What’s been the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Turn up and give things a go. There’s a side of me that will sometimes hide away and not get involved. I recall, when I was entering my twenties, a friend of mine at drama school told me to always take that first step, just turn up and see what happens. I was supposed to attend a dance class back then, I thought it was ridiculous and not me and didn’t want to go. Turned out I loved it and thought it was great. My philosophy now is to turn up, put myself in the situation and I can always decide not to pursue whatever it is. Just see what happens.
What moment in your career are you most proud of?
The first acting job I ever did was a TV show called One Summer; about two scouse lads that ran away to Wales. Yorkshire Television came to Liverpool and auditioned so many lads and, after a lengthy process, I got the job. It was a big TV series and seemed to resonate particularly well in Liverpool. My father had died when I was a kid but my mum, elder brothers and sister seemed to relax around my ambition to be an actor when the show came out. They were very worried, understandably, about the precarious nature of this profession, which they knew very little about. The first job you receive some sort of recognition for is always very special to you. I made a lot of connections; many friendships and it gave me something to talk about in auditions thereafter. I’m very proud of that job.
Have you ever cheated death?
I’m sure I have just crossing Tottenham Court Road most days, however, not in a conscious way, no. I’ve never been overtly aware of my mortality.
Where’s your favourite place in the world to eat and what’s your order?
My favourite place to eat is at home, at the kitchen table surrounded by my family. That’s my joy and I love it. We often do that thing of saying shall we go out as a family but we never really have as good a time as when we sit down, with the dog watching us eat, waiting to see when it’s his turn. We eat healthily, lots of vegetables, fish, stir-fries. My speciality it my salad dressing: oil, balsamic, grain mustard, lemon, salt and pepper. There’s quite a lot in there. I’m not one to skimp on ingredients, which is sometimes my downfall.
What’s the best age to be?
The best age to be is the age you are. I turned 50 recently and had people telling me that that’s a momentous time, half century and all that. I read a quote from Johnny Depp who was 50 the year before me and someone had asked him; How do you feel about being 50? He replied, “well, it’s better than the alternative”. I feel that you have to be very present in your life, you have to embrace where you are right now. I find looking into the past with regret or nostalgia or a desire to have that back quite destructive, and looking to the future with fear or hope or whatever can be slightly un-stabilising as well. The more you can try and stay in the present the better it is; having a gratitude for what we have and where we are is very important.
What’s your hidden talent?
I can drive a golf ball quite well but after the drive my talents tend to disappear the closer I get to the hole.
Who’s been the closest you’ve had to a mentor?
I’ve had a few in my life. When I was younger there were two people in my life; one was a guy called Roger Hill and he ran the Everyman Youth Theatre when I was there. That was where I discovered acting. The second was a man called Albert Byron and he was a film tutor at a place I used to go to called the Rathbone Workshop in Liverpool. He taught me everything I knew about film and constantly encouraged me to watch them. I remember travelling on a bus with him to go and see Tchaikovsky’s Mirror miles away from anyway, and really I understood about 5% of it, if that, and he was talking me through it all the time. That introduction to film and literature was really important.
When I was 17 I did One Summer and met an actor called James Hazeldean, who’s sadly no longer with us. He was my acting mentor; the person who I sought out when I had any acting worries. It would have been very easy at the end of One Summer just to carry on being an actor; I had my equity card, I had my calling card as far as the TV show was concerned, however, he was the person who advised me to go to drama school, study the crafts and become a fully trained actor. So that’s what I did. I went to Rada and I was always eternally grateful to James for that. When a job comes in now I always think about James as the person I would call and still miss him to this day.
Desert island film, book and album?
Book: The Power and The Glory by Graham Green. I read that again not so long ago and still love it.
Album: The Beatles are a big influence on me it would probably have to be one of theirs, The White Album.
Film: Four Hundred Blows by Francois Truffaut (1959)
What’s the best night out you’ve ever had?
My wedding was a great day and evening. We got married after having been together for a long time so our kids were at our wedding, which was great. We share mutual friends so it wasn’t a case of her friends and my friends. The nuptials and party took place on the end of the peer in Southwold.
What advice would you give to your twenty-year-old self?
Don’t worry it will be all right. I tend to worry and over analyze lots of things. I was worried about myself in the business, about myself as an actor, whether it would work out. You need to smell the roses and take time to appreciate what you have on a daily basis. I was in a hurry as a young man to prove myself. I chose work over a lot of things in my life and as a father and husband I have chosen work over family from time to time and that’s tough. So I would say just to relax a little bit, keep that motivation, keep that desire but not be so crippled by worry about things not working out. It might not be the way you need it to be, but to trust that it will work out in some way.
The Driver premieres tonight on BBC1, 9pm