The secret of my success: Brian Blessed

Actor, author and explorer Brian Blessed is best known for his roles in I, Claudius, Z Cars and Cats. Soon to appear in the new Star Wars prequel, he is currently playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan in Croydon.

"Acting is a must, otherwise don't do it. It's such a tough profession that you should only do it if you have no choice. Actors have to be brave. You get judged and criticised every night yet you still have to go on. But I wanted to be an actor and was so excited to get to drama school.

"I worked in Nottingham rep earning just under pounds 5 a week, doing everything including building the sets. At 22, I moved to Birmingham rep where I played King Lear. I auditioned for one part in Z Cars and got another. It was expected to last four episodes, but after the first three we became stars overnight. We were mobbed by thousands everywhere.

"The best thing I've done on TV is my death scene in I, Claudius. I had to lie there dead with my eyes open while Sian Phillips stood over me speaking while the camera focused on my face for four minutes.

"I'm always in work, being offered lovely things - always loved the BBC and always been looked after by them. But 50 per cent of my time is now spent in exploration, searching for the Yeti, going to the North Pole or the bottom of the sea. Now I love exploring more than acting.

"I'm successful because I belong to the man in the street. I'm a coal miner's son. I belong to the public, relate to them. They call me Brian, never Mr Blessed. I am a symbol. Acting is holding a mirror to life. Exploration is life."