Deep State’s Mark Strong on playing footie with Damian Lewis and (almost) scoring against Arsenal’s goalie

The Deep State and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy star sits down with Radio Times to discuss his longtime passions for football and TV

Mark Strong, Deep State (Fox, EH)

What’s the view from your sofa?

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I watch TV in my living room on a very comfortable sofa that I can lie back on and has lots of cushions. In my eye-line is a cupboard with my TV. I’m able to control it via a remote that doesn’t even need the door to be opened. That’s the height of the technology in my house – my remote can shoot through the door. It’s ultrasound or something.

Do you like TV? Lots of big-name actors like to say they don’t watch it to sound posh…

I’m very much into TV. I’m a storyteller and aware that the theatre and TV are probably the places where you can best tell longer stories these days. Also, my wife [Liza Marshall] is a producer and has been involved with TV all her life. I’ll often be led by her in my viewing choices – she’s a great curator of television.

So, I’m coming round for a night in front of the telly with Mark Strong. What are we watching?

I don’t know if this is one for Radio Times, but I watch an American comedy drama, High Maintenance. Basically, it’s a guy that’s travelling New York, dealing weed. But it’s just a way of introducing a variety of eclectic characters who live in the city. I think it’s really funny, wry and heart-warming. It’s kind of a modern-day Tales of the City.

Other unusual viewing choices?

If I’m in the gym, I’ll watch poker sometimes. I play a little bit of Texas Hold ’Em, so I’m always fascinated to watch pros in action.

Any skills or hobbies?

For my role in Deep State I learnt how to reassemble a sniper’s rifle with my eyes closed – not a talent I’m necessarily proud of. I regularly play football with a bunch of actors, directors, writers, journalists – other people who haven’t got a proper job and can play at 10am Monday or Friday. When in town I never miss a game. It keeps me fit. I’ve got a couple of young boys so I want to make sure I can run around with them.

Are you the best on the pitch?

The guy that runs the games said to me a few weeks ago that I was one of the fittest on the pitch. I’m not sure that’s true but I’m fairly useful. Damian Lewis also plays in our game, he’s very good. In fact, he and I played in the Legends match, which I think was the penultimate game at Upton Park. I scored and beat [ex-Arsenal goalkeeper] Jens Lehmann, but it was disallowed because it came off my arm.

If that goal had been allowed, which would be the greatest achievement, that or an Oscar?

Oh, that’s a very difficult question. At the time I’d have taken the goal.

Do you ever go back and watch your own films to remind yourself how great you were?

Ha. No, I don’t. I will watch them when they first come out just to evaluate whether I got the performance right, but I don’t go around watching them for posterity

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Deep State is on Thursdays at 9pm on Fox

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