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How Hollywood’s Andi Matheny cast herself in St. Petersburg

Bill DeYoung

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Andi Matheny operates the Andi Matheny Acting Studio in St. Petersbug She and Tom Flynn met in Los Angeles. "For years, she didn’t like me. Then we got fixed up on a blind date – neither knew the other one was coming – and we sat down and talked. Then we went out on a real date, and that was the end of it. She was absolutely everything I’d ever looked for. Smart and funny and beautiful." Photo by Bill DeYoung.

Andi Matheny’s love affair with Hollywood didn’t end badly, it just ended. After two decades of acting in sitcoms, commercials and prime-time soap operas, she’d had enough.  So she brought a little Hollywood to St. Petersburg.

“I wish I could say I had this really great business plan, but I’m not a business plan kind of person,” says the owner of Andi Matheny Acting Studios, which has a student roster of nearly 100 aspiring thespians.

“I had always fantasized about teaching – I had an inkling I might be good at it – but there are as many acting schools as there are frozen yogurt parlors in Los Angeles.”

Matheny and her husband, Gifted screenwriter Tom Flynn, arrived in St. Pete in 2010. Life in L.A., with its terrible traffic, its sky-high cost of living and the rampant ageism of the entertainment industry had worn them down. “The jobs I was getting were all ultra low-budget,” she says. “For years and years, we had both been making this really good, solid Hollywood middle-class living.”

Her resume included walk-ons in such shows as Monk, Ugly Betty and The Mentalist, and commercials for Toyota, Oil of Olay, Breathe-Rite and others. “All those put together made up a pretty decent living. And then it got to the point where you just couldn’t even do that any more.”

They wanted to move someplace warm, somewhere the mortgage rates weren’t ridiculous. When a friend invited Matheny to visit St. Pete, it was love at first sight. “I just immediately felt at home,” she recalls. “I rented a car and drove across the Howard Franklin Bridge at 6 in the morning, and I saw the silvery water on either side of me, and the pelicans, and I thought ‘This is enchanting.’”

She and her husband loved the downtown area, with its casual, quality restaurants and bistros, galleries and museums. They bought a roomy house off 4th Street South, with a breathtaking back yard view of Tampa Bay.

Even now, they’re still not crazy about the summer humidity, so they take a long vacation during the sweaty months.

Andi Matheny’s Acting Studios began during their first year as Floridians. Her offer to help a local actress prepare for an audition led to an informal series of classes. Soon, her agents in Atlanta and L.A. began sending other clients to Matheny, and that led to other agents referring their clients.

Most of her regulars, of course, are acting hopefuls from the Tampa Bay area. Matheny and the other teachers on her staff work with children, teens and adults.

She never thought of herself as the mentor type. “That changed once I moved here,” Matheny says. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I still love to act and I always will, but this is even more fulfilling.”

Matheny is well aware that she’s not the first acting coach to hang out a shingle in St. Pete. “I think the difference was that I came from Hollywood and had worked on sets, and knew what it was like to be a beginning actor,” she says. “Having known what it was like to really suck when I started. And I really did.

“I didn’t know how to audition. I didn’t know how to do anything. And I really taught myself. It’s kind of like being a parent: You don’t want your kids to make the same mistakes you did.”

She has no intention of giving up her career. On the contrary, since they moved to Florida, both Matheny and her husband’s profiles have increased. Released by Fox Searchlight, Gifted was a critical and commercial hit in 2017, which meant more and better opportunities presenting themselves to Flynn.

Matheny recently wrapped the locally-lensed movie Bernie the Dolphin, and will soon be seen in episodes of The Resident and Dynasty. She wrote and directed a web series, Good Morning St. Pete!, using local crew and cast with students from her school. She hopes to premiere it in April, at the Sunscreen Film Festival.

This, she knows, is a way of teaching by example. “I keep telling my kids: You’re in an ideal situation here. You’re close enough to Atlanta – you can get an agent and read for the roles there. But you’re living in paradise!”

She never thought of herself as the mentor type. “That changed once I moved here,” Matheny says. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I still love to act and I always will, but this is even more fulfilling.”

Learn more about Andi @ www.andimathenyactingstudios.com

 

The gang’s all here: Andi Matheny (front row, fourth from left) and a collection of her acting students.

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4 Comments
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4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Celia Isla

    February 19, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Dear Andi,
    Yours is truly an impressive success story. I’m grateful for having thad the opportunity to study under your tutelage. I learned so much in your class and have reaped the rewards of your knowledge and experience. You have greatly impacted my personal and professional growth. I’m currently studying with LA Meisner instructor David A. Cox in Atlanta. When I mentioned I was from the Tampa Bay Area, he asked if I had studied with Andi Matheny. I was proud to say I had. Your excellent reputation is well known beyond stateliness. I thank you and wish you and Tom continued success in all you aspire to do.

  2. Avatar

    Lisa Terrana-Matheny

    February 19, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    You go girl!
    Andi you are amazing at what ever you choose you do, keep it up!Tell Tom I’m waiting patiently for his next film.
    Love you both and
    Fredoneeyedcat, too!

  3. Avatar

    bridget hollander

    February 26, 2018 at 7:15 am

    What a wonderful life turn you and Tom have taken!! How lucky all those actors in St. Petersburg are to have you!! What they don’t know is how equally talented and FUNNY you are as a performer. I will never forget how hard Andy Schell and I laughed the night of your One Woman Show! You are a jewel, Andi!

  4. Avatar

    Russell Oakley

    February 26, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    I love studying with Andi. She is a very talented, caring and genuine person with endless energy and enthusiasm. She does really care and I am so pleased that she moved to St.Pete.

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