Q&A: Kris Marshall

The actor, who reads Samuel Pepys' diaries on Radio 4 this week, takes our quiz

Which TV series would you take to a desert island?
Annoyingly, it’d probably be Top Gear. When you’re travelling a lot you want a taste of home, and everything from the witticisms to Jeremy Clarkson’s teeth reminds me of home. I use it to go to sleep to sometimes when I’m on my own. If I’ve got jetlag, it’s perfect. Maybe I’m weird.


Your price to go on Strictly/I’m A Celebrity?
I’ve been approached to do both. It’s just not something I’d do. But I spent four months in the jungle myself. I’ve eaten the pre-pupated grubs. I went to Congo to make a film with the pygmies. It’s called Oka! Amerikee – the true story of a Harvard musicologist who heard pygmy music on the radio, had an epiphany and bought a one-way ticket to the Congo. He’s still there, 25 years later. I play him. I met him – he taught me the pygmy language.

What else have you been doing?
For most of the last couple of years I was in the States. I did a primetime series on Fox, called Traffic Light. It’s been cancelled now. For years I didn’t really fancy America. I hated it when I first went to LA, it’s like a dirty Sydney. But having a job helped.

Was your accident (being hit by a car in 2008, suffering serious head injuries) a factor?
It certainly made me rethink some boundaries. I thought it’d be silly not to go to the centre of my industry and have a go at it. I love it there now. And it was partly me being seen a certain way here.

Do you mind if people know you for the BT ads?
I don’t care too much because when I was in My Family, I was only known for that. It’d be churlish and futile to expect people not to latch onto one thing during a certain period. I’m used to it changing from one thing to another.

How lucrative are adverts? Can you now buy yourself a castle?
You’ll see a lot of actors doing adverts. There’s a reason why. I could probably buy a castle if it were in somewhere like Lithuania. Not this country.

Who was the first person on TV you fancied?
Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched. I was seven or eight. She radiated towards me. Am I a nose man? Yes I am I suppose, although I’d never thought of it until you mentioned it.

Which famous person have you met who was different to what you expected?
Prince Charles was a lot wittier than I thought he’d be, and passionate about the environment and architecture. When you drive round this country, you see some really bad planning mistakes and think, Prince Charles has got a point. I think he’ll be a great king.

What’s the last thing you bought online?
Sunglasses. I’m a qualified yacht skipper, so I do a lot of sailing. I lose my sunglasses about once a month, so I buy them – always aviators – on the web. Sunglasses are like parking tickets for me. Always lose them. It’s a monthly expense.

What was the last TV show you recommended to a friend?
Only Fools and Horses to my boss on Traffic Light, Bob Fisher. They have so many great British comedies over there, but for one reason or another, arguably our most popular sitcom never made that jump. It’s a hole in their British comedy knowledge. I’m in the process of sending him a couple of DVDs. I’ll probably start him with some early stuff, with Lennard Pearce.

Do you care that My Family has been cancelled?
It’s always sad to see a show that captured the public’s imagination go. Aside from soaps it was pretty much the most-watched show of the Noughties, whatever you might think of it. But it had its time. It’s probably good to bow out gracefully.

What was the last film you walked out of?
Traffic. Yes, the acclaimed, Oscar-winning film Traffic. I just couldn’t get on with it.

What’s your film for when you have a day off or are sick?
There are two. The Great Escape, which I used to watch with my grandad; and a French film called Les Ripoux with Philippe Noiret. It’s a brilliant comedy about these two bent cops in Paris. I speak French, and lived there for a while when I was 18. I did some French narration for the film in the Congo. There’s pygmy, French and American in that film. Trilingual. Emphasis on the “try”.


Kris Marshall narrates Radio 4’s Diary of Samuel Pepys.