Interviewing Matt Okine felt like catching up with a friend… except, that friend happens to have written and starred in his own TV show. I met Matt at the Rooftop Bar in QT Hotel. Sitting on the lounge, Matt folds his 6’4” frame into a comfortable position, ready to discuss his newest creation; his debut TV show, The Other Guy. In itself, this is an impressive feat – but it is by no means the only project Matt has going. As a comedian, actor, musician, writer, and producer, Matt Okine credits his flexibility to not wanting to be bored.
He has a cooking show on ABC, Short Cuts to Glory: Matt Okine vs Food, where he learns simple tricks from cooks on how to create great home-cooked meals. He’s just released ‘Warning Signs’, a song under his stage name, Boilermakers. (Keep an ear out for it in Episode 4!) And, he has a stand-up tour coming up in December, We Made You.
The Other Guy started as a stand-up show, and draws parallels from Matt’s own life. In an interview with Pedestrian TV in 2014, he told the story of how his girlfriend of 9 years cheated on him with his best-friend and how “at one stage, we were all living together in the house – full-on sort of TV shit.” Perhaps a prediction of what was to come – as that is almost exactly what happens to his character AJ.
Part of the writing process was figuring out whether to make the story fictional or not. “That was really a pivotal moment, in terms of the best way to tell the story.” Fiction won out, on the grounds that “we (could) live outside the confinements of reality.”
Translating a stand-up show into a 6-episode series was a real challenge. “That writing process was really difficult. It’s not like I studied screenwriting or anything like that.” Matt credits the help of co-writer Becky Lucas and script producer Greg Water with creating an entertaining and uncomfortable show. “I just think it’s got a really unique voice within the Australian TV scene, and that’s something that I’m super proud of.”
Refreshingly real, the show doesn’t shy away from those awkward situations that happen in the dating world. Like waking up from a one-night stand to find the bed soaked through, then arguing about who wet the bed. Another great realistic quality of the show is that AJ’s best-friend is female. Stevie, played by Harriet Dyer, is not there to develop a love interest storyline for the leading male – showing genuine disgust at the idea. “We have a male-female duo that are just friends. It’s so simple, but it’s incredibly rare in a lot of TV. So that’s something that I’m super proud of as well, cause it’s just so fun.”
Creating a TV show has been a lifelong dream for Matt. “It’s kind of one of the reasons I got into stand-up comedy. Basically, cause I was watching shows like Seinfeld and desperately wanting to do something like that.” While this has always been the dream, it didn’t make the experience any less daunting. “I got a call from Angie Fielder, who is producer (and co-founder) at Aquarius Films… I’m writing this dinky little TV script, and they’re literally at the Oscars. I’m like ‘oh my god…’ I’ve gotta create something that lives up to their reputation!” Matt says it’s been a wild ride, but worth all the effort. “It’s a scary world. Whenever or not you make something, there’s always gonna be haters.”
When I ask about just how jam packed his year has been, Matt acknowledges it may seem a bit much. “I get a bit worried about biting off more than I can chew, but I’m going on a holiday after the show comes out. I think it’ll be nice to just get away from everything and not have to see dickheads tweeting me about how much they don’t like it.”
“I am really proud of this show that we’ve made, and I really can’t wait for people to watch it. I spent my life wanting to do this.”