Dominic West on being a Brit abroad – and how his Finding Dory role reminded him of Brexit

"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..."

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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.”

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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.

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Finding Dory is in UK cinemas from Friday 29th July