When I sat down to speak with Matthew Macfadyen about his work on Succession, it did not take long to come to the realization that I was not speaking with Tom Wambsgans or even the repugnant HR manager from The Assistant. Usually it is easy to separate character from the actor, but with Macfadyen’s immersive performances it is easy to expect to meet an oft-putting person on the other side of the camera. Nothing could be further from the truth, which is a real testament to his acting. he brings these characters, no matter how unlikable, to life.
As Tom, Macfadyen always keeps you guessing. At times he seems like a dog with his tail between his legs after a tongue-lashing from his father-in-law, Logan Roy (Brian Cox). Other times he seems gutted after being emotionally shredded by his wife Shiv (Sarah Snook); only to transform into a gaslighting supervillain, bullying Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) to the point of disorientation.
During our conversation we discussed if he likes Tom and if he is a bad guy. “I don’t know about Tom, I do like him. I mean, he makes me laugh,” said Macfadyen. “I sort of recognize that type of person who sort of changes with everybody who meets. He’s sort of like a he’s like a weird creature that sort of totally changes his status and his, his attitude to whoever he’s dealing with. The extremes being cousin Greg, where he’s bullying and him and being revolting and then with his father in law, being obsequious and slimy and pathetic,” he continued. “He can do terrible things, but he’s also quite sympathetic and quite sweet.”
Tom is always one of the toughest characters to read, and Macfadyen explains some of his complexity. “I think the thing with Tom is that he really thinks he’s doing. I mean, sometimes he knows he’s sort of bending the rules a bit and doing something, but I think he’s, ultimately it’s for the best. He’s trying his best.” explained Macfadyen. “He thinks he’s a decent human being and working hard and being a good husband and a good pal to Greg – that’s his vanity. I think sometimes he realizes he’s overstepped or he’s been foolish, but I don’t think he’s totally corrupt.”
Speaking of Cousin Greg, my question for Macfadyen is, why Greg? “I think he likes Greg. And he’s not scared of Greg. He’s sort of scared of the brothers and he’s certainly scared of his father in law, you know? And maybe he feels he’s been let down by his wife. And… Yeah, I don’t know. It’s fascinating. It’s fascinating with Tom and Greg. It’s just, it’s the gift that keeps on giving for Nick and I, because it’s so funny. It’s so funny and so interesting and odd.”
We cover much most in the interview. Would he like the Roy lifestyle, previous roles, working with the amazing cast and if you watch closely you may even catch his impersonation of Brian Cox signature syllable, four-letter catchphrase.
Watch the full conversation with Matthew Macfadyen in the video (below.)
Then watch his Emmy-nominated work as Tom Wambsgans in all four seasons of Succession, streaming on HBO Max.