Glass talks The Imitation Game, Middlemarch and Bond with British actor Matthew Beard

Cracking the code –  Glass talks The Imitation Game, Middlemarch and Bond with burgeoning British talent Matthew Beard

Being in the spotlight is nothing new to actor Matthew Beard appearing as he did in Lego adverts when he was only eight, and since then his career has only continued to grow and grow. Now at 25, he’s taking on increasingly more challenging roles in the worlds of film and television alike. Most recently, he’s starred alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in  The Imitation Game, which opens today, and also played Guy Bellingfield, a member of Oxford’s infamous Bullingdon Club, in blockbuster The Riot Club. Before that, he played the fumbling, naive Graham alongside Carey Mulligan in An Education, and appeared as a gang leader in American TV series Rogue. He’s working with Mulligan again in Skylight, a stage show received to great acclaim in the West End and soon to appear on Broadway. With so many impressive credits to his name, it’s no wonder the world is standing up and paying attention. He talks to Glass about The Imitation Game, keeping busy, and not crying.

Could you tell us about your character in The Imitation Game?
I play Peter Hilton, who is the youngest of the code crackers. He was an undergrad when he was hired, and when he got the job, he found himself with all of these geniuses, a little bit out of his depth, maybe.

Matthew Beard Cracking the Code £

What attracted you to the role?
I was sent the script and I felt really bad and angry about what had happened to Alan Turing later in his life. I really wanted to be part of telling that story. Peter Hilton himself was a really fascinating character too, but it was mainly Alan’s story – not just his code-cracking, but how he was treated afterwards. The whole thing really moved me. You don’t tend to finish reading scripts and feel that strongly.

Working with all of these high-profile actors – Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley – do you ever feel star struck?
It is intimidating, but only for about 10 seconds. Then they talk to you, and you realise that they’re completely normal, interesting and funny. It’s fine after those initial 10 seconds. Everyone was so welcoming on the set of The Imitation Game; it was parallel to the real Peter Hilton, because he was the young one at Bletchley Park. To me, it was similar, with all of these people around who I recognised and thought very highly of.

Who are your main inspirations in the acting world?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with quite a lot of them. But there’s Jim Broadbent, I love watching anything he’s in, and Paddy Considine. A lot of my acting heroes are not acting anymore, or are dead. Peter Sellers is one of my heroes. I’d also love to work with Woody Allen in some capacity. They’re my kind of pin-ups, as it were.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding your acting?
I’m not sure I’ve worked with anyone patronising enough to give me advice, but I think just watching them, seeing how they carry themselves – more off-screen than on. It’s good to see how they talk to the crew, and communicate with the director. The best actors, in my opinion, make everyone feel comfortable, welcome and, well, important. They’re usually far more interested in other people than themselves, the best ones.

What advice would you give an up-and-coming actor?
Putting yourself forward for things, going to Edinburgh, writing your own stuff. I think just having other stuff going on, like I went to university. Doing your own music or art, because you’re selling yourself as a whole person and all of that stuff feeds into it. My advice would be … keep yourself busy with other stuff.

How do you keep busy?
I do some writing, scripts mainly. I find it quite good for keeping my brain going. Also travel, I like to travel a lot now. And reading … all sorts of stuff. I think I need to form a band or something, though I have no musical experience whatsoever, so that might be fun.

What’s your favourite book?
Bizarrely, because it doesn’t fit with my usual tastes, but Middlemarch by George Eliot. It’s weird because I usually like quite new, American fictions. Middlemarch made a really big impression on me; whether or not I’d trawl through the 900 pages again, I don’t know.

What would be your dream role?
Wow, my dream role. I think, it’s time now they’ve done the realistic, hunky Bond, I think it’s time they did the completely unrealistic, Sheffield James Bond. So I’m putting it out there, I think I fit the mould, I’m probably closer to the build of an MI5 agent than Daniel Craig.

What’s been your biggest challenge to date?
An American TV series called Rogue. In it I played a psychopathic Mafioso gang leader who was from Oakland California, and I had to, um, do an incredibly long action sequence which resulted in me knocking out Thandie Newton and urinating on her face while singing Amazing Grace. As characters go, I think it was as far from me as possible. I have seen a clip, and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of because it was so far from me, which is a good thing, I think.

And finally, what has been your career highlight so far?
I think probably when I took my first steps onto stage this summer, because I had never done a play in my life, not a school play, karaoke, or anything that involved standing on a stage. When I took those steps and said my line and didn’t wet myself, or cry, or fall apart … I think that was a highlight because I thought yes, I can do this.

by Becky Zanker

Photographs by Justin van Vliet

M.A.C Senior Artist Rebecca Butterworth using M.A.C Cosmetics

The Imitation Game in cinemas now.