I’ve never really written a part for someone before, let alone written an entire play for them. As a writer the words always come first for me, and then I find an actor who can deliver something as close as possible to what I wrote. But today I have a new Podcast Play out, Another Time, and for the first time ever the actor came first.

That’s because the actor is one Matti Mali, better known around these parts as Hedonistic Actor, and when you have someone as good as Matti around you want to write for them. My first Podcast Play was Vows, and I considered it a very American story. Our lead character, played with wonderful venom by BigBlackHatMan, was a homophobic Vietnam vet who drives his gay son to suicide. The play was made up mostly of volunteers. Mark, Decker, Patricia – they all wanted to be in the play. So did Matti, who is Finnish. I was hesitant at first, because I wanted an all American, boy next door type for the role of Decker’s husband. Then Matti sent me his lines. In the scene where he is screaming at Mark, accusing him of murdering Decker, there is such a rawness to the performance. Matti dredged up something that was so angry and broken it makes you turn away, as if the scene you’re hearing is really happening.

Soon after Mark did his own Podcast Play, The Confession of Danny Audway. Appropriately it was a Western. I was asked to play the role of a timid priest, and in the lead as the outlaw…Matti. Again, I was doubtful. A Finnish cowboy? And again I was surprised that, when I listened to the play, Matti seemed totally right for the role. His talent transcended everything and shined through.

After my second play, Bloodshot, in which Matti played a small role, I knew I wanted him in the lead of the next thing I wrote. I’d been kicking around the idea of doing a time travel story about someone trying to wipe out all the pain in the world. I knew it would be, for the most part, a two man play. I knew I wanted Matti to be one of those two men. So, when I sat down to write it, I did something I’ve never done before: I tailored the role for a specific actor. I set the story in Finland. I found other actors with similar accents for the supporting roles (thanks to Gregg and Freaky Movie Dude for that), and I always had Matti’s voice in mind as I typed away.
I’d say I was gambling by resting the story so completely on Matti’s involvement, but I knew there was no gamble to be had. I had total confidence in Matti and his abilities, he’s just that good.

We have so many talented people here at Manic Expression, and the Podcast Plays give us a chance to come together and show off what we can do. It’s not easy out there, trying to make a name for yourself. I’ve known plenty of talented actors who never get a role bigger than “Waitress” or “Guy in Background #2.” But here at Manic you don’t need a long resumé, you just need the confidence to step up.

Matti knows he’s a good actor. It’s not that he’s a braggart, it’s not that he’s full of himself. He just knows, deep down inside, that acting was what he was meant to do. Lucky for us all that he’s following that dream.

By James

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