Matthew Macfadyen Avoided Period Pieces Because He ‘Felt Like a Middle-Aged Dad’ After ‘Pride & Prejudice’

However, his "Operation Mincemeat" costar Colin Firth had nothing but praise for Macfadyen's performance as Mr. Darcy.
Matthew Macfadyen poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Operation Mincemeat' in London Tuesday, April 12, 2022. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Matthew Macfadyen
Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

Matthew Macfadyen is riding high right now. “Succession” continues to be one of the biggest shows on television, and appears to be cruising towards another successful award season campaign. His role as Tom Wambsgans, which earned him an Emmy nomination in 2020, is one of the show’s most talked-about characters following the shocking Season 3 finale.

The role of Tom is the latest example of Macfadyen carving out a career as a character actor after early lead roles such as Mr. Darcy opposite Keira Knightley in 2005’s “Pride & Prejudice.” While his starring role in Joe Wright’s Jane Austen adaptation was the most high-profile moment of his career at the time, it brought the actor a great deal of stress. And in a new interview with Vanity Fair, Macfadyen opened up about the toll the part took on him.

“But I did feel pressure—maybe it was a self-imposed pressure of, you know: ‘This is a big film, don’t get it wrong,’” he said. And while his performance was largely well received, Macfadyen himself was not completely sold on his acting.

“I didn’t feel very Mr. Darcy–ish,” he said. “I felt like a bit of a middle-aged dad.”

In many ways, his role on “Succession” is the direct result of Macfadyen actively pursuing roles that are dramatically different from his “Pride & Prejudice” character. The actor said that the film’s popularity forced him to be careful to avoid being pigeonholed.

“I sort of ended up [being offered] a lot of things that are similar to ‘Pride & Prejudice,'” he said. “And I thought: I mustn’t do that, I should try and do something different.”

In the eyes of some, Macfadyen never stood a chance at properly embodying the “Pride & Prejudice” role. Because for a certain generation of Jane Austen fans, there can only be one true Mr. Darcy: Colin Firth. The Oscar winner rose to prominence after his turn as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries, and his take on the character is still beloved to this day. But Firth, who recently co-starred with Macfadyen in “Operation Mincemeat,” had nothing but praise for the actor’s take on Darcy.

“I finally understood the character!” Firth said about Macfadyen’s performance. “I had to write a fan letter. Definitely my favorite Darcy.”

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