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Matty Cardarople Discusses His Roles On Reservation Dogs And Stranger Things - Exclusive Interview

"Reservation Dogs," the newest critical darling from FX on Hulu, opens with a scene showing the lead quartet of teenagers stealing a chip van. They take it to a scrap yard to make some quick cash — and who should greet them at their arrival but Matty Cardarople?

He's a familiar face to anyone with a television set. A short list of his credits includes "Scrubs," "Ray Donovan," "New Girl," and "A Series of Unfortunate Events." Now, he's making waves on "Reservation Dogs" as Ansel. While the show has broken barriers for its predominantly Indigenous cast, there are other supporting characters to help fill in the backdrop, which includes a community of people in a junkyard the protagonists run into whenever they have some shady business to take care of.

Matty Cardarople sat for an exclusive interview with Looper and spoke about being part of such an important series and what the future might hold for his character. He also spoke about what it was like working with Taika Waititi. Between "Reservation Dogs" and "What We Do in the Shadows," Waititi's quickly becoming just as prolific on television as he is in film.

On working with Taika Waititi

What was it about "Reservation Dogs" that drew you to the show?

Well, a big part of it was that it's mainly a native cast, and being involved with anything Taika Waititi does or Sterlin Harjo. That was just a big attraction to the project because we don't see that enough and it's important. They kind of break through stereotypes, which I think is really good and very, very much needed, in the need of community. So it was awesome being a part of that. It's such an honor to be part of the show, ya know?

Absolutely. Did you get a chance to work with Taika Waititi at all?

I did on the pilot. Yes. He was actually in New Zealand filming "Thor" and he was working on ["Reservation Dogs"] through Skype or one of those services. Whatever.


One of those services, but yeah. It was really cool to work with him. He and Sterlin kind of worked as a team and it was cool he was able to stay involved through the internet. Amazing what you can do with technology these days.

As we've learned the last year, we just have to go remote with everything.

Yeah. Oh yeah. Taika is just ... He's such a great collaborator and performer. I love Taika. He's great.

I don't suppose there's any chance we'll see you in "Thor: Love And Thunder," is there?

I hope so. I think they might have to reshoot the movie, but no, I'm not in "Thor." That'd be very cool.

How Ansel differs from his other characters

In a previous interview, you said you were "born to play the clerk role." How does it feel going from a clerk to a meth head?

It feels great. I don't know if it's like ... Maybe it's implied, I don't think there's anything that mentions that they're meth heads, but I see that vibe 'cause they work at a junkyard but I would say he's more ... Ansel in "Reservation Dogs" is more intense than the other characters I play. I would say that he has a little more gruff to him than the normal character that I play, but it's cool to play different characters. It was really fun playing him because he kind of had like a Napoleon Dynamite-type vibe to him a little bit, with his moves and actions and stuff like that. Like I do a lot of funny stuff with a pool cue in the pilot episode, which was really fun. A lot of that stuff was improvised.

Oh, that's great. Was there a lot of improvisation going on during filming?

Yeah. I always love to fill that dead air with things that are just like "I feel like this part needs something" and you need to like verbalize it with something. So, for example, in "Reservation Dogs," they pull up in the chip truck and I have the pool cue and I had the idea of like, "Oh, I'm going to stop them with the pool cue."

I'm like, "Halt" or something and I just thought that was a great way to like bring you into the scene. And also there was the joke in that show in that scene where I had the cue, and I'm like, "It's your cue? Get it?" And that was all improvised. I can't do it justice again right now, but yeah. It was such a fun thing to get to play and kind of make it your own. I love ... It's one of my favorite things about performing, giving your own spin on it so it feels more real and authentic.

Definitely. Do you have a favorite scene you've filmed on the show so far?

I think that scene was really fun. When the kids arrive in the chip truck, that was a really fun, fun time and the kids are so talented, such amazing performers. It's great. I mean, they're not even kids. I see them as, like, young adults doing their thing, and they're crushing it and I love them. They're great. They're really great.

It's such a great way to open the series just with a big heist and then kind of going into this unknown territory for them.

Yeah, and I film another scene. I don't want to give any spoilers. It's in Episode 6, but I don't want to spoil it.

Learning about Indigenous culture

What did you learn about Indigenous culture through being a part of "Reservation Dogs?"

Well, they're so humble and they just have such a great family vibe and they treat you like family, which I think is such an incredible thing. And actually, they don't do this on normal sets, but something that really kind of burns in my brain is that when we shot the pilot, they had someone come down and say a prayer for our shoot and for the grounds where we were filming and just kind of set it off and I thought that was such an incredible thing that they have such respect for the land.

I mean, I knew that growing up, but even more so seeing it in person was such an amazing experience. So yes. Things like that and also I've learned a lot about stuff that's going on. A lot of problems that have been going on in their culture, like a lot of native women disappearing and being murdered. It's terrible. So I've become aware of that and tried to raise some more awareness with that, because it's such an awful thing.

So it's such an honor, and I'm very humbled that I get to be a part of the show 'cause it breaks through stereotypes. It's funny. It's heartwarming. It's just like real and authentic, and it's such a cool thing to be a part of. It's like the best thing to be a part of.

You can learn more about the plight of Indigenous women by visiting Native Womens Wilderness, which seeks to make the statistics of abuse and murder within native communities more transparent.

His future on Stranger Things

The show is fantastic and I could really see it going on for a while. Are there any directions you hope to see your character go in if it goes on for hopefully four, five, six, seven more seasons?

Well, I love working with Kirk Fox. I mean, he's amazing. Just as like a duo. He's such a funny guy and just to be able to work with him, and I'd love to do more scenes with the kids 'cause they're so talented. It's just great to work with fresh ideas, fresh brains. It's just ... it's fun, and I hope to get to work with them more and more and Sterlin and Taika, just working with everyone, to be honest. It's just such a joy.

You play the video store employee in the "Stranger Things" Season 3 finale.


Anything you can tell us about your role going into Season 4 now that Steve and Robin work with you, if anything?

Yeah. I can't say anything about that, actually. I'm sorry.

Maybe if we like turn this off, then I can tell you, but no. If I say anything, the Hawkins Lab people will come after me or the Hollywood NDA people will track me down. They'll knock on my door right now and take me away.

Yeah. The Hollywood Demogorgon.

No, but I can't. Seriously. I can't tell you.

New episodes of "Reservation Dogs" air every Monday exclusively on FX on Hulu.