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[00:00:00]

Are we going to do a full vocal and physical war before we start? You've not already. I did one this morning for the both of you. I remember my teacher from our youth theater when I was a kid and he taught us.

[00:00:14]

Tell your men to drop their guns and tell your men to drop their guns.

[00:00:17]

Missing from Flash Gordon. And that has stayed with me ever. Is that still your vocal? Won't tell your men to drop their guns. It's not easy to say. It's a good one. It is a good one. Yeah.

[00:00:28]

Yeah. And are we allowed to swear? Oh yes. I almost encourage it. We all good. Well, we're all running so we'll start probably got a theme tune and everything is really. Have you really. Is it you singing.

[00:00:41]

This is the David Tennant Show. This is the day I wish it was. I could just get you to do that record. We could just, you know, lay low and OK.

[00:00:49]

I'm more than happy to do that. Yeah. David Tennant does a podcast with Michael Sheen. Michael, hello. Hello. We have just come to you and I from a publicity photo shoot. Good heavens, which is what to during which we had to sort of dress up in clothes and have a photograph taken kind of as ourselves. Yeah, I don't think I'm talking at school when I say that both of us find that not our favorite part of the job of.

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We haven't talked about this until now. So this is quite fun. Can I ask you, am I the grumpiest person you've ever seen at a photo shoot or seen Grumpy?

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Oh, no, I've seen Grumpy. You have? Yeah, OK. I don't think you're that grumpy.

[00:01:38]

I think you're an honest version of how I'm feeling.

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I wanted to kill everyone, including myself.

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That's what exactly what's going on in my head. Yeah.

[00:01:49]

But because I could see how annoyed you are at times it made me why it's sort of performing monkey.

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Everything's good. Everything's fine. I'm so sorry. I was. There were times when I was away. Right. It was excruciating.

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But I felt I was aware at certain moments that I was totally leaving you to pick up the pieces. I was just refusing to answer certain things. I was like a child, like just not answering. And then you were very nicely because you're a lovely person saying something just so that there was an utter silence.

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But I wasn't. But usually I'm you in that situation, are you? That's why I mean, I think we're very similar about it. I'm asking you as a means of therapy for myself, why is that better?

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The job so excruciating? Because it sort of strips away a lot of the stuff that allows us to feel better about ourselves. Right.

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So it strips away all the pretense of artistry. It's just monkey fucking monkey where this monkey. Yeah, I like I make this face.

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It's all that stuff that you constantly, I think, resist like cheap, stupid rubbish things that you like. It reduces acting to, oh, make a funny face because it's not acting that was it.

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Because you're not in character, you're you or somewhere.

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And then when you realize, oh, there's someone adjusting your shirt and everything in order to show the watch.

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Yeah, they've got it for free. Yeah I, I'm so I'm just a fucking monkey prostitute that's all I am. And it does reduce it and it strips away all the pretense.

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You can't be like, oh this is my motivation. Yeah. You know.

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So is it that it actually it makes you realize what your job normally is because all the artifices well possibly an aspect of it.

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Each time I kind of go, how did I let this happen? And it's because you have to people don't allow you to not publicize stuff.

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But it's part of the I don't think you want people to watch contractually. It's part of that part of the house. Yeah.

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And of course, you want people to watch what you do in and industry.

[00:03:43]

But, yeah, there's something about when photographers and I'm not saying this was the case today. No, not necessarily saying that.

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When people say, you know, let's do something a bit fun with this and I'm thinking there is nothing you can do that will make this fun for me. Yeah, nothing. As we're already going down a bad road now. Yeah. Because I know that we're going to get to a point where you're wanting something fun to happen. I'm not going to be able to give it to you. You're going to get annoyed.

[00:04:07]

I'm going to get even more grumpy and it just goes really badly. But let's just play let's just play with this. No, I can't play the line. I hate this. When there's a little bit warmer, a little a little suggestion of a smile. Fuck off now.

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I hate you know, the last thing I want to do is smile.

[00:04:25]

And it's not you know, everyone's in that room is just doing their job.

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I know everyone is. And they're lovely. It's always lovely. The loveliest people do that stuff.

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And and that again, brings out the devil in me a little bit because everyone's so nice.

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But you don't do that on set in character. Is that because you're not able to hide behind? Because even like on a talk show.

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Yeah. One has a sort of character. That one is.

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Yes, I think you're right. I think it's that thing that Oscar Wilde said, like, give a man a mask and he'll show you his true face. If you've got the mask on, then it sort of frees you up somehow.

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It liberates you to do whatever. But without that mask on, then I just get really self-conscious being asked to do any. I resent everything. Yes. Could you just laugh, you know, be a bit lartin. Yeah, no, no. I don't feel like laughing.

[00:05:12]

Then it becomes weirdly everything feels like acting combatant. I really hate that feeling of being inauthentic. But what we do is that it is authentic.

[00:05:22]

But you are an actor. I think you are known for sort of subsuming yourself within a character. Michael gets lost. Yeah. Are you sort of an old fashioned character actor? That sort of thing.

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Says two different ways of answering this one would be the the while.

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I think the thing I find exciting about acting is the challenge of it is the, you know, transforming. That's what acting is about.

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The other way of answering is the deeply dark psychological thing of I just don't like myself very much.

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So if I could be someone else and totally lose myself in someone else, then that somehow, you know, is sort of self medicate.

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Whether there's an argument, that's what acting always is. Yes, I guess from yourself. I think we're more similar than I even you. Are you a good judge of when you're being good, do you think? I have Deman Michael and Angel Michael. So Deman Michael thinks that Michael's being very good when he's being, you know, given a bit of fireworks and bells and whistles. Oh, this is very good.

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And then sort of angel Michael is like all that cost a bit. That was uncomfortable. That was, that was, that was hard and therefore that was good.

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I've come over the years, I think now to recognize a feeling that is a very unpleasant feeling and to recognize that that is the feeling of work that is happening.

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That is good. That is that has value as opposed to the other feeling, which is I'm really enjoying this and I know I'm being good.

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That's more that's kind of a more technical thing. I think like it. That's more showy. Like, oh, people will be a bit sort of dazzled by this kind of thing. And I'm enjoying the fact that that's happening. I've come to not trust that I've come to, you know, recognize that has been oh, be careful. You're in dangerous territory now. Right. And then this other thing, which is because it's because you're vulnerable and no one likes feeling vulnerable.

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And so the feeling of it is very uncomfortable in the moment. It's not it's about a million miles away from the other thing, which is I'm actually enjoying this in the moment. I always remember when I was doing look back in anger at the National Theatre in '99, and I'd already done it in Manchester at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

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And it had been quite a successful production up in Manchester. And it was the same director, different cast, the same director. And I remember starting to do previews at the National who was at the Lyttleton.

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Fiona Shaw was doing a play at the National at the time, and she came to see it and I thought I'd been particularly good that night.

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You know, as you know, the character of Jimmy Porter has these long speeches.

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And, you know, you can really you can be quite fireworks with it and all the rest of it.

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And I remember seeing Fiona Shaw the next day as I came in to the theatre, you know, through the stage door, going off to get ready to do the performance tonight. And I thought, I wonder if she wonder she's going to come and say something to me, because I had a lot of respect for Fiona. And and she came on and she said, oh, I and I saw I saw the play last night and just be careful, you don't enjoy yourself too much.

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And it was the single greatest note I've ever been given in my life. I am so thankful that's not all she said.

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She was very lovely. And she said, but that's the thing I've remembered said just be careful. You don't enjoy it, enjoy it too much.

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And she was absolutely bang on because I was I was enjoying it and I'd moved away from what I had in the first time I did it, which was that it was really uncomfortable, the feeling of of having the character of Jimmy's wife, Allison Allison, who is silent for, you know, a lot of it.

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But the idea that somehow she is attacking him and he has to defend himself and all that. So rather than playing a character who is always on the front foot, the thing that open up play in that part for me was he's always on the back. What you always feels like he's being attacked and he has to defend himself.

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So it meant that it was all it always felt painful and uncomfortable and vulnerable.

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And and I had got to the point where I'd started enjoying that a little too much rather than the other stuff. And she just put me back on the right path with that. You're talking about.

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I know you're terribly grateful that she said it, but in that moment when you're in previews and you're vulnerable and you're scared, were you a bit like fuck you on a show?

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No, I didn't in any way feel angry. I felt a little bit deflated. I mean, it came as a surprise. I really thought this amazing actress is going to come and say, oh, that was right.

[00:09:45]

This is a painfully familiar feeling that I've had over the years. I have to say. I mean, when I went to drama school first, I had, you know, done school plays back in Wales. And then I joined the youth theatre and I'd done the place there, National Theatre, Wales and all this stuff. And I'd become quite a, you know, big fish in a little pond, really.

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But then when I went to drama school, I thought, oh, my goodness, you know, everyone's going to be so much better than me and I'm going to I'm going to really struggle or whatever. And then I got there and and I was like, oh, no, I'm I can hold my own. Definitely.

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And then and then I got very big for my boots. And I remember the time we got our first public production.

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So it was in our second year and we were going to do Oedipus and and I thought, well, clearly I'm going to be cast as Oedipus and I will then give my performances Oedipus.

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And this is the first time the public, the general public will be able to watch the emergence of Britain, if not the world's greatest actor.

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And they will see my performance as Oedipus, which Olivier had done, you know, like I'd read and, you know, so all of that stuff.

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So it was in there as a kind of an iconic thing. And I thought, right, this is it. I'm going to give him a performance. I will be carried shoulder high through the streets of London with flaming torches and people will anoint me as the greatest thing ever. And so I was cast as of us, of course. Right. And we rehearsed it. And I was like, oh, I'm being terribly good in this. And then we came to the performance and I did I thought the best work I'd ever done up until that point and precisely nothing happened, right?

[00:11:13]

Nobody gave a shit. There was no like, oh, my God, this is amazing.

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There was nothing, you know, other teachers, the acting teachers at the college would come and say and they say, you know, you got to be careful in the second half your voices.

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But I was like, but why aren't you telling me I'm the greatest actor you've ever seen?

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And I couldn't handle it. I just and I had a sort of breakdown. I ended up leaving college for a while and I just lost all confidence. And nothing made sense to me. I couldn't understand it. And and so I just sort of fell apart. And I ended up coming back into drama school on a Saturday morning because one of the acting teachers used to do classes for professional actors, really not people who were at college on a Saturday morning.

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And I ended up coming back and just sitting at the back of those classes on a Saturday morning and just watching and listening. And then slowly, eventually I came back to drama school and I totally changed my whole approach to everything. And it then became about not working it out beforehand, not having any ideas about it, just listening to what people I mean, all the basics about acting and listen to people react to what they're doing, you know, take risks in that way, don't work it out beforehand and slowly built it back up again.

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That's quite a journey. Yeah, that was it was a big deal for me that.

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So you went to drama school thinking I'm a little scrubber from Wales. I don't have any right to be in the space of, what, two is a year or two years to.

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That was within a year and a half. Right. Probably you'd gone from thinking of no right to be here to thinking I'm the king of the world. So do you think it gets harder as you get older because you've got more defenses up, you've got more to lose as a human being?

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Yeah, well, I suppose it's sort of a double edged sword. And on the one hand, you've got more experience. Like I feel now, like on the one hand, I sort of I you know, I recognize the feeling of when I'm doing good work or the or the rich area to go out.

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You know, my instincts are stronger and better now. But on the other hand, I don't know if you've experienced this, but I remember feeling stage fright for the first time. I mean, not just nerves before going on. Right. But actually being on stage and it hitting you. I mean, I, I remember I did a play with in-home play called Moonlight. It was a Harold Pinter play and it was the first Full-length Pinter play in 30 years or something.

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And it was in Holmes returned to the stage after 30 years and he had the last time he was on stage, he would been doing The Iceman Cometh. Yes. And he'd come off at the interval and then the the stage manager came to give him his beginner's call for the second half, and they found him hiding under the bed in his dressing room. And he didn't come out and he never went on stage again for 30 years. Or Olivier saying to Frank Finlay when they were doing Othello on stage, I'm sorry to ask you this, love, but could you not look me in the eye when we're on stage because he started to get terrible stage fright?

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You think Laurence Olivier, like somehow rationally speaking, he was known as the greatest actor of his year.

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What's he scared of? Yeah, but it doesn't work like that. And I remember being on stage at the National, we were doing a modern version, a contemporary version of the government inspector, the Google Play, sort of David Farr, wonderful writer director. And it was his version of the government inspector.

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And I was playing the young guy who sort of essentially cons everyone into thinking that he's some government official when in fact he's just an arse. And this was a sort of updated version. I was a sort of estate agent and people thought I was a U.N. inspector. And there was this one scene where my character sits on the edge of the bed in his hotel room and just speaks to the audience, no one else on stage. And it's just this long speech.

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It was our first preview that night. And we were doing a rehearsal in the rehearsal room that afternoon. And and we rehearsed that scene and David said, oh, that line two thirds of the way through the speech.

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I don't think that's working. Let's just cut that.

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And I said, you know what? Let me try something tonight in front of an audience. And I forget to laugh, will keep. And if it doesn't, we'll get rid of it. Then let's see how it plays with audience. And he was like, fine. So come to the performance. First preview in front of an audience gets to that point. No one else on stage, just me sitting there. I get to that point, the speech, I do the line.

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I did something I can't remember and it got a laugh.

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And I remember mentally thinking, oh, good. So we'll keep that line. And then I just had no idea what came next. Nothing. Now, in days gone by, you know, I had dried on stage.

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I'd forgotten the lines. You just get through it or someone else is there or you get whatever it is you get through it. There was nobody else on stage with me.

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It was our first preview. There was no prompter. There was nothing.

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And I and I can't remember how it worked, whether I tried to think of what came next and just really couldn't remember or went, no one can help me. And then that made it even worse. But my experience was sitting there looking at the audience, and I started to feel like what I imagine drowning feels like.

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I just. Remember, like my brain scrabbling to look for what the next line was and then the fear happening and my heart beating and then thinking, I don't know what it is, I don't know what is, and no one's going to help me, no one. And then it just felt like letting go and just drifting off. And somewhere in my head it went. Eventually someone will just come on stage and take me away and this will end.

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This is my, you know, moment. Yeah. And I just remember, like, drifting off like that. And and it started to go a bit dark. I couldn't see, I couldn't hear. My heart was just beating and beating. And then it's like everything's speeded up again. And then the line came out. Now I don't know how long that took.

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It felt like forever. And I suppose the biggest problem was once I'd had that, yeah, there was always the possibility of in my mind, and that's when the real fear started.

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And that and from that day on, acting changed me on stage where there was always there would be moments where I would get that real fear again.

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And I never had it before. I absolutely recognized.

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Really. Have you had that as well? I've had moments, other moments where I'm going through the motions on stage and in my head. I'm composing the speech I'm about to make to the audience about the fact that I can't do this anymore. And I'm so sorry you've come all this way. I'm just going to go lie down now.

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Probably taught myself, because this is I can no longer continue. Yes. Either right at the start of a run when everything's new and your brain has the sign ups aren't quite firing or it's quite far into a run when you've somehow relaxed and you just relax a little bit too much and you suddenly you almost wake up in the middle of a performance.

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Yeah. Where am I? What was it. Yeah. Or if you've been doing it long enough that you don't have to think about the light. Yeah. Yeah. You have to think right.

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Wants to make like you just do it. And then for some reason you think about it. Yes. Something happens and you go what's the next line. Oh my God.

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I don't, I don't know when the next I don't know that it's coming and the cue is coming and I mean and then and then your heart then it becomes a physical sensation.

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And the only thing you can do is just breathe and relax because, you know, because then it will come. Yeah, but it's just totally counterintuitive. In that moment when you were a kid in Newport, is this what you thought fifty would look like? Is this what you.

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I don't know. You just imagine you and I together. I just never thought about it. Yeah. Yeah.

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I never I mean, my daughter is exactly the same age difference from me as I am to my father. Right. So as in whatever age my daughter is, when I think about when I was that age, my dad was the same age as I am now.

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I mean, so, so, you know, my daughter's now nineteen. She's about to become twenty. So when I was her age, I was in my second year at drama school. So when I think about my dad then I mean, he was an old man.

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As far as I was concerned, my life was over.

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Right. And so and I think, well, that's that's me now. My daughter. Well, I'm.

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Yeah, that's that's crazy. So, you know. Yeah. Fifty. I never. I mean, Forty's wastelands, as far as I was concerned, you know, let alone 50 God, yeah. The idea that, you know, when you watch adverts and stuff and it says, you know, if anyone over the age of 50, I don't know.

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I mean, that's like you're in the top with which age Bunday fall into and, you know, in the top one.

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Yeah. Yeah. There's 50 to death.

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That's it. I'm in the 50 to death bed. Yeah. Well, boy, I mean, it's a yeah, it's a big deal.

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And but it's interesting you refer to your appearance because you've sort of been around the world and are now interested in going back to Wales in a way that. Yeah, yeah.

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Is that to do with hitting a certain age or is that to do with.

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I mean, I'm sure I've been away for a long time. Yeah. I'm sure it is to do with you know, there's a big connection to an age thing, but it doesn't. My experience of it doesn't mean like that.

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My experience of it is that, you know, the way my life has gone. Yeah. Has got me to a point where I've become more interested in certain things. And that has brought me kind of almost inevitably back home.

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But then, you know, I think about things like one of the one of the big formative productions that I did when I was younger was Piggot and the story of pickaninnies of a young man who goes off round the world and eventually comes back home again. And that kind of I was I was very aware of the kind of cyclic nature of that story. And and, you know, my one of my favourite pieces of poetry is T.S. Eliot poem, which says, you know, and we shall not cease from exploring.

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And the end of all, I remember the exact words, but it's essentially about going coming back to where you started and knowing the place for the first time. And now that's something that has resonated for me for years and years and years without me ever thinking. Oh, and therefore I will end up, of course, going home again. It seems obvious now, you know, that that there's something about that that has spoken to me very much.

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And I never thought I mean, I love where I come from.

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I love my home, Wales, Port Talbot.

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I've always felt a strong sense of connection to place, even though I've gone off and lived in other places. And, you know, I was based in L.A. for many years because my daughter grew up there.

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But my but my home has always been Wales and particularly Port Talbot.

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And but the thought of going back and living there, I mean, that never occurred to me. And then it just. Sort of became the only thing at a certain point, it became the obvious logical thing to do and was something that happened that made you think I need to be.

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I mean, a number of things, really. I'd never have felt comfortable being away from home.

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I mean, not necessarily Wales, because, I mean, I moved from Wales to London to go to drama school, you know, but being in Britain was was always something that I never felt comfortable not being in Britain.

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And I said, you probably you must have lived in America almost as much as you've lived in the UK.

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I guess it was, well, so close by.

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My daughter was three when Kate and my daughter's mother and I broke up and she's now nearly 20. So, you know, 17 years, I guess, off and on being sort of based over there. And it never felt like home.

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It never felt, you know, for the first four years, it literally felt like I was on holiday the whole time. And then after that, it felt like, oh, I. I always felt like I had my hands tied behind my back a little bit. Right. And certainly in terms of career stuff like I have to start again.

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When I first went to live over there, I was an up and coming theater actor and no one gave a shit about it. This is in Los Angeles, is it? You might be able to go to New York. Yeah, yeah.

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I mean, I remember going to auditions for things in L.A., going up for Computer Guy in Alien vs. Predator, one scene, two lines and really caring about whether I got it and thinking, you know, I could be playing Hamlet and.

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Yeah. Or whatever. So I sort of start from scratch kind of over there and, you know, and things went well ultimately. And I did very well. But that in a way, because I had success over there that kind of made it look like everything was going really well.

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And career wise, it was going very well.

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But but I was I was very unhappy really over there. You know, there was a big part of me that was very unhappy because I really missed being at home. I missed, you know, my two best mates, my two best friends in Britain, both living in Brighton and Hove with their families. And it's just years I didn't get to spend time with them.

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You know, it's just years and years of essentially just living a fairly kind of solitary existence over there. And and, you know, and I'm just not, you know, not been able to talk about what was on telly last night.

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I mean, I know these things sound sort of trivial, but they're really important. They become really important to me. I've realised. I'm very tribal in that respect. Yeah, the things that really matter to me on a really deep kind of emotional level and psychological level, I think I'm feeling like I'm part of a group that I'm that I'm you know, that we're bonded and connected in ways that are to do with who we are as a community.

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And and, you know, some what seem quite superficial, trivial aspects of that. But they're not as signifiers of something much deeper. So being able to talk about bodyguard. Yeah. That was on TV last night or whatever, you know, because I was back in Britain when that was on and I was really affected by it. Was it. And I realized that it hadn't been since I was a kid really, that I'd watch a program on TV and then be able to talk about it the next day with people in a way that was like we're all part of this has brought us together.

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Right.

[00:25:00]

And like sporting events, like going to watch football or whatever it might be, that thing of all, coming together and experiencing something together and feeling kind of bonded by it. And I wasn't having that in L.A.. Yeah, I wasn't Emini in America.

[00:25:13]

I really, really miss that.

[00:25:15]

And so as time went on and it got to the point where my daughter was was going to leave to go to college and, you know, leave L.A. and it suddenly dawned on me that I didn't have to be there anymore. Like I could go home. I hadn't even in order to sort of cope with being away from home, I'd had to forget about the possibility of going back in in a strange way, like not think about, well, eventually I'll because it was almost too difficult to deal with.

[00:25:39]

So and then it suddenly occurred to me, I can I can go home soon. And that kind of coincided with in 2011 when I did The Passion in football. But this was a project that I did where I spent about two between two and three years developing it.

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It was ultimately it became one single performance that lasted non-stop, 72 hours in and around the town, working with the community in the town and to tell a story about the town really using the kind of blueprint of the Passion of Christ as a kind of least a story, as a kind of a a way into it for the audience. But essentially, it being a contemporary non-religious story about the town of Port Talbot.

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And you directed and you read I I sort of created a co-director there and was in it.

[00:26:25]

And that was a sort of life changing experience for me, really. And I went back I lived back home again for the first time in years and years and years. I got an opportunity to kind of have an overview of the community that I had grown up in in a way that very few people have the chance to.

[00:26:39]

You know, I could be sitting with the mayor of the town in the morning and then the drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in the afternoon, sitting in on a session with someone, you know, like I was getting to see an entire community, like a sort of a, you know, a cross-section of a community at a moment in time. And it massively affected me. And so after that production in 2011, I stayed connected to a lot of the groups that I had got involved with.

[00:27:03]

And and it just started to kind of wake me up to the idea that that there are a lot of people putting a lot of work into keeping communities going against really big odds, you know, and during a period of austerity policies and all that and things being cut. And it's really hard for people. It's really hard for a lot of people in the community. And it's also really hard for people who are trying to help those people as well.

[00:27:30]

And and so I became more and more aware as the years went on that that that was going on. And I had resources that those people didn't have and that they could use could be useful. So, you know, I know, as I'm sure you know, you get a lot of as well, people get in touch with you, you know, come and publicize this when you put your name to this, will you? And so I was doing a lot of that and it just wasn't enough.

[00:27:56]

I didn't want to just put my name to something or have a photograph. I wanted I wanted to get more involved.

[00:28:01]

And and, you know, you also start to realise that having a kind of media platform is one of the most beneficial things that anyone can have to allow not only your voice to be heard, but other people's voices to be heard and to draw attention to certain things that, you know, people other people are spending massive amounts of money to try and have the opportunity to do we get sort of for free in a way. So that's a resource. I also had my own money, so that was another resource I had.

[00:28:27]

And and so I started to feel more and more of a sense of I want to do more than this. I want to get more involved.

[00:28:34]

I if people like myself who come from areas that have a lot of challenges and do well prepared to help, then who who's going to do it, you know, just seemed like not only did I have a responsibility or a duty, but I actively wanted to get more involved.

[00:28:50]

At the same time, I was aware of, you know, oh, well, here's another bloody lovely leftie wanting to get, you know, because an actor who takes a stand is an easy target because you where we pretend to be other people for a living, it's a it's sort of a bit silly. Yeah. And when you go out there and you state your self to an opinion and a side of an argument, have you had to endure a lot of that, have you?

[00:29:13]

Is it something you've developed a thick skin about or I mean, I think the people who probably experience most of that kind of stuff are people from various ethnic minorities, people from different religious backgrounds and women. That's, you know, they just get it right. So anything I've had is tiny and minuscule in comparison to that. But yet you do get a bit of it.

[00:29:33]

And I understand it. You know, there's a lot about celebrity, not about being an actor necessarily, but celebrity.

[00:29:39]

Yeah, that is bollocks and absolute bullshit as far as you know, and is seen to be that. And that can leak into how people feel about you as an actor if you have some of that celebrity or whatever.

[00:29:51]

And there is a lot of people who maybe with all the best intentions, do get involved in certain things, but in a very sort of superficial way. And and I think a lot of people really do want to do good and to use what, you know, what celebrity they have for good. But it is demanding, you know, like if you are going to do stuff you want to make some kind of a difference, then it does demand certain things.

[00:30:14]

And and so I get why people are suspicious and I get why people are quick to criticize or whatever. And I came to the conclusion of, well, that's fair enough. And I should be judged by what I actually do, you know, and on the time I give it. And and eventually, you know, if I if I if it's just to sort of fly by night thing, then people are absolutely right to criticize me in that way.

[00:30:39]

I hope that people, if they are critical, criticize the reality. That's what really gets to me, I suppose, is when people just assume things or, you know, when newspapers report in certain ways and it's just like it's just not true. And then that becomes the thing that people attack you and then you spend time fighting fires that have no cause to exist. Exactly. Yeah. And just for people who don't know, did tell us a bit about your childhood in the area you grew up in.

[00:31:03]

And so I was industrial.

[00:31:05]

Yeah. So I grew up in in Port Talbot in South Wales, probably mainly known for the steelworks, but within the kind of South Wales area that was the kind of heartlands of the Welsh mining community. A slightly different tradition within that area is also acting weirdly. So Richard Burton came from Colomban, which was in that area. Anthony Hopkins came from tieback, which is also in that area. So there's this other sort of strand of of the area, which is to do with acting.

[00:31:34]

And I very much was focused on that part of it rather than the other part of it.

[00:31:38]

So there were precedents around. It wasn't such an odd thing, even though it's an industrial community. There were you weren't it wasn't you weren't a weirdo for once.

[00:31:48]

So, yeah, wanting to be an actor had as much kind of nobility to it that.

[00:31:53]

Yes. As far as also maybe wanting to go and play rugby or wanting to work in the steelworks or, you know, what, are you also going to be a footballer? Briefly, that was yeah. That was my big obsession before acting became the obsession. So, you know, when I was at my peak at 12. Right. And it was downhill from there really as a football player. But that that was everything I thought about. I was everything I could tell.

[00:32:14]

The point I'd gone to the youth team is that I got the opportunity to go and play for the arsenal. And what happened? Yeah, well, it would have meant going and living in London. When I was 12, my mum and dad were like, well, no, you can't do that. And we're not moving to London. So that didn't happen. Were you angry at them?

[00:32:30]

I didn't I wasn't supposed to know about it, but I overheard them. We'd gone on holiday to pontoons on the Isle of Wight for anyone who doesn't know what pontoons is, it was a sort of holiday camp place that people go to. And we're going to be makes it sound grand.

[00:32:46]

Know, I loved it. It was the greatest holiday. Well, we went to, but that's what I was about, a teenager. And we have to do what I loved the rest of my family.

[00:32:55]

And it just so happened that was we were there very someone who came to become a very, very famous football player. Tony Adams was there. He was only about fifteen at the time, I think. And his he was there with his father. I mean, holiday. And his father was someone who was, you know, worked sort of as a scout for us now.

[00:33:12]

And so he saw me playing there and then arranged a series of games and ultimately went up to my dad and said, you know, I think he should come in Kampala. You seem an arsenal. How do you feel about that? And so I didn't know about this.

[00:33:26]

And then we came home from the holiday and I overheard my parents telling friends of theirs about this.

[00:33:31]

And so I was simultaneously elated at this news and really crestfallen that it wasn't happening, you know, and he stayed in touch for a little while and got me trials for like local teams. But it was just at the point and really when I was sort of switching over to getting interested in acting. I see. So then and then my obsession and it was obsessive with the football then eventually turned into towards the acting and I went off down that route.

[00:33:56]

And what did your parents think of that as well?

[00:33:58]

I think they were both really pleased because we'd had this kind of tradition in the family of getting involved in and theatrical stuff. And I'm going further back into my family tradition. There were there's essentially two. There was the religious strand of preachers and people having kind of conversions in the gutter when they see God speaking to them through the moon, I mean, all that stuff.

[00:34:24]

Well, and then another aspect, which was carnival folk, fairground folk traveling people going on the fairgrounds. So and they sort of converged at a certain point. And and I think it sort of ended up being this amateur theatrical thing that my family were kind of into. And then and then I was, I suppose, the first person that who kind of took that a bit. Were you doing the amateur dramatics as a kid? No, I was just going and watching it, although I was in a production of Camelot when I was about 12.

[00:34:52]

Right. As Tom of Warwick, because my dad was in it at the Melen Operatic Society in England. And they needed a young lad to essentially be told the story of Camelot two by King Arthur because that Camelot is a sort of flashback. I see. And so I became Tom of Warwick in my green tights when I was 12.

[00:35:12]

And my dad likes to cite this as and that's what did it right. I didn't write, but so that was my only time.

[00:35:18]

I've actually been involved in it. But I mean, you're both in the trip. My dad was a dad by my mum wasn't. But they both had been they'd met through while they'd got involved in amateur dramatics when they were very young and their families had been involved in it. Also, it was sort of in the family and know they good.

[00:35:32]

Are they are they still doing my dad? No, my mum doesn't hasn't done it for many years. My dad stayed involved.

[00:35:37]

In fact, one of the kind of tragedies of of, you know, of what's happened over the over many years is is amateur amateur operatic societies performed a really great social function in smaller communities, you know, and for people to you know, it wasn't just about people wanting to be actors.

[00:35:54]

It was about coming together. You know, it was something that people were able to come together and do something that they enjoyed and have a kind of cyclical thing to it, but about a sense of community. And that has got really affected over the last few years as well. And that's really sad. My dad has been involved in in keeping that going in our local area. But he's his main thing for many years was when I say main thing, the thing he got the most pleasure out of it was that he was one of the world's number one Jack Nicholson lookalikes.

[00:36:26]

And he certainly. Yes. And he he's a double.

[00:36:29]

Yeah, well, he was yeah. There was a window of opportunity which he made the most of that window is now closed. Oh. Has he did he no longer. Is that no longer. No, no.

[00:36:38]

I mean I mean he could I suppose but I mean now it would require so much dying of hair and stuff.

[00:36:43]

And he's just I'm sure Jack's not a stranger to the die brush. Exactly. Yeah. But yeah.

[00:36:49]

So my dad had to sort of let that go. How did that come about? Did that did your becoming an actor allow him to think that was something?

[00:36:56]

My dad has always been a frustrated performer. Right. He would have loved to have become an actor himself. He's just not very good, unfortunately.

[00:37:06]

I know. So he said, would you say to his face, I would use the ASRM and his you know, his passion for it and his enjoyment of it is total. His ability is less than total, but he loves to be involved. And so when I went to drama school, I think the first Tim Burton's Batman film came out. Jack Nicholson was playing the Joker. There was a lot of do you look like the Joker going on at the time?

[00:37:32]

And, you know, newspapers and stuff.

[00:37:35]

And people just started coming up to my dad in the street going, you really look like the Jack Nicholson.

[00:37:40]

He'd never noticed it now. And he didn't know Jack Nicholson was at that point. But I thought it was the golfer Jack Nicklaus, very good time. And so he had to sort of ask me who he was really.

[00:37:51]

And then and then he said my oh, well, you know, you take some pictures of me for this competition in the paper, which I did. And he won the competition. He got an agent. Right.

[00:38:00]

And then he started working all over the world doing like what sort of stuff would he do?

[00:38:04]

Well, he would one week he might be down at Madame Tussauds pretending to be the wax work of Jack Nicholson and then jumping out to people every now and again the next week.

[00:38:15]

He might be at a at a premiere of a film and stepping out onto the red carpet and pretending to be Jack or and people thought he was Jack Nicholson, Empire magazine.

[00:38:25]

I remember at one point did a thing where they took look alikes around different parts of London to see people's reactions. My dad caused a riot in Leicester Square. He had been he was flown out to Germany at one point for the premiere of a Jack Nicholson film. And he thought he was just going to be part of the entertainment. And when he got there, they said, Jack hasn't turned up. You're going to actually be Jack. Wow.

[00:38:49]

So my dad suddenly was staying in the hotel suite that Jack would have stayed in, which was a new experience for my father and ended up doing a radio interview as Jack, can you do the voice?

[00:39:02]

No, not at all. So we did it in broad Welsh. He had to go write The Voice, but during the break, the German radio guy said. You're not Jack Nicholson, are you? A mother goes even better than the real thing, which you had business cards made out of might achieve even better than the real thing.

[00:39:26]

I've always said what he what he lacks in specificity he makes up for in commitment. So he gives it 150 percent.

[00:39:34]

So he did all kinds of stuff, you know, and there would be like Christmas parties, business parties where they do an awards thing for their employees and they get Jannings, Marilyn Monroe and the Queen or whatever. So he did a lot of that kind of stuff.

[00:39:47]

And this is all happening. You're an enormous drama student, wanted to become Olivier and suddenly your dad trolling around pretending die.

[00:39:54]

I was thrilled by that or embarrassed by that. I was just sort of bemused by it. Yeah, I'm fascinated by it.

[00:39:59]

I remember my dad coming down to London one time to meet to see his agent, and he said, oh, my God, will you come with me to the agent?

[00:40:08]

I need to pick up some photographs or whatever. Right. Yeah. So I come with him. I go into the agency and I can see his agent looking at me and we're just about to leave and we're just going out the door and the agent goes, James Dean.

[00:40:22]

I said, I'm sorry, what I could get you work is James Dean said, thank you very much, but I'm fine. I'm so tempted.

[00:40:31]

I've always thought about what could have happened, what could have happened, what might have happened. Yeah, but I love the idea that look like agency, the entire world has possible look alikes for people.

[00:40:43]

But then, of course, I didn't mean in a weird twist to that, you've a large theme of your career has been playing real people. That is not you necessarily look like, but you've cornered a market in Tony Blair, Kenneth Williams, Brian Clough, David Frost, David Frost. I mean, that's. Yeah, I know.

[00:41:01]

In a strange twist of fate. Yes. Yeah.

[00:41:04]

My dad likes to take credit that it was his work as a lookalike for John McLaughlin. Right. That led to me. Yes. Doing that. And yet it's a different process.

[00:41:13]

It sort of is. Yes, I, I'd like to think it is.

[00:41:16]

Do you have when you when you've come to do those real people, do you have a different process of approaching that to approaching Hamlet or Caligula or.

[00:41:25]

Well, only insomuch as that. You know, part of the kind of toolkit that you've got for that is that, you know, that the audience are familiar with the person.

[00:41:35]

Yes. So, you know, when you play a made up character, you know, the audience aren't going in. They're going, well, we know what this character is like.

[00:41:43]

Yeah. Whereas if you're playing Brian Clough, part of the kind of draw for an audience is, oh, I wonder if he's going to be like, oh, so you have to meet that in some way.

[00:41:53]

You don't necessarily have to be exactly like them, but you've got to answer that in some way.

[00:41:58]

So I feel like however you do it within the first couple of minutes, you have to allow an audience to feel comfortable that you're playing that person.

[00:42:08]

Now, the way of making them feel comfortable might be to go. I'm not going to be like them at all.

[00:42:13]

I'm not even doing a voice or, you know, there's different ways of making an audience potentially comfortable.

[00:42:18]

And all the ones I've done have been, you know, essentially go, I want you to feel like I'm close enough that you can go, OK, I'll relax this with all four of those characters.

[00:42:30]

If you have you done a similar if you started with a similar process?

[00:42:33]

Yes, I suppose so. I've I've always kind of thought about it like I spend the first period of time just totally immersing myself in in that person and any recordings of them, film of them, anything that's written about, you know, just as much stuff as possible. And without really trying to think about er on on trying to do a voice, I just like just surround yourself in, in them.

[00:43:00]

I always sort of talk about like just take a bath in them and then let certain things come out of that. So points of connection start to come out or you know something, I'll be reminded of something. So for instance with Claff, one of the first things I started to sort of occurred to me before thinking about doing a voice or looking like one of the first things was, oh, this is a bit like a cult.

[00:43:22]

When he's most successful with a team, it's because it's sort of cultish that these are people who are not at the top of their game. These are people who have been sort of rejected or on the you know, they're not players that have been lauded.

[00:43:37]

And him and Taylor are very clever at finding these people who have certain qualities but are kind of underrated and bring them together and then totally dominating them and getting them to be, you know, either terrified or so respectful or so in awe of this huge personality dominating personality that they will do anything.

[00:43:57]

And out of that comes this extraordinary success. And he did that a few times. And the time it didn't work was with Leeds because those Leeds players were all at the top of their game. They weren't the rejects. They weren't the outsiders. They were absolutely, you know, they were at the forefront of the sport. And so that so that took me down a path of looking at cults and cult leaders. So that's not that is a similar thing to playing a fictional character in that, you know, you look for things that are just associations.

[00:44:28]

Yeah. Yeah. So there's still that aspect to playing the real person. But you always at some point have to address how am I going to listen to sound and look and act like them. That is terrifying.

[00:44:39]

And each time I've done it, it's got to a couple of days before, like the honeymoon period is really early on when there's months before you have to actually do it.

[00:44:47]

Yeah. And you just kind of enjoy it and you think, oh, this is great. I'm just loving finding out about this person. And then the shit hits the fan when it gets closer and you think, oh, I actually have to do this now.

[00:44:56]

People are going to be sitting there watching me and thinking, and he's not very like him. No, that's not right. Or and that really becomes terrifying every single time I've gone. I can't I can't do it. I can't do it. We're going to have to cancel it.

[00:45:08]

It's not just being like Rory Bremner or Steve Coogan doing an accurate impression. It's it's got to connect on a level.

[00:45:18]

Well, that's what I mean about the point is that you've got to very early on get. The audience comfortable enough to forget it. Yes, like once they go on eBay this year, then they're just on the journey with you, you know, and then it's like anything else, you know, all you really want with an audience when you tell the story is for them to lose themselves in the story.

[00:45:36]

You don't want them in every scene going, oh, he wasn't like him then, or he's very like him that you don't you know, that will be the worst thing in a ways for an audience to constantly be thinking how much you are like the person. You don't want them to think about it at all. So you have to meet that need at the very beginning and somehow try and let go of that. And part of what I found in getting the audience like all of that is for you to let go.

[00:45:59]

So that means you have to do a lot of work beforehand because you've got to get to the point where you're not thinking about it.

[00:46:05]

Yeah. And then it allows the audience to not think about it.

[00:46:07]

But you've also got to get to the point where you're still very like the person, but you just don't think about it. So that's the challenge.

[00:46:14]

Tony Blair was the first one you did. Is that right? It was Kenneth Williams.

[00:46:17]

No, Tony Blair was up to that point. Had you had a sort of capacity for.

[00:46:23]

No, absolutely not. I was not used to do impressions. And no, I was not the person who did impersonations of the teacher or friends. I mean, nothing at all.

[00:46:32]

So why did they come to you for it?

[00:46:35]

Why did you think you could do it?

[00:46:37]

I so I when my daughter was very young and I'm sure this is something everyone with kids will recognise and she would want, you know, she would whatever Disney film she was watching at the time, I remember Beauty and the Beast was a big deal for Snow White and Seven Dwarves was was one.

[00:46:58]

Monsters Inc was another.

[00:46:59]

And she would want me to do the characters, the voices. She would want to tell the story again, like a bath time or going to bed or whatever. And and so I would you know, I would I'm an actor.

[00:47:11]

Yeah. I would do the voice of the challenge. I would do the voice a little bit. And I remember thinking at a certain point, I think it was when I was doing all seven dwarves from Snow. I know. I know it wasn't it was actually Monsters Inc. I remember doing Mike and Sally from monitoring and thinking.

[00:47:26]

It's pretty good. I've got pretty close after weeks of weeks of, you know, because my daughter, I've always I always thought my daughter was totally nonjudgmental about this and was just like so because she wasn't I didn't feel self-conscious about it.

[00:47:42]

Yes. And I'm through repetition, I realized that I was actually quite good.

[00:47:46]

It turns out my daughter was very judgmental because eventually she'd say, don't do the voices, Daddy. Oh, dear. Oh, yeah. Don't do the voices. She just got embarrassed by the voices.

[00:47:59]

But but I've always said that that was part of what gave me the confidence and it is actually true.

[00:48:06]

But but then in terms of people being interested in me doing it, it was I was I was watching a play I remember. And it was the interval and I was just standing around in the interval. And this woman comes up to me and says, Hello, Michael. I'm my name's Leo. I'm Stephen Frears, casting director.

[00:48:26]

He's making a love story about Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. And I think you are Tony Blair. So it was Leo Daviess idea. Yeah. And then she and I was like, all right, I am. And I thought this crazy woman had come up. You know what she was talking about?

[00:48:42]

A love story. I like what you did. And I was like, oh, whatever. And then and then the next thing I got a call from my agent saying, Stephen Frears wants to meet you. And I worked. The very first film I'd ever done was a film with Stephen Frears called Mary Reilly. Julia Roberts. But the Jekyll and Hyde story. Yes, yes, yes.

[00:49:00]

I played a small part in that. So I knew him a bit. And I was remember then he said to me at the end, he said, you know, one day we'll do something a bit more substantial together.

[00:49:11]

And I said, Yeah, right, OK, great. And so so it wasn't like I was meeting a stranger, but I remember going to meet him and sitting there and he just sort of looked at me for ages and I felt really uncomfortable. And then he said, You're all right, you're blah.

[00:49:27]

Wow. OK, you didn't have to prove anything. No.

[00:49:30]

And and then it turned out, given that was so that was the first time I ever worked with Peter Morgan. So Peter Morgan, this was, I think called the deal, which was on Channel four. And it was about the supposed deal the Blair and Brown made together in the Granita restaurant in Islington. And Peter Morgan wrote it. And of course, after that I went on then to work with Peter many, many times.

[00:49:50]

He wrote all the Blair ones. Yeah, Frost Nixon. He wrote Damned United. You know, he's now written the crown. You know, that's Peter Morgan. And but at the time, he had written this thing, the deal. And it's about Blair and Brown.

[00:50:03]

And then Stephen Frears says to him, So I found Blair, but he's playing Caligula at the moment. So we're gonna have to move our dates.

[00:50:10]

And apparently Peter Morgan was like, who the fuck is this guy who is now making me shit like? So he hated me to begin with.

[00:50:17]

Right. And so it was sort of ironic that then when we did work together, we ended up he had such a profound effect on my life.

[00:50:25]

Tell me about Neil Gaiman then, because he's a.. Well, yeah. So this is what has brought us together. Yes.

[00:50:31]

To the the new love story for the 21st century. Exactly.

[00:50:37]

So so when I went to drama school, there was a guy called Gary Turner in my year.

[00:50:43]

And within a first few first few weeks, we were doing something, having a drink or whatever.

[00:50:48]

And he said to me, Do you read comic books?

[00:50:51]

And I said, no, I mean, this is why 88, 88, 89, so it was now I know that it was a period of time that was like a big change, transformation, going through comic books, you know, rather than it being thought of as just superheroes and Batman and Superman.

[00:51:06]

There was this whole new era of yes, a generation of writers like Grant Morrison was the kids who grown up reading comic books know making comics.

[00:51:14]

Yeah. Yeah. And starting to address different kinds of subjects through the comic book medium. So it wasn't about just superheroes, it was all kinds of stuff going on. Really fascinating stuff. And I was totally unaware of that.

[00:51:28]

And so this guy Gary said to me, Do you read him? And I said, no.

[00:51:32]

And he went, Right, OK, here's the Watchmen by Alan Moore is something is Hellblazer and his son and son man was Neil Gaiman's kind of big series that sort of put his name on the map.

[00:51:47]

And and I read all those and I just I was blown away by all of them, but particularly the Sandman stories, because it was he was sort of drawing on mythology, which was something I was really interested in. And fairytales, folklore and and philosophy and old and Shakespeare and all kinds of stuff were kind of mixed up in this story. And I absolutely loved it. So I became a big fan of Neil's and started reading everything by him.

[00:52:12]

And then fairly shortly after that, within six months to a year, Good Omens, the book came out, which Neil wrote with Terry Pratchett. Mm hmm. And so I got the book because I was obviously a big fan of Neil's by this point.

[00:52:24]

Read it, loved it, then started reading Terry Pratchett stuff as well, because I didn't know his stuff before then and and then spent years and years and years just, you know, being a huge fan of both of them.

[00:52:38]

And then eventually when I, you know, I'd done films like The Underworld Films and doing Twilight films. And I think it was one of the Twilight films.

[00:52:48]

There was a lot of very snooty interviews that happened where, you know, people who considered themselves well above talking about things like Twilight were having to interview, you know, me and weirdly coming at it from the attitude of clearly this is below you as well.

[00:53:04]

Right. Like, weirdly thinking, I'm going to go, yeah.

[00:53:07]

I mean, Twilight, you know, and and I just used to go, you know you know, what are some of the greatest writing of the last, you know, 50 to 100 years has happened in science fiction or fantasy? You know, I mean, like Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite writers of all time. In fact, the production of Hamlet I did was mainly influenced by Philip K. Dick. Right.

[00:53:26]

And, you know, Ursula Quilligan and Asimov and all these amazing people.

[00:53:31]

And I talked about Neil as well. And so I went off on a bit of a rant in this interview.

[00:53:36]

Anyway, the interview came out about six months later, maybe knock on the door, open the door delivery of a big box. That's interesting.

[00:53:47]

Open the box as a card at the top of the box. Open the card. I says from one fan to another, Neil Gaiman and inside the Box are like first editions of Neil stuff and all kinds of interesting, you know, things by Neil. And he just sent this stuff. You've never met him, never met him. He'd read the interview or someone had to, you know, let him know about this interview where I sang his praises and stood up for, you know, him and the people who work within that sort of genre as being like, yeah, and and he just got in touch.

[00:54:17]

We met up for the first time when he came to I was in Los Angeles at the time and he came to L.A. and we and he said, I'll take you for meal. All right.

[00:54:25]

Said you wanna go somewhere posh or somewhere interesting. I said, let's go somewhere interesting. Yeah. She said, right. I'm going to take you to this restaurant called The Hump, and it's at Santa Monica Airport and it's a sushi restaurant.

[00:54:39]

I was like, OK, so we got so I, I had a mini at the time and we get in my Mini and we drive off to Santa Monica Airport and we and this restaurant was right on the tarmac, like you could sit in the restaurant.

[00:54:51]

There's nobody else there. When we got there, we got there quite early. And you're watching the planes landing on Santa Monica. It's like extraordinary.

[00:54:57]

And the chef comes out, Neil says, just bring us whatever you want, chef's choice. Just bring like, OK, so I never really eaten sushi before. So we sit down.

[00:55:06]

We had this incredible meal where they keep bringing these, you know, dishes out and they say this is probably just use a little bit of soy sauce or whatever. You know, this is eel.

[00:55:17]

This is and then there was this one dish where they brought out and they didn't say what it was like.

[00:55:21]

Mystery dish. We had it delicious. A few more people started coming into the restaurant as time went on and we'd sort of get in there and I said, no, I can't eat anymore. I'm going to have to stop now. This is great, but I can't eat. Right.

[00:55:33]

OK, well, ask for the bill in a minute and then the door opens and some very official people come in and it was the feds and the feds came in because they and we knew they were because their jackets on that said they were part of the, you know, Federal Bureau of whatever.

[00:55:48]

Yeah. And about. So we've come in, two of them go, one goes behind the counter, one to go into the kitchen, one goes to the back. They've all got like guns on and me.

[00:56:00]

And you're like, what on earth is going on? And then eventually one guy goes, Ladies and gentlemen, if you haven't ordered already, please leave. If you're still eating your meal, please finish up. Pay your bill.

[00:56:12]

Leave me. Oh, my God. Are we going like we poisoned? Is there some terrible things? So we sort of we'd finished. So we sort of pay our bill and then all the kitchen staff are brought out. I'm the head chef. Is there the guy who's been bringing us this bill and he's in tears and he and he says to me, I'm so sorry, apologizes to Neil and we leave.

[00:56:35]

We have no idea what's what happened. But you're assuming it's the mystery dish?

[00:56:39]

Well, we're assuming that we can't be going to we can't be it can't be poisonous, you know, I mean, that there's terrible, terrible things.

[00:56:47]

So the next day was the Oscars, which is why Neil was in town, because Coralline had been nominated for an Oscar for best documentary that year was won by The Cove, which was by a team of people who had come across dolphins being killed, I think.

[00:57:02]

And it turns out what was happening at this restaurant was that they were having illegal endangered species flown in to the airport and then being brought round the back of the restaurant into the kitchen. We had eaten whale endangered species.

[00:57:18]

Well, that was the mystery dish that they didn't say what it was. And the team behind the cove were behind this thing. And they took them down that night whilst we were there.

[00:57:28]

And we didn't find this out for months. So for months, me and Neil were like, if you worked in Somalia, have you heard anything?

[00:57:35]

No, I haven't heard anything. And then we heard that it was like something to do with the Cove. And and then we eventually found out that that restaurant, they were all arrested. The restaurant was shut down.

[00:57:42]

And it was because of that. And we'd eaten whale that night.

[00:57:46]

And that was your first meeting with Neil Gaiman? That was my first meeting.

[00:57:49]

And also in the drive home that night from that restaurant, he said and we were in Momeni, he said, have you found the secret compartment? So what are you talking such a Neil Gaiman thing to say?

[00:57:58]

Isn't it a secret compartment? Yeah, each man has got a secret compartment. I said no idea secret. And he pressed a little button and nothing opened up. And it was a secret compartment in my own car that Neil Gaiman. Was there anything inside it? Yeah, there was a little man. He jumped out.

[00:58:13]

Hello. No, there was nothing in there. That was afterwards because I started putting. Sure.

[00:58:18]

That's a very human story. All of that is such a Neil Gaiman story. That's how he got. Yeah. And then he came to offer you the part in Good Omen.

[00:58:27]

Yeah, well, yeah, we became friends and we would you know, whenever he was in town, we would meet up and I. Yeah.

[00:58:35]

And and then eventually he started, he said, you know, I'm working on an adaptation of good omens. And I can remember at one point Terry Gilliam was going to maybe make a film of it. And I remember being there with Neil and Terry when they were talking about it. And were you involved at that? No, no, I wasn't involved. I just happened to have met up with Neil that day. Right. And then Terry Gilliam came along and they were you know, that was the day they were talking about that or whatever.

[00:59:01]

And then eventually he sent me one of the scripts for an early draft of like the first episode of Good Omens. And he said and then we started talking about me being involved in doing it. He said, you know, would you be interested in the afterlife? Of course. Oh, my God. And he said, well, I'll send you, you know, the scripts when they come. And I would read them and we talk about them a little bit.

[00:59:21]

And so I you know, so I sort of was involved and but it was always at that point with the because he'd always said, you know, about playing Crowley in it. And and so so, you know, and as time went on, as I was reading the scripts, I was thinking, I don't think I can play Crowley. I don't think I'm going to be able to do.

[00:59:39]

And I started to get a bit nervous because I thought, I don't want to tell Neil that I don't think I can do this, but I just felt like I don't think I can play Crowley, of course.

[00:59:48]

Well, just on a sort of on on a gut level, you know, sometimes you on a gut. I can do this. Yeah. Or I can or I or I can't do this.

[00:59:58]

And I just saw, you know, and that's this is not a part for me. Like the other is better for me. I think, I think I can do that. I don't think I could do that.

[01:00:07]

And but I was scared to tell Neil because I thought, well, he wants me to play Crowley and I know.

[01:00:11]

And and then it turned out he had been feeling the same way and he hadn't wanted to mention it to me. But he was like, I think Michael should really play zero and neither of us would bring it up.

[01:00:21]

And then eventually we did. And it was one of those things where you go, oh, thank God you said that. I feel exactly the same way. Yeah.

[01:00:26]

And then and then I think within a fairly short space of time, he said, I think we've got David. And we've both got very excited about that. And then all these extraordinary people. And then and then off we went. What's the other thing about Neil?

[01:00:45]

He collects people, so he'll just go, Oh, yeah, I phoned up Frances McDormand. She's up for it.

[01:00:50]

Well, what? Yeah, I emailed Jon Hamm. Yeah. And yeah. And you realize how beloved it is. I mean, it is work is. And I think we would both recognize that good Ullman's is one of the most beloved of all of Neil's stuff.

[01:01:04]

Yes.

[01:01:05]

And I had never been turned into anything. Yeah. And so the kind of responsibility of that I mean, for me, for someone who has been a fan of him and a fan of the book for. So, yeah.

[01:01:13]

You know, I can empathize with all the fans out there who are like, oh, they'd better not fuck this up and this had better be good. And and I have that part of me. But then of course, the other part of me is like, but I'm the one to forget it all.

[01:01:25]

So I feel that responsibility as well. But we have Neil on site. Yes. Well, Neil being the showrunner. Yeah, I think it takes a big difference. Yeah. Yeah. You feel like you're in safe hands.

[01:01:35]

Well, we think that the world has seen it yet. No, I know. But it was a it's been it's been a joy to work with you on it.

[01:01:41]

Oh my God. I can't wait for the world to see it.

[01:01:43]

Oh well I mean, it's the only you know, I've done a few things where, you know, there are two people. It's a bit of a double act. Yeah. Frost Nixon and the queen, I suppose, in some ways. But and I've done it, you know, Amadeus or whatever.

[01:01:55]

This is the only thing I've done where I really don't think of it as.

[01:02:02]

My character or, you know, my performance is like I think of it totally as us, the two of us. Yes. Like they do what I do is defined by what you do. And. Yeah, and that that was such a joy to have that experience. And it made it so much easier in a way as well.

[01:02:18]

I because you don't feel like you're on your own in it, like it's totally us together doing this and the two characters totally complement each other and and the experience of doing it was just a real joy.

[01:02:30]

Yeah. Well, I hope the world is as excited to see it as we are to talk about it, frankly. You know, there's a having talked about this earlier, there's another bit from the wasteland where there's a line which which goes these fragments I have shored against my ruin. And this is how I think about life.

[01:02:47]

Now, there is so much in life, no matter what your circumstances, no matter what you know, where you got what you've done, how much money you got, all life's hard.

[01:02:55]

I mean, you can you know, it can take you down at any point. You have to find this stuff. You have to, like, find things that will these fragments that you hold yourself, they become like a life raft, you know, and especially as time goes on, I think, you know, as I got older, I've realized it is a thin line between being, you know, surviving this life and going under. And the things that keep you afloat are these fragments, these things that are meaningful to you and what's meaningful to you will be not meaningful to someone else, you know.

[01:03:26]

But whatever it is that matters to you, it doesn't matter what it was you're into when you were a teenager. It doesn't matter what it is, go and find them and find some way to, like, hold them close to you, make it like go and get it, because those are the things that keep you afloat.

[01:03:42]

They really are like doing that with him or, you know, whatever it is, it's it's these are the fragments that have shored against my ruins.

[01:03:51]

Absolutely lovely. Michael, thank you so much. Thank you for talking today and for being here.

[01:03:57]

A pleasure. Thank you.

[01:04:16]

David Tennant does a podcast with Is Something Else, A No Mystery production produced and edited by James Deacon, additional production from Chris Skinner, Steve Akerman, Sarah CamNet, Paul Rust, Tom Canik and George Tenet. Also from something else, The Treehouse, Britain's most acclaimed broadcaster enters the part of the tree house with Danny Baker and Louise Pepper is an interactive, non-tropical journey through the conscious and subconscious.

[01:04:58]

Hello, there it is all over, you know, from the command center, by the way, in my homespun Glaswegian, as my colleagues will slowly turn and stare at me in wonder. As the weeks turned into months, my acts began to improve based on studying Billy Connolly and Tagget to the point I was quite proud of it at the end.

[01:05:18]

I'm not sure the custom made of it, but I was getting more Glaswegian by the week. Bravo, Oliver. That's the style. Listen now in Apple podcasts, Spotify and all good podcast apps.