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 March 2012 the showbiz blogs come with the news that Matthew had been cast opposite Keri Russell in a new pilot for FX called “The Americans - season 1”. A spy-drama set in the early 80s, that centers on 2 KGB spies. Philip Jennings (Matthew) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri) pose as an American couple, they even have 2 children. Though their marriage is an arranged one, the couple’s relationship grows more passionate and real, but the Cold War is escalating and the house opposite of theirs gets a new owner who happens to be FBI Counter-intelligence, Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich).
Filming started in May and by August, while at the National Eisteddfod in Wales, Matthew could finally confirm that the show’s pilot was well received and that an order for 13 episodes had been placed.
So, it’s back to New York, where The Americans is shot.
What appealed Matthew to The Americans?
“Everything falls apart when real feelings come into this false marriage. It becomes an incredibly complex thing, a multilayered relationship that makes for great drama.”
Back then you relied more on human ingenuity, which is far more interesting than watching a computer or satellite that can do everything for you. If it’s all down to wits, then it makes it far more interesting to watch.”
Audition processes are notoriously grueling, but Matthew scored his role by literally being slapped in the face.
It happened when he and co-star Keri Russell were performing a scene from the pilot together in front of producers. At the time, Russell had already landed her role as one half of a Russian spy couple in the Cold War-era drama and they were looking for an actor to play her husband, with whom her character would share a complicated relationship.
“[There's] a scene from the pilot where Elizabeth slaps Philip’s face and Keri hit him so hard because they were both so into the scene, and Matthew didn’t even flinch. It was like he just hadn’t even gotten hit,” executive producer Joe Weisberg recalls. “There was something about that moment…when he took that hit he just seemed like the toughest guy in the world.”
This story makes Rhys howl with laughter. “I was too much in shock. Internally, I was like, ‘What just happened?'”
He was delighted that the pilot proved a success and he had to go through some rigorous physical training as well as filming.
“There’s a lot of martial arts in it so I need to start some martial arts, kick-boxing, a little bit of jiu-jitsu, and krav maga training now. I did an intense month (of training) prior to the pilot shooting and loved it. Over the years, I’ve done various jobs calling for things like kick-boxing but nothing like this.”
Learning occasional lines in Russian "has been a little bit of a linguistic struggle for me," but he relishes the variety of disguises he's called upon to wear. He also enjoys working with Russell, calling her "an absolute joy. She has an incredibly mischievous sense of humor, which drives me insane, but we do have fun making this show."
The show is a success, even though it asks of the Americans to root for the Russian spies.
When filming ends he plans to go on a horse riding expedition in Mongolia. "That's my idea of heaven. I'm looking forward to it enormously."
Hardly back from his holidays, he hears that will play the iconic Mr Darcy in the Pride and Prejudice spin-off murder-mystery “Death Comes to Pemberly” written by PD James
“It’s a bit of a worry. Regardless of Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen or Laurence Olivier or whoever else has played him, so many people have read the book. They have an incredibly special relationship with Darcy, they have a very clear idea of who he should be. So you’re concerned that you’re only set up for disappointment. The good thing about it is, it’s not Pride and Prejudice Darcy, it’s a different Darcy so I can’t be held up as a mirror image to Mr Firth.”
The show airs on Christmas 2013
Filming for “The Americans - season 2” starts after this. Philip and Elizabeth are still trying to make their marriage work, but the orders they get, require more and more of their skill as time to prepare and infiltrate becomes more and more short.
“They're a much stronger front as a unit, and we see them as a family -- as a unit in that respect -- face a lot more sort of prevailing and present danger that's encroaching on the Jennings' household.” Meanwhile, their daughter Paige is beginning to have a life of her own. And they still have to deal with their neighbor from FBI. Meanwhile, Philip as Clark
“He becomes very aware of what he's doing in the manipulation of Martha and how it's spiraling ever downwards. It pricks his conscience definitely. He has a heart and he is sensitive, and he finds it increasingly harder, the level of lies and level of betrayal. As she wants to evolve in the marriage, he's trying to stall at every level.”
Is there a favorite disguise:
I’ve named him: He’s called Fernando. He has longish hair. We actually saw him in the first episode of the first season when he beat up someone who was being rather lascivious with his daughter at a department store. He has like a mustache and long hair and a little goatee, and he feels very Latin to me.
In the episode Martial Eagle, you had this very powerful scene where you had to yell at Paige (played by Holly Taylor) and rip apart her bible. What was it like to blow up like that in front of your younger costar?
Pretty awful, actually, because I decided in the moment…that I wouldn’t really tell her how I was going to react or what I was going to do. So I did explode on her, and in that moment, you have the out-of-body experience where you see that you kind of startled someone a little more than you should have. It was a real shock to her. So the reaction was amazing and real, but not without its consequence. You feel like a jerk for frightening a 16-year-old.
After a twist in the finale that should have fans come back to this show, Matthew returns to England record the radio-play “Beach of Falesa” as the narrator of the story written by Dylan Thomas. May 4th sees the world premiere of this
unfilmed screenplay by Dylan Thomas, newly adapted for radio as part of Radio 3's Dylan Thomas centenary celebrations. It stars besides Matthew also Matthew Gravelle, Nicky Henson, Fiona Marr and others.
But he’s not done with the centenary celebrations. He also participates in the all-star cast for a new BBC Wales TV adaptation of Dylan Thomas's play Under Milk Wood. Featured locations included the poet's favourite pubs in New York and west Wales where he wrote his "play for voices" over a 10 year period.
Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Sheen, Tom Jones, Nia Roberts, Griff Rhys Jones, John Rhys-Davies, Andrew Howard, Jonathan Price, Sian Philips, Bryn Terfel, Katherine Jenkins,
Charlotte Church and Eve Myles.
After this it’s off to France, filming En Mai fais ce qu’il te plait (Darling Buds of May), which follows Rhys as a stranded British army officer who teams up with a German fugitive to find his son in Nazi-occupied France.
Next he joins the cast of a culinary movie (which so far has no name as the name they wanted to give it got taken) It stars Bradley Cooper as a bad-boy chef trying for his third Michelin star, with Rhys playing his nemesis. Other cast-members include Sienna Miller, Uma Thurman, Daniel Bruhl, Riccardo Scarmacio, Emma Thompson, Lily James, Omar Sy, Jamie Dornan, Sam Keeley, Sarah Greene and Alicia Vikander.
Matthew will record “Under Milk Wood” again, Sept. 18-21, this time in Los Angeles, also for radio. This time with the help of Kate Burton (daughter of Richard Burton), Laura Evans, John Francis and Jason Hughes.
And it’s back to New York to film “The Americans – season 3”. This season (according to the actors and showrunners at Comic Con) we’ll see more interaction between Philip and Stan, while Philip and Elizabeth must decide what to do with the news they have had in the finale of season 2.
There’s also the news that Matthew will play in Everything Carries Me To You with Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), Kate Walsh and Freddie Fox attached to star. The romantic drama, follows an ambitious young dancer whose world is turned upside down when she discovers a note suggesting her lover may be cheating.
8 November 2014: This is the story so far……Oh, and it's Matthew's 40th birthday today. Seemed like the right moment to update this bio. ;)
To Matthew Rhys for being a great actor. J
All the journalists who made 400+ interviews that helped me put this bio together.. J
Links to all 6 posts for this bio can be found here