I spend quite a lot of time away from home because I work in America, so Finding Dory’s idea of going home resonates with me. If you ask Ellen about home she says, “Home is where you’re supported.”
Maybe we British are a bit more sceptical about ideas like that, but I think it’s good to have some optimistic warm Californian sun shone on our cold northern European sensibilities.
I got used to the idea of leaving home very young, when I was sent away to boarding school. That had a major effect on me – it was the worst feeling I have ever had, very similar to the grief when my parents died. It’s the same thing really; you think you’ve lost your parents. I learned to bury the emotional effects of that and then I went to drama school and had to dig it all up again.
I live in London so I can be with my family as much as possible, but I’m very proud of coming from Yorkshire. When I meet anyone from Sheffield, they look at me sceptically, as if to say, “You don’t come from Yorkshire.” But I do.
It used to bug me that “Old Etonian” was the constant prefix to my name, but everyone has to come out from some pigeonhole and that’s not a bad one to have to overcome.
In America, the British class system doesn’t exist. I don’t know if I would ever have had the chance to play a blue-collar cop like McNulty in The Wire on the BBC. I got away with it here. Americans are very forgiving on accents because they don’t really know how other people sound. In New York, I find Brits are admired way beyond our abilities. They take the p*** but they look to us for all sorts of things that we wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable with – fairness, good governance and democracy, but also style and other things I certainly don’t have.
I don’t think Brexit will alter that, but it’s odd in Finding Dory that Idris Elba and I are the voices of British sea lions sitting on a rock, an island in the middle of nowhere, being fiercely aggressive towards any outsiders.
So many American kids’ films make me a bit queasy. The children are a sort of adult idea of what is innocent or what is cute – I find them really gut-wrenchingly awful. But I think Pixar is more robust than that, a bit more real. The films seem to be made by people who have good relations with their children. That’s what home is to me, where my children are.
Finding Dory is in UK cinemas from Friday 29th July