At 16 I’d just joined the local youth theatre in Dartford and I was having this massive revelation; I’d found all these people I wanted to be friends with. I didn’t have lots of friends at school, then suddenly I met all these like-minded people and I was in love with all of them. I didn’t have a traumatic time at school but it was a very academic all boys’ grammar and didn’t have much interest in the arts. I’m in touch with no one from my school days but still in touch with about a dozen people from that youth theatre.
I was deeply into pop music. I loved Bros and I had the full-on look – Grolsch tops, DMs, spiky hair. It’s really odd to think back on that part of my life but I refuse to be ashamed because it’s obviously a big part of who I was then. I think perhaps I saw it as being alternative because everyone else in my school was into Pink Floyd or very serious rock. They were all trying to be different but ended up looking the same. I was the only one who really looked different, truly alternative. I haven’t thought much about this but looking at it now – to be in an all boys’ grammar school and claim that you love a girly boyband was quite a brave thing to do. Maybe I should take some pride from that, tell my younger self he should be more proud of himself.
I hadn’t thought about acting until one day when, for some reason, a teacher at my school handed me a leaflet about the theatre. He wasn’t a mentor or anything – I only have a vague memory of Mr James, this very old teacher – but I remember vividly him coming to find me to give me this leaflet. It’s a mystery – he didn’t know me that well but he must have seen something in me, I don’t know what. If I could go back in time I’d go and find him and shake his hand. Looking back, that was a big turning point in my life. If I hadn’t got that flier, would I be here now talking to you about acting?
It’s a mystery – he didn’t know me that well but he must have seen something in me
One of my biggest regrets is not going to see Nirvana when I had the chance. I had tickets to their seminal gig at Reading festival in 1992. For some reason I can’t remember, I didn’t go. I assumed I would get another chance to see them. So I’d kick my younger self up the arse and tell him to get to Reading.
As a teenager I was certainly a worrier but isn’t everyone? I wasn’t especially deep – it was all about girls. At 16 I looked about 12 and that was a massive pain in the arse. I had no chance of getting a girlfriend of my own age and that was constantly on my mind, for years I think. I’ve got two sisters so girls were around but I was just the cute, funny kid.
If I wanted to impress my younger self I’d tell him I’d done two Broadway shows and runs in the West End. And had parts in big movies. I could drop names like Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Steven Spielberg and he’d be amazed. And it would feel good to tell him.