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How Matthew Macfadyen went from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ heartthrob to Emmy-nominated villain

The journey of Matthew Macfadyen, from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ to ‘Succession’ and everything in between

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Matthew Macfadyen as Tom Wambsgans in HBO’s series “Succession.”

Matthew Macfadyen as Tom Wambsgans in HBO’s series “Succession.”

Graeme Hunter

From starring as the Regency-era heartthrob Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” to playing the ambitious and dark villain Tom Wambsgans in HBO’s hit series “Succession,” actor Matthew Macfadyen has showcased his range over the years and is up for another Emmy this year.

With the award show coming up, there’s been some buzz in Hollywood around Macfadyen and his range, from playing an iconic book boyfriend to an American villain. The Emmys will premiere on Monday, Sept. 12, this year.

One of Macfadyen’s earliest roles was playing Caspar, one of the three kings to bring gifts to Jesus, in a school Christmas pageant, according to Vanity Fair. “I didn’t have the terrible pressure of Joseph or Jesus. It was just: the king arrives with his buddies and gets off again,” Macfadyen said.

Though talented, Macfadyen has been reluctant to step into the spotlight, even in his early years. “I was much happier at school being the mayor of Hamelin than the pied piper. And that’s probably still true,” Macfadyen said.

Vanity Fair reported that Macfadyen’s acting career plans came from observing and studying the biographies and memoirs of other actors he admired while coming up in the industry.

“When I was 14, Kenneth Branagh was making ‘Henry V’ and directing and had his own company and was sort of a whirlwind,” Macfadyen said. “And I remember thinking, That’ll be me!” But as the actor continued on the path to stardom, he realized he might just stick with acting and not take on the role of director. “I’m not Kenneth Branagh. I don’t have that Laurence Olivier/Kenneth Branagh energy to create my own stuff. I’m very happy being purely an actor.”

The actor made a name for himself in the costume drama world when he first starred in an ITV adaptation of “Wuthering Heights” in 1998. BuzzFeed News reported that — after the project and while bouncing between films, plays and television shows — Macfadyen’s fame really began to take off after starring in the popular adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” along side Keira Knightly in 2005. “I did feel pressure — maybe it was a self-imposed pressure of, you know: This is a big film, don’t get it wrong,” Macfadyen told Vanity Fair.

From there, he starred as Henry Wilcox in the recent remake of “Howards End” and was launched into many different projects.

A notable project, brimming with award-winning buzz, is Macfadyen’s role in “Succession.” This dark comedy series tells the story of different members of the Roy family fighting for control of the family’s entertainment company. Macfadyen told NPR that his character is vastly different from his role in “Pride and Prejudice.”

“Tom Wambsgans is a long way from Mr. Darcy,” Macfadyen said.

Macfadyen was previously nominated for an Emmy in the same category for the same role in 2020. Goldderby reported that the other actors he will be competing with for the title this year is Billy Crudup (“The Morning Show”), co-star Kieran Culkin (“Succession”), Park Hae-soo (“Squid Game”), John Turturro (“Severance”), Christopher Walken (“Severance”) and Oh Young-soo (“Squid Game”).