The White Queen’s Max Irons on celeb parents, sex scenes and Jay-Z, the coolest man on the planet

"Sex scenes are really nerve-racking, but the more you do it, the more you get used to walking around in a thong. I like to think I carried it off well"

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Which show can’t you miss?

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I know I’m ten years behind, but I’m halfway through The West Wing boxed set. It’s the perfect balance of serious politics and soapy intrigue.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I loved The Apprentice. Luisa was a nasty piece of work – Lord Sugar ought to get a gagging order out on her! I’d be hopeless – though not as hopeless as some of them…

Do you have a business idea?

I actually do and I’ve already pitched it to someone! I’m not going to tell you what, but it might just make me millions…

What was the last time you cried?

In the bath watching Billy Elliot a few weeks ago. There are a few films I can’t watch if I’m filming the next day because my eyes get so swollen – Love Actually is another one…when Colin Firth proposes in Portuguese it gets me every time.

Who makes you turn the TV off?

Jeremy Kyle. I heard he did a show in America – who can I talk to about fast-tracking his green card?

Who controls your remote?

I live alone so I watch whatever I want, but I’m generous with the remote when people come round. I had a girlfriend who watched cooking programmes pretty relentlessly, which was tough – but on the plus side, she was quite a good cook.

How much would it take to get you into the celebrity jungle?

I’d rather cut off my own leg. I have a crippling fear of insects. If I was buried with cockroaches, my heart would completely give out!

First TV crush?

I can’t remember my first, but my current crush is Clemence Poesy [who starred in the adaptation of Birdsong last year]. I think if I were ever to meet her I would get all giggly and be lost for words.

Who else leaves you starstruck?

Jay-Z, the coolest man on Earth. I met him at the Met Ball in New York – I was going through the revolving doors and bumped into him the other side. He said, “What’s up, sport?” and when I responded “Nothing much”, he said, “Get money”. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I’m told it means “Go make things happen for yourself”, which is the coolest advice I’ve ever been given.

What’s the best part of playing a king in The White Queen?

Having everyone bow when I walk in. And all the girls are told to flirt with me. I’m trying to figure out how to transfer this into real life.

And the worst?

There were a lot of sex scenes! They are really nerve-racking, but the more you do it, the more you get used to walking around in a thong. I like to think I carried it off well.

Your parents are Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack – do you ask them for acting tips?

I don’t really like to – it doesn’t end well! They have accepted that every actor has to make his own decisions, have his own victories and make his own mistakes, which is the best help they could give me.

QUICKFIRE Q&A

1. Strictly or The X Factor? The X Factor
2. EastEnders or Corrie? I don’t watch either
3. Jamie Oliver or Nigel Slater? Jamie Oliver
4. Radio 4 or Radio 2? I’ve recently got really into Radio 2 actually!
5. Jeremy Clarkson or Jeremy Kyle? I think you know the answer to that one!
6. The Killing or Midsomer Murders? The Killing

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The White Queen continues tonight at 9pm on BBC1