Follow actor Matthew Hancock ’10 as he finds success from NY to LA, starting with his Adelphi senior showcase.
Ask actor Matthew Hancock ’10 about his recent lead-performance award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, and the conversation quickly turns to his senior-year showcase project in the Adelphi Department of Theatre.
“At Adelphi they really foster talent, and they allowed us an avenue to create, which is the most important thing as an actor,” Hancock said. For his senior project, he and a classmate presented Top Dog/Underdog, a two-person play by Suzan-Lori Parks, which they then took to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Washington, D.C.
While at the festival, Hancock took part in a staged reading of The Road Weeps, the Well Runs Dry, a drama about a 19th- century community of black and Native American people. That experience paved the way for his first big break in Los Angeles, where the play was being given a full production. “When I mentioned to the casting director I was part of that staged reading, it got me the audition that got me the part,” Hancock said.
From there, he found “a theater pocket” within the city’s entertainment scene. A succession of roles, including his lead in the 2014 production of The Brothers Size, earned him critical acclaim. A Los Angeles Times reviewer wrote that his version of “Try a Little Tenderness,” performed with a costar, “brings down the house.”
Last year, he won the lead performer award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for his portrayal of defiant transvestite Carson in Hit the Wall, a Stonewall-inspired play that is now being turned into a musical. “I feel it has the legs to go to Broadway,” Hancock said.
Break a Leg
Hancock’s start in the entertainment industry began with an Adelphi connection: Eileen Schellhorn ’04, who was then an agent at the Innovative Artists agency, came to his senior showcase. “She picked me up as a voice-over and commercial client,” he said, adding that he worked with her in New York for several months before moving to Los Angeles.
Like many an actor, Hancock went West looking to break into film and television. Instead, theater became his route to the spotlight, and for that, he’s grateful for his training at Adelphi.
“Adelphi has such a strong philosophy around theater,” he said. He credits the theater department faculty, specifically Maggie Lally, Nick Petron and Brian Rose, who instilled in him the mantra that guides his professional path: “‘First, I honor my life and with it my life in the theater.’ That followed me, and will continue to follow me,” he stated.
The Play’s the Thing
When he has found himself “idle as an actor,” Hancock said, his first thought is, “‘Okay, I’ve got to find a play.’ Even in Los Angeles, plays have been the thing that gives me training, and a way to work. And you start to bump into people who are doing things in other mediums that allow you to go further.”
One such opportunity is his role in the new Showtime comedy I’m Dying Up Here, about the stand-up comedy scene in 1970s LA. Produced by comedian Jim Carrey, “It was a really fun project to shoot on,” said Hancock, who plays a Sunset Strip prostitute. He’s also excited about being a sidekick to a private detective in the recently released YouTube series, Private Dick, with comedian D’Loco Kid.
Looking back, Hancock said, “I would recommend any actor to do theater. That’s where it’s going to happen for you. It teaches you so much about your instrument. Any success I have is because of my life in the theater.”
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