Press Archive 2016

Slice of My Life – The Sunday Times 5th June 2016

The Downton Abbey and Good Wife star, 38, talks to Oliver Thring about Bond, childhood drinking habits and his new gig presenting The Wine Show –

Oliver Thring
<div xmlns=""/>

My local fete in Devon held a tombola and I won some jam and a can of John Smith’s — well, it was the 1980s. I didn’t tell anyone and drank the beer in secret. My mother was horrified to find me sparko on the floor some hours later.

The British have a complicated relationship with alcohol.
Falstaff is one of the greatest characters in Shakespeare, while also being an absolute sot. With something that people enjoy — chocolate would be another example — some people will always be unable to help themselves. Nevertheless, there are shows on television that glamorise driving at 200mph without encouraging viewers to do it. On the wine programme I copresent, we want people to enjoy wine, but not to drink seven litres at once.

I’ve let my seven-year-old daughter drink a little wine at home —
even champagne at Christmas. Some people would criticise me, but I think it’s a chicken-and-egg situation. Does it help children learn to drink responsibly, or could there be consequences later? There is certainly evidence to show that the earlier people start drinking, the more likely they are to struggle with alcohol addiction, but I’m not qualified to discuss the whole nation. I’m just following the blueprint my family gave me.

I cook the way my mother did — I make a lot of roasts.
She also had a wonderful recipe for vinaigrette that got me into eating salad, although I’m lucky to be a beanpole. Sometimes my wife [Sophie Dymoke] and three children moan about it being our usual “Tuesday spaghetti bolognese” and I realise I have to broaden my repertoire. I get stressed if people try to talk to me while I’m cooking. The worst is at Christmas, when you’re ferreting in the kitchen for 20 people and someone comes over for a chat. In summer, I love the barbecue and lots of fish.

My favourite London restaurants are Locanda Locatelli, J Sheekey and Nobu.
They’re considered “celebrity” venues, but Sheekey’s, at least, is handy if you’re going to the theatre. Nowadays, my wife and I are stymied for restaurants because we live in Surrey and a cab ride back from London costs £100. But I love my local Indian, which has a nice pub next door.

I don’t know how well my career is going.
I’m not necessarily everybody’s go-to actor. I’ve had parts in The Imitation Game, the American legal drama The Good Wife and Downton Abbey, so it’s been a good couple of years, but I’m picky. I won’t say what roles I’ve turned down, but if I told you some of the bigger movies have been “comic-booky”, you might be able to guess. I’ve regretted saying no to some jobs, but if you keep looking back, you’ll trip over your own, vain shadow.

I don’t regret saying that James Bond needs a reboot.
I was on This Morning and was trying to say that, even though the franchise is doing better than ever at the box office, Bond is going to have to catch up with contemporary politics. It would look very crass, I think, to have him fighting Isis. But I was interrupted before I could get that point across. Phillip Schofield said I had ruined my chances of being the next Bond — I think he was joking. Anyway, shooting Bond takes most of a year and then you’ve got to trawl it round the world for another eight months. You don’t get to see your family.

I’ve had lots of friends who have gone on to become famous.
Benedict Cumberbatch, whom I’ve known for an incredibly long time, has been catapulted to stardom in the past few years and now he can’t walk out of his house. But he’s just someone I used to bum around with in Soho 20 years ago. He used to sit on my sofa and ask what the hell was going on with his career. Everyone worries to some extent about their life and has people to talk to about it — that’s what friendship is.

Hugh Bonneville is the patriarch of Downton.
It would be fair to say that he is the paterfamilias of the show. Like all the older actors, he brings a degree of responsibility to the programme that has to feed into real life. I was apprehensive about stepping into Downton, in which I played Henry Talbot, but everyone welcomed me with open arms.

The Wine Show, ITV4, June 12 at 6pm, repeated on ITV at noon on June 18;