The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Matthew Macfadyen (“Ripper Street”)

Although BBC America received considerable acclaim from their original series, “Copper,” a period piece about New York City police officers circa the 1860s, it should come as no surprise that their stock and trade still tends to be series set in the UK. Don’t worry, though: they’re still sticking with the whole period-piece thing for their latest endeavor, “Ripper Street,” which is set in Whitechapel, in London’s East End, n 1889, a mere six months after the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. The series stars Matthew Macfadyen, a familiar face to Angophiles for his work in numerous TV and film appearances, and Bullz-Eye had a chance to chat with him just before the “Ripper Street” panel at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, where we asked him about his new gig, several of his old ones, and how he got into acting in the first place.

Bullz-Eye: You, sir, are no stranger to period pieces.

Matthew Macfadyen: I’ve done a few, yeah. [Laughs.]

BE: What was it about “Ripper Street” that stood out for you in particular? Certainly it’s a bit darker than some of your past fare.

MM: Yeah, I thought it was dark. But I just thought the writing was brilliant. I really did. I didn’t expect to…I wasn’t planning on doing another series, but then it came along and I couldn’t stop reading it, which is sort of the acid test for me. So that was it, really.

BE: When you took the role, how much of Det. Sgt. Edmund Reid was on the page, and how much were you able to bring to the part?

MM: It was all on the page. I mean, it’s there. It’s so beautifully sketched out, and there’s so much going on underneath him. He’s got this terrible thing with his family, his daughter, so…there’s a lot. It’s interesting. And I think the writer, Richard (Warlow), doesn’t immediately build the characters, but you know there’s a back story, and it sort of comes out in dribbles. It evolves.

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