Matthew Macfayden on playing the ‘infamous’ Charles Ingram in ‘Quiz’

Matthew Macfadyen as Charles Ingram.
Matt Frost/AMC/ITV

When ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ first hit the scene, the show took not only the United Kingdom by storm, but the world. With the intoxicating and dramatic set-up (which you see come to culmination in the beginning of the show), the draw of a popular host and the edge-of-your-seat chance to win big, it’s easy to fathom why so many people became invested. But for another specific group, it went a bit deeper than that and those efforts turned one seemingly-normal couple into accused criminals trying to pull off an ‘audacious heist.’

The true story of Charles and Diana Ingram is the focus of AMC’s latest series ‘Quiz.’ The new three-part show uncovers how the wildly popular TV show first began, how a group of highly zealous fans started to take advantage of the game itself and how the Ingrams became infamous for ‘cheating’ the system—although nothing is completely clear cut. That gray area is what drives the narrative and ultimately is what shows how easy it is to jump to judgements and paint a picture of false facts on assumptions.

Matthew Macfayden, who plays Charles Ingram in ‘Quiz,’ gave Metro the scoop on what to expect from the fascinating story of how one normal couple supposedly pulled off one of the largest heists in TV history.

Matthew Macfadyen as Charles Ingram, Sian Clifford as Diana Ingram. Matt Frost/AMC/ITV

What was it that initially drew you to this particular project?

A lot of things—the cast, Stephen Frears the director, but mainly it was the writing and the story. It was just brilliant, really. It’s this fascinating, fun and interesting story and I remember, well not the trial so much but I vaguely remember the Major, what he became known as.

Were you a fan of the show back when it first premiered?

I remember people watching it and I remember it being a phenomenon—when it came on, you would watch it night after night as well. It was sort of this consecutive, event TV. Especially when someone was doing well and they went on to the next day and Chris Tarrant was very popular at the time, so that was all very big at the moment. Also it was the beginning of ‘Big Brother’ and really the beginning for reality TV I think, and so I remember that period very well—I was probably in my middle twenties. And it was all around the world, I think it was somewhere around 19 million viewers at its highest point.

One of the more interesting points of the show for me was to see the conception of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.’ 

Yeah, agreed, I think all that stuff is really good because it does a really good job of showing everyone and all of the different perspectives. From the producer’s viewpoint, you see how passionate they are about creating the show and you really see how they became personally affronted when people were trying to cheat or bend the rules.

James Graham, the show’s creator, said he was fascinated with the story because there were no good guys or bad guys in the show, I wanted to get your viewpoint on that concept?

I think it’s fairly well balanced. It’s sort of more about relationships and where people are with a story like that and how society and the media can cast people into certain roles, and I think that’s certainly what happened to the Ingrams. So that was interesting. But it’s a balanced piece, quite sort of nuanced and I loved all the stuff it talks about in court with the core characters talking about memories. We sort of fabricate memories, or the memories we have are remembering the last time we remembered it and confirmation bias— I really found that all fascinating.

Matt Frost/AMC/ITV

Once you did find out that you were going to be playing this specific role, were you able to talk to the Ingrams at all? How much research went into it for you?

Sian and I were both asked if we wanted to meet them, and we both thought that it probably wouldn’t be that important. So we didn’t, and I didn’t really want to, [but] we met them right at the end of shooting, very briefly, they came to the set. They were very nice and pleased to be there. [But] I’m not looking to do an impersonation of him, it’s more an impression of him and we’re telling that story—I wasn’t doing a biopic, so I didn’t find it useful for that reason.

You’ve played both fictional roles and roles based on real people. Is there anything different for you process-wise when you’re getting prepared for either type of role?

I think with this one, you have these clothes and set and that sort of is half the battle. The rest is really the script and the people who you’re working with [who] sort of tell you how to be and the director you’re working with. I watched quite a few documentaries about him [and got] his sort of manners and things, but I wasn’t doing a straight impersonation of him at all.

So what did you try to bring to this character, how would you describe him? 

I didn’t try to bring anything to him really, I just sort of—well as an actor, you just sort of play what’s on the page. The idea of bringing something to him is not my job, you’re literally telling a story moment by moment. When you’re shooting a TV show like that, you’re playing incremental moments with the other actors, and that’s it. You can’t play like a wash of anything else, if you do you get sort of unstuck pretty quick. But I found that it’s really all there in the script, he’s sort of a decent, bright family man and quite sweet really. This is sort of showing the fallout and how their relationship manages that and all that stuff.

Michael Jibson as Tecwen Whittock, Sian Clifford as Diana Ingram, Matthew Macfadyen as Charles Ingram.Matt Frost/AMC/ITV

James Graham, the show’s creator said he was fascinated with the story because there were no good guys or bad guys in the show, I wanted to get your viewpoint on that concept.

I think it’s fairly well balanced. It’s sort of more about relationships and where people are with a story like that and how society and the media can cast people into certain roles, and I think that’s certainly what happened to the Ingrams. So that was interesting. But it’s a balanced piece, quite sort of nuanced and I loved all the stuff it talks about in court with the core characters talking about memories. We sort of fabricate memories, or the memories we have are remembering the last time we remembered it and confirmation bias—I really found that all fascinating.

Overall, what do you hope audiences take away from the series after watching it?

I think it is very entertaining and it made me think. It made me think about how we sort of rush to judge people and how we decide very quickly towards the truth and what happened and what didn’t happen. It’s the same for all of us, we can be prejudice towards one another and we sort of rush to judgment and maybe it’s best to sort of be more accepting about that.

The first part of ‘Quiz’ premieres on AMC May 31. 

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