Comedy is a very personal thing, and some people will find it funny, some people won’t.
Dad was a strict disciplinarian and would give us a wallop with a wooden spoon if we were out of order. But we really respected him – he didn’t try to be our best friend.
I am a passionate believer that comedy is a way of tackling some of the most dark and difficult aspects of being a human being.
I can watch anything from 1970s West Coast rock to 1990s electro-funk – I don’t care.
I come from an Irish working-class background but went to a posh school, and any type of pretension was quickly mocked at home. I’ve always had a keen eye for pretension.
I didn’t know any actors growing up. My dad was a builder, and we didn’t know any arty types.
I don’t like to watch myself on screen because in my mind there is a touch of George Clooney about me, but when I see it, there is more than a little Donkey from ‘Shrek’ about me.
I enter myself in races. I did a triathlon, and I have done a marathon a couple of times.
I had an inspirational teacher at my junior school: Peter Nixon. He was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and slightly scary – a good combination for a teacher.
I learnt a lot about how to negotiate the camera: everyone had told me an actor doesn’t really need to do anything on screen, but I realised that wasn’t true. If you do nothing, it’s boring.
I spent six years touring the world playing Shakespeare, Molire, Shaw, Goldsmith… But I slowly came to realise that the people you are working with are as important as the parts you play, and that there were lots of interesting people working in film and T.V.
I thought the best route to being the great actor I wanted to be was to play the great classical parts.
I was in a lot of school plays, and it became the thing I did.
I watch films. I play the guitar: me and some mates – I wouldn’t dignify it with the term band – get together and play.
I’m a massive sucker for music documentaries.
If I wasn’t an actor, I’d be a moody folk singer, sitting on stools and being very depressing.
My childhood was very gregarious, and I was usually surrounded by close family.
My mother was gentle and warm. She was the sort of person you could really open up to. I was the eldest and her only boy, so I guess I was treated differently. She did bring me up as a Catholic, and at one time I was an altar boy, but I lost my faith, as did my father, when my mother died at 45.
My upbringing is so fundamentally different to my parents’. It must be strange to look at your child who not only speaks with a different accent but has a totally different view of the world.
Theatre’s a much less faddish, more sensible world than TV or film.
There’s always an anxiety about playing literary characters because one of the great joys of reading books is that you can create your own vision of things.
When I was 13, I won a scholarship to boarding school. My parents let me choose whether to go, and I decided I wanted to. Afterwards, I went to Cambridge to study law – in a way, I was carrying the academic hopes of my family, as Mum and Dad left school at 14.
When you’ve lost a loved one, you realise how grateful you are for any help in those moments, and any scheme that tries to help families during that terrible time gets my backing.