Christopher Eccleston on Matt’s Devotion, That Ferry Scene and Confronting “God”

The actor behind Reverend Matt Jamison discusses his character’s complicated relationship with faith, family and ferry orgies. 

HBO: How has Matt evolved since Season 2?

Christopher Eccleston: His belief system is entirely transformed. Spiritually, he’s made huge leaps.

HBO: Why is he so fascinated with the idea of Kevin Garvey as the Messiah?

Christopher Eccleston: Matt always needs a Messiah. He’s a man of God who is always looking to prove himself right. He’s always after a congregation and self-justification — to the point of madness. Kevin just happens to be the latest hapless victim of Matt’s craziness.

HBO: Why doesn't he share this with Nora?

Christopher Eccleston: He knows what Nora will do. And on some level, he realizes that Nora knows the truth about him. We often find that out about our siblings, don’t we? They’re the ones who really know us. Nora’s the touchstone of truth for Matt. He experienced such a childhood — and she knows the mother and father that shaped him. With her, he’s always felt he knows better because he was thrust into that paternal role. She didn’t necessarily want him to be a father, but he decided it was his job, which can also happen with siblings. 

HBO: What was your reaction when you read the script for “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World?”

Christopher Eccleston: Can you imagine being an actor, playing a character named Matt, and seeing that title? It was pure joy, excitement, gratitude and laughter. Howling, howling laughter. It all made perfect Leftovers-sense to me that Matt would end up dressed as a lion, surrounded by naked people.

HBO: Let’s talk about David Burton. Other than claiming he’s God, why is Matt so infuriated with this scenario?

Christopher Eccleston: The only person who’s allowed to think he’s God in Matt’s world, is Matt. Not David Burton. 

HBO: Do you think Matt’s anger with God/David Burton is affected by Mary leaving and his recently returned cancer?

Christopher Eccleston: Yes, there’s a tremendous amount of unacknowledged anger in Matt throughout his life. He brushes up against mortality — with the loss of his parents in the fire and again, with his cancer — at a very early age. Matt identifies with Job. Job is chosen by Lucifer and God to suffer and, eventually, he questions them. He says, “Who the hell do you think you are?” To which God replies, “No, who the hell do you think you are?” So Matt has a lot of anger and it’s very satisfyingly resolved with his final realization [about David Burton].

HBO: At the very end of the episode, when Matt turns declares, “That was the guy I was telling you about,” why do you look straight at the camera? 

Christopher Eccleston: This is really interesting because apparently Nicole Kassell, who’s one of the greatest directors you will ever meet, claims that it was my idea. I thought it was either in the script or it was Nicole’s or [series co-creator] Damon Lindelof’s idea. But whoever thought of it, I loved it. It’s a perfect Leftovers moment, to stylistically shake things up in such a way.

HBO: Has Matt’s journey changed your own views on faith or devotion?

Christopher Eccleston: Matt has made me more defiant in the face of organized religion and confirmed my love for humanity above the search for a definitive answer. There are no answers, there is just life — and we need to seize it and live it as well as we can, bearing in mind the most important thing is other human beings.

More from Season 3, Episode 5, “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World”:

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