EXCLUSIVE Interview: A Class-y Chat With Jordan Renzo (Matteusz)

    2023, the Whoniverse’s 60th anniversary year… and one of the highlights kicking off the celebrations over on Big Finish is the newly-released Class audio. Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince takes us back into that corner of the Whoniverse nearly three years since the last audio. (And over six years since the original TV show!)

    Now, just because it’s dealing with the diary of Charlie Smith doesn’t mean it’s all about Charlie. But what would Charlie be without his love, Matteusz Andrzejewski? (Most of the fandom calls it Marlie. Chatteusz is an option though…) And what better way to dive into this recent release than by having a chat with the man behind Matteusz himself – Jordan Renzo. We talk about the actual diary of Matteusz, unseen footage from a day at AIR Studios and more…

    Jordan Renzo interview

    Jordan Renzo as Matteusz Andrzejewski [Courtesy of BBC Studios]

    The REAL Class Diary…

    Pleasure to speak with you, Jordan. So we’re on – much like this release – a bit of a time travel trip… and funnily enough, going back to the TV show requires mention of a diary. It came up when Volumes 1 & 2 came out in 2018, and again when you did the Instagram Live with Blair in 2020… that in preparation for playing Matteusz, and whilst playing him, you wrote a diary from his perspective. Did that perhaps inspire Blair a little here? And might fans be expecting ‘Secret Diary of a Polish Giraffe’ next? (Tanya’s words, not mine!)

    No worries Jamie, thanks for reaching out. I can’t speak for Blair on his inspiration, though he is an inspiring person. I can tell you I’ve been looking for the diary all over the house. No luck yet sadly! And in regards to a Matteusz Big Finish special*? Absolutely would love that, but it’s the first I’m hearing of it!

    [*Dear Big Finish, you know what I want…]

    Speaking of, people will hate it if I don’t ask… there was a hopeful lead then in 2020 that the diary might have been found. Any update on that for the fans – some of whom are eagerly curious?

    If only I could find the thing… Spent so much time in it, seems such a waste to be lost.

    Class In The Audio Dimension

    And in matters eagerly curious, the constraints of a TV show mean not everything makes the final edit in time. Which brings me to ask: how do you handle that going forwards with the character of Matteusz in audio? Because there’s a situation there where as a performer, you have to – to a degree – decide ‘right, am I playing this scene in X story as though that scene where Charlie and Matteusz were involved before the prom? Am I playing him still aware that Charlie’s told him the royalty on Rhodia was heteronormative, even though that’s not known to many fans?’…

    Great question. We always flesh these things out as a collective when recording. Big Finish is such a safe space for us, we all put our heads together to know exactly where we are in terms of the Marlie story, especially with this last one, as it jumps back and forth to different times. If we get totally lost…? We just ask Blair…

    Moving on, I don’t think I can skip by mentioning that Tell Me You Love Me put you, Greg & Katherine into an interesting position of having to continuously talk as you were taken over by a very particular kind of threat. How on earth do you handle something like that, and in an accent not your own no less?

    That was so much fun! How could it not be? I loved being able to play around. I am always putting on some kind of accent so I loved the challenge. Or maybe I just like having a voice, character to hide behind… not quite sure.

    Jordan & Greg Austin outside the studio, ready to record Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince. [Courtesy of Big Finish]

    Furthering Depth On Audio

    The Soers’ Ditch in Volume 3 then allowed for a bit more character-centric development of the relationship between Charlie & Matteusz… was that quite nice to do – to get to delve more into that ‘between TV episodes’? (And side-thought: have the tie-in novels ever factored into your approach for that?)

    Greg and I were constantly working on the ins and outs of the relationship when we were shooting, so it’s an immense privilege to be able to come back to them. If we had more seasons, this feels like a taste of where it could have gone.

    Of course it’s not on TV, but a lot of people don’t get that opportunity to come back to their favourite characters and get to flush out the between-episode conversations and moments.

    Volume 4 then gave you quite the run. You got to be our dear Matteusz we all know. And a mesmerised Matteusz in Mock. Matteusz without his accent (for a brief spell) in The Creeper. Oh, and finally the far more stern Metaphysical-Matteusz (Met-teusz?) in Queen of Rhodia. What was it like getting to play all those different ‘aspects’, as it were?

    Nicely done with the Metteusz. Like what you did there. Big Finish always surprise me with the scripts. I love how much trust they have and really push the boat out as it were.  Only with the audio format are we able to do as we do. Shooting a TV show is just a different monster entirely, with so many different strings going on and so many storylines to flush out. Big Finish shines a light on Matteusz and allows me to play around, sending him every which way.

    Blair Mowat & Jordan Renzo at AIR Studios during the music recording sessions for Class Series 1. [Photo courtesy of Blair Mowat]

    Other Audio Pursuits

    Along the way, you’ve also made your way into other roles in one of the War Master boxsets. How was that as an experience? Getting to go into a recording with completely new characters, as opposed to continuing one already started?

    Working on the War Master was great! Of course there were nerves initially, not knowing the tone of a completely different story, and just a whole new group of actors, but. Bucket list working with Derek Jacobi? Absolutely. Still star shocked from the experience? 100 percent. I would do it time and time again, and appreciated old Scottie bringing me in.

    Class: The Unseen Air Studios Footage

    Terribly cheeky as I am, I must also ask for the sake of the fandom… you went to see lovely Blair record some of the music for the TV show, and whilst there, you both recorded a little skit. Blair’s mentioned it in passing a few times, and so have you… Is it being kept as the last unseen piece of TV-era Class material, or might it one day see the light?

    Where is this footage?! Blair knows, we have to find it somewhere! I didn’t find it to be a skit, I think Blair just knew how important bucket lists are… conduct at Air Studios? Amazing. I’ll never forget it. He’s a gent for that one. Someone has this video…*

    [*I am ready to don an Indiana Jones hat and go hunting, if need be!]

    The new release’s cover art [Cover Art by Sean Longmore]

    Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince

    Finally, having now had our nice preview of the first 15 minutes*, we can talk about the first meeting of Charlie & Matteusz. Was it tough to approach? As you and Greg have to ‘unwind’ back to an initial point for the characters and their dynamic beyond even what the TV show had. And of course, it plays a nice ‘bookender’ to the later-set scene in Detained where Matteusz comforts him through a panic attack.

    It’s a bit like riding a bike or snowboarding. It’s not tough to approach, but distant I would say initially. You almost feel like you have no idea who these people are, then after a bit of time, we both start to remember the ins and outs, and are off back in it like no time has passed. It was great to flush out how they met. I was always curious how that happened beyond my imagination.

    Anyway, thanks for your questions Jamie, and I hope everyone enjoys listening to this new one as much as we did making it!

    [*At the time – we had only had that early preview and not the full story.]

    Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince is out now from Big Finish. It costs £8.99 as a digital download or £10.99 for CD/Download combo. CDs are a limited run of 1000.

    With many thanks to Jordan Renzo for giving his time for this interview & his agent for helping arrange it.

    We’ll have a review of the story coming soon, but in other Class-y news: we also have an interview with composer-writer Blair Mowat.

    If you’d like to take a trip further back in time in terms of Coal Hill history though, Jamie has also previously interviewed Samuel Anderson… (who played teacher Danny Pink in Series 8)

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    Jamie H. Cowan
    Jamie H. Cowan
    A wildly varied sci-fi fan. When not dragging people down the Time Vortex with his Doctor Who theories, Jamie is often working his way through 'The Flash' comics (he insists they can be sci-fi!) or trying not to dream of the return of cult sci-fi shows.

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