“Life is so comical. It’s so ridiculous. Watch Matt Hancock! Succession star Matthew Macfadyen on his new role as disgraced MP John Stonehouse

“There’s always something slightly eggy about it and you feel a bit uncomfortable playing a real person,” Macfadyen says. “But at some point you have to be like, ‘Fuck, I can only play what’s in the script. You know if something is ax work.

“So I just jumped in. And he’s nice, John Stonehouse. It’s often ridiculous, but it’s also quite sad. Even though it was clearly self-inflicted, he was struggling. He’s flawed and weak, but by all accounts he was very lovable, good company, pretty flat and everything in between – a funny, interesting guy, quite talkative.

“He was a rising star, tipped for the top early in his political career, and he did a lot of good work in Africa. But then it falls apart.

And what a denouement. From the ‘honey trap’ that led him to moonlighting for the Czech secret service, to his complicated love life – Stonehouse planned to start a new life Down Under with his assistant, money Hiding in his shoe closet, financial mismanagement or some combination of the lot, Stonehouse was in no position when he faked his death.

“He was excited enough to be able to plan it,” notes Macfadyen. “It would be impossible now – the idea of ​​disappearing, of falling off the grid. But he really planned it, getting a fake passport from a dead voter.

As disgraced Labor and Co-operative MP John Stonehouse. Photo: ITV

Perhaps the biggest mystery is that it took almost 50 years for the story of Stonehouse to be adapted for the screen.

“It’s such a destructive and drastic thing to do – but he was very stressed at the end,” says Macfadyen. “He thought he would be exposed as a spy, so back when it was easier to disappear, that’s what he did. But I don’t think he didn’t like his The scene where he says goodbye to them is heartbreaking.

Stonehouse’s family life with his wife Barbara and their children initially seems solid and stable. Then Czech spy money comes into play. There is a huge country mansion, a private school for children, a sports car – which some viewers may remind Superman 2.

“Ha! Richard Prior!” Macfadyen said, unleashing another trademark laugh. “Yeah, he sure liked the trappings of wealth and power.”

In Stone house, Barbara is played – brilliantly, of course – by Macfadyen’s real wife (and Course of action star) Keeley Hawes. What was it like working together for the first time in over a decade?

“Nice. Really nice,” Macfadyen says. “The last time we worked together was Ashes to ashes, I think. I did a small guest role on his show quite a long time ago.

“You think, will it be strange? And of course, that is not the case. Because we’re both actors and that’s where we operate. So it was just a bonus because we were lucky enough to be together. And she’s a brilliant actress, so it was a real treat.

“We were shooting Stone house in Birmingham, so we had a little Airbnb, and that was really fun. We took the dog! It was quite charming.

Macfadyen is back in London for just one week. One of the many joys of working on Succession, an American production, is that it stops for Thanksgiving – “a truly civilized holiday, like Christmas without the stress. No presents, just eat a lot and hang out.

At the end of the first season, we wondered how people were going to do it because they are all revolting

Matthew Macfadyen on the estate

Home Macfadyen still London. But Macfadyen has been back and forth a lot in New York since the start of Succession in 2018.

“I don’t know how I would have done if it was in Vancouver or Los Angeles,” he says. “Keeley and I try to have a maximum of three weeks off. The kids are now older teenagers, so it’s easier. But you still feel a bit scattered.

And Successionis success? The cult status of Tom Wambsgans – who, in a classic twist to end season three, shocked fans by selling out his wife, Shiv, to be closer to the seat of power (his father, Logan Roy)? The rewards ?

“We didn’t know how the show was going to land,” he says. “We knew it was a good storyline, interesting, piquant and funny. Even when the first season came out, we were wondering how people were going to do it because they’re all rebelling. They’re really filthy. But it’s is gratifying.”

And what about the power that comes with a hit like Succession – for which he won a Bafta and a Primetime Emmy?

“I’m in awe of actors creating their own work and directing and writing and producing and everything in between. But I drag, really. And it’s not self-mockery, I really do,” says Macfadyen (who is an executive producer on Stonehouse, “but in name only, that’s bullshit”).

Succession was totally good fortune. Jesse [Armstrong, the show’s creator] saw me in a Trollope thing [The Way We Live Now] on the BBC in the early 2000s. I happened to be free. And it worked.

“Acting careers do that.” He waves his hand up and down like a flying dragon. “And once in a while, you will get lucky. But that’s just luck. You just have to be available to ride that wave when it comes I guess.

He has, he says, learned this from previous highs in his career. Whether on Spooks or opposite Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice.

“The truth is, you’re offered a lot of jobs similar to the role you’re playing,” he says. “And you don’t want to play an inferior version of a spy you just played, or Mr. Darcy or Tom Wambsgans. That’s the thing to guard against. But I’m lucky to work. C good to keep the show on the road.

“I’m in the desert again after February when I’m done Succession. So it will be nice to have some time at home. The dog will be delighted. Buster is awesome. He’s a good boy.

If he were able, Macfadyen would use his power to create a less dramatic political landscape in 2023.

“I would like to return to a calmer government policy. I wish things would stop being so chaotic,” he says.

“It would be nice if it was a little less personality driven and a little more skill driven. I don’t want to go out drinking with them. I don’t care if people are fun or awesome on a panel .

“But maybe the pendulum is swinging the other way. I hope so.”

Would he himself like a political life? He is very impressive when he gives a speech in Parliament as John Stonehouse.

“It was great fun,” he smiles. “We were filming at a school in North London where they built a brilliant set for the House of Commons. How would I be as an MP? Horrible. I’m not smart enough.

It’s arguable that some current MPs aren’t quite up to it either. Not to mention Matt Hancocks…

“It’s true,” Macfadyen said. “Maybe I’m just smart enough to know I couldn’t do the job…”

Stonehouse is on ITV1 on January 2, 3 and 4 at 9 p.m., and on ITVX

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