||[in 2011] The days on set are long and incredibly pressured. We make the equivalent of two full-length movies for each series of Inspector George Gently (2007) in seven weeks. My working day on set lasts from 7am to 7pm. After I’ve cooked myself dinner, I’ve got pages of dialogue to learn for the next day and, by 10.30pm, I’m exhausted. I can sustain that pace for the seven weeks that we do now, but if I tried to keep it up for the six months it would take to do a full series, my body wouldn’t cope.
||[on Inspector George Gently (2007)] Working with Lee [Lee Ingleby] is one of the attractions of the job. If we have any problems with the script we can resolve it very quickly because we have an intuitive way of working. Lee always makes me laugh. He’s irreverent and, when you work under the pressure we face, laughter is brilliant for relieving the strain.
||Every city in England had its own repertory theatre. And that was reflected on TV – the BBC had Sunday-Night Theatre and ITV had Armchair Theatre. So, twice a week you’d have a play, something entirely new. Then there was The Wednesday Play on BBC, with seminal broadcasts like Cathy Come Home. It was very exciting. You didn’t earn much but you didn’t need to because you were working all the time, making different dramas.
||In the Fifties, most actors didn’t bother to change for different roles. If you saw an Errol Flynn movie, it was always going to be Errol Flynn. It was the same with Cary Grant, Fred Astaire or Rock Hudson – the part was a vehicle for them. People say to me, with a little element of surprise, that I’m versatile – as though that isn’t something expected of an actor, rather than being the definition of one. You don’t call a musician versatile just because he can play more than one tune.
||The day before an opening night I’m almost physically sick and wish I was on another planet. I have fantasies about cancelling it – the theatre could burn down, they could change their minds and I’d be free! Just before the curtain goes up, I wonder why I do this to myself.
||Every single day on the series takes me back to that time. And I’m one of the few people on the set who can actually remember it. I was there. I’m like an unofficial consultant on the series – whenever they’re wondering whether people actually used a certain phrase, or acted in a certain way back then, they ask me. (On Inspector George Gently (2007))
||I was an instant convert to hippiedom. I loved kaftans, long hair, crushed velvet, flared jeans, all of that stuff! And Bob Dylan, of course. I bought a guitar and learned all the songs – I even had a wire frame with a mouth organ on it to do the whole Dylan shtick. All the protests, all that stuff. I didn’t go on the marches myself, though. I was probably too stoned to make my way there.
||With TV and films – but TV especially because of the economic pressure – it is always about acting your first idea. Almost invariably the script will have been horrid too, because TV writers write under pressure, they don’t have the luxury like a playwright of bringing something up and polishing it and honing it. They just dash it off.
||Although TV is exhausting, the longest performance you do there is about two minutes, and that’s your whole performance, then you have a break and then you do another two minutes. Sustaining something for two hours, as you must in theatre – that’s when it becomes an art form, this is when you become someone like a ballet dancer or a pianist or painter, where a lifelong training and experience is brought to the fore. So if I’m not going to dishonour and disenfranchise 45 years of work, I need to come back to the theatre whenever I can.