Saturday, November 9, 2013

Matthew Macfadyen: Mac the knife


By: Simon Button
Published: Sun, November 10, 2

Ripper Street is definitely not suitable for children. All those gory Victorian murders are the stuff of nightmares, so it’s just as well for actor Matthew Macfadyen that eight-year-old Maggie and seven-year-old Ralph are distinctly unimpressed by their father’s career. Have they seen any of his stuff? “Er, now and again,” says the 6ft 3in actor, “but they’re not really interested. I wish they were sometimes, but they’re not. The most boring thing they could watch is Daddy. They’d rather see Despicable Me 2.”

Macfadyen, married for nine years to his Spooks co-star Keeley Hawes, happily pulled on the three-piece suit and bowler hat of Detective Inspector Edmund Reid for the return of BBC1’s Monday night murder thriller. But he has no illusions that he could do the job for real.“Every role you play, you sort of imaginatively jump into it, so you think, ‘Yeah, I could be a soldier,’ or whatever. You’ve got to believe in it and take it seriously, at least a little bit. But that’s the joy of this job. You can dip a toe into another world – and often you meet the people who do that job for a living, so you get some amazing insights – and then you can dip out again, safely and happily. But be a real policeman? Of course I couldn’t. I’d be hopeless. I’m just not clever enough.”

Instead, the Norfolk-born son of an actress and an oil executive has been honing his stagecraft since he enrolled at RADA at 17. Now 38, he has compiled an impressive CV that includes a number of Shakespeare roles and Noel Coward’s Private Lives on stage – when he co-starred with Kim Cattrall – plus Pride & Prejudice and Anna Karenina on film, and everything from Spooks to Pillars of the Earth via Ashes to Ashes and Little Dorrit on telly. It’s the success of Ripper Street that has really raised his profile, however. “I don’t get stopped in the street very often but it does happen a little more now,” he says. “Since this show started, people stop me and say they love it and I’m so glad they do. It’s a lovely feeling to get good feedback.”


Not everyone, it has to be said, has been able to stomach all that gore. “But you shouldn’t sugar-coat it,” argues Macfadyen.  “There are boundaries of taste, I suppose, but a bit of blood and guts is all right.”Ripper Street series two finds Edmund Reid in “a pretty dark place,” says the actor. Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) is still by his side, “but Reid is no longer living at home, he’s living in his office and he’s pretty lonely. Jerome’s character is married and he’s happy. He’s enjoying domestic bliss with his new wife, which is a bit of a turnaround from the first series. But Reid’s wife isn’t around any more and we don’t know why – well, not yet anyway. So he throws himself into his work.”


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