From the Division I lacrosse field to the sets of The West Wing and The Sopranos, Matthew Del Negro has shown no shortage of skill. But now, venturing into his new role, Del Negro felt over his head. Despite his lengthy list of high-profile acting experiences over the last 20 years of his career, becoming an author left him feeling unsure of himself.
“I felt so self-conscious and exposed,” Del Negro, BC ’94, said. “I hated it, and then I went into about a 24-hour, maybe 36-hour hole of self bashing.”
In October, publication of his debut book 10,000 NOs: How to Overcome Rejection on the Way to Your YES last October, Del Negro experienced misgivings about how much he’d shared on its pages, he said.
“I put some things in there that were vulnerable,” Del Negro said, noting that his acting profession also involves quite a bit of vulnerability.
Portraying himself on the pages of a book, though, proved to be one of his toughest challenges yet.
After talking to family members and friends, Del Negro snapped out of his funk, re-read the book once more, and found renewed confidence in his authorial voice, he said—especially once he received feedback from readers.
“The parts that were most vulnerable seem to be the ones that people respond the most to,” Del Negro said.
Fortunately, the trials of Del Negro’s career taught him all about the perseverance required to deal with the uncertainties and insecurities of becoming a published author, he said. Written about the importance of persevering past rejection, 10,000 NOs is divided into chapters with names like “Work Ethic” and “Transformation.”
In it, Del Negro candidly recounts his own experiences of rejection in show business, and the tips and tricks he’s learned to move forward with courage and optimism. Acting is a notoriously difficult profession to break into, and Del Negro said that he faced long periods of uncertainty waiting for the next opportunity to arise.
“I’m basically told no for a living,” Del Negro said.
Friend and fellow actor Chris Messina attests to the struggles of staying positive while in show business, as well as the clarity of Del Negro’s anecdotes in his writing and podcasting.
“He tells a lot of really honest stories about his trials and tribulations, funny ones and moving ones,” Messina said. “But it’s very relatable in any field.”
In addition to his own stories, Del Negro shares those of guests on his popular podcast, also titled 10,000 NOs. Ranging from physical accidents to bankruptcies and battles with cancer, Del Negro’s podcast guests provide additional insights about failure, loss, and abandonment. In fact, he said that many of the inspirations for the full-length book came from introductions and descriptions he’d written about his guests.
“There are other people who have much more harrowing stories than I have,” Del Negro said. “It kind of backed up the whole premise of the podcast and the book, which is that it doesn’t matter who you are, nobody is going to get through this unscathed. All of us are going to have challenges.”
Del Negro submitted his draft to his publisher on first day of 2020, before the world locked down from COVID-19,but it has taken on even greater relevance in light of the struggles accompanying the pandemic, he said. While he sheltered in place in Southern California after being sent home from the set of season two of City on a Hill, Del Negro reflected on the new significance of his book.
“I realized, without knowing it, I had really written a book about dealing with uncertainty, which is what the whole world was thrust into in in March 2020,” Del Negro said.
After evacuating the show’s set in Brooklyn, N.Y. and returning home to Los Angeles, Calif. for eight months, Del Negro said he spent more time with his wife and two children as they navigated online learning.
Before the pandemic, Del Negro recorded most of his podcast interviews in person at his home studio, which became unsafe during COVID-19. Yet, a silver lining presented itself—by doing interviews over Zoom, he was able to recruit more guests and include a video component in his podcast, he said.
Two of his passions will intersect on March 26, when Kevin Bacon, famous actor and lead actor in City on a Hill, will be a guest on Del Negro’s podcast. Two days later, City on a Hill will premiere, starring Bacon with Del Negro as a series regular.
The precariousness of the acting businesses makes Del Negro very adept at navigating challenging times, Messina said, joking that Del Negro would be the person to be with in the event of the apocalypse or the eruption of a third world war.
“I would take my family and run to him, because he’s very strong-willed, strong-minded and really is the guy you want to be in the bunker with,” Messina said.
For Del Negro, a few instances of rejection and heartache stand out among the rest, guiding his attitude toward failure which he describes in his book.
Just under seven years after moving to New York City to pursue acting, Del Negro auditioned for a role on a soap opera. He advanced through multiple rounds and eventually made it to the final three. After a screen test, Del Negro felt great about his chances.
“I felt really good about it, and I thought I was going to get it,” Del Negro said. “It’s only two other guys to beat out, and this is going to be mine.”
But two days later, Del Negro’s agent called with heartbreaking news—the role had gone to someone else. Back to square one, he said he felt distressed at the prospect of going any longer without being paid to act. Around eight months later, though, his perseverance won out and Del Negro caught his first big break with the HBO’s The Sopranos.
He went in to meet the producers and the creators of The Sopranos, who offered him a role. This success proved to be a boost for his career, and Del Negro gained new perspective on the disappointment of missing out on the soap opera, he said.
“Thank God I did not get that other soap opera, eight months before, because The Sopranos is one of the great shows in television history,” Del Negro said. “It was just such a stroke of fortune to land that job versus landing a soap.”
For someone steeped in getting rejected and writing and speaking about failure, earning a book deal proved to be uncharacteristically easy, Del Negro said.
The publisher for best-selling author Jon Gordon, a podcast guest of Del Negro’s, reached out and suggested that he should write a book. Del Negro said that he initially brushed the suggestion off but later returned to the idea.
A different guest suggested that he put together an e-book, Del Negro said. With the help of an app called Scrivener, he compiled 30 pages of writing.
Gordon read it and encouraged him to send the e-book to his publisher, Wiley. The publisher then invited Del Negro out for a meeting to discuss a potential book deal.
“For a guy who has a podcast called 10,000 NOs, who is in a profession that is very tough and full of rejection, the book deal was very serendipitous,” Del Negro said.
An audiobook will launch on March 30, complementing the existing hardcover and e-book options.
Many years prior to releasing his podcast, Del Negro had anticipated writing a memoir or self-help book. Sifting through his computer, Del Negro found a document from 2012 with potential book titles—one of which was “10,000 NOs.”
During the process of producing the book, Del Negro held himself to strict deadlines, writing anywhere and everywhere—early in the morning, on long car rides, during Christmas vacation, and at a local library, he said. For Del Negro, the writing came naturally, which he partially credits his English major and education at Boston College for helping him craft his prose, he said.
“Once I could get into the flow of the chapter, I found that it was easy for me to lose myself in it,” Del Negro said. “And it didn’t matter if there was noise around. I could find my focus.”
He originally planned for his book’s release to coincide with season two of City on a Hill, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed both events. 10,000 NOs was eventually released in October, right when he returned to Brooklyn to resume filming the show.
His role in City on a Hill ties him back to his roots in Boston.
Del Negro has appeared as a series regular playing detective Chris Caysen in the Boston crime- drama series since season one.
Although the main set is in Brooklyn, the cast visited Boston before filming and has returned several times if the scene features Boston landmarks, Del Negro said.
Interestingly enough, the show’s events occur right around the same time that Del Negro attended BC. Playing the role has allowed him to reconnect with the city, he said.
Throughout his career, highs like City on a Hill and Sopranos have been built up to with many more rejections. In 10,000 NOs, Del Negro describes that faith was necessary to keep struggling and striving in the face of rejection. In times where things seemed bleak, he said that things worked out in the end.
“I like to say that I work hard, and it’s a work ethic that eventually gets there,” Del Negro said.
“I don’t know if it’s the grace of God. Something seems to swoop in, and a job or an opportunity lands on my lap, just when it seems like, that’s it.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Francisco Roman: SHOWTIME
Photo Courtesy of Matt Del Negro