I have a young girl named Sammi asking you the next question. Here is her question: How much martial arts experience did Matthew know before the series and how easy was it for him to pick up? Also, did he enjoy the martial arts aspects of the series?
Hi, Sammi! Matt didn't have a lot of formal martial arts training before starting the series, however, he was very acrobatic and very athletic. He picked up the moves John and I taught him very quickly, and he was very precise with his techniques, for not having trained extensively in the arts. He really enjoyed learning the fights and the different martial arts moves, and he would always come up to me after the new scripts were handed out for the next episode and ask me what new moves John had in mind for the fights ... almost like a kid asking what he was getting for Christmas! He was great to work with, and he was a very fast learner ... and he really liked it when John and I would be the "bad guys" in the fight opposite him. As a matter of fact, at one point after a two-on-one fight where he kicked the heck (figuratively!) out of John and me, he jokingly told us that from then on, he only wanted to fight us! Of course, that's impossible, but I felt that it was a great compliment, and we all had a great time working together!
Now I have to add this for Sammi. I was wondering if you would like to give her any advice concerning the Martial Arts? She is really very serious about it. As a professional, is there any advice you'd like to give her?
I think the best advice is what my instructor used to tell me all the time... "Don't block with your face, Dave!" No, seriously, I think the biggest mistake a martial artist can make is to compare their ability to another person's ability. The best martial artist isn't always the one who wins, and winning a fight or a match doesn't mean you're any better or worse than you were before you fought. It simply means you won. The only true gauge of your abilities is where you were when you started to train, where you are today, and where you want to be tomorrow. And this statement is true: only YOU can make yourself better.
The only way to get better is to train yourself to be better. And, along the way, don't forget how to be humble. Mark Twain said, "A truly great man makes others feel that they, too, can become great." No one is so good that there isn't someone just around the corner who's just a little better. Whether or not we meet them, they are still there. Remember to always try to learn from any situation ... even if it's learning what NOT to do. Also, to be a true professional at anything in life, you must willing to always give 100 percent, no matter what you are doing. Thomas Jefferson put it this way, "Always do your best. Not because what you do is worth it, but because YOU are."
This next question is from Sammi's mother, Mary:
My grandfather once told me that the biggest problems we face in life are those that we bring along with us. I think that probably puts a little less blame on Lithuania, and more blame on us. You see, we went to a foreign land, with our ideas and ways of doing things, and expected everything to just fall into place. Whoa! Time for a reality check! Lithuanians had a generation or two of people who did things a certain way, for certain reasons. Now we wanted them to just totally change over night, and not question us about how or why we wanted them to change. In the beginning, this was a constant source of frustration and "ill-will" between us. But, after a short period, both cultures began to see that there were positive things that could be learned or shared between us. I think Teddy Roosevelt was the one who said, "If you can't change your circumstances, change your perspective."
Fred Weintraub, one of the executive producers, cornered me about a week or so after I got there, and he gave me some advice that really changed the way I approached the situation ... or any situation after that, really. He said that they had a way of doing things that I didn't really know about or even understand, and that I should take that into account before I make any judgments or demands on the people there. In other words, put my brain in gear and keep my mouth in neutral! Now, I wasn't yelling at or mistreating anyone, or anything, but I was trying to just do as much myself as I could, so I wouldn't have to deal with some of the frustrations. What I didn't realize, is that by doing some of the other jobs that the Lithuanians were assigned to do, I was making them look bad, and getting them into trouble. So, I had to step back, reevaluate, adapt to this new situation, adopt a different type of work ethic, and improve myself as I improved the situation.
Once Fred discussed this with me, and I took a better accounting of myself, the frustrations ... well ... they continued for the rest of the season! But, they were much smaller, and much easier to deal with, and I began to have a great time again, and I made so many new friends, it wasn't worth complaining about! So, to answer your question, if you focus on the differences between the cultures, then the difficulties were great. But, if you look at the commonalties between us as just ordinary people, each trying our best to do our best, then the differences didn't really matter, and the difficulties didn't either. The deadlines still mattered, but the difficulties didn't! That's probably the most important lesson I learned that season, too!
What did the cast do during the down time?
Down time? ;) There was a street downtown in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, called "Piellias Street," and it was like the "arts and crafts marketplace for the town. You could buy just about anything there, and we would all end up there, in one way or another, just browsing or seeing what new stuff we could find. There was also a medieval castle and museum about 45 minutes away, called Trakai, and some of us went there on a day trip to visit it and have a look around. In addition, there was always some kind of "flea market" sale or some such going on, and those were always a lot of fun. Most of the time, we would only have Sunday's off, and so I would go to an American Baptist missionary church there, then meet John or some of the other crew for lunch, and then we'd head over to Piellias Street or something like that. Not the most exciting things to do, but I think relaxing was the highest priority away from work!
P.S. Here's a pic of Shawn Lawless and me in front of Trakai... he played Adam Carpenter in "Legend of Olwyn," and he also played the lead soldier in "Dragon from the Sky." He's a great guy, and a good friend!
Photogallery / Fans Questions