‘I was a pure sensation seeker when I was younger,’ reveals Matthew. ‘If I could get to the top of it, if it was dangerous, then I’d be there!’ I’d give anything a go. Socially, too, I’d kick around with the most dangerous of idiot going.’
Perhaps it’s fitting then, that Matthew has joined the cast of CASUALTY as paramedic and adrenaline junkie Luke Warren. The 37-year old actor admits that, when he first got into the business, he too sought attention and a buzz but reckons that he has long since grown out of that.
‘I see myself in some of these young actors who get carried away,’ says the actor, who has two children with his partner, Jo, a homeopath. ‘I don’t regret it – I had a great time – but I don’t think I’m so much like that anymore. I’m a very different person and I’m happy with who I am. I don’t need all that sensation.’
It seems, however, that Luke does. Luke was once a successful footballer, married to Bex (Sarah Manners) and really going places. But one fateful tackle and it all went pear-shaped. Bex, who was only with him for the glamour, upped and left with everything he owned. But after a chance meeting with a paramedic, Luke’s life changed. He retrained and landed a job at Holby.
Matthew says, ‘He’s a difficult one to get on with. He’s not a pushover. He’s feisty, opinionated and happy to argue if it’s called for.’
Luke also likes the ladies, ‘People stop me on the street when I’m on location in my paramedic uniform and they scream at me ‘Oi! Leave that Lara alone! We like her!’ and then drive off,’ Matthew laughs.
Though he has made appearances in TV series including The Bill, Peak Practice and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, CASUALTY is Matthew’s first long term foray into prime-time popular drama. It is a whole new way of working for the actor who is better known for his roles on the stage, having performed with the cream of British directors and writers. He has worked extensively with director Max Stafford-Clark, most notably as Bob in Rita, Sue and Bob Too, which toured in 2001, and as Paul in the its companion piece A State Affair. Set two decades apart, the plays built a vivid and chilling picture of life on a Bradford estate and won Matthew much critical acclaim.
Never one to shy away from controversial roles, Matthew played a patient in a mental hospital in Birdy in the West End in 1996, and starred as a ‘camp, go-go dancing rentnik with attitude’ in Mark Ravenhill’s Same Explicit Polaroids in 1999. So why CASUALTY?
‘I needed to shake things up a bit,’ says Matthew. ‘I wanted to change my profile a bit and I needed something that would set me up for a little while. This came up and I liked it because the characters are three-dimensional, there is a lot of location work and it looks like it will be loads of fun.’
What is new for Matthew is being recognised in the street. ‘I get a job on CASUALTY and all of a sudden, people are like ‘Wow!’ But they just point at me – two inches from my face – and don’t even say hello. It’s bizarre…’
Matthew juggles his time in between Bristol and Brighton, where he lives with Jo and their two boys, George (six) and Jack (nine). ‘I’ve been touring the world for the last five or six years, so we’re used to it as a family. When I’m at home, I have quality time with my kids. We go to the beach, make rafts and try to sail them. We go fishing or scrambling on the BMX track.’
Matthew can spot some of his own personality traits in his eldest son, Jack. ‘He’s a sensation seeker – big time. He’s an animal! I dread to think what he’ll get himself into,’ he grimaces.
Fortunately for Jack, unlike Luke Warren, Matthew is incredibly practical in an emergency. ‘He once came of a tree swing, 25ft off the ground. Everyone else was screaming but I calmly picked him up and got him seen to,’ he says. ‘Matt Wait is far more together than Luke is.’
On Set, however, the actor admits to being ‘a complete fumbling twit’. He says ‘Everything seems clear when the paramedic advisor, Dave, explains a procedure. The rehearsal is fine, but when we go for a take, I’m a complete mess. There’s not time to count in my head, think of my lines and organise the props. The shot has completely changed and I realise the patient is already dead. Shit, I’ve killed them!’
But Matthew hopes it will all get easier. ‘Maybe it’s a bloke thing, if I’m talking when someone hands me a scalpel, I’ll faint. I can’t do two things at once!’