What You Don't Know About Matthew Rhys

Matthew Rhys, who we've secretly been in love with since The Americans, is quirky. He's got a boat called Rabbit from the 1930s that he's spent three years fixing up. Esquire says it's one of four in the entire world (probably, universe). Hemingway used to own a similar boat. When Rhys is done with it, he'll possibly dye his beard white and serve cocktails onboard to customers. The actor likes his gig on Perry Mason probably for the same reason he's fixing up Rabbit. "I get to live out childhood fantasies of ... flicking the cigarette," he told GQ, "That was a little thrill for me, because I've never done anything [set] in the 30s ... I feel like I was living out an exotic American childhood dream."

Rhys isn't American. When he first considered auditioning for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (in which he acted next to Tom Hanks), Rhys called his partner, Keri Russell to ask who Fred Rogers was. "And then she launched into a two-hour monologue about how he influenced her life," Rhys told The New York Times, "That he was, and so many people said this, almost like a third parent or a babysitter." Rhys didn't get Rogers as a babysitter because he grew up in Cardiff, Wales (via Esquire). It wasn't until 1998 that he moved to Hollywood. Approximately two years later, he met Russell, the woman destined to be his The Americans co-star and quite possibly the love of his life.

Is Matthew Rhys a farmer at heart?

It's only natural that as a child, Matthew Rhys, boat-builder, wanted to be a farmer. "I used to help out with the lambing on my uncle's farm so I associated it with happy memories," he told Daily Mail. But he fell in love with acting early on, "running around [Welsh] forests pretending to be other people." (There is no doubt. Rhys is Welsh to his core. He once told Evening Standard that he'd eat salt marsh lamb and lava bread risotto for his last meal.)

To Los Angeles Times, the actor described his "early obsession" with US TV shows, including Starsky and Hutch and Baywatch. That's how he developed the beginnings of his believable American accent. Eventually, Rhys attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where he'd get the training that kickstarted his career. But before that, Rhys had fun. As a teenager, the actor used to hang with "the rugby crowd, so it was all beer really," he'll happily tell you (via Daily Mail).

To The Guardian, Rhys credited his love for acting to Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and to "the bardic tradition and the Welsh storytelling tradition." He wound up in California only  because he couldn't find work in Wales. "There's an enormous amount of superficiality [in Hollywood]," Rhys told Daily Mail "there are moments when you find yourself saying, 'What am I doing here?" Then, of course, he found love.

Keri Russell is the love of Matthew Rhys' life

They first met after a kickball party in a parking lot when Keri Russell asked Matthew Rhys to open a beer. "So I sort of knew when I was 26," Rhys told Andy Cohen (via Elle). He (drunk) asked Russell for her number. She never called him back. It wasn't until they started working together on The Americans that Rhys and Russell got a second chance. And, were it  been for his pal, Adam Driver, Rhys might never have gotten the part. Driver ran lines as Elizabeth Jennings to help Rhys prepare for The Americans audition (via Esquire).

Shooting the show was intimate. So intimate, that Rhys and Russell shared wigs. ("It was easier for Keri because she has a much smaller head than me," Russel told GQ.) Russell got divorced; one thing led to another. In February 2014, amid rumors that the two were hitched, Rhys told People that it was hard to be serious on set: "It's not that you're trying to do the scene, it's that you're trying not to laugh during these intense scenes. There's a lot of practical jokes." Two years later, and they were preparing to bring their child, Samuel, into their family, composed of Rhys, and Russell, and Russell's two children from her first marriage Willa and River. 

What's the secret to their happiness? GQ asked. "Lock yourself in a cupboard," Rhys answered, "Whatever it takes to give yourself the alone time."

When Matthew Rhys couldn't land a job with the army

Before he settled down with Keri Russell, you'd have been forgiven for thinking of Matthew Rhys as one of those A-listers successful enough to charm the likes of Sienna Miller. "Sienna is so fun-loving, a real free spirit," he told Daily Mail. Distance tore them apart.

 You wouldn't always have thought of him that way. Certainly not when he was a kitchen porter (via Evening Standard). But Rhys worked for his success. To Backstage, Rhys recounted how, to master regional accents, he'd travel the UK: "I used to get on a train with a tape recorder and stay in a bed and breakfast somewhere for two nights, recording local people and going back and listening to the tapes." Even after he'd gotten some parts, he didn't always get them regularly enough. The Welsh actor says he was rejected from roles for an entire year, despite auditioning several times a week. He became so disheartened that once, after passing an army recruiting office in the UK, Rhys began the interview process. The officer in charge of his second interview, however, was suspicious of his acting background. "A few days later, I got a letter of rejection from the British Army, and I was like, Oh, my God, I can't even get a job with the British Army," Rhys lamented. 

He needn't have worried. Rhys was soon famous enough to meet the president and first lady of the United States. 

This is what Matthew Rhys didn't say to Michelle Obama

It happened something like this. While in the White House, Barack Obama used to watch The Americans. A former White House employee, working at the publicity department at FX, used to smuggle the former president advanced copies of the show. "And then we got invited to go to the State Dinner," Keri Russell told Stephen Colbert. "It was amazing."

Maybe not so amazing for Rhys, who was seated next to the first lady. "I have never been so nervous in my life," Rhys confessed to Wales Online, "my knees went, my mouth went dry and I thought 'what on earth am I going to talk about." (We get it Rhys. If Michelle Obama invited us to dinner, we'd go a bit dizzy, too.) Rhys described Michelle as "engaging and very charming." That didn't prevent him from making a mess out of things. For the first hour, he told Seth Meyers, he didn't speak (via NBC). When it came time to eat the appetizer ("this perfectly poached, peeled tomato"), he speared  it with a fork. The tomato "went off like a ... grenade," headed straight towards Michelle Obama's white robes. " I'm thinking either the Secret Service man will dive in and catch it," Rhys narrated. "Or if I dive in, he'll shoot me." The tomato, just barely, missed. 

That time when Matthew Rhys went bull running

Let's circle back to the boat that Matthew Rhys is renovating, shall we? Clearly, someone who spends three years renovating a boat has a bit of a romantic streak. Also, because we find this infinitely interesting, if Matthew Rhys could eat dinner with any group of people, it would be, he told Evening Standard, with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter O'Toole, Mae West, Richard Harris, Katherine Hepburn, and Diana Vreeland. When Rhys isn't getting nostalgic about old Hollywood, he's watching survival shows. "I like to imagine that if you dropped me off with a rifle and some chewing gum I'd be OK," he told The Guardian.

Naturally, then, Rhys' idea of an adventure is á la Hemingway. Rhys admitted to Wales Online that he once escaped to Pamplona, Spain, to go bull-running. Unbeknownst to his producers, after two pints of Guinness and two cups of coffees before 7 am, he was off. "You go flat out, trying to jump clear of fallers, and there's a moment of proper, sheer panic as you instinctively feel the group peeling apart behind you," Rhys described the experience. "Obviously, I lied to my mother about it too," he said. That's fine by us. His mother, according to Rhys, would have liked him to find "a nice Welsh Girl" (via Daily Mail). We're happy he found Keri Russell.