Show People / Gracious goodness . . .: Douglas Hodge

THE 19th-century doctor travelled to London every day on the three o'clock train from Dorset. Young ladies in the carriage could not but remark him: the coal curls, the perfect candour of his pale blue eyes, the sweet hoarseness in the voice, the way worry would pucker his chin. There was a lot to fret about: his impetuous marriage to the social- climbing Rosamond, his ruined reputation, and then there was the small matter of reaching Waterloo and hailing a cab to the Comedy Theatre where he would pose once again as a psychotic rent-boy at the behest of a Mr Harold Pinter.

The shift from filming Middlemarch (to be shown on BBC1 next year) to prowling around Pinter's No Man's Land would wreck the gear- box of most actors. Douglas Hodge admits that it was 'a pretty alarming transformation. They didn't, er, respond to each other in any way.' But he did it. Those who have seen the Middlemarch rushes say you can't take your eyes off Hodge's Lydgate, while director David Leveaux was so convinced by his baby-faced menace that he asked him back for Pinter's new play, Moonlight.

We meet in the theatre wine-bar between rehearsals. Hodge is enthusing about the range of the play: 'No Man's Land was an incredibly icy, vicious world. They are much more rounded human beings in this one. There's a strain of solace.' I had been told that Hodge was a charming, modest guy, but it was hard to believe that the man dubbed Heart- throb Hodge by the Sun after playing the gorgeous grinning Declan in Capital City, who raised pounds 50,000 when Cilla Black auctioned him for a dream date, would not be bent double with narcissistic baggage.

In fact, he is self-effacing. In person, you can see that the camera flatters him: he's not drop-dead handsome, although, in different circumstances, I could certainly have managed a faint. He looks like a romantic lead from the days when they were all called Kenneth: the officer who doesn't crack up in the trenches and carries the sorrow and the pity on his broad shoulders. With his face, he could be stuck with craggy Sloanes. But Hodge has the gift of making goodness interesting, as he proved last year as Gerald in Anglo-Saxon Attitudes and Adam in A Fatal Inversion, two series shown simultaneously on prime-time BBC1 and ITV. He laughs, embarrassed: 'Even my best friends were feeling quite ill.'

Hodge was born in Chatham, Kent, in 1960. Dad was a civil servant, mum a nurse. Young Doug did impersonations in his bedroom: Frank 'Ooh, Bett-ay' Spencer was a speciality. So he was a gifted mimic? 'Oh, no, I just did impersonations of Mike Yarwood's impersonations.' At 12, he won a talent contest and a few dates in working-men's clubs - 'Places I wouldn't dare go into now. But they took pity on me.' Acting was 'another world for richer, more articulate people. But I suppose I had a driving force to prove to my background that I could do it.'

At 16, he got into the National Youth Theatre, after giving a bemused panel his best Frank Spencer. 'They took pity on me.' They were variegated golden days, in which he was introduced to Shakespeare (as a churl; five years later he was Coriolanus). Then came Rada - 'hatefully insular, at that age you want to go on a few marches' - followed by eight years of pounding the boards in rep. In 1985, the Financial Times spotted Hodge and Tessa Peake-Jones ('two of our most gifted young actors') in Romeo and Juliet at Birmingham Rep: 'There is a keen sense here of young lives momentously transformed.' You could say that again. Soon Romeo and Juliet moved to the East End, where they now live with Molly, aged 21 months.

Hodge has had bad luck with films - in Salome's Last Dance, a typical Ken Russell affair, he found himself 'being painted green from head to foot and asked to simulate multiple orgasm'. Television has gone better - he was blithely adorable as Judi Dench's bisexual toy-boy in Behaving Badly, and really broke through with Capital City. Wasn't Declan an odd part for a Green voter summonsed for non-payment of poll tax? 'Well, it was interesting to have a go at playing someone amoral, the hardest parts are the nice guys. I mean Lydgate has a profound moral sense but it's very difficult to act him without seeming like an insincere bore.'

Even now Hodge remains unconvinced of his success - 'Somebody called me an ascendant actor the other day. I've been bloody ascending for years. If I ever arrive I'll be descending.' David Leveaux's only worry is that 'others will nab him - he's going to be brilliant. I want to do O'Neill with him, and O'Casey and . . .' Meanwhile, we can look forward to Hodge's acceptance speeches for the awards that await him. He will smile and explain that it is nothing to do with his talent, of course. They will have taken pity on him.

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003