Mather Zickel is an actor. He’s been in plays, television shows, and movies. His IMDB credits go on and on. I was going to try to write a great description of his career to let you know how big of a deal he is, but then I came across an article on Decider.com that does a great job of talking about his career, and sums everything up so nicely with this one line, “Odds are you’ve seen Zickel before, many, many times!”
I can’t do a better job of telling you about everything Mather’s acted in, but I did take a walk with him. I also asked him questions, which he answered.
Here’s my interview with Mather Zickel. I hope this interview says more about who he is as a person than his IMDB page.
People Walker: Before you became a Hollywood Actor, you were a NY Actor. Did you walk more or less in NYC than in LA? If you walked more in New York, do you miss all that New York walking? Did you feel healthier?
Mather Zickel: I absolutely walked more in New York. It’s hard not to, particularly if you need to get to a bunch of different places in one day. Even taking the subway felt like walking. When you have to make transfers from the Uptown 4 to the Times Square Shuttle to the 1, that’s not a bad walk right there. New York’s a great walking city like Paris, London, or Rome. It’s relatively flat, there’s plenty to take in, you’re surrounded by humanity and interesting architecture. If you’re in a hurry, it turns into an obstacle course- especially in winter when entire street corners become inundated in ponds of gray slush. There are strollers, street vendors, delivery carts, construction, traffic. It’s not the most relaxing way to walk, but it’s interactive. You’re part of the environment. I miss that part of NY walking. It made my legs strong. I also lived in a 4th floor walk-up. Walking in LA is more of a choice for me. I’m not as inclined to do it. I have to make a point to ‘take a walk’ and that often means a hike in a canyon, which is lovely. It’s like an athletic endeavor. It’s something I need to do, so I don’t spend my whole life inside my car.
PW: How important is walking and talking for an actor?
MZ: Walking is important for everyone. It’s an essential human function. As for being an actor, walking and talking are the two basic things you have to do, so any practice is helpful. It’s also good for breath control. Every actor should practice a page-long monologue while walking up a 35 degree incline.
PW: Some actors have a “thing” like they have a beard or always play a cop. Do you have a “thing” or is your “thing” not having a “thing”?
MZ: I feel I’ve been fortunate in getting a range of roles. I never played into a type. I don’t really work at having a ‘thing’. I had muttonchops and a fu-manchu mustache for while just because I liked it, but every job I got made me shave. I started out getting conservative guy-in-a-tie parts, because that’s the most common casting for white men who don’t have a ‘thing’. Then it was a lot of crappy ex-husbands and absent fathers. Those require less shaving. And, yes, I’ve played my share of cops. But, there have been other things as well.
PW: What’s the scariest or most exciting walk you’ve ever been on?
MZ: Hmm. In college I used to walk around New York at night with my friends, which was fun. But we would roam around Central Park in the middle of the night and people didn’t generally do that in the early 90’s. It was a bit dangerous. We also used to walk the Williamsburg Bridge. Sometimes we would climb up the service ladders into the crown of the bridge. It was a great view, but one night when we climbed back down we saw three guys walking toward us from the Brooklyn side. We started heading back toward Manhattan, but we got off the walkway at one of these little blockhouses – I guess they had some kind of maintenance function for the bridge. We just kind of wanted to make ourselves scarce, but in doing so we essentially cornered ourselves on a parapet a third of the way across the bridge. These other guys followed us into this dead end and confronted us. There were three of them and three of us and we were more or less the same size. I think they wanted to beat us up, but also weren’t quite willing to make the first move. It was like they wanted us to give them the right excuse. It was very tense. We didn’t make any moves, nor did we back away because we were essentially cornered. If these guys were going to do anything, we would have no choice but to defend ourselves. I can’t remember what was said, but eventually they moved off the parapet and back to the main bridge walkway. We just filed out after and started back for Manhattan. They followed us for a while and I remember thinking that if they rushed us we’d have to face them because it was still too far to get off the bridge and there was nowhere to hide. Fortunately, we just marched back and they gave it up and turned around. The point is to walk with confidence and not hurry too much. Act like you belong there. Also, don’t do stuff like my friends and I did… I’m glad I wasn’t alone.
PW: Wow, that sounds like a super scary low-budget remake of The Warriors. Do you think you have a good walk? Have you ever tried to change the way you walk for a role, as an acting exercise, or just for the heck of it?
MZ: Interesting question. I don’t think I have a good walk, as a matter of fact. I hate seeing any video of myself walking. I don’t like the way I swing my arms. I lead with my chest in a way that makes my back look stiff, which it often is. I’m very earthbound. Not a lot of bounce. And I have changed my walk for a couple of roles. I think it can affect the way people see a character. Sometimes I try to walk in a different way just for fun because it feels good. It’s like moving muscles and joints that have been ignored.
PW: Why are actors “in” movies, but “on” TV shows?
MZ: Jeez. I never realized that. Maybe it’s just how we’re used to talking about TV shows. Before DVR and streaming, television was just on when it was on. If you wanted to catch a show, you had to turn on the set because that was when it was on the air. I would let my parents know where and when I was going to be on TV so they could say, “Hey, get in here! Mather’s on!” Going to see someone in a movie was like seeing them in a play. It was a more active choice. Does this make any sense? Am I on the right track? Or in the right track?
PW: You are about to become a foster father. Have you ever played a father in a movie or on a TV show? If so, do you think that will help prepare you for fatherhood? If not, do you wish you had, because you really think it would have helped?
MZ: I have played my share of fathers. I’ve been the lead in a couple of TV shows as a Dad. For a bit, it seemed like that was what my career was going to be. I should look up some old scripts to see what kind of wisdom I imparted to my television progeny. They were written by actual fathers. Maybe they’ll help me with a real child. Of course, most Dads in sit-coms are pretty hapless and usually wind up making bad decisions, so that their wife or kid can correct them, so perhaps that isn’t the best well to draw from. Fatherhood is generally treated as a ham-handed affair in TV. But, I generally like working with kids. It can be a lot of fun. I also once got a complimentary note from my TV daughter saying that I was the best fake Dad ever. So, there’s that.
PW: Follow up question: Who’s your favorite TV dad or otherwise fictional father?
MZ: I think I’d have to go with Roy Scheider as Chief Brody in Jaws.
PW: Would you ever think about opening a pizza parlor with me called Pizzickels?
MZ: We can talk about opening a pizza place. Pizzickels sounds like a pizza with pickles on it, but that might not be half bad. I haven’t seen that before. And I love pickles. They’re the unsung heroes of any delicious lunch.
PW: I’ve had a cheeseburger pizza with pickles on it. It was pretty good. Do you have any projects coming up you want to tell people about?
MZ: I’m in some stuff coming up. They are mostly all streaming in the next several months. I get into some crime on L.A.’s Finest which will be the first original series for Spectrum. And I play a bloviating d-bag on the new Veronica Mars series on Hulu. Thanks for asking.