When Turner & Hooch arrives on Disney Plus next month, expect Matt Hamilton to steal a few scenes. The Canadian actor plays U.S. Marshal Trent Havelock in the new series, and it’s a perfect role—the brash contrast to eager and straight-laced Scott Turner (series star Josh Peck). As we look ahead to the premiere, Matt talked to me about playing the character without turning him into a caricature and how he made the journey from being a screenwriter to stepping in front of the camera.
Brittany Frederick: How would you describe Turner & Hooch? Because so far, people seem to be looking at it as this sort of cheesy continuation of the original 1989 movie.
Matt Hamilton: it’s tonally kind of similar to the movie, in obviously a TV format. But it’s interesting. It’s kind of a unicorn show. It’s a one-hour action comedy, but it leans into the comedy. There’s not a lot of shows that do that. It’s got that procedural cop element to it, but comedy, and there’s dogs in it, obviously. It’s not a kid’s show, but it’s not too dark or heavy for younger people and, conversely, older people. It hits a wide demographic in terms of comedy. And Hooch is adorable. He’s this big, sweet, cuddly slobber machine. The slobber by the way, that ain’t no CGI. That’s real. (laughs)
BF: You have what seems like the most fun character in the show, not only portraying a U.S. Marshal but being the one who’s sort of full of himself, almost larger than life. How has playing Havelock been for you?
MH: This is the most fun role I’ve ever had…He’s this bro super-cop and he’s kind of a dick, but kind of playful. The writing was excellent; it was really funny stuff. But they were really open to improvisation, and so they let me off the leash, so to speak, a lot of times. The cast is really, really great with improv. A lot of my stuff is with Josh and then Brandon Jay McLaren, and they’re both excellent. You fire off the first take and then you go, “I’m going to try something different,” and they’re so quick. They can pick it up right away.
But playing that character is kind of fun. Because I’ve never been captain of the football team or that kind of thing, and that’s what this guy is. He’s captain of the football team, who always gets the big collars and the best cases and all the attention and stuff like that. It was so much fun.
BF: We have a few weeks before Turner & Hooch premieres, so what else would you recommend that we check out if we want to see some of Matt Hamilton’s other work?
MH: I did a web series called The Actress Diaries a couple of years ago. It’s a very charming, sweet, funny kind of mock documentary. It didn’t get a huge online following but those who did watch it loved it; it did really well with festivals and awards and stuff like that. I did a couple episodes of Supernatural when that was up here. My roles weren’t super big in either of them; they got kind of cut back in post. But it was great. Everyone on that show was so much fun.
I did a show called Legion, which was supposed to be a recurring [role]. The first season got delayed and then it went from, I think, 12 episodes to eight episodes. So my last two episodes got cut and I was just mentioned. It wasn’t a big character so I don’t know, maybe I would have been cut anyway. Then in season two they moved to Los Angeles and they couldn’t get me a work visa in time, so the role got recast, which ended up only being one [more] episode. It wasn’t a huge deal.
But I remember when I first got that. I was like, Marvel show. Oh my God, Noah Hawley, who does Fargo, who’s a genius. He’s brilliant. Fargo‘s one of the best shows on TV. And so I got this script and I finished it and I was like, “Wait, what the hell did I just read?” It’s unlike anything I was expecting…Dan Stevens is one of the nicest dudes on the planet. He was so cool. Noah Hawley was awesome.
BF: You were also a writer on The Actress Diaries and, in fact, started your career as a writer. So how did you make the transition into acting?
MH: I went to Vancouver Film School for screenwriting, and then I went to the University of Victoria and got my BFA in writing. I was always a huge movie nerd and I loved movies growing up. I did the Columbia House VHS thing, and every time my mom [would say], you never fulfill this and I always end up paying for it. I’m like, this time’s going to be different, Mom. Never was. Thanks, Mom. (laughs) After that I started shooting shorts and sketches with my friends and just trying to entertain.
A friend of mine, she’s an actor who I’ve known for a long time, her name’s Leah Gibson…she sent me this email and was like Matty, you need to go to Vancouver. You need to get an agent. You need to be an actor because I’ve seen your shorts and stuff. She sent me this big thing. It’s funny because I brought it up to her a couple of years ago; she doesn’t remember it.
I went to Vancouver [and] I got an agent that weekend. My first month I booked a beer commercial. And then I booked one day on a TV movie. A month later I’m like, this ain’t so bad. Acting’s fun. And then I went like a year and a half without working…I started late. I got my agent when I was about 30. The first handful of years, three or four years, you’re just kind of doing commercials and trying to get on as one-liners, which is hard. It’s hard to make an impact in one line, and easy to try and oversell it. It was pretty slow moving the first couple of years. The last four or five years have been good to me. I’ve been fortunate.
BF: Does having that writer’s perspective change or enhance the way you look at a script as an actor?
MH: I think it does. I always read through a writer’s lens before I read with an actor’s lens. What are they trying to get across? What’s the subject? And sometimes it’s like, is there something I can add to this that might make it interesting? If they’re open to feedback or line changes and stuff like that. I usually try to come prepared with that kind of stuff. So I do look at it through a writing lens first. It’s just kind of natural for me to look at scripts that way. And then the acting thing kicks in where I start memorizing lines and figure out cadence and things like that.
Turner & Hooch premieres July 21 on Disney Plus, with new episodes streaming Wednesdays at 3:01 a.m. ET/12:01 a.m. PT.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.