I went through a metamorphosis when I was 16. I was terribly shy as a kid. Lacking in self-confidence. I never excelled at anything at school, sport or academic. Then one night I went along to the town hall to wait for my best friend while he was doing a rehearsal for this musical, Carousel. I stood at the back watching people with regular nine-to-five jobs throw themselves into this thing with great passion. Then someone asked if I was interested in joining and I heard myself saying yes.
A few weeks later I was asked to stand up, hold hands with this very attractive girl and walk from up stage left to down stage right. Everyone else was sat round the edge watching. I almost convinced myself that I couldn’t do it. But I did it, and by the time I reached the other end of the stage, I know it sounds laughable, but I was a different person. Over the next few weeks that discovery of drama absolutely, fundamentally changed my life, and gave me a confidence and self-belief I’d never had before.
It must have been kind of weird for my parents – this kid who barely spoke and spent most of his time in his room drawing and sculpting monsters suddenly walks into the living room and bursts into You’ll Never Walk Alone. But I’d gone through a lot of phases by then. I was kind of lost. I’d come home and say, “This is it, I definitely want to work with animals,” and I’d get nothing but support. The next month I’d come home and say, “I’ve got to get into movie special effects. One life, one chance, that’s who I am.” And I’d get nothing but support. Then a few weeks later; “But the animals!” So I guess my parents just saw my passion for drama as the next thing. They never preached to me, they told me to go for everything. And for every show I ever did, I got a massive family turn out; aunts, uncles, cousins. All I remember from them is happiness and pride.
Comedy acting was never an interest or a strength. I was 24, 25 and I’d moved to London because I got a gig in the ensemble in Les Misérables. Chris Langham, at that time a very successful comic actor, was one of the stars, and he liked me and wrote a part for me in his new sitcom, Kiss Me Kate, with Caroline Quentin. I left Les Mis and within a few days I was at ITV studios filming this TV sitcom.
After that I did Smack the Pony and Hippies, with Simon Pegg and Sally Phillips. I did pause then actually. I was playing this big, dim character again. I didn’t want to be stuck doing the same shtick over and over. But it was work, and at that stage I wasn’t going to turn it down. But I always felt like an imposter in the comedy world. I’m not a comedian, I don’t write comedy, I don’t have comedy in my bones. I felt this pressure in press interviews to be extrovert, full of hilarious anecdotes. And that just wasn’t me.
I’m not someone who always wanted to have kids. I don’t know if I considered myself father material. This business – it’s a huge commitment. It gives you these massive highs and terrible lows. It’s not sanity-inducing. It’s a selfish, single-minded pursuit. And it doesn’t offer security. So it doesn’t add up naturally with having a family.