Matthew Lawrence Dishes on His Relationship With Chilli and How They Became More Than Friends (Exclusive)
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Matthew Lawrence is opening up like never before about his romance with Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, whom he also refers to as a "really, really special human being."
Speaking to ET's Deidre Behar, the 43-year-old actor gushed about the 52-year-old TLC singer while discussing the state of their new relationship, how they met and how fate played a major role in their now blossoming relationship.
"Life is always a surprise," Matthew tells ET when Chilli's name comes up. "My life is in a complete bloom right now. I get to spend time with an amazing woman like Chilli. I've never gotten to be able to experience that kind of relationship before, so it's quite special. She's a really, really special human being. I wish more people on the planet were like her. We'd be much better off."
It was back in January when Matthew and Chilli took to Instagram to confirm their relationship. The confirmation of the pair's relationship came just over three months after Matthew and Dancing With the Stars pro Cheryl Burke finalized their divorce. Burke first filed for divorce back in February 2022 at a Los Angeles courthouse. In the docs, obtained by ET, Burke cited irreconcilable differences and listed their date of separation as Jan. 7, 2022.
Chilli's rep, Christal Jordan, told ET back in January that the two have been dating for a few months, and are meeting each other's families.
"Chilli and Matthew are dating and spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in Atlanta, where Matthew met Chilli's family," Jordan said. "I've been with Chilli since 2005 and I've never seen her this in love. She is glowing. They are really cute together."
And when ET spoke with Matthew, it was hard to ignore his glow when speaking about the TLC singer, whose unique qualities really resonate with Lawrence.
"She's just got, you know, her morals and her values," Matthew says. "The way she treats her family. She loves my family, so important. We get along. We'll talk on the phone and she's like, 'My mom's calling me.' I'm like, 'Go get it. I know how important that is.' Same thing like my mom calls me. It's not like, 'Why are you talking to your mom?!' It's like, 'Oh, your mom. Go talk to your mom,' you know?"
That they had a similar upbringing helped Matthew and Chilli, who shares 25-year-old son Tron with her ex, Dallas Austin, connect so easily.
"It's weird, you know, we have similar upbringings. We have similar families. There are similarities that you wouldn't necessarily think between us and it really works," Matthew says.
The actor confirmed he has, in fact, met her family. And ditto for Chilli. He's also met Tron, whom Matthew says is "so cool," though there's no telling if Tron can wrangle Lawrence into hitting the gym with him.
"He's getting in shape. He's making me feel like I gotta start doing pushups and stuff," Matthew quipped.
As for how they met, Matthew recalls meeting her in passing at an event where he thinks he was part of a Q&A session.
"It was just real friendship, you know, for like five or six months, just talking on the phone long distance, like, getting to know each other, see each other here and there," Matthew says. "But, really, just keeping it as friends and being, you know, let's keep our priorities straight here. We wanna know what we're all about. We don't wanna take this too fast."
It's at this point when Matthew almost forgets a key point to the cute-meet story. But thanks to his brother, Andy, the actor's able to recall the plane ride they shared that changed the course of their lives.
"I talked to him when he landed and he was like, 'You're not gonna believe it. I met like the most wonderful person,'" recalled Andy, who also was flanked by their eldest brother, Joey.
"This is very true," Matthew confirms.
Matthew adds, "So we were at this thing. We were working. We just said hello in passing and probably nothing would've come of that, but there was this big snowstorm. I had to be back for work, so I was getting them [the airline] to change my flights all around. The only flight I could get was a connecting flight through Atlanta. She lives in Atlanta. So, she was flying on that flight. So, really it was the flight, talking and then afterwards saying, 'Hey, let's keep in contact.' That's really what made it, and it almost did not happen. I mean, literally, an hour before the flight took off they were like, 'OK, we got you on this flight. You gotta go.' So it was just like that kind of thing."
It was fate, really.
Their friendship soon blossomed, and they decided to take the next step.
Matthew and his brothers will soon be launching a new podcast dubbed the Brotherly Love podcast. If it all works out, Chilli will join them as a guest. The idea's been floated around, Matthew says, and it helps that Joey and Andy think Chilli's incredibly cool. And, yes, they all do call her Chilli.
"I call her Chilli but the problem is I say the word Chilli so often," Andy says. "I'm like, 'God, it's so chilly in here.' And it's awkward."
"It's chilly outside. It's chilly inside," quips Joey.
But even if she doesn't join the podcast, Matthew teases a collaboration's in the works with Chilli.
"We're definitely thinking about working together, for sure," he says.
When asked in what capacity, Matthew plays it coy and only offers, "We'll have to see."
Joey also teases, saying, "We're doing some stuff, we're doing some stuff. Nothing is off the table."
The Brotherly Love podcast will offer a glimpse into the brothers' daily lives. The idea of doing a reality TV show is a subject that was broached but one they ultimately brushed away because it didn't feel right. And the podcast did feel right. But wait, there's more.
Joey tells ET that they've developed a half-hour sitcom dubbed Lawrence House. He said the scripted series will drop later this year. That avenue, like the podcast, felt right.
"It's really exciting and right now it's just a matter of finding the right place," Joey says. "We're very close, you know, but I'm just saying that because that's in front of the camera together again, really cool, right? But then we thought like, you know, people say no one's ever seen us react for real, like, it's always been with a script, especially like in [the sitcom] Brotherly Love. I mean, that was the quintessential script ... so we thought, 'Well, maybe this is sort of in- like, we'll never do the reality route, but this [the podcast] is kind of actually alike."
Matthew adds, "A glimpse into our lives, essentially."
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