What is your earliest memory?
I loved Superman. When I was about four and used to get up really, really early, I’d watch Robinson Crusoe, Star Wars and Superman on the VCR on a loop while my parents went back to bed. My mum made me a Superman outfit: a woolly blue jumper, red wellies, blue pyjamas, red shorts over the top and a cape made out of a red dressing gown — one of the crappiest Superman costumes ever. I loved it more than any possession I’ve ever had, to this day.
Who was or still is your mentor?
Professionally, I owe everything to Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne, who changed my life when we did The Royle Family.
How fit are you?
I play a lot of sport, a lot of football, to try and keep in decent shape. I’m trying to squeeze as much out of my 42-year-old legs as I can. I can still get around the pitch. I’ve still got a bit of pace.
Tell me about an animal you have loved.
I had never been a dog lover. Then I met my other half. She has a dog, Dottie, a lovely old lady now. I fell in love with Dottie, and now I just can’t get enough. Filming in Guadeloupe, we came across a couple of amazing shelters, Copa Guadeloupe and SXM Paws on St Maarten, that helped us rescue three stray pups who wandered on to the set.
Risk or caution, which has defined your life more?
Risk. When it comes to immediate, obvious danger — things like skydiving, heli-skiing — I have no fear. I’m not afraid of mortality in that respect. I’m more vaguely anxious about what getting older means. I’d like to take more risks professionally. If you roll the dice, sometimes it comes up a winner. But if you don’t roll the dice, it never will.
What trait do you find most irritating in others?
I get so wound up by minor discourtesies.
What trait do you find most irritating in yourself?
I’m a real procrastinator. And I’m very bad at keeping in touch with friends and family.
What drives you on?
I’m very ambitious. I want to do good, interesting work. I probably attach a little too much value to the work that I do. Acting wasn’t going to be my career, I was going to be a doctor and dropped out to do this. I love learning new stuff, new skills, having new experiences.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence?
There’s suffering everywhere. I’m not a pessimist, but I don’t see any absence.
Name your favourite river.
The Irwell in Manchester, because it was home. It ran round the back of my nan’s house — a lot of childhood memories. And the Savegre in Costa Rica, possibly my favourite country.
What would you have done differently?
I started therapy recently, almost out of curiosity. It’s been a very good thing to reflect on choices you’ve made, thought processes you have, what’s important, what’s not important, like a step back from life. What I’d have done differently is not been so dismissive of the idea of therapy, and started 20 years ago, to get that help with clarity of thought. If you go to the gym to stay fit, it’s no different than that, for your thought processes. I wish I’d seen it like that a long time ago.
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