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
In February 2010 Matthew presented a documentary Mr Hollywood a Matthew Rhys. A documentary on Griffith Jenkins Griffith, who moved from Wales to New York to Mexico to Los Angeles, become the rich man, building a road all the way to Pacific Coast, now known as Sunset Boulevard.
Marrying a high society wife, Griffith’s fortunes took a turn for the worse, however. By 1902, he had developed alcoholism and delusions that his wife was unfaithful. One night in a Santa Monica hotel room he reached his personal nadir when in a tumult of despair he shot her in an eye. Miraculously, she survived.
But her husband, who fled, was captured and stood trial for murder. Griffith’s attorney Earl Rogers used the new defense, his client had been drunk and therefore not in possession of his faculties. The lawyer succeeded in whittling the charge down to assault with a deadly weapon. Griffith got just two years in San Quentin prison.
Yet it was a sobering period – in both senses – and on his release he became an avid penal reformer.
For example, he acquired a water course knowing it would probably become invaluable to inhabitants. He sold mortgages knowing that home ownership was a thriving industry. But he also donated 3,000 acres to the city which was ultimately turned into Griffith Park, some five times larger than NY’s Central Park and almost certainly the ‘lungs’ of LA.
I often visit the park:in LA which takes his name Griffith’s dream has been realised. Go to the park any weekend and you'll see a variety of people enjoying the gift this Welshman gave the city. He rose from nothing and made his fortune."
He was also the narrator to the documentary Afghanistan: Five Welsh Families, an insight into the lives of five Welsh families struggling to cope thousands of miles from the Afghan battlefields, as Welsh regiments fight the Taliban.
2010 also saw the premier of the movie Luster (2010). This thriller about a troubled businessman, Thomas Luster (Andrew Howard), who tries to make sense of a life being driven out-of-control by a force closer to home than he first realizes. When he discovers that the man working against him is another side of his own personality he is forced to fight back against his manipulative alter-ego as murder, madness and mayhem combine to take Luster on the most bizarre and terrifying ride of his life. In this movie Matthew plays the part of Joseph Miller.
In June 2010 he lend his voice the radio-play “Tartuffe” for L.A. Theatre Works. It was recorded at The Invisible Studios, West Hollywood. Matthew played the part of Valere. The play “Tartuffe” was initially banned in France by King Louis. Molière's celebrated social satire Tartuffe exposes false piety and hypocrisy in the Catholic Church. When a pious fraud worms his way into a wealthy family and manipulates the patriarch into giving up his fortune, it’s up to his family to expose the truth before they end up in the poor house! It features the voices of Brian Bedford as Tartuffe, and JB Blanc, Daniel Blinkoff, Gia Carides, Jane Carr, John de Lancie, Martin Jarvis and Sarah Zimmerman.
During his summer-break from Brothers & Sisters he returned to Wales, also went to the Children’s Hospital of Wales, where he toured the surgical wards and met young patients before the second phase of a major refurbishment there.
A charity champion for the Noah’s Ark Appeal, he said: “It’s a fantastic cause. You do get a lot of requests for X, Y and Z. Usually it’s all on paper or e-mails but it’s rare to get an opportunity to meet the kids – it becomes a bit more of a reality.
After many years of supporting the Noah’s Ark Appeal I am really looking forward to seeing the results of such a great fundraising campaign that involved so many people from across Wales and beyond.
Meeting the patients and staff that work in the Children’s Hospital will definitely be a highlight of my trip back home. Wales is going to be very proud of its Children’s Hospital for Wales, which I know does amazing work.”
And the public could see his picture at an exhibition that shows pictures, made by Cambridge Jones. He had taken pictures of famous celebrities, including pictures of Terry Jones, Damian Lewis, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sian Philips, Ioan Gruffudd, Shirley Bassey, Bonnie Tyler and the band Stereophonics to name but a few. For the new exhibition, Talking Pictures, Jones asked each of his sitters during their photo shoots about who had most inspired them. Their answers accompany each of the portraits in the exhibition as a personal soundtrack giving the audience a unique insight into their lives.
Matthew also did his share to promote the fact that The 38th Ryder Cup Golf Tournament comes to Wales for the first time on 1 October 2010,
After the summer-break he would return for Brothers & Sisters – season 5, which would take Kevin through the turmoil of depression, betrayal and an adoption.
On October 10, 2010, he was the best man for his tv-brother Dave Annable on his marriage to Odette Yustman. Their weddingday-guests included co-actors Luke Macfarlane, Sally Field and was officiated by Ron Rifkin.
From 20th November until 27th November 2010 he travels around Wales to promote his book “Patagonia – Crossing the plain/Crosie’r paith” about his journey by horse through Patagonia to commemorate the expedition of a group of Welsh settlers in Chubut, Argentina, who set out to explore the Andes for a new settlement.
In 2005 Matthew had joined a group of the descendants of the original expedition to recreate this accomplishment. He had taken a lot of pictures of that journey. And in 2010, 125 years after original journey he thought it would be a good idea to do a commemorative book. The book is in English and Welsh and has beautiful black/white pictures.
In December 2010 Matthew joined Kathleen Turner, to reprise the roles they had created 10 years earlier. For the radio-play “The Graduate” (for L.A. Theatre Works) he becomes Benjamin Braddock again opposite Kathleen Turner’s Mrs Robinson. It was recorded from 8-12 december and broadcasted later on and also starred the voices of Bruce Davison, John Getz, Lucy Punch and Linda Purl.
Matthew also bought the filmrights to “Operation Julie” about a drug-raid on a LSD factory near Tregaron.
On 13 March 2011 Matthew gives voice to “Hamlet” for "LA Phil Live" Dudamel Conducts Tchaikovsky during an all-Tchaikovsky program that features his three Overture-Fantasies inspired by Shakespeare plays - Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and The Tempest. Preceding each of these powerful symphonic poems are selections from the Bard's immortal works performed by the cast of actors (Orlando Bloom as Romeo, Malcolm McDowell as Prospero, and Matthew Rhys as Hamlet). Kate Burton, the prolific Tony-nominated stage and screen actress and daughter of the late Richard Burton, directs this all-star cast and also serves as host for the LA Phil LIVE broadcast. Los Angeles Philharmonic is conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.
Through season 5 of Brothers & Sisters, Matthew was allowed to direct 3 more episodes of the show 5.08 Rhapsody of the flesh, 5.15 Brody and 5.20 Father unknown.
However in 13 May 2011 the news finally came (not entirely unexpected) that Brothers & Sisters in cancelled. Apparently, the first time he heard about it was because it was posted on a showbiz blog. Matthew was at that moment in New York to watch Luke Macfarlane (his tv-husband) in a play “The Normal Heart”. And though a lot of fans mourn the loss of Kevin/Scotty in particular, the cancellation is not big surprise to Matthew.
Was I surprised? Yes and no. I think after five years it was incredibly fortuitous to still be running. After that amount of time, I think our storylines had been exhausted – we had a whole lot of really dramatic stories, so in that sense it wasn’t a huge surprise. It would have been nicer for us if we could have known that we were finishing – so we could have finished on a more dramatic note.
But we finished the series thinking we had the possibility for another season, so it was left hanging a little bit. So it’s a little disappointing not to go out with a bang.
All along it was an incredibly positive experience – the cast I have worked with, the level of talent of the acting, has been brilliant.
On 29 May 2011 Matthew received the 2011 Siân Phillips Award for his significant contribution to film and TV:
“It means an enormous amount to me. Ironically enough, Siân played my mother in my very first job, which was rather magical, and this honour means an infinite amount more because it is her award... Being recognised by those from home really does make it that much more special."
On 1 July 2011 he was the narrator for “A Midsummer Night's Dream” performed at the Aspen Music Festival, led by conductor Nicolas McGegan.
The loss of Brother & Sisters didn’t seem to bother Matthew for too long. And though he said that he was drawn to a return to theater and the London West End, in September came the news that Matthew had been cast for the parts in The mystery of Edwin Drood, The Scapegoat and then at the theatre with Look back in anger.
First he took on the character of John Jasper in The mystery of Edwin Drood, an adaptation of Charles Dickens’s unfinished work, completed by Gwyneth Hughes for the BBC . Also starring are Tamzin Merchant (as Rosa Bud) and Freddie Fox (as Edwin Drood), Rory Kinnear, Alun Armstrong and Julia McKenzie.
The addicted-to-opium John Jasper, choirmaster, has a murderous hatred for his nephew Edwin Drood, who’s engaged to Rosa Bud, the woman Jasper is obsessively in love with.
Matthew seemed to be the perfect choice.
Diarmuid Lawrence, director: “It was essential that he was more than just an irredeemable villain. We needed an actor who could help us get inside Jasper’s troubled head and Matthew has the sensitivity to do just that.
“John Jasper is not straightforward, that’s for sure. A huge number of things Yes, he’s not straightforward, that’s for sure. A huge number of things happen to him and he’s a victim of circumstance. His early life has an incredible knock-on effect for him as a person and sadly makes him a very destructive and dark young man and that's coupled with opium addiction and substance abuse. He’s also addicted to laudanum, which was incredibly popular at the time and very potent.
Next Matthew starred in ‘The Scapegoat’. Based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, he plays two different characters: John Standing, an unemployed teacher, and Johnny Spence, a failed businessman. They don’t know each other, meet by chance and discover that they look exactly alike. John is forced to take over the life Johnny, when Johnny runs off with John’s identity and finds himself dealing with several different persons, all more or less hurt by Johnny. The movie also starred Dame Eileen Atkins as the (grand)mother Lady Spence, Sheridan Smith, Jodhi May, Andrew Scott and Alice Orr Ewing.
“The trickiest bit was making sure it was credible when my characters swapped places with each other – they had to be similar enough so that those around them believed they were the other person but there had to be subtle differences so that viewers will know who’s who. It was a fine balancing act.
I tried to use a different posture for each one. When I was playing Johnny, the posh character, I used to pretend I could smell something slightly unpleasant to give him a sneer. I made John a little bit softer.”
Matthew said that the toughest day of filming was the first day when he was in scenes featuring both characters.
“We would shoot so far then I’d have to take my coat off and do my hair differently before filming again.”
To help get his performances spot-on for the scenes between the two characters, Rhys rehearsed with another actor.
“There were times, though, when he’d do something a little different and in my head, I’d go, ‘That’s not quite how I’m going to do it’, but you have to react instinctively to his performance, so your head’s going in a million directions, it’s like, ’Sorry, what?’”
He describes the cast, which includes Eileen Atkins, Sheridan Smith and Johdi May, as “sublime”.
So what was it like having Atkins, one of the grande dames of stage and screen, playing his mother?
“She plays a formidable mother so I was having to act terrified – it came rather easily,” he jokes. “She’s just fabulous. She’s one of the giants of the acting world and does it so effortlessly.”
Halfway December 2011 rehearsals started for the Off Broadway play Look back in anger, at the Roundabout Theater. He takes on the part of
The show previewed on 13 January 2012, officially opened on 2 February 2012.
“Jimmy’s looking for her to see him and hear him and recognize him. He’s ranting and railing, but he’s trying to break down her walls. I’ve wanted to play Jimmy since I watched Burton’s movie version as an adolescent. I remember being struck for the first time by the idea that someone from Wales was on TV. I sort of became obsessed with him and the movie.”
About going back to the theater.
“Doing just the rehearsal process for the last few weeks, I’ve gone, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’ve been away from this for so long.’ I could trot out a million clichés, which would only disgust myself, but they’d be primarily about feeling alive. And it’s true.”
Jimmy is an intense character. How do you get in touch with that deep-seated anger?
In a way, it’s very easy. For me, Jimmy’s anger comes from his frustration. He has a deep desire to communicate with his wife, which he can’t do; he’s not emotionally equipped. His way of communicating is to shout and scream, which doesn’t work.
What’s your take on Jimmy and Alison as a couple?
I think there is a genuine love and need and attraction between the two. There has to be, otherwise the play is about abuse, and I don’t think that’s very interesting—nor is it true. The element that hinders them is their class. She is from an upper class, which, especially in the ’50s, was famed for not having a wide emotional vocabulary. There’s a reason why “stiff upper lip” was such a well-used phrase. Jimmy is from a lower class, and there seems to be an honesty and a directness in the way they speak, but ultimately he fails in communicating as well. At the end of the day, it’s about two people who try desperately to communicate, but just miss each other. That, to me, is the heart of the play.
But as tough as Jimmy may be, onstage wife Sarah Goldberg said that “Matthew is generous and hugely supportive. He’s the best onstage hubby a girl could ask for.”
END OF PART 5
Links to all 6 posts for this bio can be found here