If there’s one thing viewers have learned about the Lawson family during This Life’s first season is that they sure know how to keep a secret. Each sibling of the family at the center of the CBC drama has a secret that they are keeping from the others, and this week oldest brother Matthew’s (Rick Roberts) was finally revealed to the audience as he visited the son he’s kept hidden. Despite having what seems to be a strong relationship with wife Nicole (Marianne Farley), Matthew has been sneaking around behind her back and now we know why.
In order to get more details about Matthew’s big secret and what he plans to do over the course of This Life’s final four episodes this season, The TV Junkies spoke with Roberts. The veteran Canadian television and stage actor shed some light on Matthew’s intentions, what he’ll do next and what may happen if knowledge of his son ever does come out.
The TV Junkies: So we finally learned what Matthew has been hiding, why is it so important to him to all of the sudden be involved in his son’s life?
Rick Roberts: I think it’s to do with what’s going on with Natalie (Torri Higginson) and not only the fact that the father is missing from her kids’ lives and seeing the effect it’s had on them, but realizing he’s been a hypocrite about that. He had created a nice, safe spot to not be involved in his son’s life and he’d probably understands their father’s side of the story.
Also when someone close to you is dying you start to reflect on your life and what you’ve done and how you can make things better. He’s really put himself in a horrible, horrible spot with this thing where he’s been lying. But I love what they’ve done with the structuring of that story is that I can really understand that it’s some bad thing you did many years ago, but perpetuating it through these lies makes it so much worse.
TTVJ: Julian did refer to him as “Uncle Matthew,” so what’s been his relationship with the boy up to this point?
RR: Like an uncle, or a friend of the mother that he half measures right now. He’s been supporting them, sending money, occasional visits and phone calls, but as a friend of the family and not a father.
TTVJ: This did come as a surprise because Matthew’s relationship with his wife Nicole seems to be very strong in a lot of ways. Did they have problems in the past and what led to this indiscretion?
RR: It was all around trying to get pregnant and adopting a child and the stresses around that. What I also like about the writing though is that it’s something that happens and if he had said at the time, ‘Hey, this happened and I was unfaithful,’ it’s human behavior. So doing the scenes I totally understood like ‘What do you do in that situation?’ How do you tell someone ‘oh, I should have told you.’ Those things happen and it’s how you deal with them, how you interact with the people that you love that’s the hard part. But he’s in a position now where he can let down Natalie, his wife and his daughter so it’s a very stressful situation to be in.
TTVJ: Nicole was very suspicious of Matthew, but he seems to have satisfied her curiosity for the moment. Does that mean she’s done snooping through his things?
RR: Oh I don’t think so! The thing I really like about the writing on the show is that the secrets he’s keeping, there’s no good ending.
TTVJ: All of the Lawsons seem to have something similar going on, and for a family that’s so close they sure love to keep their secrets.
RR: I actually think that’s more truthful in close families in that you’re there for your family–I recognize that in my family that there’s all the stresses of past hurts or people not getting along, but at the same time when the chips are down you’re there.
TTVJ: We’ve seen Oliver trust Matthew with his secret about Tom. Will Matthew do something similar and maybe confide in Oliver about this dilemma?
RR: I don’t think I can reveal. [laughs] But most of these things keep building until the last episode and everyone’s struggling. It’s like you build a world around yourself and you need that world, but when it’s threatened you cling to it.
For Matthew and his family, he genuinely loves his wife and I think what really drives him this season is he doesn’t want to hurt her with his actions. So he’s doing extreme things to keep something secret, where everyone around him who knows it says ‘you can’t.’ It’s like clinging to something that can’t be. I think that’s echoed in how Natalie has to tell her kids about the cancer. It’s something that can’t be kept secret but it’s the struggle of when it’s going to come out.
TTVJ: Matthew is not only the oldest Lawson sibling but he’s also a doctor so it has to be really rough that he can’t do anything to help Natalie and her diagnosis. In what ways will we see him be there for her though?
RR: As a doctor he knows that world better than she can. I think a big part of him not trying to blow up his family is that he really wants to be there and have a stable environment for those kids. For this secret to come out now this would add more chaos to Natalie’s life. So in a way him keeping that secret is for her as well, or at least in his own mind.
TTVJ: What else can we look forward to in the last four episodes?
RR: A lot of it is to do with him trying to keep his marriage and being there for Natalie. But then Matthew and Maggie’s (Lauren Lee Smith) relationship takes a turn.
TTVJ: We saw him try to look after her with a job in this episode.
RR: Part of his terrible dilemma with Maggie, and I guess Oliver too, is that he is someone who always did things “right.” He became a doctor, got married and had kids, so his persona, especially around Maggie, is ‘I’m the responsible one,’ and to have done the worst thing out of anyone is something he can’t wrap his head around.
What do you think will happen when Matthew’s secret comes to light? Are you enjoying This Life so far? Sound off in the comments below.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.