Mathew Macfadyen

Mathew Macfadyen at a recent Masterclass was charming, funny and very honest about his life as an actor. He briefly mentioned how he got into acting – he loved performing at school and later whilst applying to universities secretly applied to drama schools as well. He got through to both Central and RADA but decided on RADA as he was drawn to the romantic connotations it has as a school.

At 17 years old he was the youngest in the school and found his 1st year very tough and left him feeling dispirited and depressed. Matthew mentioned, with hindsight, how he felt that perhaps this low beginning was good for him and acted as an ‘acid test’ as he set about starting his career as an actor on graduating.

The two companies that were storming the theatre scene at the time of his graduation were Simon McBurney’s Complicite and Declan Donnellan’s Cheek by Jowel. It was with the later that he won his first part playing Antonio in The Duchess of Malfi before going on to perform the role of Benedict in their Much Ado About Nothing. On being asked the question from a member of audience on whether he found writing letters to directors beneficial Matthew informed us that although he wasn’t too sure about the effectiveness of this method he did get the role of Benedict by faxing Declan Donnellan whilst drunk in the middle of the night begging him to give him the part. This of course may not always work and cannot be advised.

Most of the questions centered around how he was feeling about the industry at the moment. Matthew was incredibly open and told us how his agent, at this difficult time with the economy, has just said, “work. Do anything. Just get through the year.” Although he refuses to do another talking book after his first disastrous attempt, where even the sound technicians working on it looked horrified!

Matthew also talked about how he wishes he could relax more. He finds that auditions are getting harder and harder for him as he grows older and becomes a more recognizable face. He feels that this is because he has more to loose and recollected that when he was acting alongside Michael Gambon in Henry IV part I and II at the National, Gambon was as white as a sheet and trembling before their first night. Acting doesn’t get easier with age or fame but can in fact add to the pressure of doing a job well.

What does improve with experience, in Matthew’s opinion, was your ability to lie or at least have the ‘necessary vocabulary’ to tell casting directors and directors how much you love the script at auditions, ‘even if it clear that the writer has never read the script aloud.’  When he does love a script and really wants one of the parts he sees no reason in keeping cool about it. He favours the approach of being honest and passionate telling them how much he loves the script and desperately wants to be a part of it.

Although Matthew has never been out of work for more than 5/6 months (a relatively short amount of time!) he says the biggest lesson he has learnt is how out of control actors are, in terms of their career. “Actors are beggars, going from job to job.” He then also made a comparison between his father, who has had three work interviews in his life unlike himself who has when the times are good an audition every week. As an actor you are setting yourself up for constant rejection.

As a moto when he is feeling desperate and insecure about his career he remembers a letter written by Chekov to his wife, an actress, ‘art, especially the stage, is an area where it is impossible to walk without stumbling. There are in store for you many unsuccessful days and whole unsuccessful seasons, great misunderstandings and deep disappointments. You must be prepared for all of this, accept it and nevertheless stubbornly, fanatically follow your own way.’

Alongside the lows the enjoyment and highs can be immense. Recently whilst working on the film set of Frost/Nixon he and the rest of the cast had the constant giggles until he and Sam Rockwell ended up ‘having to change their clothes!’ Throughout the session Matthew left the audience under no impression that acting was easy or a career path you should ever consider if you can’t handle the lows but if you have the determination, strength and perseverance necessary the payback is enormous.

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2 Responses to “Mathew Macfadyen”

  1. Pat Says:

    I love Matthew, he is adorable! Thank you to the directors who wisely chose to cast him so we can enjoy watching his talent and good looks! More lead roles are needed for him to break into the U.S, market. We want to see him!

  2. kindred spirit Says:

    I do not know if this message finds you, but I hope when yes, it will raise your spirit. I am scientist and I wander how many common features has a live of scientist and actor. I can assure you that I am also fighting every year for some grants and financial support of my work and work of my colleagues. When we will publish our data, nearly 30% of our work is rejected by scientific magazines – because of big competition. Only when you have enough publicity, you will get money (the very old scientific rule -publish or perish). So I can understand your care. And this everlasting qualm – Am I good enough? I perfectly can understand your inmost fear from some failure. It is so gloomy! You are exposed to public similarly as I am exposed to scientific community. And every even small mistake published is s….t! Nevertheless, we can be grateful that also some success occurs. So, please do not be to depressive and afraid of your age. Also we old dogs have some qualities.
    Kindred spirit

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