The whole country knows David Matásek as a theatre and film actor. His unforgettable role as Kendy in Jak svět přichází o básníky (How the World Loses its poets) has accompanied him throughout his life. At the moment, however, the viewers remember him as Commissioner Michal Bříza from the Prima TV series Polda (Cop). In an interview for LP-Life.com, David talked not only about acting but, naturally, also about the coronavirus era, which robbed him of a lot of work opportunities. We also touched on the topic of motorcycles and, of course, his family, because thanks to his four marriages, the actor’s family is really big.
How do you perceive the covid year we’ve been through?
At first, I was scared, of course, nobody knew anything. There was a lot of alarming news, the children were scared too, and it didn’t feel right telling them that everything was fine. So we interrupted the flow of fake news and warning messages a bit and left for our weekend house. Everyone, even colleagues in the theatre, agreed that there was no point in crying. We weren’t in the middle of a war, we were doing quite well at the National Theater, they would regularly send us a basic salary, so what? We wanted to get something good out of it at least, read a book, take time to think about ourselves. It's weird, but I've never had such a long professional break.
What books did you read?
I read the books I had to, because I threw myself into recording audiobooks, and then the ones I didn't have to. Especially non-fiction, everything about fake news and trolls, there are a lot of interesting books about it. Also one engaging, or rather a drastic book. I had no idea that Witold Pilecki, an officer in the Polish army, got himself deliberately locked up in Auschwitz to find out the truth in the rumours about inhumane conditions in the concentration camps. He sacrificed himself, went there and sent messages to England in complicated ways. So that’s what I read.
A lot of actors and artists moved to other professions, didn't you think of doing that too?
I experienced that in 1990, a lot of people left theatres, opened pubs or started doing something else. Most of them humbly returned a while later, because they found out that they probably didn't have what it takes to do it, and that theatre might actually have a deeper meaning for them.
So wouldn't you think of it?
Of course, if it still didn’t look like we would be able to return to work and I didn't have side projects and filming now and then, I’d have no choice but try. I’d have to support my family somehow. I could go to work, I have no problem with that.
Have you ever done anything else than the work of an actor?
Yes, my mom didn't want me to be a greenhouse flower, so she always set up a part-time job for me during the holidays. Sometimes I was a postal delivery guy. I also worked at a sawmill, in a factory where Petrof pianos were made, because we lived in Hradec Králové. They leave the boards out to dry on woodpiles there - walls of planks - and put, like, roofs on them. I was hammering those together for a month. The payment was a joke, and it was incredibly harsh.
I was just about to say that you must be manually skilled...
No, no, not at all. I'm strong and determined, I enjoy big projects such as trees, rocks, all kinds of big things. But when it comes to cloves, screws, water, electricity, gas, I'm totally scared.
Let’s hope that the restrictions will be lifted then, even when it comes to culture. Where can people see you first?
Probably in the theatre. In the National Theatre, we’ll start reprising in September in a completely new way, which our boss pushed through. Part of the ensemble kept asking for it, we really wished for it to happen, because the dramatic creation and staging of new modern plays require a lot of concentration and a lot of attention. It's very demanding, I don't just mean the acting itself, but also technically. So we insisted that we no longer play our repertoire in the old way, when one play was performed on Tuesday, another on Wednesday, and we’d return to Tuesday’s play in a fortnight. It simply doesn't work. So we're going to play in blocks, always take one production, dust it off, put some time into it, and then perform it six times. The spectators will be aware of it, they will know that we’ll only be playing it this week and then perhaps in three months, so they should go and see it while they can.
And what do you plan to do with your family that has not been possible lately?
I hope we’ll be able to go to Norway. We rented a caravan, we already went to Sweden in one and it was very nice. It has the advantage that you can stop wherever you wants, take a look at a town that interests you, and you’re your own master, you can take as much time as you want. Scandinavia is very pleasant when travelling like this, there are great people there. We also have friends in Sweden, so in case of emergency, there is someone we can reach out to.
Do you catch fish?
How old is your youngest son?
He will be five in October.
I was wondering if he had a thing for fishing and if you were doing that together.
He has a thing for everything. He is now a collector. I noticed that when returning from walks and trips, us parents are basically sherpas while he collects samples of everything. Bird skeletons, rotting wood and other nasty things. He passes it on to us to hold it for him and walks on.
That's what small children do.
I know, girls do it, but boys usually collect sticks or don't pay attention to nature at all. But he is terribly inquisitive, and it also seems to me that he’s not a typical big-city kid. We often go to our weekend house, we spend a lot of time there, he is completely crazy about animals.
Do you think that it’s already possible to guess what he’ll be doing one day?
Definitely not. I'd say even my 30-year-old daughter isn't quite decided yet. Lately, I was also wondering if this is what I should have been doing all my life, if it wasn’t a time for a change. But it’s too late.
You have four children, the age differences are considerable. What was fatherhood like for you with your first, eldest daughter, and what’s it like now with a son who was born in your fifties?
It was a whole different millennium, and the demands on parents and children were completely different as well. I was an ambitious parent, of course. You have your first daughter, she’s very talented, does well at everything, and you start dreaming big dreams. It's nonsense. A parent is just a service organization that’s responsible for making sure that the child survives until he or she is old enough to stand on their own two feet, financially and ideologically, whereupon they will arrange their life the way they see fit. But the idea of turning your child an excellent hockey player, tennis player or pianist is nonsense. Parents should realize that as soon as possible. Of course, you can give them a little push in a certain direction, when you come from a family of surgeons or have an established company that produces footwear, it’s natural you don't want it to fall into someone else's hands. But I wouldn't really like it if my children went into theatre, it’s not what I want. I don't really believe in dynasties of actors. You can’t avoid being compared all the time.
It’s also said that the children of famous people don’t have it easy. Were your children affected by having a famous father? When people ask for a photo or an autograph on the street, for example?
I'm not that famous.
How so? You have so many titles on CSFD (Czech-Slovak movie database) that it’s impossible to count them.
That doesn’t mean anything. People may know my name, but not famous. Of course, for example around Christmas, when they broadcast the Three Brothers or Poets, I always immediately notice it. People start reacting. The older generation remembers me, but Maruška's classmates don’t know me, or only superficially. Because they don't watch TV, they have their own stuff to watch, such as Netflix.
I find that surprising, considering the length of your acting career, I would expect you to be famous. After all, even the series Polda has been running for quite some time.
Young people don’t watch Polda, they’re not even the target group.
They watch the soap opera Ordinace v Růžové Zahradě, so why not try Polda?
They watch it because it’s bizarre. My kids, for example, love Police in Action, they can even quote it. They dig all the awkward moments, it's their guilty pleasure. Or Come Dine With me, Wife Swap... they love that. They see it as a trip in the ZOO, they get to explore a different social bubble. They’re crazy about it. I always ask them if they’re serious.
When I asked you in Fast Confession, whether you’d like to be a cop or a pilot, you said a pilot. Why? You also said you’d experienced your biggest fear on the plane.
Maybe because I'd like to overcome it. I would like to be able to fly. Not as a pilot, but as a bird. I’d enjoy that. What bothers me is the mediation through technology. I get awfully scared on the plane, my family could tell you what kind of passenger I am. It happened sometime around September 11th, I probably internalized it somehow. My kids, for example, like to watch Air Crash Investigations, but for me, it’s absolutely out of the question. The more I know about flying, the more I feel anxious about it. When I fly alone for work purposes, it’s less bad, you get a little drunk and you don’t mind all that much. But with my kids, I keep asking myself why we didn't leave at least one on the ground so that at least one would survive.
Do you always travel together like this, take all your children?
And all your ex-wives?
Not quite. But sometimes we meet up with the girls, too, of course. Before Christmas, for example.
You are already a grandfather. What is this role like for you?
That's something else, it's a borrowed child. The problem is that uncle Antonín is only two years older than my granddaughter, so there wasn’t a large enough gap for me to finally look forward to another baby in the family after a long time. One infant is still wet and another has already been born. That's probably a bit of my deficit as a grandfather.
Do you feel like a grandfather?
Why not? I have many younger colleagues who are already grandfathers. Of course, I’m probably not enjoying it as much as I should. My parents were also very active as grandparents, it wasn’t easy with them. A grandma to babysit? No way! "Sorry, we don't have time." And I'm probably a little like that. But she did sleep here a few times with us and we do babysit every now and then.
Will Polda get another season?
Yes, we’ve already started shooting.
95 dní natáčení. Nevím, četl jsem zatím jenom pár scénářů. Už jsme vyčerpali německou předlohu, takže teď už to jsou ryze české díly. Ale je vidět, že scénáristé už to mají nakoukané a už je to pěkně usazené, teď to my musíme ztělesnit. Já se na to těším, hlavně na tu partu. Je to už čtvrtá sezóna, to je neskutečné. To jsme tedy tenkrát vůbec netušili.
What’s in store for you? What can you share?
95 days of filming. I don't know much yet, I've only read a few scenes so far. We’ve already run out of the German material, so now the next episodes will be purely Czech. But one can tell that the screenwriters already have it in their blood and it has settled down nicely, now we have to give it life. I'm looking forward to it, especially to the people there. It's the fourth season already - unbelievable! We’d had no idea the show would make it this far.
What did your role in Polda teach you, what did you have to overcome? I know actors learn with each role.
Yes, that’s the good thing about that profession that you don't get stuck in one place, because you have to keep learning. Not just your lines.
So you had to learn how to shoot?
I've done all this before, there's not that much to learn. They won't let us do anything too crazy. I'm grateful for it, it’s a way to let out some steam. One can go wild, get praised for it and receive a wage.
So your job is your hobby?
Basically yes, because otherwise, I wouldn't want to do it. I try to explain this to my children, that it’s important for them to like every job they do in life. Otherwise, it's absolute torture to do something you don’t enjoy. I can't imagine that. We may have trouble with learning our lines at theatre, or we may not click well in our team, and of course, there are days when things are going sideways. But there are actually people whose every workday looks like this - I can't imagine that. They hate their job, yet they go there. I think I’d shoot myself.
Do you know anyone like that?
I can see a lot of people complaining these days. Even though it’s only in their hands, nobody’s forced into anything in this day and age, we are free to do what we please.
It feels to me like you're very sad.
That’s not true.
I know that actors are often rather introverted in their private lives, even though they act in comedies. What do you think about when you are alone?
All kinds of stupid stuff. We never grow up. I have a very vivid imagination, so I keep thinking about the what-ifs. I love planning, and covid changed it all. I'm able to plan a year in advance when we're looking forward to something. For example, I was planning a trip with my wife to Namibia. I had a beautiful round trip in mind, I bought some books, I even got advice from people who had already been there and I used it to devise my own plan. A wonderful journey to the Okavango River and back through the national parks - simply amazing. And then it all blew up. They returned us the money for our plane tickets, so it actually turned out the best it could have.
I’m sure you’ll get to go as soon as possible once the Covid passports are available. You said you’ve already had your first dose.
My wife is younger, God knows when she’ll be eligible for the vaccine.
Isn't your wife a fashion blogger?
She doesn't do it anymore.
What about you and fashion? Does she tell you what to wear, does she shop for you?
Not really, but of course sometimes she praises me and sometimes not. She doesn’t do contemporary fashion, she’s always been into vintage fashion. Now she has a project I’m really excited about. She is from Haná, so she’s working on a Haná costume. But an original one; she never buys machine lace from a fabric store. She bought a few books, visited older locals who had been dedicated to it all their lives, talked them into sharing the cuts with her and so on. The fabric may not be cut, for example, because you’d waste too much of it. You need to tear it up and put it back together.
On what occasion will she wear it?
I can vividly imagine that she’ll be wearing it normally in Prague. She’s pretty crazy when it comes to that. (laughter)
How do you keep fit to handle not only the role in the series, but also on stage? How can you pull through it all?
You can’t half-ass it. Acting sucks out a lot of energy. Even if your role isn’t big, you go there and have to prepare mentally, you get a little anxious, there are people around. All of that eats calories, not to mention when it’s a big role. You really have to put a lot of work into it. And suddenly, during the covid, we started having dinners, even though I don't normally eat dinner. We’d sit at home, talk, open a bottle of wine, have some cheese. And suddenly, I was six heavier, and my physique was worse overall. We said enough, my wife started running. I don't really like running, I’m not even good at it anymore, I don't think it's the healthiest kind of sport. So I started walking a lot and so I lost those kilos. In addition, they closed my yoga studio in the fall.
That's right, you like hot yoga. I admire that, I can’t take the heat.
I don't mind the heat. They closed everything I used to do, sauna, hot yoga, everything. So I walk a lot now.
Are you happy?
I'm very happy.
Is there anything else you would do differently to be even happier?
I would like to travel more, but that’s not an option now. I still have plans for what I would like to see in this life with my wife and children. Travel across Mongolia, for example, I really like that country. Canada, the United States. But I want to travel it through and through, not just do a 14-day tour of the national park. I want to see everything and experience something there.
I am sure that soon everything will return to normal and we will be able to travel freely again. David, thank you very much for the interview.