College buds. Talented actors. Bright futures headed in the same direction, surely.
Before long, Quincy Bernstine and Jennifer Morris might be referred to as "Quennifer," provided their roles in the off-Broadway hit Matt and Ben, which comes to the Scottsdale Center for the Arts on Wednesday, October 6, serves as a springboard to the fame and fortune their title characters long ago achieved.
But for now, the pair of University of California-San Diego grads -- and longtime friends -- are more than content playing Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, "before J-Lo, before Gwyneth, before Project Greenlight, before Oscar . . . before anyone actually gave a damn."
Matt and Ben, which opened off-Broadway in 2003 featuring its playwrights, Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers, in the title roles, is a comic romp that centers on the relationship between Affleck and Damon as Good Will Hunting -- for which they earned a Best Screenplay Oscar in 1998 -- "drops mysteriously from the heavens," and "the boys realize they're being tested by a higher power."
In March, Kaling and Withers turned over the acting reins at an open audition in New York. Bernstine and Morris, at the time starring in an off-Broadway production of The Ladies -- the collective stories of Elena Ceausescu, Imelda Marcos, Eva Peron and Madame Mao, wives of some the most notorious leaders of the 20th century -- auditioned for the parts of Ben and Matt, respectively.
"I got a call back, but I didn't want to call Jenny to ask her if she got a call back," says Bernstine, 30.
"We went to graduate school together. We both got our master's in theater. Lots of karmic things happening here," Morris, 33, chimes in.
While audiences are sure to go in expecting a mockery of both actors' media-wrought personae (say, Affleck plucking his eyebrows; Damon reading Thoreau), Bernstine and Morris are intent on cultivating the characters, not caricatures.
"I personally don't read any of [the tabloids]. I try to avoid them as much as possible," Bernstine says. "Before getting the part, I watched Good Will Huntinga little bit. But I want to make the part of Ben my own, not some media portrayal."
"I was always sort of intrigued by how the media portrayed them," Morris counters. ". . .Their career paths have been so dramatically different. I've certainly been fascinated by that aspect of their relationship, the different directions they've gone as far as the work they've done.
"Ben is so much more of a traditional celebrity. Matt is so much more low-profile. God, I'm such a whore for celebrity gossip," she adds. "But Quincy and I have the same belief for putting the characters together. We don't read anything that would alter our perceptions of how to play them."
Matt and Ben -- or maybe just Matt -- would be proud.
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