matthew ashford homepage articles


Matt Ashford's learned
that there's noting wrong
with being trouble-free

(Cagney McLeary,
Search for Tomorrow)

SOD Matt Ashford (Cagney McCleary, SFT)

Matthew Ashford has had a "great life" and that's caused him concern. "I come from a big family. We were happy, healthy and all that good stuff. So there was a time in my life when I was afraid because I hadn't starved at any, that I was not going to be a good actor," he says seriously. "Other people I know — their parents are either dead or divorced. They've had major traumas in their lives and it makes you grow up faster and gives you a better view of the world."

It's taken awhile for the young Search for Tomorrow star to come to grips with his life. "Experiencing trauma is not the point at all," Matthew says now. "I had an acting teacher try to explain that to me once and I could not relate to it. He said, `Listen, tragedy is every day. Tragedies don't need to be huge. We don't need to hear about your dog getting run over or your grandparents dying. Tragedy is a very tiny thing and if you are in touch with it, that's fine.'" With time, Ashford learned that good acting "just takes some moments of reflection and concentration to realize the components of what the character's feeling and to realize that in your own life, there are places where that happens. Everyone feels loss, everyone feels a certain type of anger, a certain type of jealous."

At 24, Ashford is young, healthy and handsome. With his short brown hair, blue eyes, purple and blue striped rugby shirt and worn Levi's, Matthew looks as though he belongs on the pages of The Preppy Handbook, but his thoughtfulness belies such stereotyping. His 6'1" frame has caused him to be mistaken for a football player, but Ashford's no jock. At one point he jokes, "I'm an actor because I never wanted to go out and be a football player, but I would play at being a football player."

Matthew is of Irish descent, has seven brothers and sisters, and as born in Davenport, Iowa. And it was his three sisters who introduced him to acting, he says. "I was a lump sitting home one day and they were going to these junior theater classes and workshops and they said, `Matt, why don't you come with us?' So I went and enjoyed it and began to go back.The next think I knew, I was involved in the junior theater in Iowa and when we moved to Virginia, the same thing happened again." After graduation from the North Carolina School of the Arts, Ashford moved to New York City, where after being spotted in a showcase, he was signed by ABC. He had only been in the city for a month before joining One Life to Live as Drew Ralston.

"I came on the show because they liked really liked me. The character of Drew really didn't exist before that in the writers' minds. I thought it was great that they were writing me this character. But a soap opera is like a big puzzle," he theorizes, "and my piece just didn't fit.... My being on sometimes meant me coming and going,`Boy I'm tired. I've been working hard.' I'd come out and play the whole scene lying down on the couch." The role, he says, "was just death for me." The character was finally killed off and Ashford notes candidly, "By the time I went, I was ready to go."

Although Matthew was prepared financially for unemployment, he hadn't planned to be out of work. He was up for a role in The Hamptons, a 1983 summer replacement series. However, his contract with One Life to Live had not expired and the part fell through. Leaning back in his chair, Matt says thoughtfully, "That was very hard on me because I was going to go straight from one show to another show. It seemed that life was great." Despite the disappointment, Ashford notes, "What I ended up getting was a truer sense of myself in relation to this business. I learned that things don't always work out," he says intensely. "Sometimes you are out of work and have to look for it.... I knocked on doors and I pounded pavement all summer. I auditioned for plays and began to get a better sense of what was going on with me, Matt. I had come right to New York, I became Drew Ralston. Strange as it seems, I never had a chance to realize that yes, I am an actor trying to get a job. This experience gave me a grounding sense."

After five months of unemployment, Ashford landed a part with Esther Rolle in A Member of the Wedding. "It was my first true theater role," Ashford grins. The play ran for a month and then Matthew auditioned for another play. At the same time, he was planning to make a trek to Los Angeles to look for work. Matthew was having a difficult time trying to decide whether to go after the "big bucks" in L. A. or stay and do a play that meant more to him as an actor. "As I was thinking about that, the part on Search for Tomorrow came up. I thought it was a very interesting character, someone I could relate to. Someone I could do something with. There's a lot to say with this character and I don't feel I've been disappointed yet."

SOD Matt Cagney, Terri Eoff Suzi (SFT)Cagney McCleary is the younger son trying to live up to the standards and ideals of his brother Hogan, Matt offers. "Hogan is a writer, he's a war veteran, an all around good guy, and Cagney's not. He hopes to be. He wants to be that way, but you see the end result and you just want to be there." Matthew's talking from experience now. As the young Ashford son, he says, "Competition with brothers and sisters is something that often is understated. We all had to get good grades because the brothers got good grades. The parents set standards and you had to follow them. As the parents get older, they start to get more lax with the younger kids and then the older ones say, `Well, wait a minute. I want to make sure that he or she gets the benefit of your strict training.' And so they get real tough on the younger ones.... It's a rivalry and a tenseness that takes years and distance to clear up."

While Cagney works through the conflict with brother Hogan that Ashford's resolved with his own siblings, Matt's learning to be comfortable with his life. "I'm very happy right now," he says with a smile. "I'm very happy with this job and the way it's fitting into my life and the fact that it's not running my life — it's becoming a part of it." Asked about his professional goals, Ashford avoids the "pat" answers young performers give when asked about their future aspirations.

"They all say, `I want to do stage and movies and everything. That's a real pat answer, a real easy answer. What it real comes down to is, `What kind of actor do I really want to be?' I've already begun to feel for fellow young actors because you're so scared," he admits. "You may be on a national soap opera, but one thing being on soap operas suddenly made me realize that everybody's on a soap opera, who cares? Look how many people, young actors are on soap operas. Everybody wants to be in movies, on television, but you've got to say, `I'm different. I don't care about what I am going to be doing at the end of this cycle, I don't care about going to California and becoming rich and famous. I'm worried about what I'm doing now!'"

In his spare time, which isn't much, Matt, besides taking acting classes, is an avid reader. An awareness that he'd let his interests fall by the wayside, led him to rekindle his love of writing and bicycling, and he has taken up roller skating. Ashford's also a mimist (he performed on the streets of New York) and an amateur cartoonist. He's got a girlfriend of "distance and space" whom he's been dating for a long time. "I see her every now and then when the moon is full," he says.

For Matt, concern about the present has replaced his preoccupation with fretting over his lack of tragic experience. "I'm beginning to just be comfortable with myself and to stop worrying about what's going to happen later." He's looking forward to getting older, Ashford says pensively. "I want to have a growing awareness of others and their needs and of myself."

[Photo Matt (Cagney McCleary) & Terri Eoff (Suzi Wyatt)]

Soap Opera Digest
Most Tortured Love Stories

SOD SFT Matt (Cagney McCleary) & Terri Eoff (Suzi Wyatt)

Matthew Ashford and Terri Eoff
Suzi Wyatt and Cagney Cleary,

The instrument of torture here was Suzi's ex-husband, Warren. After learning that their son, Jonah was really his and not Cagney's, the ex-con hatched plots to drive Suzi mad so he could get her committed and claim custody of the child. Add this to a history of involvement with the mob and a steamy affair with Wendy, and one can understand why Suzi eventually put him out of her misery permanently. When murdering someone, Suzi learned, self-dense is the best defense. She got off and married the man who stuck by her through all of Warren's machinations — Cagney.

Special thanks to Marian for these wonderful articles.


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