Matthew Settle spent two months in Singapore last year to shoot the horror flick The Faith Of Anna Waters, helmed by Kelvin Tong.
It was the American actor’s first time working in the island republic, or anywhere in South-East Asia, really. But in those weeks, he managed to do quite a lot – watch the Singapore Grand Prix on his birthday, check out a whole lot of amazing restaurants, go shopping and make a baby.
“My wife and I decided to have a baby a year ago, and we have a one-month-old baby daughter now,” he says over the phone. “Our baby was conceived in Singapore.”
Settle is calling from Hawaii, United States, where he is overseeing the construction on a property he owns.
Another thing that changed for the 46-year-old after his visit to Singapore is that he learned the Chinese food chart and the heating and cooling properties of food. Something, he says, he has started to observe. This particular knowledge came in especially handy when Settle’s father was hospitalised for pneumonia recently.
“We weren’t sure he was going to make it,” shares Settle. “I flew back to be with him. I spent five nights straight with him at the hospital. Now he’s fine, and all healthy. During that time, my mum would come to the hospital and stay with him, but it wasn’t really comfortable for her; it was just a little bed next to his bed. So she’d go home.
“Before she went home, I would take her to the grocery store because I wanted to get some organic vegetables, tomatoes, (which are) healthy ways to hydrate ... I was trying to make sure dad got the right food, and his health has improved a lot now.”
Settle – who spent 2007 to 2012 playing Rufus Humphrey in the hit TV series Gossip Girl – recalls that it was when he was taking his mum to this particular store that he also experienced his favourite fan moment.
“We were walking to this store, and we got accosted by eight or nine teenage girls. They were like ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ They wanted pictures. And my mum had not seen (a fan encounter), never experienced that, and she got excited. She still talks about it!” he says, laughing.
Settle, the youngest of six children, is the son of Dr Robert E. Settle, who has a doctorate in theology, and Joan, an accomplished organist and pianist. Besides Gossip Girl, Settle worked on Band Of Brothers, the mini-series Into The West and had guest starring gigs on many shows including Brothers & Sisters and ER. However, he agrees that he usually gets recognised for Gossip Girl – something that happened quite a bit in Singapore too.
“Gossip Girl was an international sensation. It was one of those shows that struck a chord on every level – it had a great formula and lasted for six years. So I am grateful for that.”
While working on the show, Settle became good friends with co-star (and TV wife) Kelly Rutherford, who also became close with Settle’s wife Maria Alfonsin. Actually, it was Rutherford who let it slip to media that Alfonsin was pregnant back in 2015.
“I haven’t spoken to the kids for a long time but Ed Westwick (who played bad boy Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl) and I keep in touch. I am trying to get Ed to come to Hawaii, so I talk to him occassionally, but he says he is working.”
Although many good things came to Settle during the Gossip Girl years, it was also the time when he and his then-wife Naama Nativ got divorced. They have a seven-year-old daughter together. For his role in The Faith Of Anna Waters, Settle accessed that part of his life to play a father who doesn’t know how to help his daughter.
“Estrangement, fatherhood, a daughter who’s slightly out of reach ... I related to that personally because I went through something similar,” explains Settle.
Of course in the film, the young daughter is entangled with a supernatural entity making it impossible for Settle’s character to come to her aid.
The actor confesses that he was equally interested on the horror portion of the tale. “The idea of doing a story about possession is intriguing because I think inside all of us is that curiousity ... to understand why we fear things. And as an actor, I like to figure out what leads a character to do what they do.”
Although he’s aware of how popular the horror genre is in Asia, he was still amazed at the rituals done on the set in order to ward off bad luck ... as well as prevent rain!
“And it worked. It would be raining 100m down the street and it didn’t rain on our set.”
Since making The Faith Of Anna Waters, Settle has been keeping busy too; he has travelled to Indonesia to participate in the film Valentine and will be seen in Episode Eight of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders later this month.
The North Carolina native has an array of roles he wants to play; on top of the list is portraying Michelangelo Merisi, the Italian painter better known as Caravaggio. “He’s such a wild, driven artist. That would be a great character to play.
“I would love to be in science fiction projects. I’d love to go to Mars, in theory, that would be fun,” mentions Settle, listing Stanley Kubrick films, the original Star Wars films and Star Trek series as some of his favourites in this genre. If they ever do an Airwolf remake, I would love to be part of it. That was another show I loved as a kid. Of course, I would end up playing Ernest Borgnine’s character. And a girl would be the super pilot.”
When we tell him that we need to put it out there and make it happen, Settle informs us: “I just did. In Hawaii, when you say something, it happens immediately.”
The Faith Of Anna Waters is currently showing at cinemas nationwide.