Hollywood no 'American Horror Story' for Naperville native
If you want to catch Naperville native Matt Armstrong's latest acting job, check out the next episode of the FX channel's "American Horror Story" Wednesday night, Nov. 7, when he plays a Boston cop investigating all sorts of strange foul play.
He thinks the scariest part of the show might be his accent.
Back to school
Naperville native Matt Armstrong regrets not having earned a college degree before he went out into the world of professional acting. Now, he's working on his bachelor's degree part-time at California State University at Northridge.
"I might keep doing this (acting) for the rest of my life, but that may not happen," Armstrong said pragmatically. "I'm working toward an English degree with a focus on teaching. It's a lot of hard work. But it's hard to treat college as a foregone conclusion for your son when you never finished yourself.
"So now, I have to put my money where my mouth is and do it myself."
"I don't know how well it sounds," Armstrong confessed to us. "I'm terrified to hear it. But we'll find out soon enough."
Armstrong, who graduated from Naperville Central High School in 1991, will be back in "American Horror Story" for one more shot Nov. 14.
Then, he'll be seen in an upcoming episode of "Body of Proof" as a father who incites people to become vigilantes in the wake of crimes against his two daughters.
You'd think an actor on a roll like this with a macho name like "Matt Armstrong" would be in the Hollywood trenches, fighting to become the next Bruce Willis.
Nope. Armstrong — whose past roles include a stint on the cult favorite "Heroes" — says he would be perfectly happy not being an actor. Really.
"I have a 10-year-old son and he takes up a lot of time," Armstrong said. "I coach his Little League Baseball team. I've been doing that for years. I'm on the league's board of directors. I spend all my free time at the ballpark. I love it!
"I conduct baseball camps for 6- and 7-year-olds. If I could make a living just doing that, I would make that my full-time job. I get such a kick out of it!"
Wait a second.
Aren't Hollywood actors supposed to be self-centered prima donnas who talk about their "process" and all the wonderful things they've done?
"My family. That's everything," Armstrong told us. "The rest isn't anything. Sure, before I had a kid, I was consumed with me, me, me! Now, it's just my family. I live for my time with my family, especially my kid. He's a good guy. He's the best."
Unlike many former Northwest suburbanites, Armstrong doesn't directly credit his Midwestern upbringing for his success.
"Actually, I have not benefited from it in my case," he replied. "I would like to think of myself as a worker bee who does what he's supposed to and doesn't pull all the attention to himself. Uh, I wish I could think of a better way to say it." Armstrong paused.
"It's just an ethic of service to the story and to the work. I just want to show up and do my job and then go home. I just want to make a living and still have a normal life. I don't want to be a big, fat TV star."
"People who do want to be big, fat TV stars, well, maybe they're the squeaky wheels and they actually get what they want. Maybe I should want that, but that's not how I'm wired. I don't really like attention."
The most Armstrong will admit is that he used to crave attention, way back when he was at Naperville Central.
"In high school, I liked the attention. I liked the idea of meeting girls," Armstrong said. "But the deeper I got involved, I liked the community of it. I liked the idea of building something together with people doing different jobs."
It all began with Naperville Central's annual one-act play festival. Adrian Wenner, Armstrong's buddy since junior high, wrote a one-act play and cast him in a lead role.
"I had a great time and decided right then and there that's what I wanted to do," Armstrong said.
His passion led him to the College of DuPage where he earned a scholarship set up by alumnus Jim Belushi on behalf of his late brother John.
Armstrong credits the college — and the Belushi scholarship — with changing his life big time.
"I think it (College of DuPage) had a better theater department than I would find at any regular four-year school, with the repertoire company they have there and all the professionals they have coming in," Armstrong said.
"That's the best place I could have ended up right there in Glen Ellyn."
Armstrong never earned a degree from College of DuPage. Instead, he opted to work at the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble and the (then) Shakespeare Repertoire Theater in Chicago. He further honed his craft in Ontario, Canada, at a Shakespeare company there.
Armstrong now lives in the San Fernando Valley with his son and actress wife, Ashley Crow, a former Des Plaines resident. He met her while working on the Chicago-set TV series "Turks," produced by Arlington Heights native Jim Michaels.
"I have years when I can make a living at this," Armstrong said. "I have years when I have to supplement the income with other things. It all depends on how much I'm working or how much my wife is working.
"I'm always looking to get work. Ninety-nine percent of my job is to get the next job, if you know what I mean. Looking. Looking. Looking."
If that doesn't work, there's always Little League.
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are interested in suburbanites working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make a great column, email them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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