart of Wyoming: wildfires, evacuations, and Hotshot Buggies were stuff that he was accustomed to. His work on the film made him appreciate Hotshot firefighters even more.
“I remember seeing those Buggies growing up in Wyoming, and I never really thought twice about it, but those guys were out there saving our lives,” Van Wettering said.
To prepare for the role, Van Wettering hiked with a backpack full of weights and did extensive research on wildfire management. Production sent him a real pair of Hotshot boots, and organized a boot camp for the actors run by real Hotshot firefighters.
“We all took it so seriously. It was never about us, not even for a second,” he said. “We were just trying to do them some justice.”
Shooting for Only the Brave lasted three months. One of the most difficult parts for Van Wettering was being away from his family. But in the end he was grateful for the experience. Only the Brave, would generate $26.3 million at the box office, and score 87% on Rotten Tomatoes.
“I really wish I took more pictures,” he said. “During the filming of Granite Mountain[Only the Brave] , I got to play horseshoes with two Oscar winners and two Avengers.”
Van Wettering has plenty of stories.
Here are just a few in this Observer Q&A.
Observer: What got you into acting?
Van Wettering: I remember the first play I ever saw. I was about 4 years old. It was a children’s theatre in Dallas. I remember the feeling I got like…that’s what I want to do. I want to be a part of that, it looks like so much fun. It was Peter and the Wolf.
Observer: What was the audition process for Only The Brave like?
Van Wettering: It was a learning experience for sure. The first audition, I went in there with Jo Edna [Boldin] and Marie [McMaster], I was super nervous and I forgot my lines a little bit. Jo Edna told me “go out in the lobby, and learn your lines. I want you to have a real shot at this.” It was exactly what I needed. I walked in there with the papers in my hand the first time, and the second time I left them in the lobby. I never carried sides into another audition.
Observer: What is a good way to describe the New Mexico casting directors?
Van Wettering: Generous. To me they have been incredibly generous. I think that the reason that I have gotten what I have gotten is because they’re in our corner.
Observer: Have you ever been starstruck before?
Van Wettering: Yeah. One in particular, and I don’t even think I should say his name. I could not wait for the opportunity to say hello, and I took that opportunity on two separate occasions. And, he didn’t give me the time of day. He didn’t even respond to me when I spoke to him, which I would say is out of the ordinary. Most of the actors that I have gotten to work with have been really cool.
Observer: What is your favorite thing about being on set?
Van Wettering: It still just boggles my mind. It’s unbelievable that that’s my job. I get to be honest for a living. The more honestly I live, the better the actor I am. My favorite part is just that. It’s a weird feeling to think that that’s my job. It’s a dream come true.
Observer: What is one of the best things you have learned from acting?
Van Wettering: Different points of view. I think this world is made up of such a diverse collection of individuals, unique individuals. Every part is an opportunity to learn something new and expand my point of view.
Observer: What advice would you give to rookie actors?
Van Wettering: Immersion. You have to dive in. There is no dipping your toe, seeing what it’s like. If you’re going to do it, go all out. Give everything you got, and live honestly.
Observer: How does it feel when you get that email or call saying you booked a part?
Van Wettering: You want to talk about pressure? How about being on set with 50 to 100 other people who are all doing their job, expecting you to do yours. I feel like the pressure starts after the audition. That’s when you either do or you don’t. I don’t want to lead you astray because I am super excited when I get that call. It’s like a choir of angels in the background when I am talking to my agent. I love that. It’s wonderful, but at the same time it’s like, ‘Okay, yes now I get to do it!’
Observer: What is one of your favorite memories on set?
Van Wettering: In Only The Brave, which we called Granite Mountain while we were filming — that was the working title, I played real life American hero Joe Thurston. Towards the end of that shoot, Joe’s Mom came out. Her name is Gayemarie Ekker, and that was one of the most honest and real moments I have ever had. They dressed me up to look like Joe, and I saw Gayemarie’s eyes and this flood of emotion. Meeting her onset was just a moment I will never forget.
Observer: Once you book, how do you learn your part?
Van Wettering: I read everything twice. With the audition, more often than not you don’t get the full script. So, you book, you start getting calls from production then the AD department will usually get in touch with you and get you a script, and I read it twice. I bring everything that I brought to the audition. They don’t want to see what you’re working on; they want you to make distinct choices.
Observer: Have you ever had disagreements with a director?
Van Wettering: The best art is a collaboration. In that spirit, is how I approach the work. But directly no, I have never had that.
Observer: What was one of your favorite roles?
Van Wettering: There is one play I will never forget. I loved the story, I loved the cast, and I loved the production. It was with a theater production here in town called Mother Road Theatre. The show was directed by Julia Thudium, and it was called The Illusion. It was an adaptation by Tony Kushner. The play has, I want to say eight characters or eight players, and everybody has their moments to shine. Every character is so beautifully written. I got to have a fist fight, a dagger fight, a sword fight, all in the same play. A classic play that was so beautifully constructed.