EXCLUSIVE: Having battled the United States as a Soviet sleeper spy on FX’s The Americans, Matthew Rhys has signed up for World War II in the independent feature Darling Buds of May. Directed by Christian Carion, whose 2005 World War I film Joyeux Noel was Oscar nominated for best foreign film, Buds follows Rhys as a stranded British army officer who teams up with a German fugitive to find his son in Nazi-occupied France. Rhys is repped by Management 360 and WME stateside and United Agents in the United Kingdom. He’ll be returning for the third season of The Americans which begins filming this fall.
As Phillip Jennings, the ‘married’ Soviet sleeper spy husband to Keri Russell’s Elizabeth on FX’s The Americans, Welsh thesp Matthew Rhys is called upon to flawlessly snake through a ringer of emotions. Beyond the demands of Phillip’s day job that’s full of disguises and a fake marriage, he’s been hitting his head against the wall in the show’s second season between his goody-two shoes daughter Paige who is swept up with a Born-again Christian group and his fellow comrade wife who isn’t as drunk on U.S. capitalism like Philip is. Prior to The Americans, Rhys was known to U.S. audiences as Kevin Walker, the gay lawyer on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters as well as Demetrius in Julie Taymor’s big screen Shakespeare adaptation Titus. At home in the U.K., Rhys made his mark with such stage productions as The Graduate, playing Benjamin to Kathleen Turner’s Mrs. Robinson, and in the BBC crime action drama series Backup. Click through to read the interview:
Christy Grosz is a contributor to Awardsline.
Playing a Cold War-era Russian spy undercover in the United States on FX’s The Americans offers Keri Russell plenty of opportunities for hand-to-hand combat. But Russell says she doesn’t focus much on the spy stuff in building her character, Elizabeth Jennings. She’s more interested in the show’s complicated relationships, particularly the marriage between Elizabeth and Phillip, played by Matthew Rhys. Russell, perhaps best known for her starring role on the WB’s Felicity in the late ’90s, next will star in Fox’s July release Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Here, she discusses those wacky ’80s wigs and why she turned down the role of Elizabeth three times.
AWARDSLINE: What made you want to come back to series TV?
KERI RUSSELL: As an actor, you’re at the mercy of what’s around, what comes your way, and I definitely have been taking some time out raising my family. Although I wasn’t looking for a TV job at all, this had a really great pilot. It sounded fresh. My image (after) reading (Elizabeth) the first time was Brigitte Nielsen in Rocky. I was like, “OK, she’s this kick-ass Russian—cold, beautiful, sexy. How did this make its way to me?” So I obviously said no about three times, and then (FX president) John Landgraf just sold me on it. He basically said, “No, that’s the whole point. We want someone who’s instantly relatable, and kind, and all those things that people project onto you.” And I’m so glad I said yes. It’s always a gamble—every job you take—but this one has been really interesting these last couple of seasons.
“Since (creator) Joe Weisberg isn’t here tonight, I can say that this show is actually based on his personal story,” quipped executive producer Joel Fields about the historical basis for their FX show The Americans which follows two KGB spies posing as American parents in the 1980s (Weisberg is a former CIA officer). Fields, in addition to cast members Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich and Annet Mahendru were in attendance at Awardsline’s Monday night screening of The Americans season two finale “Echo”, moderated by Deadline’s Dominic Patten.
The show, which earned two Emmy noms last year (for main title music and guest star Margo Martindale), is on a hot streak in the pre-Emmy nom phase. The Television Critics Association recognized The Americans for best drama and achievement in drama (Rhys) noms, while the Critics Choice Television Awards lauded it with a slew of above-the-line noms including drama, actor-drama (Rhys), actress-drama (Keri Russell) and supporting actress (Mahendru).
Exactly the same, they said — because they’ll be largely through shooting the second season in March, about the time CBS will be making that call. It’s not such an odd question, the reference being to Margo Martindale, who steals every scene she’s in on CBS’s Thursday comedy and also has her many fans for her role as ruthless KGB agent Claudia on FX’s Cold War-set spy drama. Martindale is back for several episodes in The Americans Season 2 and “we’re very grateful and excited to have her back,” Joel Fields told TV critics at Winter TV Press Tour 2014.
Were Martindale unencumbered with her CBS series, would The Americans make her a regular? The critic asked hypothetically. “It’s hard to argue with Margo Martindale in that character. We love her,” Fields responded coyly.
Laurence Olivier did it, and so did Colin Firth. Now it’s Matthew Rhys‘ turn to portray Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy. Rhys is playing the iconic character in Death Comes To Pemberley, a three-part mini that unspools on BBC One in the UK over three days beginning December 26th. The suspense drama will then make its way to PBS’ Masterpiece in 2014. Based on P.D. James’ novel which revisits Austen’s most iconic characters, Pemberley also stars Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Bennett, Matthew Goode as George Wickham and Doctor Who‘s Jenna Coleman as Lydia Wickham. The story picks up six years into Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage as they prepare for their annual ball. When Lydia arrives, she brings a shocking halt to the proceedings and a murder investigation ensues:
The Americans creator/executive Joe Weisberg and executive producer Joel Fields told a PaleyFest: Made in NY crowd tonight that their show’s second season will expand from exploring the marriage of two spies to focus more on their family. FX’s Cold War-era drama, created by former CIA agent Weisberg, stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Soviet intelligence agents posing as an average American couple with two kids. The panel included the two EPs, Russell, Rhys and Noah Emmerich, who portrays the couple’s neighbor, nosy FBI agent Stan Beeman.
Although the kids are kept in the dark about their parents’ occupation, the first-season finale included the couple’s 13-year-old daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) snooping into forbidden territory. Following the panel, which was moderated by New York magazine TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz, one audience member probed for details about whether Season 2 would spotlight the spy kids. Answered Fields: “I think we can say as much as, last season was the exploration of a marriage [and the news season] would draw a big concentric circle” around that marital unit to include Paige and her 10-year-old brother Henry (Keidrich Sellati). “That moment with Paige is a hint to some of the direction we will go.”
Jack Davenport was given the thankless job in NBC’s canceled Smash of portraying a hotshot choreographer-director who thought Katharine McPhee was the perfect Marilyn Monroe for his Broadway production. Now he will get a much happier role playing an OBGYN in London in the 1960s-set Breathless for PBS. Masterpiece exec producer Rebecca Eaton confirmed his casting tonight at Summer TV Press Tour 2013. ITV Studios is co-producing. Eaton also confirmed Deadline’s May report that Matthew Rhys will play Mr. Darcy in PBS’s 3-part adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley, based on the novel by P.D. James that imagines Jane Austen’s Darcy and Elizabeth six years after they marry and a body turns up at Pemberley as they’re preparing for their annual ball. Anna Maxwell Martin plays Elizabeth in the drama, timed to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Origin Pictures is producing for BBC One with filming in Yorkshire. The series is expected to run during the end-of-year holidays.
Britons recently voted a scene from the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice as the most memorable TV moment of all time. Therein, Colin Firth‘s Mr. Darcy takes a dip in a lake and then, dripping wet and under-dressed, runs into Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth Bennett. In honor of UKTV‘s new Drama channel, the media company has erected a 12-foot statue of Darcy in Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake. The sculptor says Firth’s Darcy was a starting point, but that notes were used from others who’ve portrayed him including Matthew Macfadyen and Laurence Olivier. Still, the end result bears a striking resemblance to the King’s Speech Oscar winner. The statue will eventually settle at Lyme Park in Cheshire, the scene of the Pemberley manor in Pride And Prejudice. The BBC is adapting Death Comes To Pemberley, based on the suspense novel by P.D. James that pays homage to Jane Austen’s iconic characters. Matthew Rhys is playing Darcy. At the time the three-part serial was announced, Rhys said his Darcy would be different from the ones who have gone before, “And also, I don’t have to appear from a lake in a white shirt and breeches.” Video of the original scene is on the next page:
This year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice. To mark the occasion, the BBC is prepping three-part serial Death Comes To Pemberley, based on the suspense novel/homage by crime writer P.D. James. The book centers on three of Austen’s most iconic characters: Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy and George Wickham. The Americans‘ Matthew Rhys will play Darcy, Anna Maxwell Martin (who was Cassandra Austen in Becoming Jane) is Elizabeth and Matthew Goode is Wickham. The story picks up six years into Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage as they prepare for the annual ball at their magnificent Pemberley home. When Elizabeth’s wayward sister Lydia arrives, she brings a shocking halt to the proceedings. A murder investigation unfolds and a web of secrets and deceit threatens all that the Darcys hold dear. Juliette Towhidi (Calendar Girls) did the adaptation which will be directed by Daniel Percival (Crossing Lines).
The fantastic FX show The Americans just wrapped its first season finale, and some of the cast and executive producers sat down on April 26 for a panel discussion at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The entire hour is on this video and contains spoilers. Panelists are Joe Weisberg (executive producer/creator), Joel Fields (executive producer), Matthew Rhys (who plays Russian spy Philip Jennings), Noah Emmerich (who plays FBI agent Stan Beeman), Margo Martindale (Claudia) and Annet Mahendru (Nina):