These have been a great couple of weeks for friends Matthew Goode and Allen Leech, who play Finn on The Good Wife and Tom Branson on Downton Abbey. Not only did their new movie, The Imitation Game, win the Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award—an award that’s been a harbinger for Oscar winners like The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire—but both of their hit television shows debut their new seasons tonight. (Downton doesn’t air on PBS in the U.S. for four months, but you know you’re going to find a way to start watching it before then.)
The two were cast as part of the “Hut 8” team of cryptographers and linguists working out of London’s Bletchley Park under the direction of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), who eventually built a machine to break the “unbreakable” code the Nazis used for communication in WWII. We caught a couple cups of coffee with the pair in Toronto as they were still loopy from The Imitation Game premiere the night before.
You guys seem like bros.
Allen Leech: Bros or pros?
Allen: Yeah, we are.
Matthew Goode: Definitely. But we’re not pros. Anyway. Good morning to you. Cheers. I have felt and sounded better.
Allen: You sound more like Danny Huston this morning.
Are you guys sure you’re not still drunk from last night?
Allen: Oh no, we didn’t say that…
Matthew: We’re just bringing the energy.
Allen: People say this about us all the time when we talk. “Morten[ [Tyldum, director of The Imitation Game] used to ask that question: “Are you guys drunk?” Joking! This is a terrible interview, you’re getting all the wrong quotes from me.
Were you guys friends before this movie?
Allen: We met on this, actually.
And then it was love at first sight?
Matthew: We had our own love story.
Allen: We’ve been lucky enough to hang out a bit since.
Can we just talk for a minute about Benedict and that woman’s question—
Allen: Delicious yumminess? I knew you were gonna say that.
Matthew: Oh my god.
Allen: Delicious yumminess. Can I feed, can I feast on your yumminess?
Matthew: Can I feast on your yumminess?
Allen: No! She said, can I taste your yumminess? That was literally all she asked to do, do the action of it.
Matthew: Do you think there’s a vocabulary problem there? Or do you think she was asking to nosh him off.
Allen: I think it was the latter.
Matthew: Do you think it was the latter?
Allen: I do, I think she was going for a full taste.
Matthew: I mean, ‘cause it can only be construed in one way.
Allen: Either way, it was gonna be a gastronomical feast.
[Waiter asks us what we want for breakfast]
What was the atmosphere on set like? You knew Benedict beforehand?
Matthew: I’ve known Ben for, like, 15 years.
Allen: Speaking of which, just for the crack, I’m gonna have an eggs Benedict.
Matthew: Change that to eggs Benedict, would you! Eggs Cumberbatch, please!
Allen: There is a very funny picture where someone superimposed Ugg boots on a picture of Benedict, and it says Uggs Benedict. [laughs]
Matthew: The atmosphere on set was—well, we had the luxury of having two and a half weeks of rehearsal, to get kind of what the relationships would have been like, hanging around each other for 2 years in real life. So that was a joy. And the research was quite tough because a lot of the information was—
Allen: Well, it was so limited. We were really limited to what we could actually find out about these characters. All of Bletchley Park, as you see it in the movie, is shrouded in secrecy.
Waiter: [continues to try to take our order. It’s a bit of a struggle] Any bacon or sausage?
No, at least not for me.
Matthew: No. She’s not feasting on that much yumminess. She wants the omelet. One eggs Benedict, one omelet, one American breakfast, eggs over medium.
Matthew: We have far less that we’re allowed to put on our room bills than you’d think.
Allen: Uh oh. Whip out the old credit card there. There goes Christmas.
Matthew: You should be working!
Allen: [laughs] I’m unemployed! Thanks for bringing that up.
So you’ve known Benedict for 15 years. Did women come to set to scream at him?
Matthew: Well, yesterday was the first time I realized that he’s like a Beatle. I mean…
Allen: That was insane.
Matthew: We got in the car behind him going in. The screaming, I was like, oh, my god! This is electric! Because I don’t get out much—I’ve got kids now, so I don’t really get out that much.
Allen: You make it sound like, if you did, you wouldn’t be able to walk down the street. [laughs] If you did, you’d be on the subway, Oh, no! Get away!
Matthew: What I mean is I haven’t seen him in a bit either, so this meteoric rise—
Allen: It’s incredible. I got there ahead of him, and I was like the warm-up act. When I got there, and people were like, [dull voice] “Allen. Woo.” Four Downton fans. And I was like, “Hey!” And then I went over, and they had Sherlock pictures. They did this: they had a picture of Ben, and they’d go, [pretends to turn over a picture] “Sign the back please.” [laughs] I loved it, it was hilarious.
Matthew: Yeah. Because everything should be taken with a little pinch of salt.
Allen: Of course. It’s brilliant.
Matthew: Otherwise we’d swallow ourselves up.
Allen: Listen, I’m just delighted to be in the movie.
Matthew: Yeah! I am!
Allen: I would have walked to the premiere. I’m delighted they gave me a car.
Matthew: We should let you ask us a question.
Allen: You’re never gonna use any of this, are you?
This is your dynamic all the time?
Allen: Pretty much. That’s why we were locked in a room.
Matthew: We used to be in the film a lot, lot more.
Allen: There was actually a lot of us, but they had to re-edit it. Because this is it [laughs]. There was nothing they could use [laughs]. Oh god!
Matthew: No, we did have moments a bit like this, but mostly not.
Allen: Mostly, I think we’re on a bit of a high given that it had such a good reception. But also [to Matthew], it’s just so great to see ya. It’s been too long.
Matthew: I know. We haven’t seen each other in a while.
At the end of every day at Bletchley, a bell rings at midnight and everything they’ve done for the day is rendered moot because the Germans will change the code and the code-breakers will have to start all over again. Did it work the same way on shooting? Did a bell ring and then did you guys get to go out on the town?
Matthew: I just had a child.
Allen: Which means he mainly slept.
Matthew: Thank you very much. And that was #2.
Allen: His first one is my favorite. Your wife didn’t take kindly when I said, ‘And the other one.’ And I kind of did this dismissive— [waves]
Matthew: She likes you. She likes you.
Allen: I hardly get to see her, anyways. We’ll discuss this later.
Good to know.
[publicist comes over to tell Goode he’ll have to get his breakfast to go because he has to be at press conference in five minutes]
Okay, so since you’re leaving, I need to ask you about The Good Wife. You’re living in New York now shooting it, right?
Matthew: I am. They’re really nice people. And I’m getting used to the format of the 22-episodes marathon year of your life and the fact that a new script comes in each week and you’re like, [whistles] ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know that.’ I miss film for that, for the case of, like, there’s my entire story there in front of you.
What can you tell me about what’s going on with Finn on The Good Wife as the new season starts?
Matthew: As the season starts, we have the State Attorney’s race, so he’s had to bow to it because of reasons that have to do with his past in the system. It’s going to be: where is he at in his life and what’s going on? Is Alicia going to be part of that race? Is there going to be a friendship that goes into…another area with Alicia’s character? I couldn’t even answer that question yet. I’m not even lying about that because I don’t even know. It’s going to be all of those. We have many great guest stars coming in: Taye Diggs and we’re also going to have Niles from Frasier.
Allen: No! David Hyde Pierce.
Matthew: David Hyde Pierce. Yes. He’s brilliant.
Allen: I love him. You’ll tell him I love him?
Matthew: He’s brilliant. He’s now joining the party with Michael J. Fox and Nathan Lane.
Have you met him?
Allen: No, but I’m a huge fan of his as an actor.
Matthew: I’ll tell him.
Allen: Please do.
Matthew: I haven’t met him yet, myself.
Allen: He’ll be like, ‘Who?’
Matthew: He’ll be like, ‘I don’t watch Downton.’ I bet he does! How about this, if he doesn’t, I’ll give him the box set.
Allen: Do! That’d be lovely. Cheers.
Matthew: That’s my mate! That’s my pride and joy [laughs].
You’re like, ‘Thank god he’s gone.’ So Downton is coming back. Didn’t Tom leave for America at the end of last season?
Allen: No, everyone thinks that. He might still. There was talk about that, but he hasn’t made that decision. A lot of Series 5 is about him deciding whether or not that’s what he wants to do.
So you’re back?
Allen: I’m back. We finished filming about three weeks ago. We shoot February to August.
How does it work with fitting in films while you’re filming Downton?
Allen: Every year when I’ve finished Downton, I’ve done a movie, which has been nice. One year I did two. It just happened that way. It’s basically if you can get the dates to work, because a lot of the time you want to do projects but you can’t because you can’t get released. That happened this year and it was pretty frustrating. But the reason they’re coming to look at you is partly because of the show, so you can’t be too hard on it and it’s a great thing to be a part of.
Where we left off, Tom declared he wanted to go to America, right?
Allen: No. He said he was thinking about it but he’s very much still involved with running the estate. He’s a man just trying to go wherever he can be all he can as a person, within the confines of Downton Abbey with all the memories of his dead wife and the constraints of being a fish out of water, which he always will be. He can never belong to the upper classes and now he can never belong to the servants either. He’s kind of the first middleclass man.
I feel sad for him that he had to give up his revolutionary leanings.
Allen: He didn’t really give up. Other things just became more important, like mourning the death of his wife and dealing with looking after his child. I suppose there’s also a bit of naivety in him as well. There was a naivety when he first arrived and he’s grown and matured, but I still think he has very strong socialistl beliefs. It’s a question of how you deal with them and how you put them across and I think he’s become better at articulating himself.
Did you and Matthew bond over having shows that start on the same day?
Allen: Do they really? That’s wonderful. Ours only starts in the UK. His starts in America in 10 days. Good, because that means that they won’t clash.
Except that people illegally download Downton all the time.
Allen: Yes they do. But why would they illegally download it when they could be watching The Good Wife.