The night of the 83rd Academy Awards in 2011, Luke Matheny stood out among the winners for his youth, impressive head of hair and shout-out from the stage to “the great state of Delaware.”
The New York University Tisch School of the Arts grad student had just won the Best Live Action Short Feature Oscar for his thesis film God of Love (which is available to stream on Amazon Prime), and has since turned his talents toward TV.
His latest project, the Apple TV+ series Ghostwriter, finds the Concord High School grad telling stories for kids using some familiar influences.
Delaware Today: It’s been about 10 years since we last caught up with you. How has your life changed since winning an Oscar for God of Love?
Luke Matheny: I’ve kind of carved out a career for myself doing different things with TV, but mainly writing and directing high-end kids’ television. We live in South Pasadena (near Los Angeles) now, and I have a wife, a kid and another on the way.
DT: You also have your own TV show on Apple TV+. What was your first step in creating Ghostwriter?
L.M.: Ghostwriter is based on a ’90s PBS show, so my main question was how [I could] update it in a cool and compelling way. Our showrunner Andrew Orenstein headed up a team of writers to come up with a cool, tricky mystery that also included the classic Ghostwriter plot of fictional characters jumping out of books, which is very cool. We shot in Toronto with an amazingly polite Canadian crew, and I tried to come up with a sophisticated visual style that you wouldn’t usually see in kids’ shows. The references I looked at were not always kid-oriented. For instance, I was inspired by Sherlock on the BBC, which is also a cool reworking of an old mystery.
DT: How did you make a ’90s story work for a modern audience?
L.M.: Cellphones. After that, the trickiest part was reminding the audience how valuable books are, which is even harder to do now than it was in the ’90s.
DT: Did having your own kids affect how you directed the show?
L.M.: I found that the more you try to make something that your own kid will like, your work becomes a little shortsighted. Your kid is only one person. They’re your favorite person in the world, but that is still just one person.
DT: Does it ever stop feeling strange to see your work on TV?
L.M.: It’s an amazing feeling. The strangest and most gratifying thing is when friends from high school or college tell me that they watched something I made with their kids. That’s a really wonderful thing.
DT: How did growing up in a small state influence your work today?
L.M.: My previous show, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, was based in a suburb, and I drew heavily from growing up in Wilmington. It’s good to be from somewhere and have a strong sense of identity that comes from that place. I definitely have that relationship with Delaware
Published as “An Eye for the Shot” in the May 2020 issue of Delaware Today magazine.