Matthew Macfadyen's Succession character Tom Wambsgans spent much of season 3 so terrified about going to jail that it was easy to imagine the media executive faking his own death to avoid winding up behind bars. Now, in the BritBox miniseries Stonehouse, which premieres on Jan. 17, the actor plays a real-life British politician, John Stonehouse, who really did pretend he was dead to avoid a spell in the slammer.
"I wasn't thinking of Tom at all when I was playing the part, but they are both intoxicated by money and power, I suppose," says Macfadyen. "And, yeah, there was the specter of jail for poor old Tom last season. But that thankfully went away."
ITV/Shutterstock Matthew Macfadyen in 'Stonehouse'
Stonehouse was a Member of Parliament and former government minister who, in November, 1974, left a pile of clothes on Miami Beach, hoping people would assume he had drowned. The politician planned on starting a new life in Australia with his secretary.
"John Stonehouse was a very promising young MP in the Labour Party," says Macfadyen. "He was was a very personable, charismatic guy. But then he got in over his head. He had a very complicated love life, he had terrible financial difficulties, he was moonlighting for the Czech secret service, apparently. It all became too much and he decided to fake his own death. He flies to Miami and then subsequently flies to Australia on a fake passport. And we see we aftermath of that."
Stonehouse's long-suffering wife Barbara is played on the show by the actor's real-life spouse Keeley Hawes, with whom Macfadyen previously worked on the spy show Spooks. The Succession star describes reteaming onscreen with Hawes as "lovely."
"Very, very, very enjoyable indeed," he says. "She's long-suffering, Barbara, but she's got quite a bit of steel, and she's very satisfying as the show goes on. She sort of nails him."
Macfadyen himself underwent something of a retro makeover to portray Stonehouse.
"I've got lots of wigs, and I've got very dark brown contact lenses, and then a 1970s wardrobe," says the actor. "He had hilarious teeth. Very '70s English teeth. In fact, his top teeth were a real horrorshow. We didn't do that, because it would be too much."
Macfadyen is calling EW from New York, where he is shooting the fourth season of Succession.
"We've got another month or so," he says.
So, can Macfadyen tease anything about the upcoming season?
"Not really, no," he says with a laugh. "I don't know what to say about it. It's good, I hope! I mean, who knows. I hope it's good. It's been great fun to shoot."
Stonehouse premieres on BritBox Jan. 17. Watch the show's trailer below.
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