Matthew Rhys – BBC Radio Cymru Interview

Welsh actor Matthew Rhys recently did an interview in Welsh on BBC Radio Cymru with Dewi Llwyd, where he discusses life in Brooklyn, working with his heroes and how he almost didn’t make it to the Emmy awards.

Translation by Trudi-Rose Edwards

Listen to the interview here:

Matthew is currently in Vancouver looking after baby Sam whilst partner and The Americans co-star Keri Russell is filming.

Dewi Llwyd: What was your most memorable birthday?

Matthew Rhys: When I was 10 my parents took me and 10 friends to see the wrestling in Cardiff – Haystacks vs Big Daddy, never had a better birthday! All they really did was bump into eachother but it was great.

I don’t follow wrestling any more, by my 20s I realised it wasn’t the most athletic of sports.

DL: After years of hard work, do you feel you’re finally reaching the height of your career?

MR: Maybe, but I remember talking to Anthony Hopkins when I was 24, right after he won his Oscar and he was worried about getting his next job and whether he’d get good reviews so I feel like the uncertainty never really leaves you. But that’s acting for you, it’s an uncertain job, but I do feel happy with my career although now there’s also more pressure on me.

DL: Winning the Emmy must have been an amazing experience.

MR: Yes it was. I usually laugh when people says it’s like a dream but it actually was for me because it was so surreal. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it, I was shooting in Pittsburgh in the morning, took a plane to LA in the afternoon and when we landed in North LA the traffic was so bad that I had to get a helicopter, fly for 7 minutes and land on the roof of the hotel next door to the venue!

It was crazy because it was me, my cousin who does my makeup and my agent who’s from Porthcawl and I’ve known him since I was 15. All of us on the roof! Quickly did my hair, met Keri, did some press, attended the event and then it was back to Pittsburgh for filming in the morning.

DL: How did Keri feel about your win?

MR: Oh she was so proud but I felt disappointed that she didn’t win because she was nominated too. She had already won the critics choice so I don’t think she was too upset but it broke my heart that she didn’t win too. Especially because first the writers won, then me and then she didn’t and she said she felt like she let the team down! I said What!? Don’t be ridiculous!

DL: Playing Russian spies must have been fun especially these days?

Yes definitely – and when we first started nobody thought we would be relevant!

DL: Are you sad it’s over?

MR: Hard to answer – I certainly miss the show, the writing was wonderful and the characters were great but after 6 years it’s nice to look around and see what other projects I can do.

DL: You also fell in love on the show, do the press give you a hard time?

A little bit but I broke the rule of falling in love with your leading lady! But because of the lifestyle we lead we’re used to the papers, so I can’t really complain. I don’t like it when the photographers follow us with the children but otherwise I can’t really moan.

DL: Balancing family and career hard?

MR: Yes very hard but Keri and I knew that it would be hard. We’ve both been working long enough to know there’s a lot of travelling but my hope is that maybe this Emmy will give me the chance to choose where and when I film. Either way, we’re both prepared for balancing family and career.

DL: Tell me about working with Spielberg

MR: He’s such nice, kind man and he looks after all of us on set. But it’s such a shame, he’s a huge hero of mine so I didn’t really know what to say to him! When I work with directors or actors whose work I don’t know so well it’s not so bad but I felt a pressure to impress him – he’s been a hero since I saw ET when I was 8!

DL: Why Brooklyn to settle down?

MR: Keri had 2 kids before I came along and they were settled in Brooklyn, and went to school there so there really wasn’t any choice. I still think it’s crazy that my son was born in Brooklyn! I walk him across the bridge and see Manhattan in the background and think this is his stomping ground! To me it’s like a film.

DL: Does Sam hear much Welsh?

MR: That’s all he hears from me! He’s great at the colours, animals are coming on fine and he has no trouble with the sounds. But I’ll only ever speak to him in Welsh.

DL: Do you want to come back to Wales?

MR: All the time! But now isn’t the time, I’m lucky I can travel home a lot and my parents come and visit. I get lots of free time so it’s not a huge issue.

DL: Did you always want to be an actor?

MR: Sort of, I was always performing either in chapel or of course at the Eisteddfod but it wasn’t until I was about 18 that I thought I would do it as a career. I told my parents if they let me apply to 2 drama schools (London and Bristol) and I didn’t get in I would go to regular university but I did get into London!

DL: Was it hard to get work then?

MR: At first yes, then I got the Graduate and thought it would all be fine except after doing it I didn’t work again for a year!

DL: Did you always dream of Hollywood or were you happy to stay in London?

MR: Well after Ioan [Gruffudd] got Titanic and went to Hollywood we sort of all followed in March for the pilot season.

DL: Are you still in touch with Ioan?

MR: Not as much as I’d like- he’s in L.A. and I’m in NY but we text – I lived with him for 10 years so we’ll always be in touch.

DL: Theatre, tv or film?

MR: Theatre. I enjoy t.v. and working with the camera but I like to start and the start and end at the end which is what is so great about the theatre. You’re not standing around waiting to do a two minute scene for hours.

DL: You also did the Wine Show

MR: Yes and I realised how hard presenting is! Although I don’t think the wine helped. My mother was so disappointed when I couldn’t do the second series. I said the bad news is I’m not doing the wine show but the good news is I’m working with Spielberg and she was so disappointed – I thought she didn’t hear me properly!

DL: What about looking good and keeping fit – how do you handle that side of acting?

MR: There’s a lot of pressure especially when I lived in LA. Luckily new York is more relaxed but it’s annoying because having great hair and clothes had nothing to do with how well you act.

DL: What’s coming up next?

MR: BBC drama [Death in Nightingales] this month then my Tom hanks film is out next October and Mowgli later this month – nothing long term yet.

DL: Who would you love to work with?

MR: Martin Scorcese and Robert de Niro but I’ve worked with 2 of my heroes (Spielberg and Hopkins) so I’m happy

DL: Would you ever do a Welsh series?

MR: I’d love to – I want to play Owain Glyndwr, I’ve been trying to get that made for years…maybe one day

DL: It’s your birthday this month what would be your ideal birthday present?

MR: I feel like I havn’t slept in 2 years so a good night’s sleep!


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