Photography: Ben Cohen/NBC
Appearing in NBC’s Parenthood,Matt Luria also co-stars in the DirecTV series Kingdom,another family drama, but with a difference: it takes place in the hard-bitten world of mixed martial arts. Debuting this fall, Kingdom has already been picked up for additional episodes, airing in 2015 and 2016.
No one would argue that you’re buffed for your role in Kingdom. What would you say to people who insist you have to eat meat to be in such amazing shape?
Obviously it’s not true. I used to have that mindset myself, before my wife and I adopted a vegan lifestyle. There’s such a wealth of wholesome foods that are separate from animals, and I haven’t had any problems getting the fuel I need. Rhinoceroses, elephants—these gigantic, muscular animals—they all eat plants. I think they’re a great example.
How do you refuel after a workout?
Post workout, I usually have a delicious smoothie, consisting of almond or coconut milk, which is water-based, so I’m getting hydration, and I pack in the fruit—bananas, frozen pineapple, or frozen berries—then I throw in some plant-based protein powder, either chocolate or vanilla. I prefer a powder that’s pea or quinoa or hemp protein.
How do the characters you play in Kingdom and in Parenthood compare?
They’re two completely different human beings, individuals with entirely different sets of values, life experiences, and pursuits. One of the joys of acting is that as you’re investigating a role, you get to immerse yourself in the possibilities of what makes a character who he is, and that includes researching people who have shared experiences with the character. For Parenthood, I got to interview some veterans; for Kingdom, I got to spend time with fighters. As you take on a new role, you get to find out about a whole different facet of humanity.
What brought you to a plant-based diet?
I was a big meat eater most of my life. My wife is a very sensitive woman, and she began to grow increasingly more uncomfortable with the idea of animals having to be killed for us to eat. My response to her was, if we’re going to eat, they’re going to have to die, that’s just how it is. As time went on, she started eating less and less animals, and she finally said to me, “Hey, will you watch this 10-minute video and just see what you think?” I don’t remember what it was called, but I watched it, and that night, I went—pardon the expression—cold turkey. I haven’t eaten any animals or animal products since. That was about a year and a half ago.
But the thing I didn’t realize then that I realize now is, there are a variety of animals that people eat, but that doesn’t even begin to compare with the abundance of fresh foods that have nothing to do with animals. When I first switched over, I felt like I had to make up for the meat, or I should say, animals—you know, we don’t think of them as animals, we just think of them as meat. I felt I had to replace the animals in my diet with fake meats. But I got away from that convention, that an animal is a big portion of the meal, and I started eating big, delicious plates of plant foods that sustain me and satisfy me. And I realized that what most people love about meat is the way it’s seasoned and flavored. But that same seasoning and flavoring can be made part of a variety of foods. My wife and I have really exciting meals. Before, I usually ate the same rotation of stuff, but now there are so many options.
Thanksgiving is coming up. Any favorite dishes for the holiday?
Last year was our first Thanksgiving as vegans, and my wife made these awesome sweet potato biscuits. Sweet potatoes are my favorite thing, so she also made these decadent sweet potatoes with coconut oil and brown sugar and pecans. And we had a really nice vegan homemade stuffing, and a beautiful array of roasted vegetables. Desserts are always the best part for me, and my wife is an extraordinary baker. She made this blueberry pie that’s better for you to eat than not to eat. The crust was made of ground-up almonds, or almond meal, and coconut oil. Inside was a ton of blueberries and chia seeds, which are high in protein and great for you, and as they get saturated, they get gelatinous, providing that nice kind of gel consistency that holds the pie filling together. And there was some lemon in there, and the only added sweetener was maple syrup, less than a teaspoon per slice. For my birthday, my wife made me a pecan pie that nobody would believe is vegan, and I hope she adds that to the rotation.