Matthew Macfadyen "sub-reality TV shows are crap and worthless"

Ripper Street's Detective Reid on being moved to tears by Desert Island Discs and why so many people love Danish drama

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Matthew Macfadyen "sub-reality TV shows are crap and worthless"
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Claire Webb

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I don’t watch enough television to feel guilty about it. Maybe it’s because I have a very unstructured life: half the time I do nothing and then I’ll work 13 hours a day. Or maybe it’s the fact that if I gave into watching daytime telly, I’d never stop.

What sort of programmes make you cringe?

Sub-reality TV shows, although they’re almost beyond offending now because they’re so crap and worthless.

What’s top of your watchlist?

Series three of The Killing.

Why do you think so many people love a bit of Danish drama?

I have a theory that watching things in another language allows you to filter out all your prejudices and preconceptions and pay attention in a different way, so it’s more rewarding. Plus you can’t wander out to put the kettle on.

Do you mind when a script calls for your wife [Keeley Hawes] to lock lips with another actor?

I do give her a hard time! No, it’s fine: it’s all make-believe and usually they’re the most excruciating scenes for the actors.

Who controls the remote?

My seven-year-old daughter, Maggie – we call her “Queen of the Remote”. She rules with a rod of iron and if she needs to go to the loo, she’ll take the remote with her. I’ve become well acquainted with iCarly and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Which station is your radio tuned to?

Radio 4 for Today, although I don’t listen to it religiously, and Eddie Mair. I admire his calm, measured tone and the way he’s witty, kind and firm with people who need someone to be firm with them.

What brings a tear to your eye?

I find Desert Island Discs very moving – something about the combination of music and people’s stories, and imagining why they’ve chosen certain tracks. I’ve pondered what mine would be of course – doesn’t everyone? – but it would be agony to have to actually choose.

Which film can you watch time and again?

I think my favourite is a Swedish one called Fanny and Alexander. It’s seen through the eyes of two children whose mother remarries, and it’s funny, sad, scary and wonderful.

If you were a BBC Controller…

I’d bring back Play for Today. I would also try to encourage the BBC not to be so self-flagellating with everything that’s going on. It feels like a robot attacking itself.

What attracted you to the role of Detective Reid in Ripper Street?

1889 was an interesting time: they were on the cusp of great advances in science and medicine but in many ways they were stumbling in the dark. Also, there was a huge tabloid frenzy about the Ripper killings; people were made afraid by the papers – in much the same way that happens now.

Did all those dismembered dead bodies give you nightmares?

No, thankfully, although I did feel sorry for the poor girl who played the corpse in the first episode and had to lie like that all day. For another we had an extraordinarily lifelike torso made by a props company, and by the end you were expecting it to start breathing. That was quite strange. 


Ripper Street continues on Sundays at 9:00pm on BBC1

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