Heartthrob Matt Cedeño Turns Villain in Tyler Perry + BET's Newest Television Show RUTHLESS.
Matt Cedeño is no stranger to prime-time television. He’s widely known as Brandon Walker Days of Our Lives [NBC]. He’s played Javier Vasquez on Z Nation [SyFy], Ignacio De Santos on Ambitions [Own], and the man that everyone loved to hate, Cristobal from Starz hit series POWER just to name a few shows from his long list of acting credits spanning from two decades television.
RUTHLESS is a 24-episode one-hour drama airing and streaming on BET
Tell me about your latest role.
Wow, I’m excited about it. I’m excited about the show cast and me being able to play the character, The Highest. He’s the cult leader of this cult, Melissa’s character, Ruth. He wants Melissa and her daughter to join this cult. She runs away from her life in hopes that she can get into some sort of community to escape what she was running from. Everything is not what it turns out to be. I got the privilege to play this psychologically tormented and complex individual that had a hard childhood that developed into this guy that had this vision for his people, and his followers, and communist to ultimately create a heaven here on earth where he takes everybody with him to the afterlife. That’s kind of his vision. It was a lot of fun to play. He is a multilayered dude. It was great working and collaborating with Tyler Perry. I just had a lot of fun with the project. I’m looking forward to everyone checking it out.
What made you think that the Highest was something that you wanted to play?
It didn’t really transpire like that. I didn’t get to read the scripts or anything like that. It was sort of a breakdown in a field that made me want to put myself on a tape for Tyler, and I did that. He reached out within a day. We spoke that night. It kind of gave me the vision of the project and the character and it was exciting. It sounded challenging and scary when he explained it to me. He does a lot of things to cope with his psychological pain. He’s addicted to drugs. He’s a power freak. He’s got this power over people in different ways, some sadistic, sexual, manipulation—he tampers with the food supply. He does a lot of things to keep control of his people. I was excited to have that conversation. When the scripts came in, I read all the scripts and I knew it was going to be a challenge. It was great to have accomplished that. I’m excited.
You said that you knew it would be a challenge. Would you say that you were stretched in this role?
I would say that I was stretched in this role. I was stretched in many ways. Just to begin with, the shooting style of Tyler… I don’t know if you’ve heard, but he works at an exceptionally fast pace. He accomplishes a lot of material in every single shooting day, so he’s shooting ten times more than what your usual production does, and that’s how much Tyler does in a day. In a one-hour show, regular production will shoot and produce five to six total pages in a day. Tyler is cranking out eighty to one hundred so it’s more than that. He’s producing a ton, so just the sheer amount of memorization for the material you’re responsible for daily is a stretch, you know what I mean. That, and then on top of that, it layers the complexity of this guy who is emotionally distraught. He is under the influence part of the time. He’s trying to rule these people. He’s charismatic in a way and people look up to him and believes his word. He’s captivating in a certain sense. He’s a dynamic guy, so that was a challenge. In a way, it was different than what I had done in the past.
Would you say that the Highest is your favorite character out of all the ones you’ve played?
He is for sure, because he is the most challenging—the most challenging that I’ve played. Like I said, layering that with Tyler’s shooting style, I’m anxiously optimistic how it all came out. I don’t know, it feels like you’re in a storm when you’re there. There is no time to really look up. There was no time to socialize. We were just immersed in this realm of Ruthless. In between takes, you’re assigned a reader so you’re just like running to scenes with your reader and delved into this world. Everything about it is unlike anything I’ve ever done in the past.
When did you come out of character?
About three to four hours when I went to sleep. I also had hair. I don’t know if you seen it but I had to put on a piece. I had these long dreads, so I was always the first one there in the mornings. I know what some women must go through in the makeup and hair trailers before even getting to set. I experienced that as well at least an hour before anything else. It typically took an hour and a half to glue, to get that in. They started very early and it afforded me another opportunity to run my stuff and dialogue with my leader, take more time to let that sink in. I’m not a method actor, and I don’t have to be in character the whole time, but because of the sheer volume of what we were doing, I was naturally in character the whole time and I didn’t come out.
What type of roles do you enjoy doing aside from this one?
I enjoyed my last role quite a bit, too. I enjoyed Cristobal in Power. It was such a big cast and I came in as series regular in season four, so he [Cristobal] never really got to experience the full ark that I got to discuss with Courtney Kemp. He came into a very different picture, one that he just couldn’t fully get addressed to the sheer fact that it’s only an hour and some things had changed. The character Kanan had changed, and he decided that he [50 Cent] wanted to exit the show, so the whole story-line ark emerged. He was fun to play.
Do you particularly do a lot of urban film work?
I hadn’t prior to that. I'm grateful to Courtney for giving me that opportunity. That was definitely a deviation from things that I had done in the past. I auditioned for the police chief on that show and she offered me Cristobal without reading for it. Cristobal was completely different. He was the Dominican with the accent, the drug dealer, and completely different than the suit and tie character that I auditioned for. She had the ability to see past all of that and give me an opportunity for something that was not on my resume and not on my reel. That was really my first urban character for sure. I played the bad guy but prior to that, I was the hero type of character. I just did an independent movie in December and I think it’s ultimately going to land on TV. He was a bad guy and a lot of fun to play. He was a drug dealer of sorts. Yeah, it was fun to play. Let’s open that world.
Have you ever said no to a film?
Yes. I have said, no. One of them was a timing of things, a conflict of something else I had going on. The other was just because of my situation. I wasn’t that excited about the character and financially, it didn’t make sense, so I said, no.
What advice can you give other actors breaking into the industry or even the vets that’s in the industry?
I think this is a game of consistency, persistence, and resilience. You’re going to get told no a bunch of times. You gotta keep being able to bounce back as if it was nothing. I would say stay focus on what it is that you do and perfect that so you can be ready for that class, or get sharp on your own, whatever it is that makes you the best version that you can be, so when opportunity do present themselves, you’re ready. You can’t not be ready when you get your break, or you’re going to miss the opportunity. That would be my advice.
Do you consider yourself still trainable? Do you still take acting classes? How do you stay sharp?
Absolutely. I think you must constantly try to figure out how to better yourself because it’s an extremely competitive environment out there. I think August was the last month that I was in a class last year. My teacher also is a set coach, so she was in a hiatus. She’s been doing that since then and going off and doing these movies where she just shuts her class down. She’s great. I really like her, but she’s always gone. That’s the reason I’m not always in class. However, you can grow one hundred percent and you can observe other people in their class and pick out some things that you might’ve seen that you weren’t good at. You can steal and make it your own. Yeah, constantly evolving.