Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Exclusive interview with Jody Matzer, actor in Lizzie the film!

Actor Jody Matzer, left, plays Deputy Fleet, right. Nailed the mustache!

Actor Jody Matzer is charming, humble, and energetically devoted to his career. Recently he landed a role in the movie LIZZIE with iconic indie goddesses Kristen Stewart and Chloë Sevigny.

He plays an 1892 police officer—Deputy Fleet— investigating events at the Borden residence. Possibly that includes (who knows?) looking into the dual hatchet murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, a true crime that took place in Fall River, Massachusetts. Chloë Sevigny plays Lizzie Borden, Andrew's daughter who was accused of the murders, while Stewart plays the Irish maid Bridget Sullivan, the only other person in the murder house that day besides the victims and Lizzie. 

The real Lizzie Borden, left, and Chloe Sevigny, right

The film debuted at Sundance this year and got snapped up for distribution by Roadside Attractions and Saban Films. It airs in a limited theatrical release with Landmark cinemas on Sept. 14: that's next Friday! 

I interviewed Matzer and learned more about the fascinating cold case file (Borden was acquitted) as well as insider information on what it's like to work with Stewart and Sevigny. 

Kirsten Stewart, left, plays Bridget Sullivan, right. Stewart has a little more "it girl" quality.
Q: What was it like working with luminaries like Kristen Stewart and Chloë Sevigny?
Matzer: In a word…intimidating. I have to start by saying that when I walked onto set in Savannah I was immediately impressed by how welcomed everyone made me feel. Such good vibes! Then the reality of where I was and what I was about to do hit me. Nothing can prepare you to walk onto set with the likes of Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Kim Dickens, Fiona Shaw and Jamey Sheridan.

Kim Dickens, left, as Lizzie's sister Emma, right, who was conveniently away from
home when murders occurred...

Matzer: My first day on set—my one and only scene—and I would be acting with these talented, seasoned pro’s! I was excited, nervous and struggled to find the eye within my hurricane of emotions. Luckily the cast was extremely gracious and patient as I found my footing.
          Fiona Shaw, who is just, simply put, one of the kindest people I’ve ever
met, on set or off, was genuinely interested in me as an actor and person
and we spent the morning chatting about the business and life. 

Fiona Shaw, right, plays the unlucky Abby Borden, left. You also know her as Harry Potter's aunt!

Matzer: Director Craig Macneill and I were speaking after the premier of Lizzie at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Craig asked how I was able to just walk onto that set and keep it together. He told me he was impressed I just came in prepared and nailed my scene. "If there were nerves," he added, "we didn’t see any."
          To that I would say, as an actor, you take that energy, all your nerves and
anxiety and fear and you use it to your advantage. Even though my character, Deputy Fleet, isn’t nervous or anxious in the context of the scene, I used my nerves to give him a stillness. It’s the energy Craig wanted from me as Fleet. He wanted my size (I’m 6’2") and quiet to speak volumes. So, in the end, it all came together. 

Jamey Sheridan, right, as ill-fated Andrew Borden, left.

Matzer: And let me say this, because I know people are eager to know. In regards to Kristen Stewart: she is professional, talented and kind. She walked right up to me, offered me her hand, smiled and introduced herself. She was shy but like the other members of the cast, welcoming and professional. Short answer? Don’t believe everything you read in the press.

Q: Had you heard of Lizzie Borden before being cast in this movie? Do you have a sense of the real life woman's guilt or innocence?
Matzer: I am a history buff as well as a fan of movies or television shows which have forensics science and criminology as a backdrop. I had certainly heard of Lizzie Borden and knew the story. In regards to Lizzie’s innocence or guilt, I think screenwriter Bryce Kass said it perfectly. When asked during the Q&A after the Sundance screening, if it was difficult to balance history and storytelling, Bryce said (and I’m paraphrasing here): "We have the courtroom transcripts from Lizzie’s trial. Every single one. She had a very dry, sarcastic sense of humor. So we have a pretty good sense of who she was through her words. We also know exactly what happened in the courtroom. What we don’t know…what nobody knows…is what really happened inside that house. That was the springboard for our narrative."

Bridget texts for help with laundry, cooking, & bloodstain removal

Matzer: I think the story/theory presented in Lizzie is extremely plausible. Suffice to say, it was a horrible, brutal crime. What would push someone to kill their parents in such a gruesome violent manner? It’s a fascinating subject.
          My theory? I think Lizzie Borden killed her parents. I think there was a
number of factors at play, including a compromised mental state, as well as

Q: What the most surprising thing that happened on set?
Matzer: I am a professional actor. When cast in a project, I take my responsibilities seriously. I like to think I am thoughtful and respectful. I do the job and then I go home at the end of the day. My then agent had reminded me to be the actor I always am, the actor directors want to work with more than once. She told me to do what I always do: show up and do the job well.
          I don’t ask fellow actors for autographs or photographs. I give them their space just as I would want someone to give me mine.
          So when I walked onto the Lizzie set the first time, I was taken to my little dressing room. Wardrobe dropped off my costume. I had my sides (my script) and I was prepared to just sit in the quiet little room (one in a row of many) and study and prepare. I wasn’t going to venture out and explore or see who I could see. That’s just not how I operate.
          Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. I answered it.
          It was Fiona Shaw. She shook my hand and welcome me to set. So very kind. We chatted and then she left me to prepare, saying she’d see me on set.
          I sat back down and started going over my sides. There was another knock on the door. I opened it. It was Kim Dickens. We shared a similar conversation as Fiona and I had just minutes earlier. Kim left, saying, "See you on set."
          I sat back down. A minute or two later, there was a knock on the door. I opened it. It was Chloë Sevigny. We chatted. She said, "See you on set," and then left.
          It still brings a smile to my face. These marvelous, powerhouse actors
making a total stranger feel so absolutely welcomed onto set.
          Later, I was asked if I had been good. I simply smiled and replied: I didn’t bother anyone and stayed in my dressing room. 

Jay Huguley, left, plays attorney William Henry Moody, who asked a lot of probing questions
of Lizzie in the courtroom

Q: I'd love to hear about your audition process.
Matzer: It was pretty straightforward. The project was listed on a casting website. My then agent submitted my resume and headshot to the casting director. I was then offered an opportunity to audition. I did as much research as I could in that short period of time. I taped two different versions of the scene and they were sent to the casting director. There were no callbacks. My agent called a few weeks later telling me I’d been cast as Deputy Fleet.

Q: What do you think about how the police force of 1892 handled things?
Matzer: It was the 1890s. I think from a technical/forensic aspect, they did as much as they could. Their scientific hands, metaphorically speaking, to my understanding, were tied. Lizzie was the only person charged. I think that speaks volumes to how much they could do and how much they wanted to do.

Jay Huguley with a little light reading

Q: What did you do to prepare for this role?
Matzer: It must be said the character as presented in Lizzie is different from the real man. I of course researched what I could on Deputy Fleet. I first wanted to see what Deputy Fleet looked like. This is a quick superficial, vanity thing, though. As an actor you move past this curiosity and dig deeper and try to find any clue as to who the person you’re playing really was. I feel a sense of responsibility when it comes to portraying someone who was real. At some point, though, I had to blend what was known historically about Fleet and then find those traits we shared—the truth which lies between us. That’s my job as an actor.
          How do you do that when there are no audio or video references? That was the challenge presented to me. There are none. In the end, I finally decided he was an officer of the law. He was a man who was concerned about wrong or right. I had to keep things in perspective. This movie was not The Deputy Fleet Story.
          I only needed to consider the broad strokes of who this man was and what I decided was that he was no-nonsense, serious, practical and suspicious.
          From there, I let Craig’s direction, Kristen’s performance and Bryce’s dialogue guide me. Craig and Bryce both told me they were very happy with my performance as Deputy Fleet. I did my job. I’m very proud.
          In closing, I must say, Lizzie is going to blow people away. Chloë is brilliant as Lizzie. Hers is a raw, heartbreaking, tour de force performance. The entire cast is just amazing. I’m truly blessed to be part of it, even if in a small capacity. Lizzie is jarring, violent, touching and tragic. There are moments which will move you and horrify you. Lizzie is a gorgeous film thanks to the cinematography of Noah Greenberg. Jeff Russo’s soundtrack is a perfect complement to the story and imagery. His themes are unsettling and broken and mirror the tragic broken mind of the film’s center character.

  • Want to know more about Matzer? His website is He tweets as @MATZER_fella_64 and is on Insta as @Matzeractor.
  • Want to know more about the movie Lizzie, like watching the trailer and finding out if it's showing near you? Click here and then at the top click on "Change region/adjust theater."
  • Want to know more about the character Kristen Stewart plays, the Irish maid who was there that day? My novel The Murderer's Maid tells the whole story from her point of view, along with a modern-day narrative about a woman who discovers her own strange connection to the case. [Disclaimer: my book has nothing to do with the movie, other than being another rare case of Bridget Sullivan getting some attention and credibility.] Check it out here:

“Erika Mailman writes a page turner of a thriller that will fascinate as well as terrify….Don’t read this at night; it will give you nightmares.” -New York Journal of Books
“Erika Mailman’s kaleidoscopic narrative melds true crime, historical fiction, and elements of a psychological thriller, all hinging on a singular question: ‘Who isn’t a survivor from the wreckage of childhood?’” -Foreword Reviews
“A complex and riveting parallax view of domestic crimes, decades apart.” -Kirkus
“Those interested in the Lizzie Borden tale…will appreciate Mailman’s research and be rewarded with this new perspective.” -Booklist

Follow me on Twitter @ErikaMailman or on Instagram @ErikaMailman.

Finally, I've blogged a lot about the case. Click below!

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