After her debut film appearance in "Beloved", Rochester returned to the stage and performed in regional theater, playing a variety of complex characters very different from herself. In fact during a reception, after Rochester's performance where she transformed from 25 years of age into a 90 year old slave in James De Jonge’s "Do Lord Remember Me" with minimal makeup and no prosthetics- Her performance
was so good, “Too good!” Rochester mused, “Nobody at the reception even knew it was me.” Acclaimed theater
director’s Walter Dallas and Andrea Frye introduced her to guests, some laughed and didn’t believe, ‘that little girl with those fat cheeks was that old woman.’
Before leaving Philadelphia theater to move to Los Angeles to pursue a ilm career, Rochester taught acting and performance to youth and young adults and helped inluence the careers of famous tapper Johnnie Hobbs, Jr. and current star of Broadway’s Hamilton
She formed a service oriented youth performance non-proit and served as the organization’s director. Each year
the program took 30 high school students to Europe and Africa.“The best education for me has been from performance and traveling the globe. You learn about humanity through acting and learn life from the exposure of learning about and interacting with people from very different cultures, that comes from travel.”
Rochester is a born story teller and is able to gather all of life’s experiences into her characters.
Rochester’s time in Los Angeles were hard ones. “I slept on Sean’s couch.” Rochester mentioned in a recent interview.
Speaking of her first few months in Hollywood of her friend Sean Patrick Thomas (Save The Last Dance) star of NBC’s "The District".
“I felt like Los Angeles never received the memo that I was here.” Rochester continued to perform on stage and co-starred on popular shows like The District, Cold Case, The Loop, and had no more than small roles in movies like Soul Plane and Biker Boys. “I couldn’t igure out what the problem was.” One day Casting Director Michael Donovan called Rochester and she asked for some direction and career advice. “He told me he had good news and bad news. I asked for the bad irst. He said that the bad news was that I didn’t it a type. The good? That when someone creative and powerful
enough to take a chance on me that I would become the type. I mean if I have to wait to be Mattilyn Rochester type then okay.”
Rochester giggles and looks up with her big luminous brown eyes. She left Los Angeles in 2009 to sing jazz in Tokyo, Japan.
In Japan her boyfriend got married. She returned to NJ to nurse her wounds and visit with her mother. In NJ she discovered that her mother had Alzheimer’s and her dreams of making in Hollywood were temporarily crowded. But Rochester’s destiny continued to pull at her. She was welcomed back into the theater community and worked with creators of Witness Uganda Matt Gould and Grifin Matthews performing with the likes of Titus Burguss. She also nabbed roles in Law and Order
and Boardwalk Empire. Rochester remembered the advice of another Casting Director Twinkie Bird. “She told me I needed to go to NY and be a tragic.”
Rochester’s personal life mirrored the tattered lives of many of the characters she played. After her mother’s needs became too much for one person to handle Rochester made the unpopular, gut wrenching decision to put her mother in Assisted Living. Rochester still looked young but was hyper aware that the years were stacking up and that can be unforgiving in show business.
Even though Rochester was burdened with relationship woes and family drama she continued to press forward. It was during
the short run of Sheila’s Day, a South African play about apartheid, at Lincoln Center in the Spring of 2014 that Rochester made
the decision to go back to Los Angeles for another go at her dreams. “This time I am not chasing my dreams but positioning
myself to be able to receive them. Twinkie told me to go be tragic. That’s checked off the list. I’m done with that.”
“I felt like Los Angeles never received the memo that I was here.”
Born in the suburbs of Willingboro, NJ Mattilyn sang her first solo, “It’s Me Standing in the Need of Prayer” in Sunshine Choir at Wesley A. M. E. Zion church where her father was pastor. In junior high school her choir teacher recognized Mattilyn’s rare sensibility to
interpret music like no other and suggested formal voice lessons. Mattilyn began classical training at the Settlement Music House in Philadelphia.
She earned a degree in Psychology and Theater from LincolnUniversity in Pennsylvania. After graduation, Rochester became the internationally acclaimed soloist in the Rhythm of the World tour with Up With People, Inc. blowing away sold out audiences throughout Europe, Canada and the United States, often performing for Presidents, dignitaries and head(s) of state.
After earning a Barrymore nomination in her very first regional theater appearance she made her film debut in Jonathan Demme’s "Beloved" where she performed vocals for Academy Award
winner Rachael Portman.
The daughter of double PhD’s - a Bishop in the A.M.E. Zion church and Superintendent of Schools, actress, writer and performer Mattilyn Rochester dreamed of being a superstar and performed with abandon in front of the mirror. No one knew she had crippling stage fright when first asked to perform in front of others. “In my world, I could do no wrong, but I saw cruelties that made the real world look very scary” Rochester told a reporter. “It made me self conscious. Pointless criticism can kill the God in art. It’s a crime as far as I’m concerned.”