Gaten gives back – OC star helps Prosecutor promote safe driving
LITTLE EGG HARBOR - Gaten Matarazzo might be the new Hollywood - but old Ocean County still courses through his veins.
The Little Egg Harbor native a breakout star of the wildly popular "Stranger Things" on Netflix cleared time on his busy schedule of acting, school, and rock band to take part in driving safety videos being produced by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.
The teen supplies the introductory comments for the latest installments of Prosecutor Joseph Coronato's "Right Turns" series, hard-hitting warnings about vital matters such as drug abuse, sexting, and Internet victimization that circulate Ocean County high schools.
Episodes Six and Seven in the series, featuring Gaten's preambles, will concern driver safety - appropriately enough, since he's eligible for a New Jersey learner's permit on his next birthday.
You might think that a convoluted chain of high-level interactions with agents, managers, and studio executives would be needed to snare the rising young star. Maybe in the future, but this time, all it took was Ocean County at its neighborhood best.
"Agent Michael Caldwell was familiar with people close to [Gaten's] dad, from the Point Pleasant area," spokesman Al Della Fave explained. "He sent a message, on a slim chance that it would happen, and he responded."
"He said, yes, they get hundreds and thousands of requests," Della Fave said, "but they felt that this would definitely be one to get involved with, a way to give back to the Ocean County community."
One episode explores distracted driving. The other outlines what drivers should do when flagged to roadsides by police.
The passages were recorded November 22 in Toms River. The Prosecutor's office kept a lid on it, lest a stampede of Galen fans descend on the Hooper Avenue building.
Della Fave added that a celebrity introduction has a much more visceral impact than remarks by any investigator can have, capturing and keeping teens' attention. The Prosecutor's Office, then, has succeeded in breaking down an age-old authority barrier. Teens recognize that the stars resonate with the message, legitimizing it, and giving the Prosecutor's Office a portal to communicate meaningfully with young viewers.
Additionally, the cast members of each video are often familiar faces, because they attend high schools in the county as well. Students from Point Pleasant, Toms River and the Ocean County Vocational-Technical School have taken turns so far.
Following the lead set by guitar slinger Richie Sambora, Gaten provided his services free of charge. Such considerations allow the Prosecutor's Office to maximize the effectiveness of the drug-offense forfeiture proceeds that finance the series.
Gaten fans who also can't get enough of his band, Work In Progress, can see the group - minus Gaten - Saturday at the Tuckerton Beach Grille.
Another star from the Shore: