I never met Matthew Rhys, never spoke to him, don’t know him in any other way than as a great actor, who captured my attention in “Heart of America”. This bio is based on loads and loads of interviews I read on Matthew. Given either by him and/or Ioan Gruffudd to journalists and articles written about him.
So, Mr Rhys, if there is anything in here that is incorrect, try to remember what you said that particular year, sue a journalist or have a good talk with Ioan. J
Or let ME know. (But I will not hold my breath on that last option.) J
Compiled with love, not for money.
Best quote about Matthew Rhys I read: “ There is nothing that Matthew Rhys is afraid of, no wordplay gives him pause; he is capable of anything.” – Jon Robin Baitz.
Who am I to disagree? J
On to filming Beau Brummel, that charming man. James Purefoy stars in this drama about the notorious dandy Beau Brummell. Forerunner of today's celebrity culture, Brummell became famous for his impeccable dress sense and connections with the right people, including the Prince Regent.
Credited with making a less flashy and more elegant style of dress fashionable, the beautifully cut clothing that he made popular is seen as an early version of the suit. Having risen to a height of popularity, however, descent was swift. Brummell died penniless in France, having lost the favour of the Prince.
Matthew played the part of Lord Byron, the British poet and a leading figure in Romanticism. Byron's notability rests not only on his writings but also on his life, which featured aristocratic excesses, huge debts, numerous love affairs, and self-imposed exile.
In 2005 he's filmed Virgin Territory, about a set of young Florentines regaling one another in the Italian countryside while the black plague decimates their city. He co-starred with Hayden Christensen, Mischa Barton and Tim Roth in the movie, which would be released in 2007. Matthew played the part of Count Dzerzhinsky.
Matthew also starred opposite Brittany Murphy and Catherine Tate as one of the actors in Love and Other Disasters, a comedy romance about an American intern working at UK's Vogue magazine who tries to help her friends find love. Also starring in the flick are Stephanie Beacham and Dawn French. Matthew played a gay man, Peter, with a dysfunctional love life and a role where he can actually speak in his Welsh accent.
Then Rhys turned director for a documentary Matthew Rhys: Hollywood Gaucho, which he regards as his proudest achievement. "The Welsh colonised an area of southern Argentina back in the 1860s, when 30 young Welshmen rode from the Atlantic to the Andes. In 2005, their great-grandsons wanted to do the same trip. When I heard about it, I thought it would make a great documentary. I rode on horseback with them all the way. My initial plan was to bring a crew, but they didn't want that. They said I would have to do it by myself, so I packed myself on a film-making course and learned the basics."
Asked about the title of the documentary Rhys paused and looked rather embarrassed. "Well, I sold it to the BBC and they got to choose the title. It only went out on BBC Wales, but they called it Matthew Rhys: Hollywood Gaucho. It was one of the worst bloody titles!"
Returning to America, late for pilot season, he got asked to audition for the part of Kevin Walker in the new series called Brothers & Sisters – season 1, predicted to be a flop and a miss, the series was a huge success and gave Matthew recognition amongst the American audience.
Kevin Walker, son, brother, lawyer, and gay. Matthew was asked after Jonathan LaPaglia's, the original Kevin, left. “It was all a matter of beautiful timing. When I did come over, they were recasting. I'm very lucky, really. “
He worked opposite actresses like Sally Field and Callista Flockhart and teamed up again with Rachel Griffiths, his co-star from Very Annie-Mary.
In its first season it already won the AfterElton.com Visibility Award and an Emmy Award.
He was surprised by the impact that his character, gay lawyer Kevin Walker, had on the American audience, feeling there should be a higher degree of exposure for gay characters.
“I was a little shocked at the reaction of the press at the beginning. A lot of the questions were, you know, “Was it a problem for you to play gay roles?” Or “Were you concerned about getting typecast?” You know, I was a little confused as to why I was getting these sort of questions... I thought we'd passed those times, really. …”
Matthew got asked a lot of questions and is required to share some opinions.
On what Kevin and Matthew have in common: “I think the writers were careful. They didn't want to give him specifically gay problems. And commitment-phobia, you know is a human and universal flaw. So I was happy about that character trait. There are elements of that aspect of Kevin that I can relate to. Especially in your 20s. In your 30s, things do change.
I like the fact that they've gone for another universal theme in that you don't necessarily fall for those people who are right for you, or you don't choose the people you fall for. And with that comes conflict, obviously, then drama, which makes it all the more entertaining to see. …
On kissing another man: “Kissing a man, I don't think it's ever really problematic. I just think if you're fortunate enough to be confident and secure in yourself, and you know it's a role you play, I don't see where the problem lies, really. Actually, my first theater job was a gay part with a lot of kissing it in it. So, I wouldn't say it was a hurdle really, but I got over that really early on. You realize there's nothing to it. I've played gay roles before and it's not awkward at all. The amount of women on set that love coming to watch it is surprising, though.
And dear Jason Lewis. It was his first male kiss and just before...I said to him: "I'm going to tell you what you had for lunch.' THAT relaxed him."
So what did Jason had for lunch? Matthew only laughed it off with: “I wish I had some wicked answer to that, but he just had a mint.”
Ken Olin, producer, joked of Rhys' gay kissing scenes: "It just gives me such great joy to see Matthew who has to kiss a straight actor for the first time. He's like a black widow spider."
On suppressing his Welsh accent:, I still have to put the hours in on the accent. It still manages to flip me and throw me. But we get a dialect coach that puts all our words down on a CD for us, so I'm continually working on it. It's the rhythm and the cadence and the intonation rather than the actual sound that is always tripping me up. And the emphasis on all the wrong words that make you stick out sometimes.
On gay marriage? “You know, I don't see it as a problem. Nor should it be an issue, really.”
On ‘home’: “I've pretty much relocated to LA, though I still call Wales “home.”
On working out? "Oh my God. The first time Jason Lewis took his top off, I ran to the gym. You can bring in your washing and do it on his abdominals. But I come from a British sensibility, where we actually like to make the audience feel better about themselves, so we don't work out very much." (Laughing)
Trivia: Ioan Gruffudd and Matthew are still close and when, during an interview Ioan gives for the promotion of his movie Amazing Grace, a journalist asks Ioan about Matthew, Ioan turned into a playful mood when he discusses Rhys' success in hit US television drama Brothers & Sisters and on his playing a gay lawyer. ‘He says he modelled his gay walk on my walk’, he joked.
Trivia: In 2007 Matthew mentions Peter O’Toole as an actor he admires most: “... for balancing an amazing career while having the wildest of times.” Mr O’Toole is also the celebrity that Matthew would most like to get drunk with....
Trivia: Favorite film: “The Princess Bride”, it’s right for any occasion.
After filming the first season on Brothers & Sisters had finished Matthew returned to Wales to play in The Edge of Love. He played the part of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas with Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller and Cillian Murphy as his co-stars.
He was conscious that his portrayal will, yet again, have to compete with the public's image of Thomas. The movie focused on a well-documented incident in New Quay in 1945, Cardigan Bay, when Dylan was shot by the husband (Murphy) of an old school friend (Knightly), following an argument in the town's Black Lion pub. Killick was accused of firing a machine gun at Thomas' home in New Quay, but he was cleared when the matter went to court.
Rhys said he thought it was "surprising" how few people knew about the incident.
"It was a major part of Thomas' life and it has not been that well reported," he said.
Besides that, Matthew had chosen to imitate the legendary figure's real dialect.
"Everyone has their own take and their own idea on the image of Dylan Thomas. It slightly reminds me of the feeling I had when I said I was going to be appearing in The Graduate. Before it opened people would say, 'Are you playing the Dustin Hoffman part?' They had this immediate image of who he was, and it's the same with Dylan.
Everyone's saying, 'Oh, are you are going to be really fat?' And then there's the voice. He had quite a distinct, posh, plummy voice that a lot of people won't know about that is the voice I'll be speaking in. It's like Capote when Phillip Seymour Hoffman made the decision about his voice, it is quite a brave voice and you have to stick with it and engage an audience with it. People have to believe it.”
He said that Thomas' daughter, Aeronwy, had advised him not to try and impersonate the poet but rather to capture his "spirit or essence". Matthew admitted he feels "terrified" portraying Dylan Thomas in this latest film.
“To play Dylan is a dream come true. Keira Knightley's mother wrote the film and I'm bricking myself that I'm going to play Dylan. Dylan has never been committed to a film before and you're dealing with one of the ultimate Welsh icons so I'm going to be nervous.
We're not doing his life story, we're just focusing on a period in his life. It's very interesting in the parts where they've handled his poetry and I think they've really done well to humanise him.”
I don't think nervous actually quite qualifies the way I feel - terrified is a more accurate description. I was enormously nervous and worried about taking on the mantle of one of Wales' greatest sons," However, Rhys said his colleagues made his job easier. "I'm happy about how passionate they are about the script and story. We all share the same enthusiasm for the amazing story,"
Many locals had signed up to play extras in the film which would also be shot in the boat house in Laugharne where Thomas did much of his writing.
The Edge of Love was be released in spring 2008.
After filming ended on “The edge of Love” Matthew returned to Los Angeles for the filming of the second season of Brothers and Sisters – season 2.
On September 14th, 2007, Matthew was the Ioan Gruffudd’s best man at his wedding to Alice Evans.
It was Matthew’s role as gay lawyer Kevin that made that he was asked to become a patron of the Iris Prize Festival, a major international gay and lesbian short film festival, that is to take place annually in Cardiff.
Trivia: “I’m a Christmas sucker. I’m into the whole Christmas card image. I love fires, the food, songs, drinking and the pub on Christmas Eve, chocolate, walks.”
Trivia: A show he never misses? ‘The Wire’ is so fantastic that I forget I’m watching a cop show and think the actors are real.
Trivia: Last time I cried was…? Last Saturday, reading a poem Dylan Thomas wrote for his dying father. It wasn’t a big cry, just a tear.
Meanwhile, after the writers’ strike had ended, season 2 of Brothers & Sisters continued for Kevin Walker, of whom Matthew says:
“Kevin learns from his mistakes. Under the dry sense of humor and the caustic repartee, he just wants to meet that one partner, and he hopes that’ll complete everything. I find that quite touching about him.”
And a lot of people had but one question for him.
“Everyone’s like “when’s Scotty coming back?” So Scotty is back this season and he and Kevin are just friends…”
Well, at first anyway, but as the season progresses Kevin’s rekindles his relationship with Scotty Wandell and this time they finally seem to succeed and it comes to a point where Kevin deals with his commitment-phobia by proposing to Scotty, adding their commitment ceremony to TV-Guide’s list of “15 most memorable TV weddings”, while writing tv-history, as it is the first same-sex union on American network TV, between two series regulars.
It was a development that mostly seemed to surprise Luke Macfarlane (Scotty Wandell): “I thought I had come back and I was doing the guest-star thing again. Then, one day, I was riding on my bike with Matt over to Stage 6 to shoot a scene, and I was like, ‘So what are they planning on doing?’ And he said, ‘I think we’re getting married.’ Of course, I didn’t want to allow myself to believe that meant they were going to make me a series regular. But they did.”
Of course the rehearsals for the commitment ceremony couldn’t go without a bit of teasing:
“Luke and I were rehearsing who was to stand where, which would put one of us in the woman's position, and a few comments were made. And neither of us was going to wear a white suit while the other wore black." And about the topper of the wedding-cake: "Oh, it's two men. Fantastic. There were jokes made that they wouldn't be able to find two men, so they'd have to doctor the woman by adding a moustache."
Some quotes from his co-stars on Matthew:
Sally Field: “Everyone just falls in love with Matthew. He’s so funny and genuine an very, very talented.”
Jon Robin Baitz: “…in there’s this fabulous combination of openness, availability, intellect, humility, arrogance, self-deprecation, introspection.”
Greg Berlanti: “I think that most people are so won over by Matthew, that it’s hard to not get equally invested in him as a romantic lead.
Luke Macfarlane: “Rhys is a fantastic actor. For a heterosexual actor it is usually a little scary to be intimate with another man, but Matthew handled it all very well. He did not hesitate for a second before making those scenes. He has a theater background like me, and I think it makes you more open to such things. In addition, he is from Wales and being European he has a slightly more open perspective on things.”
Trivia: On Luke Macfarlane (Scotty Wandell) coming out in April 2008: “We absolutely supported him 100 percent. It was very brave of him. I’m very proud of him. You can never underestimate the joy in living an authentic life. Now if only he could lose his Canadian accent, I’d be happy. Those vowels kills me each time.” Matthew joked. “…And his sick obsession with maple syrup!”
In June 2008 ‘Edge of love’ was finally released, bringing with it a lot of interviews for Matthew. Again and again he has to explain that the movie is not so much about Dylan Thomas, as it is about the two woman in his life, played by Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley. It's also a surprisingly unflattering portrait of Thomas, shown as a selfish, promiscuous alcoholic.
"As with any genius, he was a complex man with many flaws. He was childlike in his behaviour, in that there was no malice behind it. If he wanted something in a sweet shop, he'd go after it without thinking through the consequences, and that stayed with him in adult life. Ultimately he thought of himself as a child.
It was like a see-saw; the way he could create such great beauty in his writing and cause so much damage in his day-to-day life.
I think that's what I was trying to get at in the movie, but I think at times he just comes across as a bastard. I think he was very tormented. He had a lot of demons, which were inflicted by his own parents, which he never really resolved. And he was terrorized by his own relationship with Caitlin (his wife, played by Miller). It was so intense and so destructive. They loved each other so much that it was a pain and a burden.
I spoke at length with Aeronwy, bless her. She gave me a couple of hours and I picked her brains. But she was young when he died. She has some very vivid memories of him, though, but it was the little hints that helped me, the things that she remembered, like him being really slow moving, and never seeing him without a cigarette." Aeronwy recalled her father moving like "a slug", so Matthew put that in his attitude as well.
“It’s also an enormous relief that Aeronwy liked my performance. “I was very happy to hear she liked the film. She was very supportive, even with the fictitious elements of it. She’s said something like, ‘Dylan was a writer, so he would approved of that’.”
On the accent: “It’s weird because Thomas tried to lose his dirty Jack Swansea accent as much as possible – and in that respect, I was doing the same, trying to mask my Cardiff accent. Thomas went for an all-out, very plummy English accent when he went to London.”
For his part in the movie he had to gain weight and did that with pleasure. “I have to say that I went to see a nutritionist, because it’s quite easy to put a lot of weight on but you can clog your arteries doing it, so she advised me how to gain the weight healthily. Then I ignored all her healthy weight-gain plans and hit the pies and Guinness. It really did work.”
Trivia: One of Matthew’s favorite poems by Thomas is “Do not go gentle into that good night”.
Another surprise awaited him: In June 2008 he heard that he was to become a member of the Gorsedd of Bards at the at this year’s National Eisteddfod, one of Wales’ most elite cultural groups. His Gorsedd citation says: “The brightness of his performances on stage and in films places him as one of Wales’ best actors.”
On the 15 july 2008 the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, awarded Matthew Rhys with an honorary fellowship and a degree in its annual graduation ceremony.
To promote the National Eisteddfod, back in Cardiff for the first time in 40 years, Matthew joined Ioan Gruffudd and presenter Gethin Jones to make a promotional clip promoting BBC Wales’ coverage of the music festival.
A day before being accepted to the Gorsedd of the Bards Matthew also ventured into the world of music. He took to the stage with the National Youth Orchestra of Wales as part of that summer’s National Eisteddfod. Matthew would provide the first-ever narration in Welsh for Britten’s Young Person’s Guide.
Dressed in a dark suit with matching tie and crisp white shirt and sporting an orange badge on his right lapel, the Brothers and Sisters actor had practised for just 45 minutes when he walked out in front of a 1,000-strong Eisteddfod audience at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall.
Surrounded by 110 musicians, the 33-year-old provided the first-ever narration in Welsh of Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. It was conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes – who went to college with Matthew’s parents.
The former pupil of Cardiff’s Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf, who gave his time for free, said after his 25-minute appearance:
“It was overwhelming to be standing in the middle of such an orchestra, that has such a professional standard. I was very nervous I was going to muck it up for them. It was a fantastic experience and I was very pleased to do this for the orchestra and the Eisteddfod.”
And finally it was 8 August 2008, the day that Matthew joined the Gorsedd of the Bards. Handed out to those deemed to have made a significant contribution to Welsh culture and the Welsh language, membership of the Gorsedd of Bards is the highest honour bestowed by the annual festival. Despite appearances, the Gorsedd of Bards is not an ancient pagan sect. Its modern incarnation has its roots in late 18th century London.
Dressed in a billowing white robe and head dress, Rhys, 32, said he approached the occasion with "absolute reverence". He joined a procession of new recruits at an open-air ceremony where he took the bardic title Matthew Taf after the river that runs through the Welsh capital.
"The honour is double or 10 times more when you hear the names of those who have gone before you and the things they have achieved. It's humbling to be in their number.
I have grown up with the Eisteddfod – it was always a big part of my childhood. When something influences you that much, it really stays with you. It still has the same resonance for me now. The Eisteddfod was my first experience of being on stage in front of an audience and it’s a huge reason why I’m doing this job.”
The Eisteddfod described Rhys as one of the world's most recognisable actors and a "credit to his Cardiff upbringing".
"I was brought up as an 'Eisteddfodwr' and the robes are so unique, it has a big effect on you as a child. It's one of the big things that you remember.”
Rhys hugged his parents, Glyn and Helen Evans, when he returned to the robing room at the back of the main pavilion.
His mother said: "We are both extremely proud of the honour the eisteddfod has given Matthew. Words cannot really describe how we both feel today. And we are delighted he was able to be here today to receive this honour in his home city."
Trivia: After Dylan Thomas, there is another Welsh icon that Matthew would love to play. Given the chance he would love to play Richard Burton. "Terrifying as that would be, it would definitely be something I'd like to have a go at during my career."
Meanwhile Matthew started Brothers & Sisters – season 3. Kevin Walker, now married, has to deal with the issues that comes with being part of a married couple and sees some added outside drama in the shape of betrayal by a family-member, a change in career and a health-scare.
In September 2008 Matthew became the new ‘voice’ of Welsh lamb adverts.
Trivia: If he was to chose a subject that interested him least, it would be clothes.”If I have to go into a clothing store, I start to weep. That’s my idea of hell – shopping for clothes.”
In October 2008 Matthew continued his connection with Dylan Thomas by voicing a TV animation based on one of his poems. A Child's Christmas in Wales, which recreated the festive experience as though it were a fairytale, would air on Welsh-language public service broadcaster S4C on Christmas Day. An English-language version, also voiced by Rhys, was expected to be picked up by another British broadcaster.
Matthew, shared the same enthusiasm for Christmas as the poet. "I still love Christmas and now that my sister has two young children, the magic of Christmas continues. My mother loves traditions and so Christmas is an important occasion for her and the family. I still get a stocking full of nuts, tangerines and of course, the old favourite, Terry’s Chocolate Orange."
One gift that Matthew recalled receiving is a bright red tracksuit with the letters M R printed on it. But the present he had used the most, perhaps, was his copy of the Dylan Thomas classic, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, which he reads every Christmas Eve to get into the festive spirit.
Early 2009 Matthew filmed his part in Patagonia in Patagonia, where he stayed for 5 weeks.
“For five nights we slept on lilos in a gym in the desert. It was pretty basic.”
The movie was directed by Marc Evans, who had also directed Matthew’s very first movie “House of America. It also featured fellow Welsh stars Nia Roberts, singer Duffy and Matthew Gravelle.
It’s been great working with Marc and Nia again and it was a good excuse to go back to Patagonia – I’ve been four times now. One of the draws was to play a different character and work in my own language. It’s a completely different mould to LA.”
The ambitious but relatively low budget film was told in Welsh and Spanish and the action alternated between a 30-something Welsh couple (Roberts and Gravelle) who travel to Argentina to reassess their relationship, and an elderly woman who is venturing in the opposite direction. Matthew played Argentinean Welsh-speaker Mateo who put a “spanner in the works” when he meets the young couple from Wales.
“He is a bit of an innocent but causes a bit of trouble in their relationship – he acts from the heart.”
Matthew returned to where he filmed a documentary several years earlier. He revisited a group of locals he worked with tot re-enact an epic trek of 30 men and 200 horses to discover new lands in Patagonia in 1885. He showed them the tape of the documentary, translated in Spanish so that everyone would understand, turning it into a very emotional night for everyone.
On his return to California, Matthew shot a short film Think Tank, playing the part of Marc, acting with Paula Rhodes. After that, and a stop in New York to promote the latest season of Brothers & Sisters, he headed back to Cardiff for a break with his family, because Matthew been nominated for the Bafta Cymru Awards for “Best Actor” in Edge of Love. Unfortunately he didn’t win.
Matthew remained interested in Wales and Cardiff and had his name added to the list of protesters calling for the immediate halt to the developments in Cardiff’s Bute Park.
The Cardiff Counsel wanted ‘improve access to the park for lorries heading to the city’s nurseries and major events in Coopers Field’ threatening this beautiful park. His protest and those of others were futile as plans went ahead anyway.
After the summer he returned to Brothers & Sisters – 4th season, this time the show takes Kevin to a secret of his past, another change in career, while trying to be a supportive brother to a seriously ill sister and even more importantly, Kevin and Scotty are on the path of adding a child to their marriage.
“I like the way that we get the opportunity to explore several specific issues that might affect only same-sex relationships. I enjoy this storyline because it’s so layered. It holds a few different aspects because it’s not a heterosexual couple trying to have a baby. Kevin and Scotty being gay brings another element in, and I think it’s good we are raising those kind of questions on the show.
We’re lucky that that storyline is relatively uncharted. The whole journey of going about it makes very interesting TV.”
Matthew was even allowed to direct an episode – 4.09. Pregnant Pause.
“I’ve always been interested in directing. Last season I talked to Ken Olin about it, and he told me about his experience directing while he was an actor on “Thirtysomething”. He asked me if I wanted to do it for the show and it went from there.
The condition was that I would shadow a few directors. So I shadowed Ken, Michael Schultz, Bethany Rooney, etc. to get a feel and try to understand how it all works. And it was really the best way. I’ve been on this show for four years, I know how the show works and I know the cast. The crew is really amazing so it was a very safe way to step into it.
On the whole the cast was very supportive. I have a greater understanding of the process. And a lot more respect for the crew and for visiting directors. And I would like to do it again one day, because the first time, you’re so terrified. I was terrified.
Dave Annable called me ‘Reshoot Rhys’ but in the whole the cast was very supportive. My favorite scene to shoot was when Nora is in the shower and Kitty walks in. That was fun because the it was the girls having fun.”
From a quick Q&A November 2009
Here’s a list of pairs. Pick one:
Scotland or England? - Scotland
TV or Film? - Film.
iPhone or Blackberry? - Blackberry.
Whale Rider or Free Willy 2? - Whale Rider.
Broadway or the West End? - West End.
Surf or sand? - Surf.
Football or soccer? - Soccer.
X-box or Playstation? - X-box.
Wine or Beer? - Wine. Now.
What superhero would you most like to play? - Thor.
END OF PART 4
Links to all 6 posts for this bio can be found here