The Untold Truth Of Matthew Macfadyen

Up until 2018, Matthew Macfadyen was renowned for playing the kind of dashing, debonair gentlemen that the likes of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth had built their careers on. Think of any period drama from the early '00s onward — see "Pride and Prejudice," "Little Dorrit," "Anna Karenina," for example — and there's a chance you'd have seen the RADA graduate sporting some impressive sideburns and breeches.

But since joining the cast of HBO's critically-acclaimed Oedipal drama "Succession" as the shameless son-in-law Tom Wambsgans, the Brit has become more synonymous with Machiavellian schemes, power trips and corporate cover-ups than the stiff upper lip.

So which type of role best resembles the Emmy Award nominee's real-life personality? And how did the man born in the British seaside town of Great Yarmouth end up playing one of Hollywood's most weaselly Americans? From money issues to marital rules, here's a look at Macfadyen's untold truth.

Young Matthew Macfadyen moved around a lot

Although Matthew Macfadyen's real-life plummy English accent suggests he spent his entire childhood at an elite private school, the "Criminal Justice" star actually had something of a nomadic upbringing due to his father Martin's job as an oil industry engineer.

Per The Guardian, Macfadyen was born in the seaside town of Great Yarmouth, and his family would go on to call Scottish cities as well as Jakarta home. "There was a lot of me standing next to a teacher announcing 'Say hello to Matthew, children,'" the RADA graduate recalled in a 2020 interview with the outlet. But far from feeling constantly unsettled by all the to and fro, Macfadyen embraced it. He added, "Mum and Dad were always excited by new places, so my brother and I were excited too."

In an interview with The AU Review, Macfadyen reflected on how much has changed since his childhood with regards to trying to stay in touch with people in different continents. "I remember when I was 9 or 10 going to Jakarta for my Dad's work, and when I was making phone calls from Jakarta back home to London, I'd have to go to my father's office at a certain time, and for there to be a good line, and it's inconceivable now that you'd have to do that," he shared.

Matthew Macfadyen got into theater early

No doubt inspired by his drama teacher and actor mother Meinir Owen, Matthew Macfadyen was apparently something of a luvvie in his early years. He landed a place at London's prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art aged just 17 where, as he told The Guardian, he developed an obsession with Ingmar Bergman play "Fanny and Alexander." Then, he became a regular of touring theater company Cheek By Jowl. Reflecting on this time to Backstage, he said, "I couldn't believe I'd gotten into drama school, and then I couldn't believe I got a job and was walking around thinking I could call myself a professional actor."

Benedick in "Much Ado About Nothing," Charles Surface in "The School for Scandal" and Antonio in "The Duchess of Malfi" were just a few of the notable roles Macfadyen played during this period. And the company's director Declan Donnellan had nothing but kind words to say about his former protégé in a 2020 interview with The Guardian.

Donnellan said, "The thing that young actors often don't realize is that if you want to get on, the first thing you need to look after is the group. Looking after me me me, on stage or off, never pays out. You have to give full attention to who you are acting with. Matthew always understood that." After a six-year break, Macfadyen returned to the stage in 2005 to star alongside Michael Gambon in the Royal National Theatre's acclaimed production of "Henry IV."

Nerves have gotten the better of him

Although Matthew Macfadyen was something of a theater prodigy in his youth, he was also incredibly shy away from the comfort of the stage. And unfortunately for the "Spooks" star, his quiet demeanor would often be mistaken for something far less sympathetic.

In a 2015 chat with The Big Issue, Macfadyen recalled a particular audition for Manchester Polytechnic in which he was berated for having a negative attitude. He also admitted to embarrassing himself in front of an acting legend in another incident: "At RADA, when casting directors and agents would come for the final showpiece, the first years used to pour the wine. I was on the drinks station and was very rude to Anthony Hopkins because I was crippled with nerves."

The Brit now wishes that he hadn't spent so much time concerning himself with other people's opinions. He added, "I would get paroxysms of anxiety, but actually people don't really care. It takes a while to learn it is not a good idea to drink five million glasses of white wine and smoke yourself to death to feel less nervous."

His marriage has a three weeks rule

The "Succession" actor isn't the only star of the screen in his family. Matthew Macfadyen has been married to Keeley Hawes, who he appeared alongside in BBC espionage drama "Spooks," since 2004. The pair have two children together, Maggie and Ralph (Hawes also has a son named Myles from her first marriage to DJ Spencer McCallum).

Although they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, the two thespians don't seem interested in putting that theory to the test. Despite their thriving careers — Hawes has also enjoyed success in the likes of "Line of Duty," "Bodyguard" and "It's A Sin" — the pair have always stuck to their self-imposed rule: never be apart from each other for more than three weeks. Well, apart from when circumstances are entirely out of their control.

While Macfadyen would normally travel back and forth across the Atlantic while shooting "Succession," the global pandemic meant that he had to spend nearly four months stuck in New York. And the Emmy nominee didn't exactly cope well with being away from his nearest and dearest, telling the Evening Standard in 2021, "So after three weeks on my own, I started to go a bit mad. You start to think. 'What am I doing?' I'd be walking around Brooklyn, thinking, 'Where do I live?' It was odd and hard."

His relationship began in scandal

Matthew Macfadyen's career has largely been free of any scandal, but there was a brief moment during his early years when he found himself at the center of a tabloid-friendly love triangle. In 2002, the Brit began seeing his "Spooks" co-star and future wife Keeley Hawes. Only problem was that she was still married to someone else at the time.

In fact, Hawes had only been wed to the father of her son Myles, Spencer McCallum, for a matter of months when rumors began surfacing that she and Macfadyen had become an item. The star later claimed that the pair didn't get together until after she'd left her husband in the February of that year. But either way, Hawes certainly didn't waste any time going public with her new man. She and Macfadyen confirmed their relationship at a BBC event some months later with a heavy dose of PDA. "They were necking like a couple of teenagers," another partygoer was quoted by MailOnline as saying.

Luckily, everyone involved apparently still manages to get on like a house on fire. Hawes told The Times in 2006, "We all have a drink together and sort of socialize. More than anything, that's down to Spencer. Myles is happy and he has the best of all worlds. He has all the time he needs with his father and he has the family unit with me and Matthew."

Matthew Macfadyen nearly went broke

Matthew Macfadyen is nothing if not honest. While most actors like to pretend that they're constantly flooded with Oscar-worthy scripts, the Emmy nominee freely admits that back in the mid-'00s, the roles being offered were so few and far between that he almost ended up flat broke.

Interestingly, this was a period in which his most famous film had only just been released. Macfadyen had received rave reviews for his leading man performance in "Pride and Prejudice," but as the star explained to The Times in 2019, this also left him typecast: "Anyway, [it] came out and I got a load of scripts. A bunch of crappy romantic comedies. A generic Mr. Darcy type, but not as interesting. So I just went 'No, no, no' and waited. I sat on my arse for a year. And then I got panicked, because I wanted to work, and it's weird — I was on the side of buses, but had run out of money."

This isn't the only time that Macfadyen has been left twiddling his thumbs. The actor also revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that before bagging the part of Detective Inspector Edmund Reid in 2013's Victorian crime drama "Ripper Street," he'd just experienced a dry spell which lasted "months and months."

Succession doesn't impress his family much

To loosely paraphrase one of Shania Twain's hits, "So you star in the most critically-acclaimed drama of the late '10s and early '20s? That don't impress me much." Yes, that's pretty much how Matthew Macfadyen's family feel about his Emmy-nominated role as Tom Wambsgans in HBO's compelling media satire "Succession."

Speaking to Gentleman's Journal in 2018, the Brit disclosed that his wife Keeley Hawes hasn't even watched a single episode. And in other interviews, Macfadyen has revealed that neither have any of his kids, with his stepson far more interested in Netflix's Spanish hit "Money Heist" and his daughter Maggie "The Vampire Diaries."

However, there is one Macfadyen show that his nearest and dearest have happily subjected themselves to — "Quiz," the gripping 2020 drama in which the actor played the real-life disgraced "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?" contestant Charles Ingram. Macfadyen explained to Gold Derby, "It was the first time ... well, not the first time, but it was the time in my memory that we all sat and there are three teenagers with us in the house and we all sat and watched it. It was great. I was thrilled. I was looking around expecting them to sort of wander off halfway through, but they didn't."

He constantly compared himself to another Darcy

While many who first watched the 1990s version of "Pride and Prejudice" will always associate Mr. Darcy with Colin Firth walking out of a lake, those who came to the story with the 2005 remake will only have eyes for another debonair Brit. Yes, in Joe Wright's take on the Jane Austen classic, it was Matthew Macfadyen who assumed the famous leading man role.

But it's fair to say that the actor didn't feel entirely at ease with playing the period drama pin-up. In an interview with The Telegraph to promote the film, Macfadyen admitted that he often compared himself to his predecessor. And he always came off second best: "The actor in me would always like to be more dashing, or slimmer, or have nicer hair. You know what I mean? I see pictures of Colin Firth and think, 'That's Darcy.' I see my big face and my funny hair and I think, 'Pudding head!'"

Macfadyen also addressed these insecurities in a chat with The Big Issue a decade later, revealing that in a strange way they actually helped his performance: "I didn't think I was good-looking or sexy enough. It probably bled into the character, because Mr Darcy is also cripplingly shy."

Matthew Macfadyen is not Tom Wambsgans

Matthew Macfadyen's performance as cringeworthy punching bag Tom Wambsgans in "Succession" is so convincing that he's, as Thrillist put it, "ruined" the 2005 "Pride and Prejudice" remake in which he starred as romantic hero Mr. Darcy. Luckily, he's far more of a Mr. Nice Guy in real life. In fact, his HBO co-stars can't stop gushing about what an all-round good egg he is.

Sarah Snook, who plays Macfadyen's on-screen wife Shiv, told the Evening Standard in 2021 that although she was intimidated by his body of work at first, her mind was soon put at ease: "He was just so personable and lovely, such a British gentleman and so easy to get along with."

Like Snook, Nicholas Braun — aka the most bumbling member of the Roy clan, Cousin Greg — also revealed that Macfadyen has a great sense of humor, telling the same newspaper, "As an actor, he is always just solid. You can count on him. He doesn't judge his work, which I am not good at. He's a very sensitive, interested and supportive person. And he's funny as hell."

Matthew Macfadyen enjoys playing an American

If you're a "Succession" viewer who hasn't seen Matthew Macfadyen in the likes of "Pride and Prejudice," "Little Dorrit" or pretty much every other period drama of the last 20 years, then you might be surprised to learn that the actor isn't actually American.

Indeed, following in the footsteps of "House" lead Hugh Laurie, "Homeland" star Damian Lewis and "The Walking Dead" favorite Andrew Lincoln, the man playing Tom Wambsgans is another of those English actors who've been able to prove that "Stateside accent" on their resume isn't just a bluff. And Macfadyen sure enjoys being able to switch up his natural speaking voice for the first time, even if he does find the whole process more difficult than it seems. As he said in the Evening Standard, "Sarah [Snook, who is Australian] and I have days when we're, like, 'We can't do it today.'"

In 2019, the actor told Chicago Tribune, "Americans sort of say every word, you know. So it's kind of liberating, because you're on the front foot as opposed to the back foot. It's totally different, and it's really energizing. Which is why Americans are kind of wonderful, because they're just in the room. 'Hi. What's going on?' As opposed to, 'Isn't Brexit awful?'"

Nicholas Braun and Matthew Macfadyen are pals

One of the most intriguing aspects of "Succession" is the complex relationship between the sniveling son-in-law Tom Wambsgans and his deceptively ruthless protégé Cousin Greg. On one hand, there does appear to be a genuine bond between the Roy family's two most obvious outsiders. On the other, they're never more than a piece of incriminating evidence away from stabbing each other in the back.

Thankfully, the men who play them, Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Braun, have a much more straightforward and overwhelmingly positive connection in real life. Indeed, the pair have become bosom buddies since becoming the HBO drama's main comic relief, regularly spending their downtime together while shooting in New York. In fact, those working on the show would say they get on a little too well.

Speaking to the Evening Standard in 2021, Macfadyen admitted that the pair bring out the mischievous side in each other: "Our scenes are really hard to get through without corpsing. We're thinking we're hilarious but it's not as funny to anyone else ... Sometimes Nick and I need to have a little chat and say, 'Come on, we're going to embarrass ourselves now.' We have to stop and have five minutes apart. But better that than low energy."

The '70s speak to Matthew Macfadyen

Matthew Macfadyen was only five years old when the 1970s drew to a close, which perhaps explains why he wants to experience the decade as an adult. When asked what genre he'd like to tackle next by Collider in 2020, the Brit revealed that he'd love to make a crime noir in the vein of his acting idols.

"I've got a real fondness for wonderful '70s movies, with all of those wonderful actors, like Gene Hackman, Nick Nolte, [Al] Pacino and [Robert] De Niro," Macfadyen replied. "But the honest answer is that I really don't know. Even saying it, I've probably jinxed it. Now, I will never, ever play a part like that."

Macfadyen — who has already revisited the '70s having played producer John Birt in biopic "Frost/Nixon," paranormal investigator Guy Lyon Playfair in "The Enfield Haunting" and fundraiser Gil Hollis in "Ashes to Ashes" — might still hold the star of "Taxi Driver" in high regard professionally. But on a personal level, less so. In 2015, he told The Big Issue, "I auditioned for De Niro once, which was a peculiar experience. Never meet your heroes, they might turn out to be weirdos. It is nicer to imagine them in your head and admire their work."

The fame game isn't for Matthew Macfadyen

As two of Britain's most in-demand TV actors, Matthew Macfadyen and Keeley Hawes could quite easily make a fortune selling the ins and outs of their private life to gossip magazines. But the pair have no interest in embracing the more frivolous side of their jobs. In fact, they even find it a chore going to film premieres.

In a 2012 interview with The Scotsman, Macfadyen admitted that he starts dreaming about being in Mauritius every time he finds himself on the red carpet. The "Howards End" star's apathy toward the press was no doubt informed by the tabloid scrutiny he and Hawes faced when they got together while filming "Spooks."

Hawes was still married to DJ Spencer McCallum at the time, and so news of their relationship inevitably sent Fleet Street into meltdown. Macfadyen recalled how unnerved he and Hawes became at the time: "That did get to us. It was horrible being followed around. It was very odd to have people pitching up outside. You think, 'How do they know we're here?' Only later do you realise the extent of the dirty tricks."

How much is Matthew Macfadyen worth?

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Matthew Macfadyen has a net worth of $3 million. But you can expect that figure to become significantly higher as "Succession" continues to establish itself as the must-watch TV show of the streaming era.

The Hollywood Reporter states that the Brit initially earned a cool $100,000 per episode for playing son-in-law Tom Wambsgans on the hit HBO drama. But that number was bumped up to somewhere between $300,000 and $350,000 thanks to its Emmy-winning word-of-mouth success and the kind of the negotiations that even Logan Roy would be proud of. Interestingly, the man who plays him, Brian Cox, reportedly bagged the best deal of all. That essentially makes Macfadyen one of the highest-paid actors in the TV drama field, equaling the money that Winona Ryder and David Harbour bring in for "Stranger Things" (according to THR's insiders, they make $350,000 an ep) and eclipsing the impressive salaries of "Westworld" stars Evan Rachel Wood and Ed Harris (the same outlet reported in 2018 that the actors brought in $250,000 an episode). 

Unlike the butter that caused Connor Roy great distress, Macfadyen's career is far from cold.