What’s your guilty pleasure?
I watch all manner of pap. I loved this thing on BBC3 – which is great for rubbish – called Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum. I used to be a complete telly addict; I spent my entire adolescence on the sofa.
Is that how you learnt the tricks of the trade?
Absolutely. I didn’t go to drama school, so my education was watching television with my dad [actor Timothy Spall] and him shouting at it, telling me what was good and what was rubbish.
Is it true you’re named after a character in a 17th-century satire?
It’s a play by Francis Beaumont called The Knight of the Burning Pestle, and in 1981 the Royal Shakespeare Company performed it with a certain Timothy Spall playing the lead role of Rafe. My mother was in the audience and fell for the leading man... and a couple of years later I was born.
Do you mind being compared with your father?
Most people I work with have worked with my dad in the past and always say the same thing: your dad is an amazing bloke. At first I felt a pressure to pave my own way, but not now that I’ve done a few things I’m proud of. These days I’m just honoured to be linked with him. I’m about to become a dad myself and I can’t wait; it’s always been my biggest ambition.
You’re better known for comedy than drama. What was it like to play a villain in The Shadow Line?
I had the best time I’ve ever had doing anything. Jay Wratten is such an odd, unusual, ultraviolent character, and I made the decision to really go for it, although I’d just like to make clear that no felines were harmed in the making of this drama! The cat Jay drowns [in episode two] never got anywhere near water. There are limits to what I’ll do for my craft.
What makes you shout?
Sport. England winning the Ashes was the most moved I’ve ever been. I also shout when the national football team lets us down yet again.
What do you wake up to?
Today. And if my wife isn’t around, I put on loud music – at the moment I’m obsessed with a song called At Home by Crystal Fighters.
Who was your first crush?
Ally Sheedy’s goth character in The Breakfast Club, until she is given a makeover halfway through. Everyone gasps at how beautiful she looks, but I preferred her before.
Who has surprised you?
I’m working with Ridley Scott at the moment and you’d imagine he would be scary, because he’s one of the greatest directors of all time. But he’s warm, funny and creates a lovely atmosphere to work in.
What are you working on?
A film called Prometheus, which is part of the Alien franchise. This will only be Scott’s second Alien film, because other directors made the sequels and prequels. The original is one of the best films ever made. If we can get anywhere close to that, we’ll be laughing.
Which film do you return to time and again?
That’s another guilty pleasure of mine: I love romantic comedies. My favourites are When Harry Met Sally and Four Weddings and a Funeral. I think Hugh Grant is one of our most underrated actors.
Who would play you in a film of your life?
Tom Hardy. We went through a period of going for a lot of the same roles and now he’s one of the biggest movie stars in the world – which has been good for my career.
Rafe Spall is in The Shadow Line, Thursdays on BBC2 and BBC HD. He also guest-stars in Agatha Christie’s Marple, Wednesday 15 June on ITV1