The admiration between Matt Czuchry ’99 and Associate Professor of African American Theater and Performance Joy Vandervort-Cobb was clear. The one-time student and teacher looked comfortable on Friday afternoon as they joked about a ceramic owl on the table between them.
“There’s a barn owl house in my backyard, actually,” Czuchry says with a chuckle.
A day before he’s set to speak at the College of Charleston’s final 2018 Spring Commencement Ceremony for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs on May 12, 2018, Czuchry sat down for a candid conversation at the Chapel Theatre with a select number of students from the Department of Theatre and Dance to offer a little guidance for the budding professional artists.
You may recognize Czuchry from television shows such as Gilmore Girls, The Good Wife or his current role as Dr. Conrad Hawkins on the medical series The Resident, but Vandervort-Cobb first met him in her introduction to theater course 19 years ago.
Affectionately calling her former student “boo boo,” Vandervort-Cobb opened the floor for current students to converse freely with the actor about the steps he took post-graduation to build his career, the connections he’s made, life in the limelight and the sacrifices he’s had to make to get to where he is.
Despite acting professionally for more than a decade, Czuchry is always adjusting to the intense pace of his Hollywood life.
“We’d be at the Emmys for The Good Wife, the highest honor for television, and right after the show I’d have to leave, and change out of my suit in the backseat of the car on the way to the airport because I had to fly straight to set the next day and work a 14-hour day,” says Czuchry, who double majored in history and political science. “At the end of the day, it’s my job over anything else.”
Students asked him a wide variety of questions from whether or not he’d consider going back to theater acting to how he prepares for a role. The latter question was an easy answer.
“By listening to music,” says Czuchry. His music choices vary depending on the role. For his role as The Resident’s Dr. Hawkins, it’s between hip-hop and Adele.
The students drank in his every word on subjects ranging from how to deal with agents who don’t listen to your needs; the difference between theater, film and television; and the depth with which he prepares for his characters through research.
Czuchry openly discussed the challenges he has faced in the entertainment industry and the fact that there is no one path to success. He urged students to be open to any and all roles they come across, but to be cautious of ones that do not resonate with them as individuals. He stressed the importance of having a strategy going into the job.
“No one is going to help you do the things you are going to do,” says Czuchry. “You have to figure it out.”
Student Noah Ezell, a double major in theatre performance and religious studies, was among the students in attendance at the master class, saying he benefitted greatly from Czuchry’s advice.
“I’ve always questioned what my path in theater is. What do I want to do? Hearing Matt talk about how he allowed himself to dictate what he wanted to do, and for him to say that it is okay to pick and choose the jobs you do or don’t take is something I needed to hear,” says Ezell.
Having him back on campus and speaking with him one-on-one was an experience Vandervort-Cobb is not likely to forget.
“He looks almost exactly the same, but there is a man in front of me now,” says the theatre professor. “He’s so open and engaging. This was a really special day.”
Humble and reserved in demeanor, one thing is obviously clear to anyone in his presence, Czuchry is deserving of all his success.
Lilly Frederick is a junior from San Diego studying English and creative writing at the College of Charleston.