Matt and I have had a few discussions on the topics of understudies, recasting, and simultaneous multiple performers for the Muppets over the years. I have seen him literally close his eyes, grit his teeth, and clinch his fists in reaction to the very way Disney has handled this present situation of recasting. We both know the importance of the duty entrusted to us by the originators of these characters.
As an ally during the production of the recent series, Matt and I found ourselves conferring and agreeing on the many character and story issues along with all the other core performers. We would often meet on our day off to brainstorm solutions to these character related issues. Our ensemble was strongly aligned.
Back in October 2016, Matt and I spoke privately after he and the other core performers had been informed of my termination. Evidently, when they were told, Matt is the one who spoke up and asked, “Well, did you give him an ultimatum?”…They were told ‘no’. As he and I spoke that day, he was stunned and largely without words on the phone.
All of that once again said to me that Matt got it. He understood how crucial it is for these characters not to be unnecessarily recast or multicast, both of which, in essence, derive from the same corporate mentality.
I still love Matt and I believe he already has his assignment. I believe he is the perfect choice to have stepped into the numerous characters of the man he had a relationship with and who chose him – that’s Jerry Nelson.
Matt was truly outstanding as Uncle Deadly, a perfect evolution of that character and, by far, my favorite character on the ABC show. Every time there was a scene between Deadly and Kermit I was gleeful throughout the day. And with good, faithful, character-based scripts, Matt would have continued growing into Floyd, Robin, Lew Zealand, and Crazy Harry. Very exciting for him and for the group.
I have always considered Matt to have so much integrity and commitment to the consistency of the characters. I still regard him that way, but this recast decision will require him to abandon the long list of inherited characters most of the time just as I had to do with Rizzo, Foo Foo, Bean Bunny, and Lips. That’s a big mistake because Jerry’s core characters will be back to being done by stand-ins, or suffer their own recasting yet again, this time without Jerry’s input.
Inside and outside the Muppets, Matt is a stand-up guy (very much like Jerry) that I have been proud to call my brother. I am having trouble understanding his support of the recast, but in trying to empathize with where he finds himself, the best I have come up with is that with my dismissal, some in the core ensemble of performers will have become fiercely protective of the chemistry within the group.
An ‘outsider’ could be seen as a threat to things running smoothly, especially when that outsider is reinterpreting the brand’s lead character. So, ‘keep it in the family’, maybe?…Put in the same position, that’s not what I would have chosen to do. For the sake of the Muppets and the ensemble, if anyone of the other core performers had been dismissed in this manner, I would still be doing everything I could to see this decision reversed.
Still, we don’t need ‘Team Steve’ versus ‘Team Matt’. That not what’s best for the Muppets, for the fans, for Matt, or for me. What needs to occur is insistence upon doing what’s best for the Muppets, themselves, by supporting the diversity that was our ensemble, but with me having been eliminated no one left is in a position to be radically honest and still keep their jobs. It’s out of their hands.
Restoration of our core remains what will ultimately serve all involved. So at two and a half weeks out from the Hollywood Bowl show, I‘ll offer the same thing I did to executives who chose to replace us on other appearances that did not succeed.
I can be up to speed and ready for this show with little more than a day‘s rehearsal. Restoring the integrity of the core team will give this show all the depth and authenticity that is inherent to each of the Muppets, and as offered in the past, I‘ll even do it for free because, in my opinion, keeping the 2016 ensemble whole and intact is by far what is best for the Muppets going forward.