The actor: Matt Jones has amassed almost 80 IMDb credits in just two decades of working in Hollywood, popping up in beloved comedies like The Office and Community, and stealing scenes as fan-favorite Badger in the best show of the decade. Ahead of his new movie, The Turkey Bowl, we sat down with the actor for a video edition of our interview series Random Roles.
Matt Jones: Sometimes I don’t wanna be on a show because I enjoy it, and I don’t wanna get taken out of it. Like me on Game Of Thrones would not have been great. It would be like, “That’s weird that he’s on Game Of Thrones.” I mean, maybe I could have made the last season better. I do look like I’m loosely related to Peter Dinklage though. I do.
Gilmore Girls (2002) — Morgan
MJ: The very first job ever that got me my SAG card, I had one line on the Gilmore Girls, but that was a fluke. I just could not get an audition no matter how many commercials I booked. It didn’t matter. And I met a lady who said she knew a manager who was looking for people. I met him, and he was like, “You know what? I’ve seen your commercials, I’ve looked at some stuff, I’ll send you on a couple auditions, we’ll see how it goes.” First audition he sent me out on was Breaking Bad.
Breaking Bad (2008-2013)—Badger
MJ: Vince [Gilligan] cast me off tape and I flew out to the desert. Apparently, they were shooting a show there on this new network called AMC with the guy from Malcolm In The Middle, and the show is about meth. Like, nobody knew anything, and then I shot my episode, and I still didn’t understand it. Aaron Paul was living there and he was like, “Hey, come over.” I went over to his place and we watched the pilot together, and I was like, “Oh my god.” This was way before it was released. I was, “This is like an independent movie.” Like, I’d never seen TV like that. Then nobody watched it for three years, and it almost got canceled over and over and over again. Then it got on Netflix and became this phenomenon.
Lots of people love the Star Trek scene. That scene’s directed by Bryan Cranston. In that scene, I’m wearing these gloves—that I wear still, ’cause I came to Chicago for a Bear’s game—and these are the gloves that I’m wearing in that scene. This is a Chicago Bear’s reference that nobody knows about in Breaking Bad.
Bryan Cranston is more intimidating than he is inspiring, to be honest. I remember one day he was making fun of me—we were at craft service, and he likes to make fun of me. He knows I’m a comedian and I can handle it, and he’s also kind of a jerk. I’m just kidding. But he’s making fun of me and then he walked on to camera like 30 seconds later, and was incredible. He went from [making fun of me] to Walter White to crying and angry and all that. I was like, “I can’t do that.” So, I don’t know if it’s as inspiring as it was soul-crushing.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)—Badger
MJ: It’s like going to like a high school reunion, you know? If your high school was like really cool.
The premiere was insane. They didn’t tell us anything. We got delivered there and the car opened up, we were projected on a huge video screen and there was nine grandstands filled with fans cheering like it was the Oscars. I nearly had a panic attack, it was insane. And then it took us two hours to walk through. Just walk the red carpet and talk to all the news outlets and everything. It was the most insane thing I’ve ever done.
MJ: I did commercials before, from 2000 to 2004, and then 2007 to 2010, so I did about 40 commercials overall. And it’s not an easy game. It’s worse now—now it’s not sustainable because of the internet and everything—but yeah I did a lot of commercials. I did beer commercials, a Midas commercial. I did an insurance commercial. I did a sink commercial once, Wrigley’s Gum commercial. Everything I had done, some point.
MJ: When I started [with] Boom in 2004, I was 22. The only person that was younger than me to get that job was Jordan Peele—he was 21 when he started. I came in right at when he was finishing. I knew that all these guys—from SNL and MADtv, writers on Daily Show and correspondents, and all these comedy gods—had done Boom Chicago in the late ’90s, early 2000s. So, I auditioned, and it was like an unofficial comedy college where you’re paid to do improv and sketch, like a Second City-style show all over Europe. I did it for three years.
And that’s how I lost my voice. I kept doing that show over, and over, and over again, and I just kept losing my voice and it stuck this way.
Community (2009-2010)—Stoner Friend / Coffee Delivery Guy
MJ: The Russo Brothers were running the show—they directed me in a Domino’s commercial—and they’re like, “Hey, do you wanna come do just like a day thing on Community?” and I was like, “Yeah, sure.” And I came and did it. And then they would just call me every once in a while, like, “Hey, do you just want to come for the day?”, and I was like, “Yeah.” It wasn’t like I got cast, it was just them asking if I wanted to come sit in for the day, and sometimes I could, sometimes I couldn’t. So, I ended up doing like two, three [episodes.]
Adventure Time (2010-2015)—King Huge / Mountain Man / Marauder #5 / Electroid
MJ: Cartoons are the best job in the world. [Voice-over] is the best job in the world. You work maybe two hours a week. Especially kids shows, you just get to have fun and do the dumbest version of everything. It’s the height of comedy for me. People are trying to do subtle, cool comedy, I’m like, no, I want some Rodney Dangerfield. Hit somebody in the balls. You know what I mean? That makes me laugh.
The Office (2013)—Zeke
MJ: I actually auditioned for Thomas [Middleditch]’s part many, many times, and then they ended up giving it to Thomas last minute, as the story goes. But then they added a character on the show. They added a whole new character just for me. Then they brought me into a bunch of episodes of The Office, which was cool.
We shot the spin-off [The Farm] as an episode of The Office, and it didn’t quite work. I had so much fun. It was insane, I was on the finale of The Office and the finale of Breaking Bad within like, a month, and I got to go to so many cool parties. Even being in the finale of The Office I kept being like, “Why am I here? “Why do you guys have me here? I mean, I’m not gonna leave, but this is great.”
MJ: Yeah, Jim Abbott was just a fascination I had. Derek [Waters] and I had talked ’cause I knew him through UCB stuff. I knew him when he was making the Funny Or Die version of Drunk History, which was just a couple sketches. Then he started making the show and I was like, “Hey man, I’ll drink on the show, please, I wanna do it.” He calls you and you both decide on the story together, and then you come up with your own telling. Then they come to your house and you drink a lot, and just tell the story over and over and over for like five hours.
They make you take a physical [beforehand]. They have a nurse on set that gives you electrolyte shots every 30 minutes. But you are aggressively drunk. I drank three full bottles of wine by myself. Jeremy [Konner], the director, said that I was naked towards the end of it. Because I got hot or something. I started taking off all my clothes. I was trying to help them move equipment. And they were like, “No, you don’t have to help us.” Like, [Affects drunk slurring.] “No I got it.” Because they were in my house. “I gotta help you. I’ll lift the camera.” They’re like, “Don’t lift the camera, you drunk idiot.” And then I’m like waving, just in my underwear.
MJ: I got a call and they were like, “Do you wanna go do a movie in Oklahoma for a month?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’d like to get out of L.A.” Ryan Hansen, from Party Down and a bunch of other stuff, I knew he was doing it, and I knew that we had mutual friends, and I thought he was a funny guy. From what I heard, I was the reason he did it as well.
In the movie, there’s a lot of football players in it. Actually, there’s a bunch of guys who used to play at Oklahoma State University and University Of Oklahoma ’cause we shot in Oklahoma. They were hitting us really hard, and couple of guys had to be like, “Hey man, it’s a movie, you can’t hit me like that. I’m gonna die, you have to stop, that really hurt.” But it was fun.
MJ: I directed a whole season of a TV show in England called Borderline. It’s on Netflix. I helped create the show and cast it. One of my best friends growing up, his name’s [Michael Orton-Tolliver], and his partner, my now-partner Chris Gau, all three of us kind of made this show together. It was similar to The Office, but about border agents in the U.K. I didn’t act in it. I just directed it, helped write and produce, and we made this show for no money and no time. I’m really proud of it, I think it’s really good.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Photo credit: Netflix, Lionsgate Entertainment