In his debut appearance on Oct. 23 on the new NBC medical drama “New Amsterdam,” Pikesville native Matthew Jeffers helps Dr. Lauren Bloom (played by Janet Montgomery) treat a patient who has been rushed into the emergency room with a gunshot wound.
No mention is ever made — explicitly or even implicitly — about Jeffers’ height. For Jeffers — indeed, for short-statured people everywhere — this is a major step.
“I play a doctor. I don’t know any short-statured doctors in real life, much less on TV,” he says. “Even my role model, Peter Dinklage [of the TV show ‘Game of Thrones’], at the end of the day, he plays a dwarf.”
Jeffers, 26, who was diagnosed at the age of 1 with what his doctors dubbed “Matthew’s Dwarfism,” stands at a little over 4 feet tall. After graduating from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Pikesville and Towson University’s acting program, he moved to New York, where he has built a career at such venues as New York Theatre Workshop and Playwrights Horizons.
Jeffers, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., appears in the off-Broadway Soho Rep production of Kate Tarker’s “Thunderbodies,” a satire with a waning war as the backdrop.
“I play a soldier,” he says. “I’d never even be able to be a soldier in real life.”
Jeffers, who earned his Actors Equity union card after appearing in Caryl Churchill’s “Light Shining in Buckinghamshire” last spring, was at an Equity audition when he ran into a casting director named David Caparelliotis.
“He asked if I had an agent, and I said yes,” Jeffers recalls. “He told me he was casting a new show — and here I am.”
Starring Ryan Eggold, “New Amsterdam,” which airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (right after the groundbreaking, Emmy Award-winning “This is Us”), is set in an aging and neglected urban public hospital modeled after New York’s Bellevue. The series is scheduled to film 22 episodes in season one, and so far, Jeffers appears in two: episode 5, which runs this Tuesday, Oct. 23, and episode 8 on Nov. 20.
While he cannot reveal any specific plot details, Jeffers says he hopes the show’s writers will keep him on board. “There is so much potential for interesting scenes,” he says. “I’m a new character, so maybe it could continue to grow.”
In the meantime, Jeffers says he is enjoying the experience of working on a television series. “You start to form relationships with crew and cast members,” he says. The show is being shot at a sound stage in Mount Vernon, N.Y., as well as at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn.
When speaking recently to Jmore, Jeffers was taking a break from a rehearsal at the Soho Rep theater company. The character he plays there, Boy, is described in the Backstage casting call notice as having “testosterone-driven temper tantrums, where he explodes in terrifying anger.”
The description goes on, “Also has a very endearing, naïve, wide-eyed quality.”
Jeffers certainly lives up to the latter description. “I’m being able to live my dream, thanks to so many people who have given me a chance,” he says.
Jeffers said he recently bought a small gift for Caparelliotis, who was responsible for arranging the television audition.
“I’m a big plant person,” he says. “It’s a little fuzzy succulent,” meant – Jeffers says — to symbolize the casting agent’s role in nurturing the young actor’s growing career.
Martha Thomas is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.