Though Matt McGorry shares a hilarious sense of humor with his character Asher---dubbed "Doucheface" by Annelise Keating's right hand man, Frank---on How to Get Away with Murder, the similarities end there. Just before last week's Asher-focused episode, the star paid a visit to InStyle HQ, where he won us over with his warm, friendly personality, and kept us laughing as we collectively swooned over equal parts of his charm and talent.
"When you get to be a jerk in scenes, it's easier to do that between the takes, because people almost expect it," he jokes. "It's like, once you've said this, you can't really shock people saying anything else." We sat down with McGorry to chat about his killer dance moves, how he feels about playing the opposite of Officer Bennett's nice-guy persona we've come to love on Orange is the New Black, and how Asher's preppy style choices may or may not have rubbed off on him.
What is it like playing Asher, who is so different from your previous role as Bennett on Orange Is the New Black?
It's so fun. I think my entire time on Orange when I got to see Pablo [Schreiber] play Pornstache, I was always kind of jealous he got to do what he wanted, and had more freedom to improvise and be funny.
It's nice being liked for playing the nice guy, but it's also fun to be the funny one. Being able to do that in a scene influences the dynamic of the set as well---it's a different experience, and they really give me a lot of creative freedom to do that. In the script for Episode 6, which is kind of focused around my character, it says Asher is getting ready for the bonfire, but that's all it says. Some dancing is going to happen, and I took it upon myself to choreograph a number I perform with all of my signature moves: I had the prop guy give me a stack of hundreds so I could make it rain.
Asher seems like a total bro, and he's just so funny. Did you base his characteristics off of someone you knew, or was it a combination?
It's a combination of some of the douchebags I've met in my life and various fields, which is quite a few. [laughs] I think in acting, there is a specific kind of douchebag, and I was a personal trainer for a long time, almost 10 years. I competed in powerlifting and bodybuilding, and I think there's a unique kind of douchebag in that world as well, so I combine them into this mythical beast of a douchebag.
I'm pretty empathetic, partly because of my mom, so I don't write anyone off. Sometimes I'll be like, "Gosh, this person is such an asshole," and she'll say, "Well, it might be because they don't have a very nice family." That sort of created a trend for me to look beyond the exterior, and often the biggest jerks are the most insecure people, and I think there are different manifestations of that.
Not really, but it's funny, I have a couple of things in my wardrobe that if I wear them all together, I look very preppy and one could see me that way. I have this Ted Baker polo that has pink flamingos all over it---like the Lacoste logo but all over. I was at a party recently, and I wore that with red shorts and these boating shoes. I usually wear just one of those at a time.
As for my personal style, I like comfort a lot, like jeans and T-shirts. Having been a trainer for so long, I spend a lot of my days in tank tops, shorts, and T-shirts. Still, I do like the occasions where I get to wear suits and make that a thing. Given the option, when I'm out of places where pictures can be taken, I'll take my pants and jacket off as soon as possible, and I still don't know how to tie a tie.
That's too funny---Does your stylist usually have to do it?
[laughs] I'll have my stylist pre-tie it. There are a couple of adult things I'm still just recently coming into, including learning how to drive. I didn't know how to do that until three months ago---I failed twice in New York, and I passed by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin in Los Angeles. But yeah, I've learned to drive, and I'll learn to tie a tie soon. On set, they just have it pre-tied for me, and I use a clip-on for Orange.
Your arc on Orange this season was particularly interesting---you went from being very sweet to very authoritative and tough. What was that like? I guess it was good preparation to play someone like Asher.
I loved it. Anytime you can play the opposite of what you were playing as a character, it's rewarding not only for the audience, but for the actor as well. I was hoping Bennett would stand up for himself, and I think he went a little too far at times granted, but it felt good to take that and run with it a bit. I think we'll get to see a softer underbelly to Asher as well, so it's nice to round that out more fully, which is what any good TV writer does. They get rounded out as a person, and hopefully you won't want to punch them in the face as much, at least temporarily, or you want to punch them in the face for a different reason.
It's funny because I don't have quite as much intensity to my scenes because I haven't been present for the murder events. Actually, there's a lot of stuff dealing with the murder in an upcoming episode, and because I'm not there, I had some days off. I did some fun stuff and relaxed, and then I came back like "Oh hey guys, how are you?" and they've been crying and going through hell the past four days.
Sometimes in the courtroom scenes---it's funny because they look so simple, but there are these 12 to 14 hour days when you may have only one line, so you're sitting there reacting to everything going on in hopes that they'll use a few seconds of it---a lot of time on those days we're entertaining each other. They'll even call action, and we're crying from laughing. Almost like we're sitting in church---not that I really know what that's like, but from what I've heard---just trying not to laugh.
Your reaction after shedding a tear in Episode 5 was hilarious, and 10 minutes later, it was all over the internet in GIF form. Was that a real tear?
That was a real tear! What can I say? That was also a real reaction afterwards. I actually hadn't seen that episode last week because I was on vacation in Italy. We usually screen it the day before and I like to watch it in advance so I can live-tweet it and not be distracted, so it's strange to see the fan response before I had even seen it. I actually saw that scene in GIF form before watching it in full.
How to Get Away with Murder trends non-stop after an episode airs. How many marriage proposals have you gotten so far? We spotted one on your Instagram earlier that said something along the lines of "Marry me! I am cool and normal."
That's how you know they're cool and normal! That's the test. I think more marriage proposals came from Orange. You notice that because of the character, you get a very different response. Pornstache gets a stranger demographic---they want him to do really strange things, and I guess they want me to do really strange things too. People have a thing for prosthetic legs, apparently, which I learned about. I think with Doucheface too, he's starting to cross over into that territory, but I don't know if Doucheface is the marrying type as much as Bennett would be.
That's a funny story, actually! The character's name on the script before he gets named was Doucheface, so that was the name on my trailer. I think I've been called that twice in Episode 4, and I'm glad it hasn't really caught on. People liked to make jokes and it got tiring very quickly. "Perfect casting!" was one that got made a lot. It's funny the first time, maybe---like when I made the joke!
Have you found that your follower count has gone through the roof?
It hasn't been as much for Murder---I like to think about this stuff for fun, but being a romantic interest is something that makes people want to follow you specifically. Marriage proposals, cool and normal things like that. I've been keeping a chart from episode to episode to see how many people started following me. It's really weird. I'm cool and normal too!
What was the audition for Asher like?
I had the audition in New York and went on tape with a casting director I knew pretty well. I had heard there was some resistance to seeing me for this role because they knew me as Bennett and didn't think I was the right fit, and I can't exactly blame them. We submitted the tape, and the part was offered to me, which was amazing and wonderful. That's the helpful thing about slowly building a body of work---when you come in a room and do one thing, if they've seen you do something so far on the other side, it's easy to imagine a world where you can do a range of characters in between.
On Orange, you get the scripts only a week in advance. Was there anything that shocked you?
I don't think anything has shocked me too much. I guess it does, but I just love getting new scripts for both shows. We get even less time with the scripts for Murder. Occasionally, we'd get the scripts at the table read, and it's always like watching the episode for the first time. There's something fun about the communal experience of reading it together for the first time, with the twists and turns you all get to experience and see that visceral response.
Without giving too much away, what can we expect from Asher this season?
F— if I know! [laughs] I'm still sort of finding out as we go along. In [Episode 6] the case of the week is a guy who was put on death row by my father, who was one of the judges in the case. We're doing an appeal for him, and we find out perhaps this is part of the reason Annelise had selected me in the first place, so there's some pushback from that. Asher's father and his lineage is something that has given him a sense of [entitlement] in the past, and that may be challenged. I have hopes for what will be addressed in the season, too, and I'm game for wherever it goes.
Catch McGorry on How to Get Away with Murder, Thursday nights at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.