Matt Cedeño’s unfailing down-to-earth inner qualities have always brought an additional shine to his disarmingly stunning looks, and it’s something People Magazine recognized – twice. In 2002, People Magazine voted Matt Cedeño as one of The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World. Then in 2004, People En Espanol Magazine placed him as one of the 25 Hottest Latin Bachelors in the World. Washington State-born Matt Cedeño is of Cuban-Irish/English descent.
He has always been active in sports and had an aspiring career in pro football. A debilitating knee injury, however, put an end to that particular career direction. Renewed inspiration came when he was approached on his college campus by an acting and modeling manager. Before the school semester ended, he was off to Italy on a modeling assignment for Versace. Cedeño continued to manage academics and a modeling career in Milan, Spain, New York, and Los Angeles. One year after moving to Los Angeles, he landed a strong theatrical agent and studied with some of the industry’s most respected acting coaches.
Cedeño got his start as (Brandon Walker) on the long-running NBC daytime soap opera, Days of Our Lives where he was nominated for an ALMA award as Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama. He was the only actor from NBC Daytime to be nominated each consecutive year. Soon after, Cedeño went on to shine in several notable prime-time hit series such as Desperate Housewives, Devious Maids, Ambitions, Z Nation, and Power just to name a few.
Presently, Cedeño stars on BET, Tyler Perry’s prime-time series Ruthless. Matt and his wife Erica are the Co-Founders and CEOs of Body Language Sportswear. It is a very unique line of women’s sportswear that has gained notable attention. Hailing from a background and passion in entertainment, health, and fitness, Matt has lent his entrepreneurial spirit and business development expertise to the growth and innovation of the expanding Body Language Sportswear.
Cedeño, his wife, and two children reside in Los Angeles, CA. We Empower Magazine got an exclusive interview with Matt Cedeño. We are completely honored to recognize and spotlight Matt as Actor of Our Generation.
Tammy Reese: Matt you are poised to be one of the greatest actors of our generation. We’re honored to have you with us today and are huge fans. Not only are you an actor, but you also have tons of experience in the modeling industry as well. What got you into entertainment in the first place?
Matt Cedeño: I’m from Washington State originally, that’s where I was born. It was modeling that originally got me into it strangely enough, and not by choice. What ended up happening was, I got injured in sports, playing football, and got my knee blown out. So I decided to stay home and go to community college instead of a University where I had some scholarship offers.
I had a buddy of mine who was actually into modeling and wanted to do that sort of thing. Coincidentally, we happened to be on the streets of Seattle and this dude approached me and he was like, “did you ever think about modeling?” I hadn’t personally even though my buddy aspired to be. I entertained it and I went with him to a modeling agency.
They had taken some polaroids and sent them to Bruce Weber, who was shooting Versace. This was in the 90s. Off of my little polaroids, I ended up booking it. I was in college at the time so that night I went home to tell my dad that they booked me for this designer called Versace. In my world, we didn’t know who that was. The next day I was getting rushed a passport and flying to Italy.
Tammy Reese: What do you enjoy most about being an actor?
Matt Cedeño: The modeling part of it was very short-lived. I didn’t enjoy the modeling world. That was a cool job, it was surreal but I felt a little empty. I was always kind of shy. I grew up camera shy, I didn’t like taking pictures. As a model, I felt very powerless, helpless, and limited as to what I could do to really improve as a model other than finding my angles. I’ve always felt helpless giving my modeling book to a designer. They would just look at my pictures and be like “no thanks,” because it was all based on look.
With acting, it felt a little bit more result-oriented the more that you’re able to invest into it, actually learn about something, and develop tools that can help separate you from somebody else. You can allow your uniqueness to shine through. That is what helps you get jobs. There’s not a lot of control with being an actor still in this business, but at least that was more of a semblance of control than just being the look.
To answer your question about what do I like most about being an actor is definitely not the business part of it. It’s the actual storytelling of it. I enjoy it when you’re in a scene, even though it’s scripted, and you’re with somebody that’s present and alive in the scene. That kind of unexpectedness and knowingness of what could happen, and things that come up that aren’t necessarily scripted. Also, I enjoy those organic moments or the most gratifying moments of being an actor like surprising yourself and being surprised by the other person and just being alive telling the stories. That is the most rewarding part.
Tammy Reese: Who are some actors you’ve worked with that inspire you to be better?
Matt Cedeño: The soap Days of Our Lives is where I started out but prior to doing the soap, at around age 21, I played a young Jimmy Smits. He had a way about him and had this huge presence. He was very calming, rounded, and real. He didn’t say anything specific, but it was the way that he made me feel being a brand new person in the industry. He had a very human aspect to him, that was genuine and that I appreciated in somebody that had so much success. The way that he held himself was something that has always stuck with me, that was kind of one of my first impressions of somebody who was well known in the industry.
On the daytime soap, it was Renée Jones. She had a crap ton of experience and she was always trying to guide and give these little nuggets of wisdom that have also stayed with me. She taught me how to access emotions, she taught me about journaling, and growth, balance, and groundedness which helped a lot. On my journey throughout, every project that I’ve been on has somebody that I grow from because everybody’s unique and different.
Tammy Reese: What are some memorable moments in your career that you’re extremely proud of?
Matt Cedeño: It was hard for me leaving the soap opera, originally. My contract expired, they had not renewed it and I felt shocked. Some of those actors are on there for 20, 30, or 40 years. I had gotten to a place where I was very comfortable in that world, so that was unexpected and a wake-up call for me that you just can’t ever get complacent.
That ignited me and the first project that I got after that was a movie. It was a television movie with Laura Prepon from That ’70s Show. I felt super proud to have broken out of the soap mold, to be flying on a plane to Mexico, and shooting as the lead in the movie with her. That was a defining moment that there was life after soaps, and that I could do it.
Most of the breakthroughs that I’m most proud of happened on Ruthless. Tyler Perry has formed me as an actor in so many different ways that I can’t even begin to explain. Some of the things I’ve been able to hold account and achieve have been playing the character of The Highest.
Tammy Reese: Yes Matt! Hands down! We agree and are very proud of all of your work, especially the role of The Highest on Tyler Perry’s hit TV show “Ruthless.” You also have played the role of Cristobal on the Starz hit TV show “Power.” Which role has been more challenging for you? Cristobal or The Highest?
Matt Cedeño: Power was a little bit bittersweet for me. The writer and creator Courtney is wonderful. She saw something in me that most hadn’t. She broke me out of that mold of being a leading hero type to somebody that was a bit darker. I didn’t actually audition for the role. I auditioned for the role of police chief. The storyline of Cristobal didn’t take the arc of how I had originally discussed with Courtney. So I felt like I didn’t get to explore all sides of Cristobal. I didn’t have the opportunity to finish out his storyline.
Ruthless was definitely more of a challenge because Tyler has written hardship and emotion for this guy (The Highest) who experiences extreme joy, or high after high from both synthetic drugs to being this cult leader that leads his people, and gives prophecies. Also, he experiences the super lows from his drug addiction and abuse as a child. All of that manifests itself through the eyes of The Highest.
It’s really intense, and the way in which Tyler shoots is at an exceptionally fast pace. How we shoot an entire season would have taken Power, literally nine to ten months to shoot. We shoot Ruthless in two to three weeks. Most people don’t realize that 99% of what you’re seeing on Ruthless is just one take. I’m super proud of the second half of season two. We’re currently on a mid-season break and we’ve shot season three. Everyone will have to wait and see what happens.
Tammy Reese: How mind-blowing for the show to be so on point with that limited amount of time. I commend you and the entire cast and crew for their hard work and professionalism. The show is absolutely phenomenal.
How do you balance your mental health, your self-care, being a dad, and other pressures of the industry?
Matt Cedeño: I think it’s a lot of compartmentalization. I feel very fortunate that most of my work is done from home in terms of prep work and studying. With COVID, more of the auditions are done from home. I’m very thankful and lucky to be able to be here, at least present most of the time with my kids. I do have to leave for filming but I compartmentalize. The work is the work. When I’m getting into character, I’m one thing, and when I’m Daddy, I’m something else.
Both of my kids are at an age where they’re a lot. One is 3 and one is 7. They have a lot of their own needs and they require a certain investment as well, emotionally and timewise. I always want to be there for them. So it’s tough, and some days are super challenging but you got to really work for it and go with the flow.
Tammy Reese: You and your beautiful wife have a business together, how did that come about?
Matt Cedeño: That was shortly after the soap. An actor friend of mine who has a wife that was from Brazil started this activewear line. They were in need of partnership. We’ve been in business since 2008.
It’s similar to the acting industry where there’s a lot of ups and downs. You almost breakthrough, you get an account that’s really big that you were stoked about and then COVID hit last year. It’s a challenge for our business model because we relied on retailers and retailers closed doors, but we’re trying to emerge on the other side.
Tammy Reese: What are some quotes that you live by?
Matt Cedeño: Don’t let the fear of striking out, keep you out of the game. Just do it because you never know. If you don’t go up to bat, you’re going to always be wondering. If you strike out, you can learn from that and grow. That applies in so many aspects of life.
Tammy Reese: What is the best advice you ever got as an actor?
Matt Cedeño: The best advice I ever got as an actor was to work hard and keep showing up then the odds will start to tilt in your favor.
Tammy Reese: What else can we be on the lookout for from you?
Matt Cedeño: I started recurring on another TV show on Apple TV called Truth Be Told with Octavia Spencer. I started on season two in December. I’m looking forward to season three and seeing if the character develops even further. I shot three episodes so far, so look out for that.
Tammy Reese: What do you think anyone should consider before entering the entertainment industry as an actor?
Matt Cedeño: You have to assess how much you love it and what you’re willing to sacrifice as a result of it. Most likely you’ll have some hungry days, where there’s just no guarantee in it. There’s no guarantee with anything in life but the acting business is extremely competitive and there’s a lot of elements that need to come together in order to make it. Define what your level of making it is, and what you’re okay with.
Tammy Reese: What do you want your legacy to be?
Matt Cedeño: My world right now which is the most important is my family, my children. When I leave, I want them to have thoughts of what would dad do? How would dad handle these situations? I’m hoping that I could pass on to them to be present in the moment and to really appreciate everything around them, starting with nature.
We’re all blessed with nature and all things that have been created. Sometimes people don’t stop to smell the flowers to really appreciate the air that we breathe, and the things that we have. That trickles down to relationships. Really appreciate the relationships that you have and the family that you have. Also, be giving and selfless. I’m hoping to pass on most of the qualities that they have seen in me, to work hard, but still be present. If I can pass that on to them, I think they’ll be okay.
Tammy Reese: That’s one of the best responses I’ve heard in a long time. I can tell that you’re very selfless and humble with all the blessings that you have. We honor, salute you and respect you. We will continue rooting for you. Thank you so much for this interview today.
Matt Cedeño: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure getting to know you. I appreciate it.
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Multimedia Creative and Personality Tammy Reese is an award-winning Writer and Journalist. Writing and Directing short films on social issues to spread awareness through the arts gained Tammy the Makers: Women Who Make America Award honor on International Women's Day 2019. Tammy currently serves on the Communications Committee for New York Women In Film and Television. She is also the Founder and Owner of Visionary Minds Public Relations and Media.