News Column

Former KHS football standout lands role on CBS show

October 18, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 18--Football got Kyle Mattocks into college.

Mattocks' star performance playing football at Kinston High School earned him a scholarship to North Carolina A&T.

While in his junior year and headed toward a career in engineering, the football star switched gears.

The Kinston native left A&T to try his hand at acting at ECU, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater in 2000.

It wasn't a bad move.

Mattocks will be a guest star in an episode of CBS' "NCIS: L.A." at 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

"I'm playing a naval officer," he said. "There's a woman who's been kidnapped and I'm a suspect in the kidnapping because me and her boyfriend have had issues. I'm playing a naval officer who actually has two masters and a doctorate and, in working together, me and this gentleman have had problems."

The episode was filmed in February.

Growing up, Mattocks said he loved airplanes -- especially the SR-71 Blackbird supersonic spy aircraft, which he would have loved to work on.

That's why he wanted to become an engineer.

"I remember saying to myself, if I could live two lifetimes, I would do both," he said. "But since I only got one chance to live, I'm just going to do what I want to do."

What Mattocks wanted to do -- acting -- was not apparent to anyone, not even his parents and girlfriend. As a child, he thought about it as he watched the television series "Different Strokes."

"I kind of forgot about that dream," he said, "because everybody was telling me how great a football player I was."

Mattocks said he was afraid to tell his parents, Everett Sr. and Linda Mattocks, about his plans to quit the engineering track, return home and finish college with an acting degree.

On breaks, he would come home and fall asleep on the couch. He didn't seem happy.

"When I first told my parents," he said, "I remember my mother was just so happy that I had figured out what I wanted to do because I had known deep down that I wasn't happy with where I was going. And my father has always been a guy who's like, 'You know what? I love you whatever you do. Go out there, do your best.'

"And that's what kind of helped me make that change, as well, because with their blessing, I felt like, OK, I can go out here and give just whatever I want a shot, no matter what anybody else thinks."

At ECU, Mattocks was accepted into the Meisner program, a theatrical technique developed over the years beginning in the 1930s by the late Sanford Meisner.

He found himself being rejected in auditions, but his director, Don Biehn, associate professor emeritus, said those rejections were preparing him for the real world.

And, indeed, it did.

After graduation, now what?

Mattocks decided to go to New York City, knowing he would eventually have to move to California.

He was supposed to go with a friend, but the friend dropped out the day before he was to leave. His dad said he had stayed at a YMCA when he was starting out as a young man and Mattocks could, too.

"I think the day he said that to me, like on a Tuesday," Mattocks said, "and I left on a train for New York with a book bag and just a little roll-on, and just took the train up to New York that Thursday."

He began walking around looking for auditions and finding a part-time night job. Because he was a big guy, he got a job as a bouncer at a club on his second day. Shortly after, he got another job opening a gym at 5 a.m.

He was accepted into an audition to showcase talent for agents and managers. The group putting on the audition was from Los Angeles, which meant moving to California he if got signed.

A friend of his father let him stay at his place in New York until something came along and he could move.

"I was sleeping on his couch, this hide-away couch, with two little friends that used to run under the bed every night," he said about a couple of rats.

He made a pact with them to stay off the bed and he would leave them alone. The alternative was sleeping on the street. They never did get on the bed, he said.

In less than a year, an agent, Bonnie Black, signed him and he moved to Los Angeles. He and his brother, Everette Mattocks, drove across country in "record time," making it to the California border in two days.

A friend let him stay at her aunt's house when he first got there, until he found an apartment and a roommate in Calabasas, where many of the rich and famous live. He found a job as a projectionist -- a job he did at the former theater behind Vernon Park Mall while he was in high school.

There were small roles here and there, but Mattocks considers his first real role in L.A. at least a couple of years after arriving there where he played a "cocky young gunfighter."

"The one that I always go back to," he said, "is this Western I did called "Withstanding the Elements.' "

In the part, he wanted to make a name for himself by killing an old gunfighter, who had by then become a retired teacher.

"He's like this legendary gunfighter," Mattocks said, "and I come to kill him and he ends up killing me."

Once he got into the actor's union, his roles improved.

"I considered one of the big breaks," he said, "when I did a show for MTV and that got me into AFTRA."

Once Mattocks was in the AFTRA -- American Federation of Television and Radio Artists -- for a year, he got into the Screen Actors Guild, which opened up opportunities for television shows.

Every year, he auditioned for "The Shield," and each time his lines increased from one line to five pages of lines. He was never booked for the show, but just being at the casting allowed him to get recognized by and meet directors.

"I was going in for 'Charmed,' " he said, "... and where they were casting it at was, I think, Aaron Spelling's office or something. And I'm walking down the hallway and I'm looking at all of the signs of like '90210' and 'Dynasty' and all that stuff like that. And you don't think about that as a kid growing up in Kinston."

Mattocks recalled sitting in the office of Joel Silver, a producer of "The Matrix." The model of the Nebuchadnezzar, a hovercraft in the movie, was on the desk in front of him.

"As soon as you walk through the door," he said, "they have a life-size replica of the predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger standing in the corner and the crypt keeper from 'Tales of the Crypt' on HBO is also in the other corner. ... It's just a weird, surreal feeling because you're like, you see these things on TV and then you're actually in the same room."

Last week, he finished filming a part for an episode on "Chosen" for Sony's digital platform, Crackle. It will possibly be released online in January. He will be playing a hit man.

He's seen an upsweep in the number of auditions and is getting more offers.

"I tell people," he said, "acting is kind of like being in high school or dating -- nobody wants you until somebody else wants you, it seems. And once somebody else wants you, everybody wants you at the same time."

Mattocks said he enjoys both drama and comedy, but he prefers and has mostly done dramas -- playing a tough guy, cop or quirky guy.

He generally approaches the auditions dressed in some way that puts him in a good light for the part, but he doesn't costume-up for the part.

"What I am seeking," he said, "is anything and everything that has some kind of substance to it."

Small town to big city

"I find it surreal every time I'm on a studio back lot, "Mattocks said, referring to places like Paramount Studios or Universal Studios.

The back lot tour involves seeing movie icons like King Kong or riding on a transformer, he said. But through a different gate, parks the car and walks to his audition. Mattocks said the tram goes by with kids waving at him as he's holding his script.

"It's just funny to be in that position coming from Kinston," he said.

Rather than waiting around for acting parts, Mattocks started a production company called Moon Dog Media.

I believe we're going to start casting this next weekend," he said, "for a horror film we're going to be shooting in Michigan in November."

He will be producing, not acting. He plans to pitch the film to a major network.

Mattocks now lives in Hollywood and still works two part-time jobs -- only two nights a week.

He hasn't forgotten his hometown.

"I do miss Kinston," he said, "Kinston is not what I left. ... When I come home to Kinston, I usually, since I'm away so much, I am 100 percent home and with my family."

Margaret Fisher can be reached at 252-559-1082 or Margaret.Fisher@Kinston.com. Follow her on Twitter @MargaretFishr.

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(c)2013 The Free Press (Kinston, N.C.)

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