An Interview with Matt Curtin from The Game: The Joys of Dungeons & Dragons

Roll for initiative, laughs, and…a Pug Bear Goblin? Carbon Costume got to chat with Matt Curtin, creator and actor in the upcoming adventure-fantasy comedy, The Game, in an exclusive interview. The Game puts its own spin on a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, highlighting the community and diversity tabletop roleplaying fosters.

About Matt Curtin

Matt Curtin is a celebrated actor, writer and producer. A graduate of UCLA’s Theater program, Matt studied under his mentors Marilyn Fox and Joe Olivieri.

Headshot and Copyright: Bella Saville

With success across entertainment mediums, Curtin has produced and staged two of his plays in Los Angeles: The Matron of Venice, which debuted in 2020 with Method & Madness Theatre Company, and A Story For You, which debuted in 2021 at The Two Roads Theater. Two of his most recent short films include Be Home Soon, which was a finalist in the 2019 Write in Color Challenge, and Hosanna which debuted as a part of Colorbox’s 2021 CBP Film Festival. His past work also includes acting in Only One Get Out Alive, created by Jonathan To. He is acclaimed for his character-driven comedy videos on TikTok, where he has amassed almost 300K followers and nearly 15M likes.

He also works in the audio storytelling space, notably writing and starring in his own fiction podcast, “Lone Stranger,” which is currently available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

The Game

Matt recently completed production on the impressive pilot for The Game, a tabletop role-playing-inspired series that he co-created, co-wrote and starred in. In this Community meets Lord of the Rings adventure-fantasy comedy series, Matt is part of its talented ensemble starring as Brandon/the Game Master. Audiences follow the group as they interact in real life and also as their fantasy counterparts in the supernatural realm of Aldia, which is bolstered by high-end visual effects and production design.

The daring and heartfelt narrative is highlighted by themes of empathy and acceptance. In addition, the series breaks down traditional boundaries of the demographics associated with fantasy, both through inclusive character representation and its diverse creative team. The pilot will premiere in 2022 with the goal of securing funding to complete production on the remaining episodes of season 1.

The Game First Season poster. Copyright: Ion Tong.

When not working on his next project, Matt plays an actual Game Master in real life, harassing his friends into playing Dungeons and Dragons. He currently resides in Los Angeles. With knowledge in both the actor and production side, he is able to effectively communicate with multiple players across film and television stages. His dynamic approach leads him to be able bridge gaps between all creatives.

* Biography & summary paraphrased from Elizabeth Forrest. 

To get things started, what was the inspiration behind The Game? How did it come to fruition?

Matt: “Well, I suppose for me personally, I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since I was a kid. It is one of the first and only methods I had of making friends when I was younger. As the years rolled by, about a year ago today, my fellow collaborators reached out to me and had never heard of Dungeons and Dragons before…I was completely over the moon, and like, I’d love to share my hobby with you. But then as they started learning more about it, they were like ‘This would make a really cool TV show.’ And from that, marrying our love of scripted story-telling with this passion hobby that we had eventually we came up with doing the show itself.”

As a blend of adventure, fantasy, and comedy, what can people expect from the series?

Matt: “People can expect a happy marriage between workplace comedies like Community or Mythic Quest, and the bombastic, slap-happy fantasy that comes from like Willow or early Lord of the Rings. At the table, we have our characters in real life, rolling our dice, quipping across the table, having loud arguments with each other about what to do. Then we cut to the fantasy world, where all the players are in this kind of cosplay outfits.

We have a dark elf in the party, we have Maggie Jorgenson, who plays a character Pug-Bear, because her character in the show (Darcy) really wanted to play a pug, but there is technically no pugs in canon D&D…so her character is essentially a goblin wearing a pug onesie. They’re in the fantasy world figuring out how to open doors, and is that chest going to grow teeth and bite my head off?

The Pug Bear Goblin in action. Character portrayed by Maggie Jorgenson. Copyright: Ion Tong.

Alongside your role as a creator, you play a main character. How is it being in that creative seat and being front of the camera?

Matt: “Well, I wouldn’t call myself a main character. I’m definitely one of the primary characters…the show is an ensemble cast. Because one of the beautiful things about tabletop roleplaying isn’t about the game itself, it’s not about the person playing the game, it’s about everyone coming together at the table, sharing in the experience.

What it’s like is honestly for me personally is like watching all my dreams come true…watching a bunch of my friends sharing this hobby that when I was a kid, I thought was just for dweebs and losers, but I still found joy in. This is my brand of comedy specific to this story. Even on set, most of our cast and crew were already fans of the game, so we would have conversations in between takes about oh, this moment was inspired by this class or this moment I had when I was DM’ing this one time was an inspiration for this conversation. So yeah, it’s me just drinking in this wonderful sense of community that I firmly believe Dungeons and Dragons has.”

That kind of answers my next question of was everybody familiar with the game.

Matt: “My collaborators had not played before having this conversation. Over the course of the development process, they wanted to learn as much as they can. So we had a bunch of home sessions where we actually created character sheets for their characters in the show and they learned how to play them. It was very much like a whiplash effect of Oh, you can literally do anything you want?! I can just stab that guy instead of talking to him? Our Pug-Bear, Maggie Jorgenson, asked that question. And then we had to figure out how that happened. It was a bit of a learning curve for some, but I think a lot of the cast and crew had at least some understanding or had played before.”

That speaks to the mainstream aspect that D&D is kind of heading in. You look at Stranger Things and The Legend of Vox Machina — what is your take on the game you thought that was “for dweebs” becoming more trendy?

Matt: “[laughs] It’s a little bit like Arrested Development in my head, like wow. I find myself taken aback and just — I’m just drinking in the experience, you know. When I left high school and then went into college, I thought no one was ever going to like this dumb thing / I’m the only person in the world who does it. Which is kind of the stigma D&D lived with for a very long time. But it’s like, when you grow a community, when do what D&D does and bring people together, you realize oh, we have so much more commonality than we originally thought.

A great Jeremy Crawford quote — I’m probably gonna paraphrase, but the sense of it is — ‘Dungeons and Dragons is about diversity.’ It’s about bringing people together who are not all the same. Who are all from different walks of life and know different things, and experience different things. It’s about bringing them together and showing them we all have this common love of telling stories and experiencing things together. So it’s that philosophy, and me seeing it out in the real world…it’s like D&D is in its renaissance. I cannot wait to see how much farther it will climb and I can’t wait to be a part of it, really.”

The party prepares for battle! Copyright: Ion Tong.

You’ve got a whole cast of characters, from full body paint to drag to pug onesies. Can you talk about the costume design of this show?

Matt: “The costume design of this show was done by a good friend of mine and a wonderful collaborator, Kaylin Riebli. Many many years ago, back in college, she had never heard of Dungeons and Dragons. When I was talking to her about it, I told her she would personally love this game, because she loves the idea of fantasy dress, fantastical aesthetics, and all of that. So when I told her we were doing this [The Game], I said you the first person I had in mind and would you like to come work with us. And she didn’t even see the first script before saying I’m on board.

The way she went about it in the collaborative process, we talked to her about our thoughts. For instance, ‘This person is a ranger, this is generally what the ranger aesthetic is.’ But we wanted it to look good; we wanted it to balance with that kind of like homespun, homemade feel that Dungeons and Dragons has. So halfway between Lord of the Rings and like, cosplay.

You know, like, we don’t have a 9 million billion dollar budget for special effects. We have what Dungeons & Dragons is in spirit, which is this feel of just a bunch of people crowding around a table and using their imaginations. So that was Kaylin’s approach to the work itself – let’s scrabble this together, sew this together, order this from Amazon, find the simplest homespun version of the wardrobe is. Let’s figure out this drag makeup, what is the simplest yet best looking idea of, like, a dark elf? Let’s get this scrappy looking pug onesie, rough it up a bit, and put it on this character. So to summarize, her approach was marrying style and aesthetic with homespun elements.”

In the vein of cosplay, what’s your opinion on people cosplaying their own D&D characters? Or say people cosplaying D&D in general, such as with Critical Role and The Adventure Zone? How do you think D&D and cosplay work with each other?

Matt: “It’s a wonderful sense to get in character. In the show, we were really really adamant that before we even got to the rehearsal process, that every one of our actors knew what it was like to put on the different clothes, to have the staffs, to have the tight pants and the quiver and the bow across their back. Cosplay has this wonderful sense of getting you into the feeling of the world, immersing yourself further into a made up world. It’s really just drawing on whatever you have.”

Chaos and hilarity ensues in The Game. Copyright: Ion Tong.

Did you have a favorite scene, part, or moment to film or one that you’ve written?

Matt: “Well you’re certainly making me choose between my children [laughs]. For me personally, my favorite moment happens in the pilot. There’s a conversation where everyone has just put on their costumes in the fantasy world. I’ve narrated [the scene] with this beautiful, Tolkien-esque sweeping monologue about the deep woods that they’re in. And the first thing that everyone starts saying is why are we in the woods; why aren’t we in the road or city or anything like that?

And it turns into this mutinous argument where they’re telling me to bring them somewhere else. And I have to yell like this is the easiest pill I will ask you to swallow! You’re just in the woods! It’s based on some lighthearted jabbing conversations I’ve had while DMing for people in the past, where they just question the logic of the universe and we have a good laugh about it.”

Any shoutouts or closing remarks you’d like to give?

Matt: “I would like to personally say by if that some miracle he reads this, the entire cast would like to personally thank an inspiration for us, Brennan Lee Mulligan and Dimension 20. We owe him for planting the seed for this show and everything that he’s doing in Dimension 20. He’s one of the best DMs out there.”

The Game is are currently exploring a few options for streaming. Keep up with them on social media on Tiktok at @thegameseries on @thegame_series on Instagram.

About the Author


Cosplayer, creative writer, cookie connoisseur. Pronouns: she/they.

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