Recently, I got the opportunity to speak with actor Matt Hamilton, who plays the role of Trent Havelock in the upcoming series Turner & Hooch, which premieres on Disney+ on July 21. In addition to his role in this show, Hamilton is an award-winning actor/screenwriter who has appeared in dozens of titles across film and television.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length. For our full, uncut discussion, check out the video at the bottom of the page!
Before you began acting, you worked primarily as a screenwriter. What drew you to writing for television and film?
When I was a kid, I was a movie nerd. I bought all the VHSs, I did that whole thing and would write these short stories that, in my head, were short movies. And actually, one time I remember, I finished watching A Child’s Play and I tried to write A Child’s Play book, but in my head, I was doing a movie. I didn’t think anything of it until I went to university when I took a writing course in one of the curriculums. One of the things was screenwriting and then I just thought, “Oh! This works.” So I left university and went to Vancouver Film School, graduated, and with my first script I won this contest. I got this agent in New York, and I thought I was going to be this rich writer. And so I tried to skate on that script. I made a little bit of money on it, but nothing really. Then I was just kind of having fun bartending and my mom was like, “Go back and finish your degree.” So I went back and finished my writing degree and it was like one of the best things ever did. I ended up with people I still write with today from my classes and you just start writing more and reading more. I started doing more stuff and got some things optioned and had things placed in contests and festivals, which kind of opened doors for me. In a roundabout way, that’s kind of how I got into acting. I would write the shorts and sketches and act in them. And then a friend of mine, Leah Gibson, is an actor who I’ve known for a long time and she was told me that I needed to go to Vancouver and get an agent. I was in Victoria at the time. So then I did! I got an agent and that was about 10, 11 years ago now.
Has your screenwriting experience helped with your acting?
Yeah, I do think it helps that. I find it easy to just naturally break down scenes and character motivations and subtexts and because that’s in my toolbox. That’s a thing that writers and a lot of actors do but for me, it comes really naturally. I like to improv a lot if I can. But with improv it’s not just trying to say something funny, it’s usually motivated by character. It’s a different way for exposition to come out and I think that my screenwriting background really helps that aspect of it too.
How did your involvement with this series come about?
I was here in Kelowna shooting a movie. And I got the audition and I was like, “Oh, this is right up my alley!” And the girl who I was taping with was actually here too and she read for me when I taped my audition and she was like “Oh, yeah, that’s you. You got that.” Then I went back to Vancouver and I was kind of waiting and a friend of mine who works at the casting said “Yeah they are doing Tuner & Hooch callbacks today, so I’m kind of busy.” I was like “Wait, I didn’t get a callback? I swear, I killed that!” So he checked and said that they hadn’t done my character yet. And so then I got a callback and it was kind of strange because it was over Zoom. So I’m sitting there with my phone and there was Mike Horowitz, Matt Nix, and McG who directed it, some corporate and casting people, and the reader. If somebody laughed and if they weren’t muted, the screen kept changing and they come up on the screen because they said something. So that was kind of distracting and a little bit different than being in a room. But I got through it and I guess it worked because I got it!
Were you familiar with the original Turner & Hooch?
Yeah, I loved that movie as a kid. By the way, it’s that and A League of Their Own that is peak Tom Hanks yelling. But I guess I kind of blocked it out because then when I rewatched it for this show I had totally forgotten that Hooch dies! I blocked that part out. He gets shot and I thought “Okay, well this is sad, but he’ll get up, right?” And then Tom Hanks has the sad face with the eyes closed and the vet shakes her head and then I realized “They just killed Hooch!” I couldn’t believe it. I totally forgot about that part.
Had you ever acted alongside a dog before?
Kind of, but not to this extent. With this, you learn early on that even if you only have two pages to shoot today, maybe don’t make plans for lunch. It could be a long day, which was fine because the show was so fun to do. So I didn’t care if I was there 10 hours or 12 hours. Everyone involved was really fun. And it was always a positive vibe on set. But like I said, early on I figured we just have to do a little dog stuff and then I’ll be gone. But dogs sometimes don’t listen to where their marks are. Especially with those dogs. I mean, the whole joke of the thing is that they’re not the smartest. There’s a reason why police use German Shepherds and stuff like that. These are big dopey, sweet dogs, which makes it funny. And they slobber. It was a lot. And a lot of the time, they need the dog to do something and so the camera’s on you but you got the trainers waving around in your eyeline and squeaking toys and stuff. Anthony Ruivivar who plays the chief told me early on just make sure you are absolutely dialed because it is hard sometimes. But once you get all that it just becomes part of your workday. That’s just how it is.
What about this series do you think will appeal to audiences? Will people need to be familiar with that version or does this one stand on its own?
It stands on its own. They reference the original. Obviously he [Josh Peck] plays Tom Hanks’ son but it’s not requisite knowledge to watch the movie. However, I would because it’s canon. I think audiences will connect with the show because it is so fun. It’s a one-hour action show, but they really leaned into the comedy and really encouraged ideas and improvisation and things like that. And there aren’t a lot of one-hour comedy-first shows. Some of the action is really cool but it’s just a fun show and comes up, I think, at a perfect time. After the world ended for 14 months, this is the perfect tonic to that. It’s got dogs, Josh Peck, Matt Hamilton (laughs). The cast is great and it’s just so much fun.
Your character, Trent Havelock, doesn’t like dogs. Are you a cat or dog person?
Dog. Most of the time in my life I’m like “F*** cats!” Like, they break your stuff and they don’t care about you. They use you, you know. But, my cousin has a cat and he’s one of those where you say “Oh, yeah, cats can be awesome”. But yeah, dog. Actually, I had to put my dog down halfway through filming. He was 17. It was just after the holiday break. It was, obviously, something I knew was coming. It just kind of happened pretty quickly. I went back to work two days after. I think that was helpful because, I had dogs around and my mind was focused on other things, but it’s strange. Very strange. I’ve had dogs pretty much my whole life.
Do you have anything in the works?
I’ve done three movies in the last couple of months. One’s a Christmas movie and I did a drama with Tom Everett Scott and Ella Ballantine in Victoria. I think that could be interesting. I’m not sure when that comes out. Then I have this heist script that I’ve written that is optioned and might start prepping in November and shooting in December. That’s what it sounds like right now. That’s the one I really want to do, but the one I finished yesterday was like a romantic kind of comedy, one of those Hallmark-style movies.
Thank you to Matt Hamilton for taking the time to talk with us and be sure to check out Turner & Hooch, streaming next week on Disney+!