Friday, February 27, 2015

Matthew Goode Hits It Big With ‘Good Wife,’ ‘Downton Abbey’ Roles

Feb. 26, 2015 6:17 p.m. ET

Matthew Goode at Freemans, a restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Matthew Goode at Freemans, a restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. PHOTO: CLAUDIO PAPAPIETRO FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

In less than a year, British actor Matthew Goode joined the cast of a critically acclaimed TV drama (“The Good Wife”), appeared in an Oscar-nominated film (“The Imitation Game”) and secured a role in another, equally successful series (“Downton Abbey”).

“It’s been a really good year. There’s no question about that,” said the 36-year-old actor who grew up in England, studied at London’s Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts, then performed mainly in theater (“The Tempest”) and film (“Match Point,” “A Single Man”).

Mr. Goode was offered the “Good Wife” role of prosecutor Finn Polmar last winter, just as producers Michelle and Robert King were secretly plotting the exit of one of its lead characters, Will Gardner, played by Josh Charles. He quickly accepted, temporarily moving his family—Sophie, his wife, and daughters Matilda, 5, and Teddy, 1—to New York.

It has been a good run, but Mr. Goode is eager to return to England.

He will pack up his family in April, in time to film the next season of “Downton,” shoot a show about wine with friend and fellow actor Matthew Rhys and prepare for a new arrival. His son is due in August.

WSJ: Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, you...Is there some sort of British actor boom going on?

There’s so much work over here. I think the Americans are much more open-minded than British audiences. But you’ve still got to pull it off. America isn’t just a couple of accents; it’s a vast country with a myriad of different accents and classes. You’ve got to get it right.

WSJ: Was it difficult to step into “The Good Wife” midseason, just as Josh Charles’s character was being killed off?

I never felt like I was stepping into his role. When I discussed it with Robert and Michelle, I said, “I think it would be a mistake to throw me in as this immediate replacement love interest. I think the audience needs to mourn and I don’t think it’s that interesting.”

So far, I like Finn. A lot of the characters are quite arch. You think you know them and suddenly they’ll do something that’s actually quite immoral. It hasn’t happened to Finn yet.

WSJ: How did you acquire your American accent?

I found a bloke on the Internet…this lawyer. He was talking to the press for a good five minutes. I didn’t memorize it, but I watched him. I could just learn his rhythms and what he said.

WSJ: Will you return next season?

I don’t know yet. We haven’t had the discussion. I might, but I’m all about the family, really. You can’t keep uprooting your children all the time.

WSJ: How did your “Downton Abbey” role come about?

I knew a few people in the cast already, like Allen [Leech] from “The Imitation Game.” I met Michelle [Dockery] a long time ago. We had a really good laugh and ended up dancing the night away. It’d been on the cards and suddenly it came to fruition.

I don’t know how long I’m going to be doing it, but the game is afoot. My character’s a guy called Henry Talbot. That’s all we know so far.

WSJ: “The Imitation Game” has caused quite a stir. What are your thoughts about it?

The story of Alan Turing is fascinating. We see that he thinks differently, we see that he has an incredible mind. Ultimately, he wins the Second World War. And for his efforts, because he likes to make love with men…?

Because Alan Turing achieved this incredible thing, he’s been pardoned by the queen. What about pardoning the other 49,000 men who you condemned for just being gay? There’s a petition you can sign. They wanted to get 49,000 signatures and I think it’s on its way to 100,000.


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