Best known for playing the lovablysnarky, gay lawyer Kevin Walker on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, Welsh-born actor Matthew Rhys leaves the hills of Hollywood behind and takes to the New York stage in John Osbourne‘s Look Back in Anger, which opens tonight at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre.
After chatting with the devilishly funny Rhys over a lamb burger and a pint, it became clear to me that Rhys was not just another actor taking a stab at theater to pass the time between film or TV projects or to maintain street cred this is his love. Which might explain to many hopeful girls (and his frustrated mother) why Rhys is still on the market.
Today, in a world where it doesn’t take much to be famous, it’s rare to encounter a traditionally trained theater actor that studies, breathes and lives his craft. Admittedly, acting has surely helped pay his bills, but you can tell this humble gent doesn’t need anything more than a roof over his head and a stage to be content. Regardless if a Tony, Oscar or Emmy is waiting in the wings for Rhys, to me, he will never be a celebrity but will always be an actor.
MG:Where did you grow up and where did you study acting?
MR:I grew up in the pretty sh*tty city of Cardiff, South Wales. It’s the capital of Wales (UK) and great place to grow up. However, I soon bolted at the age of 18 to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
When and why did you move to LA?
I moved to LA officially seven years ago when I got the part of Kevin on Brothers & Sisters. However a large crowd of us had always come to LA since we were in our early 20s for pilot season. Really we just came for some sun and an excuse to have a bit of a party!
What was the best part of being on Brothers & Sisters?
Everything I learned was the best part of Brothers & Sisters. Seeing people like Sally Field, Ron Rifkin, Rachel Griffiths and Calista Flockhart at work was a thing to behold. That kind of experience, work ethic and technique was an enormous learning curve. Also being given the opportunity to direct gave me far greater insight than I could have imagined.
What was your most embarrassing moment? Go.
Most embarrassing moment was playing Romeo for the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was a traditional production so all the boys were in tights. Mine were a light powder blue. I had about seven minutes off stage once so ran to the bathroom. I went to wash my hands and it was one of those ‘mushroom faucets’ that you hit the top of and the water runs for a moment. In my hurry, I hit the faucet hard, a torrent came out of the faucet, over the sink and landed perfectly on my crotch. It looked as if I had quite an accident. The backstage PA said, “Mr. Rhys to stage please, Mr. Rhys to stage.” I walked on and the boy playing Benvolio stopped mid sentence as he looked at my sodden jock strap. I could hear people in the audience whisper and giggle. I still shudder.
Was it scary returning to the stage after a seven-year hiatus?
It was INCREDIBLY scary and I hadn’t really thought it through. Seven years being away from anything is a long time but from being in front of an audience it’s terrifying. Also, the part of Jimmy Porter isn’t an exactly an easy one to ease yourself back on to the stage. He’s a volcano of opinion and emotion.I was a bit ignorant in my undertaking.
What’s your favorite stage production you’ve been in?
The best production I think I’ve been in is The Graduate in London’s West End. I was Benjamin to Kathleen Turner‘s Mrs. Robinson. That was a lot of fun on and off the stage. It was my first leading role and a challenge to get in and out of a wetsuit every night on stage.
What do you like most and like the least about New York?
At the moment there is NOTHING I don’t like about New York. I’m firmly in the middle of my love affair with this city and am continually acting out cliched moments of all the things I’ve seen in films. My last one was pretending to be Dustin Hoffman pushing an imaginary son on a small bicycle through Central Park. Guess the movie. Although Dustin had a real son. Or a small boy who played his son. I’ll shut up now.
How do the women differ here from LA and home?
New York women have a great sass.
Do you think you’ll ever call New York home?
I’m pretty used to the gypsy life now, I never thought I’d call LA home, so I could quite easily call NY home for a while.