Orange Is the New Black’s Matt McGorry on Why Bennett Wants to Be a Hero But Can’t

Photo: Lilly Lawrence/WireImage

Matt McGorry — now a household name because of his roles as Officer Bennett on Orange Is the New Black and Asher Millstone on How to Get Away With Murder — premiered a film, How He Fell in Love, this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival in which he’s a quiet and sad romantic lead entangled in a love affair with a married woman. Vulture sat down with McGorry, who gave us some insights in to his shirtless-dancing shtick, his thoughts on marriage, and Bennett’s lack of heroism.

Have you ever had an affair with a married woman?

I’m totally joking. That was my icebreaker.
Oh, well, I guess I don’t have to tell you that I only have sex with married women now.

In all seriousness, though, thinking about your recent foray into the world of feminism, how did you view this story line within that framework?
To me, I see less of a connection to feminism than I do to good habits of being in a relationship. Not etiquette — that’s such a light word — “Please fold your napkin at the dinner table, sir.” No, it’s more … the funny thing is, I’m watching this film as a 29-year-old, and I don’t have the experience of having the amount of years in a relationship that the characters in this film have. It’s entirely possible that in 40 years I could have a very different perspective, if I’ve been married for a long time. I’m still in a place in my life that I feel like marriage is out of love more than arrangement. But then again, what the fuck do I know, I’m not married.

The character you play in this film is pretty lost in love. How do you relate to that?
I actually had gotten out of my most significant relationship about a month and a half before I auditioned for the role. It was all very real and raw and easily accessible. The style of the filmmaking had a lot of two-shots with both our faces in it, or sometimes there was a whole extended shot of one of us in frame with the other in a reflection or something, and that forces you to really listen and take the person in a different way than standard film and TV are shot. You’re always giving 100 percent, and I think that creates a real authenticity. So, basically, with the character, I had come from a breakup, from a place where loss and mourning were very real.

Has dating changed for you now that you’re famous?
I’m not sure how it connects to dating now [that I’m famous]. I think fame in general changes perception drastically. If there are [actors] who are bitter about that and wondering who you can trust, I understand that. Success and talent, those are attractive qualities. You could be not attracted to someone, and then you see them play the guitar and all of a sudden they’re sexy. If someone likes you because you’re famous or because of your talent, those are two entirely different things.

Well, speaking of trust issues, there are tough decisions that Officer Bennett is coming up against with Daya and the baby on OITNB. This is a guy who’s seen war, but now he can’t stick around for his baby mama and baby?
Well, yeah, that scene is pretty heavy. The flashback is analogous to what ends up actually happening with Bennett and Daya. Here he is, he’s in battle, he’s talking a big game, but when it comes down to it, the other lower-ranked guy jumps on the grenade as Bennett goes and runs. I think it’s sort of who Bennett is: He wants to be the hero so bad, and he tries but falls short. It’s pretty tragic, but there is some part of me that thinks Bennett believes he was doing the better thing by leaving. It allows Pornstache’s mother to step in, it allows other things to shift. I mean, if you think of it, that relationship has been a ticking time bomb since the beginning.

But you want their relationship to work so bad ...
That’s part of the effectiveness of the storytelling. It baits you into that relationship. It’s so romantic, but you forget [that it’s doomed to fail]. But I think there is something very real about how it turns out. The nature of a relationship between a guard and an inmate, it’s not a problem until it’s a problem.

It’s not very feminist of him.
No, it’s not, but neither is being Asher Millstone. Sometimes I think that [in real life] I’m making up for the people that I play on television.

So dancing (sometimes with your shirt off) is kind of your shtick now, isn’t it?
First off, I’m so fortunate I got to have a flashback. I loved doing OITNB for both seasons, but I did always wonder if they were going to do a flashback scene for any of the guards. But the funny thing is, that [flashback scene where Officer Bennett is in Iraq and dances with his shirt off] was written before the HTGAWM dance scene came out. And even the Magic Mike audition tape was after. It’s so funny. Now it’s my shtick, I guess.

Maybe they’ll cast you in Magic Mike 3.
That’s why I did the audition, obviously.