Actor Matthew Macfadyen's new drama unearths a few skeletons in the cupboard (May 2001)

Actor Matthew Macfadyen's new drama unearths a few skeletons in the cupboard

Julie MacCaskill (Daily Record - Glasgow, 5 May 2001)


BBC2, Thursday, 9.00pm

AFTER standing in the firing line for action drama Warriors, actor Matthew Macfadyen welcomes the hostile challenges of family strife in his latest hard hitting TV role.

Perfect Strangers is an emotional tale of family secrets and passions, unleashed around a grand get together, which mingles stories from the past and present to produce a gripping piece of storytelling.

The powerful drama hinges on Macfadyen's character Daniel, the only child of dysfunctional parents Raymond and Esther, played by celebrated actors Michael Gambon and Jill Baker.

When the anglo-Jewish Symon dynasty congregate for a reunion at a luxury London hotel, the event uncovers hidden secrets from the past which threaten to destroy the family unit and fascinate the young, naive Daniel.

"The family gathering is terribly exciting for Daniel because he feels it could change his life," explains 27-year-old Matthew. "He has great expectations and is eager to re-invent himself. He wants everything to be happily ever after."

Unwittingly, Daniel unearths aspects of his family he barely knew existed. Seduced by the glamour of the new world he encounters, Daniel's best intentions soon start to go awry and conflict comes calling.

"He is not considered or knowing. Without being wet or a fool, he's not entirely switched on," explains Macfadyen. "He's a suburban surveyor who lives in a semi.

"He doesn't possess much glamour and he's seduced when he meets his gorgeous cousins Rebecca and Charles at the reunion."

Scots born Macfadyen, who cut his acting teeth as a Liverpudlian squaddie in the award-winning Warriors, was delighted to be offered the opportunity to play such a significant character in Perfect Strangers.

"Daniel is the lynchpin of the whole drama," he explains. "He is like the audience, you see most things from his point of view. He is the eye of the story."

And Matthew unashamedly admits he was seduced by the power of writer-director Stephen Poliakoff's script.

"So many scripts you read seem to be so breathless, they're full of wam-bam-thank-you-mam plots and absurdly fast cutting: 'Oh look, there's a dead body, and there's another one.' They're so rapid because producers are terrified of viewers flicking over."

Superficial television is a thorn in Macfadyen's side as he favours productions which challenge and captivate the viewer, typified beautifully by his latest acting venture.

"What's great about the drama is that it's not afraid to draw you in," he says.

And for Macfadyen, the humanity of the characters is what he believes will endear the drama to the viewing nation.

"You can identify with so many different people in this family. All the characters are so beautifully drawn, they come alive on screen," he says.

Macfadyen is an actor who prides himself in portraying characters with depth and reality and often goes to great lengths to research his roles. Eager to master his hard-hitting Warriors role, Matthew immersed himself in exhausting military training with the army.

"They made me feel like a fraud," says Matthew. "Just about all of these guys had done a couple of tours of Bosnia."

For the time being, Matthew is happy watching Perfect Strangers with his own family at home in Lanarkshire.

"It'll be like living the shoot all over again," he says with pride.