Matthew Modine Talks 'Miss Virginia,' 'Stranger Things' and the Best Advice He's Ever Received

Matthew Modine's career has spanned more than 30 years, but it was a piece of advice he received from his father as a young man that has influenced his life, his activism and his new role in the upcoming film Miss Virginia.

"I didn't know where to begin, it was so much mess, it was like an inch deep of horror," Modine toldNewsweek Conversations, describing an overflown toilet he was tasked to clean at one of his father's movie theaters. "My dad came to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'I know, it's a mess. You can get angry about it, you can find the person responsible, but it's not going to clean it up.' It was an important lesson because when there's a problem in the world, you can try to find the people that are responsible, you can get angry, but you have to clean it up."

It was that advice that influenced Modine's performance in the new film Miss Virginia, directed by R.J. Daniel Hanna and starring Uzo Aduba as Virginia Walden Ford, a true story about a single mother raising her son in the low-income neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. Ford successfully lobbied Congress to support the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, giving her son and thousands of other children in D.C. the opportunity to attend private schools. Modine plays Congressman Cliff Williams, a character created for the film, who Miss Virginia works with to garner support for the program.

"She's very calm," Modine said about Ford. "Unbelievably smart and not some force of nature that you could stop. It would be like trying to throw a lasso around a tornado."

Modine describes Aduba similarly, also describing her performance as a "force of nature."

"She's a volcano," he said. "She's an incredibly powerful person."

Describing his own character—which is loosely based on a real person—Modine describes him as having had "given up" before Ford comes into his life.

"This guy was somebody who wanted to change the world and then politics beat him up and he gave up," he said.

Unlike his character, Modine certainly hasn't given up. In addition to his noted work for environmentalist causes, Modine's evil role in the first season of Netflix's Stranger Things made him a noted villain to a whole new generation of fans.

"The wonderful thing about this show [Stranger Things] is that it's given me another generation, another audience," he said. "What you have to do all the time in this business is remain relevant... I have the Gen Z generation now... I'm set for life, it's unbelievable."

Miss Virginia opens in select theaters on October 18.

Matthew Modine Talks ‘Miss Virginia,’ ‘Stranger Things’ and the Best Advice He’s Ever Received
Matthew Modine talks about his new movie and the best advice he's ever received with Newsweek Conversations. 'Miss Virginia'/Moving Picture Institute/Vertical Entertainment