Ever since her addition to the Phoenix Foundation on MacGyver earlier this year, Meredith Eaton remains one of the show’s constant scene-stealers as Matilda “Matty” Webber. She’s intense, hilarious, and she has one of the greatest mysteries of the entire show courtesy of her history with Jack Dalton.
Leading up to Friday night’s new episode, we had a chance to speak with Eaton about first joining the show, how she gets into Matty’s head, potential Hawaii Five-0 crossovers, and a whole lot more. We hope you enjoy the interview, and look at the bottom of the article for a new preview — one that includes a quick Billy Baldwin sighting crossing paths with Matty.
CarterMatt – Back when you first got the role, were there certain characteristics of it that excited you?
Meredith Eaton – Oh everything. When [Executive producer] Peter Lenkov and I first talked about Matty Webber and who she is, it was so exciting to me because I’d never played a character like Matty before. Yes, I’d played the sassy, sarcastic personality, but never such an empowered woman. That was so attractive to me because in this day and age, getting to play a woman who is so confident and in charge and sure of who she is was a huge feather in my cap. It was absolutely something that I wanted to do.
One of the things that I find so interesting about her beyond being a strong character with a big personality is that she does have an element of mystery. Some of that comes with her backstory with Jack and there may be more about her we’re still getting to learn. Did you have any advance info on some of these things, do you have any input, or is this a situation where you’re getting the scripts and you’re just as shocked as anyone’s going to be when they watch the show?
Number three (laughs). We’re not privy to what happens, which is actually rather exciting since it’s like reading a book. Each week we don’t know what direction we’re going in and that’s rather exciting. I love that, because it keeps us on our toes like with the audience.
Yes, Matty [does] have a past and there’s a lot in the future, I’m sure, that is going to be revealed about who she is and those cards that she does hold close. But, it’s nice to have this idea but no confirmation. It makes things very exciting.
One of the things that the MacGyver team did that was really smart was that you had your debut episode, but then after that we had this personal story [with the suspected Zodiac killer] where there was a case that was important to Matty. How do you as an actor try to reconcile this tough part of the character with the part who is more vulnerable and personal?
That’s a good question, and it’s one of the many things I love about my job and portraying Matty. There are so many layers to who this woman is. To be able to show all of her colors is an ongoing process for me.
I personalize it like this: I’m a mom in real life, and there’s a lot of maternal characteristics about Matty that I infuse into her as a person because she’s the matriarch of the team. She’s always the one who has to be ten steps ahead of everyone else. She has to think things through from A-Z, and she’s putting her team in very dangerous, high-stakes situations week after week with a hope and a prayer that they are going to make it out alive. She does love every person on that team. She has a different relationship with all of them and with that comes different characteristics. For Matty, she always looks at it almost like a mom — I love these guys, but I need to have tough love with them. I need to have boundaries, but I also want to show them that I care. It’s like parenting!
It’s a good analogy, especially when it comes to the Matty – MacGyver relationship since you have this man who constantly ends up breaking some of her rules; yet, he does find a way to get the job done. How do you think she handles that?
There’s a theme that exists. Usually the team receives their orders from Matty and one of them almost always tends to defy her like a rebellious teenager. Then, she has to respond and reinforce the boundaries. With MacGyver, I can tell you that Matty and MacGyver’s relationship definitely evolves this season. In the first season, she laid down the law and let him know that she does not believe in flying by the seat of your pants. That gives her concern for his safety because she’s been around the block a million times; she’s seen operatives die because of carelessness. It’s great to see how they evolve in their relationship this season.
The details that are out there for Friday’s episode suggest that we’re going to have a chance to see Matty sending Bozer off to some sort of training program. The idea of that alone sounds like there’s going to be a lot of great comedy to it, and I love some of the scenes you have with Justin [Hires]. What’s the impetus of that story?
This is the beginning of a three-episode arc that I think the fans are really going to love. I’m a big fan of Justin Hires — he’s a comedic genius and he does comedy so well, but he also does drama really well. You’re going to see both sides of that with Bozer. You’re going to see Bozer in some challenging situations and Matty puts him in that position because she believes in him. She’s always had an affinity for Bozer. She wants him to develop more as an agent in the field and he’s going to have a chance to do that. It’s going to be really fun.
Is there an episode coming up where Matty is going to be back in the field?
Definitely. You’re going to have her out in the field during an upcoming episode.
Did you have a chance to work with Bruce McGill when he was on set?
I did, and that was so exciting. We have some amazing guest stars coming up — we have Billy Baldwin coming up [this Friday], and that’s really exciting. He’s such a great person to work with — I grew up really admiring him and I love some of his movies. He plays Riley’s father. We also have Ashley Tisdale in the episode [we just filmed].
It was really cool to see Bruce McGill on our set, sort of passing the torch and paying homage to George [Eads] as our Jack Dalton. He made an announcement on set saying that he gives his blessing, and talked about what a wonderful job George is doing. I concur with that 100%. I’m very lucky to work with Lucas [Till] and George and Tristin [Mays] and Isabel [Lucas] and Justin — they pour their hearts into their roles week after week. We really are a family. I love these guys.
Do you have any interest in doing a crossover this year? They did the Hawaii Five-0 one last year, but you weren’t on location. Would you like to head out to Hawaii this year?
Oh, yes! Absolutely. Any chance to do a crossover is fun. I’ve done that on other shows. I guest-starred on NCIS for many years and my character got to cross over onto NCIS: New Orleans. I just think that it adds an exciting dimension for fans, especially since I know our fans are fans of Five-0 and vice-versa.
Peter is amazing; what he has done is successfully reboot both of these shows. He’s one of the hardest-working men in show business. He’s constantly writing and thinking and there’s a reason that his shows are so successful. He’s a brilliant writer and he conceptualizes all of his ideas and brings them to fruition personally. He’s involved in every aspect of these shows. All of our writers do a fantastic job and I would love to be able to participate with the Five-0 cast; it’d be great if that happens.
I really just thought of this. Since technically your show is in the same universe as NCIS wouldn’t it be funny if it turned out Matty had a secret twin and it was your other character [Carol Wilson]?
Listen, you never know (laughs). That would be a very interesting episode. I’ve always wondered how someone plays two different characters as twins; that’d be a whole different skill set for me.
It’d just be so much fun.
It would, especially considering that my best friend in life is Pauley Perrette. She’s a huge fan of MacGyver — she watches and tweets about it [all the time]. She loves the show.
We know that Matty is a really tough character, but what do you think scares Matty the most?
I think what scares Matty the most is losing someone on her team. Sending these guys out and not having one of them come home. Deep down, she cares and loves these guys. That, to me, would be her biggest fear, though maybe there are some other fears that she has that haven’t been realized yet. Ones that she holds close to the vest that haven’t come out yet.
Finally, let’s look ahead here for a moment. What’s the mood like on set right now about a possible season 3? The show’s been dominating the timeslot as of late, so that has to be some optimism.
We feel very good. We’re happy that our fans tune in. Personally, I never count my chickens before they hatch. That’s just me. I’m very conservative in how excited I get about anything. We would all be over the moon about a season 3. We’re all so happy being a part of the show.
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We would like to give a very special thanks to Meredith for talking to us about her time on MacGyver!
If you’re interested in everything from our most-recent episode review to other preview pieces, be sure to head over to the link here!
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