What’s your must-see TV? I’m not that loyal because I’m often in plays in the evening. So I get a lot of programmes stacking up. But I try to keep up with interesting dramas that come along: I thought Stellan Skarsgard was wonderful in River. I enjoyed Unforgotten. And I always watch Ripper Street.
Do you have a guilty TV pleasure? Well, very occasionally, I’ll dip into Embarrassing Bodies, just because it’s such a weird phenomenon. Seeing someone who, for instance, has a cat flap over their bottom seeking advice on television! It’s so odd. I mean, their problem might get solved, but the price seems high.
What’s your earliest TV memory? Oh, this is going to date me. Dim and distant memories of The Army Game and children’s programmes like Four Feather Falls. We’d also watch The Forsyte Saga together as a family. And I was one of those children who’d hide when Doctor Who started.
Have you ever done Doctor Who? No, much to my rage! I’d like to do it. Playing a villain would be great.
What do you watch with your own family? I have two sons, aged 15 and ten, and I recently introduced them to Fawlty Towers. That was such a pleasure because they both loved it. It’s just so beautifully constructed – each one is like a mini French farce.
Who was your first TV crush? It would have been Diana Rigg in The Avengers, which I used to love.
Who could play you in a biopic of your life? Ha – there are probably loads of people who could. But, ideally, Cary Grant.
What makes you turn the TV off? Too much music in TV drama. Music is an essential part, but it drives me mad when you get lots of music that’s saying, “Ooh, this is exciting”.
Do you wake up to radio or TV? If I’m on my own, then I’ll have Radio 3 or Radio 4 on. The whole breakfast television thing felt very odd to me when it started and I’ve never really shifted from that view.
How high does TV come on your list of cultural pursuits? When TV is at its best, it’s as good as absolutely anything. If I’m gripped by a really good drama, I’ll make sure I’ll see it by whatever means.
Can you remember the moment that turned you on to acting? I was 16 and I went on my own to the theatre to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Old Vic. You could get a seat in the gallery for 15 pence, which was the same price as your Tube fare. And I was watching this drama unfold live before my eyes – the whole experience just caught me.
Partly it was the smell of the place and that mixture of glamour and tawdriness. But also the feeling I was unlocking the city in which I was living. Here was a place that I could go to see the likes of Laurence Olivier and Paul Scofield, live. For 15 pence. It was just glorious.