The British actor talks villainous roles, Raw Theatre Company and directing Cyrano de Bergerac at Ductac in Dubai.
You went from TV acting to the West End, starring in the Mamma Mia! and Billy Elliot musicals. What made you change roles?
You do what comes up really. I finished [UK TV drama] Bad Girls and then I did Waterloo Road and Doctors. I’d never done a musical in my life and I’ve just finished two years in Mamma Mia!
Do you remember your first stage performance?
Yeah, I was a tree [laughs]. It was a nativity play at school and I was wearing a brown corduroy top and a gold headband with leaves sticking out of it, and I just had to stand there at the back of the stage, not moving. I was the best tree on the stage but I think I’ve been accused of being wooden ever since...
On that note, what’s the worst criticism you’ve ever had?
When I played Romeo in 1984, the critics from the local paper came out and I didn’t even get a mention. To me, that’s the worst ever, because I was playing the lead.
Why do you think theatre is so important?
It’s immediate. When you are in the theatre, you have the whole story unfolding in front of you and you become involved in it. You are part of the action. I love films, and the greatest films take you on the greatest journey emotionally, but I think even in the cinema, you get interrupted now with phones ringing. It’s irritating.
Do you have a favourite film?
On the Waterfront, with Marlon Brando. It’s just a stunning film. My favourite actors are Ben Stiller for comedy, James Woods and Jonathan Price. I have a big thing at the minute for Leonardo DiCaprio, the way his career has developed. He has gone from a pretty boy to putting in really weighty performances, which just change every time he has done something.
You are directing a production of Cyrano de Bergerac. What can audiences expect?
I saw the play in 1984 at the Royal Shakespeare Company and it was the last time I stood up and cheered. It has stayed with me ever since. We are staging an adapted version, which uses 12 characters rather than the orginal 40 characters.
You’re known for your role as Governor Neil Grayling in British drama Bad Girls. That must have been a fun role.
I do like playing a baddie, they get the best lines. I’ve done Romeo & Juliet twice and I played Romeo and Tybalt. I’d play Tybalt every day of the week – it’s 18 lines, three sword fights and dead at the interval. Playing a villian to me is always going to be brilliant. My favourite role, weirdly, is Captain Hook, because its fun. He’s the ultimate baddie.
Cyrano De Bergerac. Dhs120-Dhs150. Thursday October 16-18. 7.30pm (matinee show at 3pm). Kilachand Studio, Ductac, Mall of the Emirates email@example.com.