Matt McGorry is an American actor, social activist, and fitness expert, best known for his roles in ‘Netflix’s comedy–drama series ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and ‘ABC's legal drama ‘How to Get Away with Murder.’ Before becoming an overnight favorite with the ladies for playing the lovesick cop ‘John Bennett,’ he worked as a personal trainer and competitive bodybuilder and admittedly trained ‘Victoria's Secret’ models and actors. Later, he also became a contributing writer for men’s lifestyle magazine ‘Men's Journal.’ McGorry is known to be outspoken and persistent about his political views and activism. He has publicly taken on other media personalities to set the record straight on women’s empowerment, gay rights, racism, and inequality.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on April 12, 1986, in Manhattan, New York, young Matt was already performing street magic when he was only about 11. He grew up in the Chelsea area, and according to him, was “raised by a pack of gays.”
He attended the ‘Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School,’ a famous public school of New York, and later attended ‘Emerson College’ in Boston, Massachusetts.
According to McGorry, he was far from athletic and never into sports as a kid. He was always self-conscious about his body. However, in eighth grade, he won a science fair at school and was gifted training sessions with a personal trainer as his prize. He became attached to his trainer and thought of him as an elder brother, as he was not a typical hardcore trainer and more interested in corrective exercises and fitness. In an interview given to the ‘Men’s Journal,’ he explained that he once won a school contest and the prize was a bunch of personal training sessions.
He started powerlifting while in college. He also started focusing on strength exercises once he reached 220 pounds. Bodybuilding was his vehicle to instill personal discipline in him, which, according to the actor, was what had helped his transition into acting later.
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Between 2006 and 2010, McGorry appeared in a few nondescript indie projects and short films. He appeared as ‘Grey Malcolm’ in ‘Thursday’ (2006), as the main protagonist in a telefilm named ‘The Triboro’ (2008), and as ‘Tom’ in ‘Afghan Hound’ (2010).
In 2010, he was cast in the comedy series ‘CollegeHumor Originals.’ He appeared in 12 episodes of the series, between 2010 and 2015. A conversation with a friend during these gigs made him realize that his physique had the potential to make him a future typecast, so after ranking within the top 50 in the nation in three weight classes, he quit bodybuilding and renewed his focus on acting. By then, he had realized he would not be able to pursue both simultaneously.
He made his TV debut in 2011, with ‘ABC’s daytime soap opera ‘One Life to Live.’ This was followed by guest roles in series such as ‘Person of Interest,’ ‘Gossip Girl,’ and ‘Royal Pains.’
In 2013, he appeared as officer ‘Sam Klecko’ in the ‘Emmy’-nominated ‘Sherlock Holmes’ adaptation ‘Elementary.’ However, the highlight of the year was his breakthrough role as corrections officer ‘John Bennett’ in the ‘Netflix’ comedy–drama series ‘Orange Is the New Black.’
He earned another defining role of his career in 2014, when he was cast as a series regular in Shonda Rhimes's legal drama ‘How to Get Away with Murder.’ Later that year, he was cast in major roles in the indie romantic drama ‘How He Fell in Love’ (2015) and the horror–thriller ‘Ratter’ (2015).
While shooting for his successful TV series, he was also seen in supporting roles in comedies such as ‘Loserville’ (2016) and ‘Step Sisters’ (2018). He also appeared in a couple of indie shorts.
He has an upcoming indie drama named ‘Uncorked’ lined up for a 2019 release.
McGorry is an outspoken feminist, a pro-LGBTQ activist, and a proponent of equality and minority rights, very much in line with the themes presented on his popular ‘Netflix’ show.
He became a marked social activist since his March 2015 ‘Facebook’ post, through which he promoted Emma Watson's ‘#HeForShe’ and ‘Facebook’ COO Sheryl Sandberg's ‘#LeanInTogether’ campaigns, simultaneously crediting Sandberg's book ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’ for changing his perspective on gender equality.
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He has used every platform at his disposal, particularly social media, to champion his cause of choice, besides featuring in and contributing to popular blogs. His piece on ‘Huffington Post’ titled ‘To Anyone Who Thinks the Wage Gap Is a Myth,’ on April 16, 2015, is an instance of this.
In a ‘Facebook’ post on July 8, 2015, McGorry took a page from the book of women who were photoshopping male nipples over their own in support of the ‘#FreeTheNipple’ campaign. He photoshopped an old photo of himself with nipples taken from banned ‘Instagram’ posts by Miley Cyrus and Chrissy Teigen.
In January 2016, he took on media personality Piers Morgan on ‘Twitter’ for his article that compared talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres’s behavior at an awards function to cricketer Chris Gayle’s much-maligned flirting with a female reporter, to highlight a supposed double-standard in the discourse on sexism. Three months later, he confronted Morgan again for calling popstar Beyoncé’s latest work “race-fueled” and more openly political just for the sake of selling more albums.
McGorry has been criticized by both men and women. People allege that his brand of activism is self-promotional, gratuitous, and counter-productive. This public mood was further aggravated when he reportedly blocked some of his critics on social media.
He received criticism from multiple quarters for attracting a disproportionate amount of attention on International Women’s Day in 2016, for a T-shirt selling campaign he did for ‘NARAL.’ A scathing piece by radical queer feminist Harry Lewis, titled ‘Matt McGorry and the #WokeBae Complex,’ complained about him “being worshipped as a hero...just for showing up.”
In an interview to Jason Rosario for ‘Yahoo!’s ‘Dear Men,’ in April 2019, he clarified that he did not intend to represent feminism or ‘Black Lives Matter’ or preach women and racial minorities about their own movements but only aspired to be an ally by promoting “white anti-racism” and by advocating feminism among men.
At 9 or 10, he was the youngest member of the ‘New York International Brotherhood of Magicians,’ where he was surrounded by “a bunch of 60-year-old Jewish men.”
The actor once remarked that he was a true native New Yorker and never bothered to learn how to drive.
After ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ McGorry became a bona fide heart-throb, with a ‘BuzzFeed’ tribute with over 200,000 views and proposals from scores of female fans on ‘Twitter.’