Rhys to Fame

Matthew Rhys

“We didn’t get off to the best of starts. It was a snowball fight. He ended up running away and I ended up going after him and hacking him to the floor. I tripped him and he started to cry and I panicked because I’d made someone cry.”

This is Matthew Rhys’ recollection of a snowball fight between him and his best friend Ioan Gruffudd. Ioan is another Welsh actor who you might have seen in the ‘Fantastic Four’ movies as Mr. Fantastic. They are best friends who grew up attending the same chapel and the same Sunday school. Nobody could’ve guessed that these two friends would end up in America as actors.

At a young age, even Matthew had no idea of his bright future. He wanted to be a farmer just like his father’s family. “Don’t ask me why. I thought maybe I’d be a farmer. That was another silly notion. I think I’d last about five minutes, being a farmer.” – Matthew Rhys

The first movie he recalled seeing was ‘Flash Gordon’, his first famous person crush was Daisy Duke from ‘Dukes of Hazzard’. He had his first inspiration to be an actor from a film called ‘Look Back in Anger’. Richard Burton was in the movie and his father said that Burton was Welsh. At that moment, the young Matthew realized that he could also be in movies and be a performer.

Rhys didn’t become an actor right away. He became a paperboy and continued his studying. He covered his walls with Army posters and once dreamt to be in the army. His love of acting was stronger as he participated in school plays, got the role of Elvis Presley at age 17 and enrolled at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He won the Patricia Rothermere Scholarship after one audition in 1993. Matthew had this to say about his experience at the academy:

“I was told in week two to stop rubbing my nose when speaking. I had no idea I was doing it. It was not really student life as you expect. I didn’t get to know anywhere in London apart from the Tube journey- Kilburn to college – for three years. When we had to pretend to be amoebas, I thought ‘shit, what am I doing here?’ – but that did not happen very often. It was a shock. I was expecting a university lifestyle. It was three years of six days a week in college. Six long days. Doing voice, singing, fencing and acrobatics. At times, it was slightly psychoanalytical. They’re big into the Method. On my supposed day off Sunday I would have to learn scripts.”

His first film was ‘House of America’, a job he got because Ioan was also auditioning for it. Ioan told the casting-director that Matthew was perfect for the job and he was right. It was Rhys’ first movie and he killed it.

Our favorite Welsh actor, from his great start hasn’t stopped ever since. He’s now starring as Mr. Darcy in ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ and as Phillip Jennings in FX’s ‘The Americans’. He’s a long way from home and not a farmer as he first intended.

FX’s ‘The Americans’ is currently shooting and will air it’s the premiere episode of the 2nd season on January 2014.

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